28 December 2010

The day after

What did Mary do the day after?

The day after giving birth to her first-born. The day after she held evidence that the angel's words weren't just a dream. The day after she pulled her post-labor self together when grungy shepherds dropped in unexpectedly. The day after she spent a night with moo-ing and baa-ing mixed with a newborn baby's squeaks.

In my imagination, I see Mary waiting in the stable alone with a tiny baby while Joseph finds a more appropriate place for them to stay. While he searches, she holds baby Jesus so close, smelling His perfect skin, counting those ten fingers and ten toes and dreaming about all that would come with this new person in their family.

Along with the song, I wonder, "Mary did you know?" Did she know this humble beginning would change the world? Did she know we would wonder about her in that moment two thousand years later? Did she have a clue the pain but finally ultimate joy her baby would bring to her and to the world?

What did she do when she found herself alone with the infant Messiah?

What do we do when the preparation is over and Jesus is here?
The day after cooking and baking sprees finally end. The day after completing the last Advent activity. The day after listening to Silent Night one last time for this year.

We put away the tree. Find places for a billion new toys. Put away the Christmas music.

And I search for ways to keep Jesus the focus of my preparations. The reason for celebration, and someone who is even more real and life-changing after his birth than during the anticipation of His coming.

As Mary knew, Christmas Day, Jesus' birth is the beginning of the life-change, not the culmination.

23 December 2010

A Christmas Carol


A Christmas Carol
by Christina Georgina Rossetti
In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.
Our God, heaven cannot hold Him,
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part, -
Yet what I can, I give Him,
Give my heart.

20 December 2010

December Joy

This Christmas week, my words are taking a break, and pictures will tell the story of our December.
Enjoy.
Joy found in decorating a gingerbread house (and getting to eat the decorations).
Joy found within a snowfort and of course the snowballs that flew out of here. Joy found in a cozy sweater coat and a good friend who visited for a
weekend.
Joy in this picture will be found many years from now when Amelie sees her desperation. But also much joy is found here because of how far Asher has come from his own years of Santa fear.
Joy found in the simplicity of a slinky.
Wishes of joy for the simple things this week.

17 December 2010

Surprise blessing

I know four days inside doesn't sound like much, but when you add a four, one year old, and pink eyes into the equation, four days equals eternity.

At their worst, Asher's eyes looked like someone dropped red food coloring inside and rubbed it all around. The boy just looks sick. Meaning Mommy can't even take him for a quick grocery store run pretending everything is fine.

And now our sweet girl's eyes are starting to have the same pinkish tint that Asher's started off with.

So we've skipped school, the Christmas program, the Christmas party, the shopping I planned to do, the grocery shopping I must do. And traded that time for books, discovery of Peter Pan, rediscovery of the beloved cow cuckoo clock, and lots of Kleenexes.

As we look at facing yet another day inside, I'm feeling acceptance and relaxation that we don't have to perform our rushed morning routine to get everyone out of the house on time. I haven't had to capture a squirmy girl to get her dressed and presentable to leave the house. No searching for boots, gloves, scarves, backpacks. And I haven't had to frantically grab for a snack for Amelie.

I quickly moved through all of the grieving stages of my outside freedoms and I think we're content with being here.

The tree is lit. Presents are getting wrapped. Lists for when I do get to see the grocery store again are made.

We are cozy and settled in with our pink eyes. And I'm beginning to love the blessing of pink eye.

15 December 2010

Low, Campy, Kitschy

Everyone has creative juices.

Whether we hide them, use them to create sophisticated art, or just do our best with glue and string, we share a common desire to make something beautiful. Not even that we need to create with physical resources to make something out of nothing, but more that we long to improve, organize, direct.

The Christmas season brings out my need to make more than any other. In the past I've spent hours designing and assembling cards. Last year I determined to make everyone on my list something homemade. Even despite my attempts to stop the insanity this year, my creative ideas led me to a late night knitting flowers.

None of my creative attempts are especially good. Often they end up in the trash after one season. But yet there is something that makes me believe I must do it again.

I've wondered if my art is kitschy? Is it campy? Is it low? An artist with an eye for sophistication and true beauty would thumb their nose at my creations and perhaps wonder at the waste of materials and effort.

Even though I acknowledge my artistic inadequacies, the desire to find something else to make hasn't disappeared. And I believe I know where this creative urge comes from.

From the Original Creator Himself.

Not only did he create majesty in the oceans, hilarity in animals, and great abilities in mankind, but instilled within each of us the impulse to do the same.

To create beauty out of brush and paper.
To build skyscrapers with ingenuity.
To put a piece of fabric here and some lights there to make a house a home.

Whether grand to stand for years or flimsy to be thrown away within a few days, creativity moving hands and minds to action links us to our Creator in yet one more way.

And I believe through even our most lopsided attempts, He is glorified in our creations.

13 December 2010

The funny moments

Are you still stressing out like I am?

The peace, that secret I told you about last week is hard to keep. I attempted most of yesterday afternoon to answer just one more question in my Bible study lesson determined not to give up the one thing I know will keep me focused.

But the oven timer beeped, kids woke up from naps, my unfinished knitting projects that need to be done tomorrow sat close to my chair.

The phantom lists still to make and images I have of what I want these next couple of weeks to be and feel like flutter around and add to the clutter of empty Christmas decoration boxes that still need to be put back away.

But yet I took an impromptu roadtrip Saturday night with my brother and even on Monday morning, I'm not regretting that unplanned night which jumped into my carefully planned December.

The night represents exactly what I meant in the Funny Moments article I wrote for yesterday's newspaper column.

Slipping and sliding down I-74 with Sam. Spontaneous Steak 'n Shake with both siblings.

One of those unexpected memories I will keep long after the one of unfinished Oreo Truffles fades away.

09 December 2010

A funeral

Achieving the Great American Dream takes admirable virtues that I've always prided myself on having in full. These very characteristics give us reason to celebrate every July when we remember our founding fathers bursting with independence, initiative, self-assertion. Everything it takes to start a country from nothing and wrestle away from one of the mightiest powers of the day.

Without their commitment to an ultimate goal, they would have given up and forgotten about the dream of freedom to rule themselves and not be forced to submit to someone who didn't understand, or care, about life in this new world.

It's no surprise that American school children, myself included, grow up with the same vision. A dream to be in charge of ourselves. To make a way and rise to the top of whatever we set out to do. To accomplish, achieve, carry dependence to no one but find within ourselves the ability to provide in any situation.

And then I read today from someone who challenges me every time I read his writing,

"Beware of refusing to go to the funeral of your own independence." Oswald Chambers

While everything within the natural me wants to become self-sufficient, self-providing, self-reliant, God wants me to enter into a battle of giving up all of the rights I have to become self-anything. Virtues that I use to create my own Angie world aren't useful to Him and in fact take away from ways I could be used by Him.

And I'm wondering why it was good when the earliest Americans struggled so hard to become free and why it's not good when I work hard to become free?

The difference?

It lies in who freedom is being desired from.

Freedom from a King who taxed and imposed strict rules without understanding is completely different from pursuing freedom from God who loves, sacrifices, and intimately understands everything I face today.

I certainly don't enjoy attending funerals and would never seek out opportunities to go to one. But for this one, of my independence, I hope to have the courage to attend.

06 December 2010

Spiritual sanity

Shhh....I have the secret you've been looking for! It's the one guranteed to keep your Christmas season sane!

No, it's not getting your Christmas shopping done early.

Not baking ahead of time to fill up the freezer.

Not cutting the tradition of sending Christmas cards.

Not even reading time-saving secrets on blogs! (but of course please finish this one.)

The secret for keeping a peaceful mind over the next three weeks is found in the Bible.

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you." Isaiah 26:3

My thoughts have a hard time staying peaceful when I'm mentally planning a billion things at once. Every year I start December with high hopes of not giving in to stress. And to not come up with some brilliant scheme that will make our Christmas perfect if I only add a dozen more things to the treats I want to make and ten more items to the shopping list.

After looking at idea blogs and hearing other moms tell about their beautiful traditions, I usually find myself determined to recreate the same. My imagination runs crazy trying to figure out how to implement that one more thing that will make our celebration perfect.

But this year, I am believing in just one thing to make my Advent season perfect and Christmas day a time of enjoyment. That one thing is to remember Isaiah's words; that when my thoughts are fixed on Jesus, He will keep me in perfect peace.

Ahh...the peace I've been searching for.


"Undisciplined imagination is the greatest disturber not only of growth in grace, but of spiritual sanity." --Oswald Chambers

02 December 2010

The Waitng

It's finally December and the Advent calendar countdown can begin. Since the middle of October, Asher has almost daily been asking me when it will be Christmas. Mainly because like a typical child, there are certain things he has his eye on and he can't wait to play with them. We made a list about a month ago to provide some kind of outlet for these longings. What's on his list?

1. Playmobil Pirates
2. Lego Knight castle
3. Star Wars light sabers
4. Fish (yes, an actual live fish, although he's concerned about how it could breathe under the wrapping paper.)
5. Nerf guns with bullets
6. Remote control motorcycle
7. The Knight Handbook

We discovered the final item on the list while checking out a book display at our local Festival of Trees. I showed Asher "The Knight Handbook" with an armor covered Knight on the front and explained that the book tells you how to become a Knight.

His eyes widened and a serious look of awe covered his face because I believe he thought if he read that book he would indeed know everything about becoming one of his heroes. Asher knelt on the cement floor and poured over the pages of the book. Eventually a frantic state of emergency developed when we had to leave it behind.

"We will put it on your Christmas list as soon as we get home," I promised.
"But another little boy might take it and there won't be anymore." he countered.
"They will not run out of that book, there is a store with hundreds more." I reassured.

And then tears flowed so freely and sincere desperate longing overtook him.

I almost cried myself.
Really, the book wasn't that expensive, we could have gone back and bought it for him right away.
I don't doubt he absolutely will pour over the pages of that book for hours and hours.

But this is a season of waiting and we both have lessons to learn.

I have several good, not to mention really fun, gifts waiting for both Asher and Amelie in my bathroom closet, and I'm regularly tempted to go ahead, give these toys to them, and enjoy watching their delight right now.

But this is Advent right? A period all about waiting for the arrival of the expected. The expected we are waiting for at Christmas time is a baby. A baby who brings meaning to life because He is hope of things much better to come.

Justice restored. Dreams filled. Tears wiped away. Good gifts freely given.

Gifts that I believe God longs to pour down now, but the time is just not right yet. Christmas is like the beginning, like people who (wrongly) choose the tradition of opening presents in their stockings on Christmas Eve. Christ's birth was a necessary first gift. Without His arrival to ultimately pay the sacrifice for us, there would be no hope of future goodness. We can forever look to His birth as a reminder that God hasn't forgotten us. He promised to restore this world and I believe Jesus' birth reassures us that promise has not been forgotten, and is in fact one step closer to taking place.

I want to give Asher that Knight book today. I want God to restore all hurts and pain today. I want to stop wanting and waiting.

Anticipate. Long for it. Good is on it's way!

30 November 2010

Thanksgiving success!

Walter and I became very friendly with our bird friend over Thanksgiving weekend. Thanks to a very thoughtful friend, I sported my pink frilly rubber gloves and my fingers never actually had to feel the slimy turkey innards. What a brilliant idea!


We massaged. We salted. We bagged. It was truly a team effort, and I probably was the weak link in the team. Walter was my turkey hero!!

Sometimes life actually happens in a picture perfect way. The one element that never even made it near my Thanksgiving planning list appeared just as we pulled the turkey out of the oven. I peeked in at our bird friend one last time and realized the turkey thermometer read the magic number 180.

Simultaneously, someone shouted, "It's snowing!"

Perfect. The ingredient only God could provide arrived at the exact right moment.
We sat down to enjoy our dinner next to the cabin's large picture windows and watched huge flakes drift over the hill and I breathed a huge sigh of successful relief.
Rock Castle we love you!

23 November 2010

Soak it in

Tomorrow I get to pick up my 20 pound bird friend. I've been hoping we get along well since July when I first learned I would be preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Brining. Bags. Roasting Pans. Carving Knives. Sticking my hands inside the body cavity.

This year I'm word associating things with the big day that hadn't crossed my mind in past years when I looked forward to celebrating Thanksgiving.

Being a detail oriented, list-making person, you can bet I've had strategies planned out for weeks. I even had a chance to write about them in the newspaper column this month.

As the providers of the big meal, I like to think we get to plan any type of family discussion on Thankfulness. Although the loaded pretzel rods we made for place setting favors do not look like the ones on the crafty blog I follow, I'm looking forward to reading the Bible verses we will attach to each one and hearing everyone share about the good things in their lives.

For some who will sit around our table, this year brought more pain than they thought they could go through. Others received abundantly from God's gifts.

Whether it's Asher stating he's thankful that Christmas is just a few weeks away. Or Grandparents being thankful for their health, we will all have something to share.

Maybe it's a matter of perspective, being around family, or the peaceful feelings our brains create after eating turkey.

We will sit around the table, hold hands as we look around (at the most beautiful bird ever roasted), and for a peaceful moment that keeps us coming back year after year, we will rest in knowing God is good.

There is much to be thankful for. I pray the Thanksgiving abundance permeates and lasts in our spirits far beyond this weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

17 November 2010

Anger management

Mom I'm thirteen. Now I'm fourteen. I'm going to be twenty three if you keep doing that.

The scale used to stop at ten, but apparently Walter and I push Asher's anger buttons so hard that his tool to describe the intensity of his emotions had to expand.

It doesn't matter if it's an inanimate object like a door, a chair, the sun or a real person. Angry words tumble out of his mouth so easily, and I find myself constantly encouraging my boy to use self control.

His excuse?

"I'm defending myself."

He owns such a sense of self protection at only four years of age.

I am at a loss for figuring out where all of this anger comes from. All the research I find on anger in children suggest the emotions come as a response to major trauma in their little lives. We haven't had any of that here. God has given us goodness beyond what we could ever describe.

I'm left to believe the quickness to anger and lashing out is more deeply inherent, making it even harder to root out and manage. Much like in myself. And maybe that hits one of the hardest things about being a parent.

It's easy to take compliments for Asher's long eyelashes that I know come from me. And even easier to blame those ears that stick out on his dad. But to look at my flesh and blood child and realize those character flaws are inherited from me drives God's pruning tools even deeper around the areas I know need to be cut out of my life.

Maybe Asher doesn't see his mom yelling at a rock when I stub my toe on it. But maybe he has seen me grumping about that leaf truck driving slow and blowing leaves all over us when I'm trying to get us to preschool on time.

Agh. I hate even admitting areas for "growth potential" aka...bad character qualities exist in my life, but when I see them living out in a miniature way everyday, there is no denying I have room to grow.

Leading me to wonder if the most effective tool in God's sanctification toolbox is creating kids to act out life as they see it lived in their parents.

15 November 2010

no more naivety

Yeah! We're thinking more about little baby things around here again.

I'm dreaming about all the adorable items my knitting needles can get working on.

Walter's creativity in name selection is starting to run full speed. Let me tell you, he gets some of his best ideas on roadtrips when we see exit signs. Litchfield? Sawyerville? It's going to be a fun holiday traveling season.

Asher simply states, "It better be a boy baby," in that threatening way that I know will have consequences if Baby happens to be another girl.

Of course Amelie is clueless about the upcoming change to her world, but I look forward to watching her become a big sister.
A new baby will bring new energy, fresh hope, and a blanket of innocence to everyone who will count little toes and comment on lack of hair.

The innocence is what I now know will not last forever. It's not only believing the baby will always remain perfect and sweet, but believing mom and dad will only allow good things for the baby.

Somehow every mother holds on to the dream that her little boy will never play with guns and swords. He will be the peaceful exceptional child who prefers to play with farm animals and construct genius inventions out of wood. During pregnancy, during birth, in the early days, weeks, months, even years, fathers agree to this protection and desire to never allow the boy to touch a weapon.

Until the boy turns two, and finds a stick. Somehow that stick points at animals, other children, anything that moves. It makes popping noises. And before the flabbergasted mother can stop it, the father joins in and teaches the boy to make a better stick. How to fashion a sword. The joys of a capgun that has real bullets that smoke. Somehow the memories of his own boyhood arsenal overcome daddy and all the declarations of a peaceful weapon-free home are shot down.

The next time around, even as a baby girl, her peaceful innocence doesn't make it to her first birthday without holding a weapon and learning to make "pow pow" noises. Before she can even talk in full sentences, Mommy will look in her rearview mirror and see her little sweetie pulling the capgun trigger in a fierce gun battle with her brother.

Of course this is all theoretical, but I'm not a naive mom anymore. With this third baby, I'm making my sign now to keep the nursery a weapon free zone.

At least until the baby's eyes learn to focus!

08 November 2010

Much to celebrate!

We showed up at the hotel only to realize our reservations were at the hotel ten minutes away rather than across the street from the mall. This meant no afternoon of swimming.

Wolf, Amelie's most cuddled animal who we found at the top of the Trail Ridge Road in Colorado got left behind in the hotel room.

The out of the way yarn shop I drug my family to in Oak Park didn't have the yarn and pattern I hoped it would have.

We made way too many wrong turns and missed exits for a girl who likes to believe she remembers her way around Chicago.

Navy Pier's parking garage sign said "FULL" meaning we had to walk a couple of blocks - a big deal for a four year old boy who believes his hands and face need band-aids all over if he gets too cold.

I should have known when I chose to have a Jamba Juice for my dinner that Asher would hover his lips close to my straw waiting for his turn to drink.

And just ten miles from home when the car had settled down with a little girl and tired mommy asleep, the gas light came on and the peaceful ride ended.

But we still had so much fun!

We have so many reasons to celebrate and I am reminded how much of life is a choice of whether to celebrate or not.

Walter is back with us after months of study hibernation!
And felt rewarded for entertaining kids at Oakbrook by winning a t-shirt after playing the new Microsoft gaming system.

The hotel pool stayed open until 10 pm!

Maggianos still tastes delicious even with a child who keeps falling off his chair.

The knitting shop did have color samples of the yarn I want to order.

Cheesy dancing pirates fascinated Asher enough to make him think about becoming a pirate when he grows up.

Yes, life is good here.
And we choose to respond with thanks and delight.

05 November 2010

End of the Sheriff?

Although a little late with the Halloween picture, I had to share a picture of our adorable Cowgirl and the Sheriff. For months, my Sheriff has worn his get-up everyday but I think this phase is waning. He no longer needs his bandanna tied around his neck every morning. I don't have to buckle his belt that holds the twenty pound jail keys, and I'm not finding hairy moustaches all over the house anymore. The capguns and holsters he received to go with the Sheriff outfit will probably stay around for a while, and so will the cowboy boots since they make him taller than his sneakers.
But the fact is Sheriffs don't have armor to protect against weapons and Knights do. So the Knight armor has re-appeared a little more often these days.

It's hard to know what the next big thing will be, but I'm desperately hoping he forgets what he declared he's into next. On the way home from preschool this week he stated.

"Mom, I think I'm going to be into skeletons next."



01 November 2010

Jabbing and poking

"Why did they call me a bad knight and bad cowboy? It hurt my feelings." Asher asked last night when I tucked him in with his goodnight song.

My heart tore with the realization that those words still stung hours later. Rather than thinking about the fun he had playing with his friends and trick-or-treating, his last thoughts before bed were replaying a bad scene in his mind.

I understand where the words came from, that they were meant to be in play, but they still hit a place where no one wants to be hit. A place every mother tries to protect in her child as long as possible. I want him to believe everyone loves him just as much as I do and that no one will ever think badly of him. It's a form of denial that begins the moment I first held his screaming body, looked into those beautiful eyes for the first time and truly believed he is the most perfect child ever born.

Of course I learned long ago that my son is less than perfect and earlier last evening before the friends arrived, I wanted to trade him in for a child who skips rather than grumps around the neighborhood. But I don't know if I'm ready for going through another round of feeling painful words from kids who don't understand what they're saying. The first time around of hearing "shorty" and "midget" were bad enough. I don't want to live through that part again.

Still surprised about how much this is weighing my heart down, I sat to talk to God about it this morning. I heard myself saying to Him, "I hate watching my son go through so much hurt." and realized how much God understands my pain.

Pain multiplied to the millionth power.

God didn't just watch people call His son, who really is perfect, "bad," but listened to words intended to cut down and disregard everything about His son's entire life. God watched His son be mocked, spit on, beaten, ignored, and enduring the worst possible pain. Did He have to turn His eyes away? Somehow distance Himself from the pain? Tell Himself Jesus would forget it all in the morning? Surely Jesus' years on earth frequently broke the Father's heart. And sometimes having a heart broken watching from afar hurts even more than having it pierced in the moment.

I know this is just the beginning of the ups and downs of childhood words and feelings being hurt. Somehow Asher will make it through to adulthood relatively unscarred. And I hope along the way I can help my boy understand he's not the first or last to be on the receiving end of hurt feelings.

And there is Someone who walks close to him who sympathizes with every jab and poke.

And I've been reminded the Father understands the pain in watching the jabbing and poking.

27 October 2010

New Daddy

Last night should have been one of the best night's of Asher's life.

Earlier in the day, his holster and six shooters arrived, just in time for Halloween. Walter took Asher outside in the afternoon to show him how to shoot the capgun and that little smile he tries not to smile when he's overjoyed kept popping out on his face. We knew the guns filled a joy deep within his spirit.

After dinner, I presented my sheriff with the cowboy hat I had ordered to replace the large seed corn hat that got thrown in with the stuff I really wanted at an auction last year. The new hat has a sheriff's badge on it. It fits his head much better and all around looks much cooler!

It should have been a good night.

But after we gave him these gifts he's wanted for so long, Asher turned into a whining boy who had traumatic meltdown after meltdown. Way too much crying. Too much anger. Too many grumpy words.

Even though it was only 6:30, Walter decided Asher just needed to go to bed. After stomping upstairs, I overheard him sobbing to Turtle.

"I need a new daddy."
"I need a daddy who looks the same, who is a Walter, but doesn't give these bad consequences."

Oh, dear Asher.

Even in his grumpy anger he knew enough to want to hold on to the wonderful daddy he has even while he wished for a replacement. We've come a long way from the days when he simply wanted a new daddy or mommy. I actually see this as a mini-victory because even in deep anger and frustration with his parents, Asher realizes the fun and loving daddy he has is mostly a good guy. Hopefully he looked at the toy cowboys and knights lying around his room and remembered daddy isn't all bad.

As I continue to study through the book of Isaiah in my Bible Study, I wonder if God's people in Judah felt the same way. Did they want a new God? Did they remember all the good things God had done for them and their ancestors but just wish God would ignore the way they had turned their backs on Him? Maybe they wanted to keep their God, Yaweh, but just take away his wrathful side. Taking the good of God and hoping the holy side that demands obedience would melt away.

An authority figure who gives good gifts, lives up the fun times, and winks at the naughty things we do.

Would this really be a good Daddy?

25 October 2010

Big Dreams

They started roasting the pig at 1 am Sunday morning and we took the first eagerly anticipated bites about 15 hours later. I couldn't bear to walk around and look at her face, and tried not to look at all her piggy friends still rooting around the farm but I did enjoy her deliciousness.

With the sun peeking in and out of the clouds, good friends, and top chefs who had cooked all day for us, I knew we made the right decision to join the Epiphany Farms CSA this year. Even though I admit I'm tired of bok choi and arugula, I whole heartily agree with everything the local farm movement stands for and love the passion the three chefs have for their farm and future restaurant.
I consider it a huge honor that we will soon have a farm to fork restaurant in our very own Central Illinois town and love that my family got to be a part of the company's experimental CSA. Excitement oozed out of one of the chefs while he talked about his frustration with local fusion and so called Italian restaurants in our town. He described the shot gun he keeps just inside the barn door to protect his turkeys from hawks and the excitement started oozing all over onto me too. I didn't doubt for a second that he absolutely agreed with the "I (heart) worms" t-shirt he wore.

While we ate the pig, turnips, leafy greens, and amazing peach cobbler we heard and saw the way dreams are coming true for this young group of world-traveling/ex-big city living/ Las Vegas style chefs.
When someone has such intense passion for anything, and so vividly describes how their big crazy dreams that at one time made no sense are coming true, I can't help but get excited.
It renewed my energy to think about big dreams I have and what I can do to take small steps towards making them a reality. Our visit to the farm proved more motivational to me than any of those business videos we used to watch during unit meetings of my working days. Forget figuring out who moved your cheese, figure out who has turned a patch of grassy land into a full-blown rooster crowing, pig mudding, tomato and basil growing farm.
Speaking of dreams coming true... the winner of my giveaway for Bittersweet is Ellen! I'm so happy someone who listened so compassionately to a deeply bittersweet time of my life gets her own copy of the book.
And finally, I leave you with a picture of a little girl whose dreams, for now, revolve around doing exactly what her big brother is doing...

22 October 2010

Concrete and toilet paper

"Stop eating the toliet paper."

"Never, never, ever eat concrete."

Ah yes, more things I never thought I would say. I blogged about a whole host of things I never thought I would say back a few years ago and you could read a few of them here, here, and here.

You might think these words were spoken to the youngest member of our family, but no I regularly need to ask Asher, my four year old who desperately wants to grow big and strong. to not snack on non-food items. My son, the one who eats practically nothing but radishes and peanut butter and jelly, also snacks on toilet paper, leaves, grass, and yes did attempt to eat concrete as well.

He sits at the dinner table and claims fear about eating spaghetti casserole, fish, and anything that has tomatoes or onions in it but without hesitation chews on random pieces of nature (and household items). I believe it's the temptation of the forbidden fruit.

And I'm really not that different.

We are in the "less than one week before actuarial exam count-down" at my house and this is the time of the year when I have to work with all my might to get along with my husband. This one week period when he needs to be in a good place emotionally and full of much sleep challenges me to not bring up the long list of items I feel we NEED to discuss.

I'd love to talk about why we should replace the cabinets in the master bathroom.

Or maybe I should schedule a night to review our finances and saving plans.

Discuss when exactly he's going to buy me the diamond earrings I've been asking for at every anniversary, birthday, Christmas, Valentines Day, Mother's Day, sweetest day, love on Angie day...

And simply everything he does feels me with the need to remind him of the importance of putting his socks in the laundry basket and really why doesn't he read for fun other than when we're on vacation and I just can't understand why he doesn't keep in touch with his college friends better, and when am I going to get a night off anyway?

This is one of the two toughest weeks of the year. The other one will happen next spring before his next exam.

I'm tempted to eat the concrete and toilet paper, to grab the forbidden fruit of criticism and deep discussions. Maybe I would do well to keep my mouth busy so I don't speak things I'll regret later.

Anyone have a good recipe for concrete cake with tp frosting?

17 October 2010

Bittersweet

With my hands full of garbage can lids, I met one of my new neighbors. She said she heard a Christian writer had moved onto the street and she wondered if I was the next Shauna Niequist. Immediately I wanted to hug her and claim her as my new best friend because I couldn't think of another writer I would want to be compared to.

Almost three years ago, I heard Shauna Niequist on the radio promoting her first book, Cold Tangerines. She described that book as one of celebration and claimed she wanted to be known as someone who celebrated and lived every moment of life. My heart, at the time completely broken from recurring losses, wanted to be her - that woman who celebrates even when life is hard. So I bought that book. And read it on a Florida beach while soaking in as much sun as my skin could possibly hold. I underlined, read out loud, and found myself believing Shauna and I were in fact the same person because so many of our life experiences were the same. That book was my inspiration to consciously choose to turn my back on letting recent hard knocks define the rest of my life but instead choose to celebrate because life is in fact good and God hasn't disappeared.
Since finishing that final page of Cold Tangerines, I could hardly wait until Shauna released her next book. When I received a copy of Bittersweet, I thought about saving it until I could fully enjoy it on another beach, but desire for more inspiration compelled me to get started right away, and I wasn't sorry.

Even though I loved Shauna's thoughts on celebration and the way she approached it from a real way of acknowledging hurt even in the middle of celebration, something about it made me question what her essays would be like if she had experienced deep loss. The kind of loss that makes you want to sit and stare and wonder if the pain would ever go away. Bittersweet is the answer and I am not disappointed with her honesty and complete openness even in the middle of a broken spirit.

As expected, my copy of Bittersweet is underlined and dogeared and even now I struggle with what thought I want to share the most. I'm bouncing between thoughts of change, joy in finding theological doctrines to be absolutely true when put into practice, and the importance of telling our own stories. In the middle of her hard season which Shauna writes from come encouragements down the road of faith. But she doesn't stop with her story and this I love.

Her final essay is a call to all people of faith. "If you are a person of faith, it is your responsibility to tell God's story in every way you can, every form, every medium, every moment. ... Don't allow the story of God, the sacred, transforming story of what God does in a human heart to become flat and lifeless. ... If you have been transformed by the grace of God, then you have within you all you need to write your manifesto, your poem, your song, your battle cry, your love letter to a beautiful and broken world. Your story must be told."
That means your story. Not just mine because I have a blog, or Shauna's because she wrote a book, or your pastor's because he stands in front of the crowd every Sunday. Your own story. Your story of loss, of change, of grace, of hope, of love. It's your unique story meant to be shared. Meant to challenge, motivate, and reveal more of God's heart to whoever you choose to share it with.

Perhaps because our losses have been the same, or because I too recently moved, or because I too long to see God's grace in the middle of it all, or maybe because I love her quick chapters that have left me with plenty to ponder when I have to put the book down and get back to my harried life. Perhaps because I have seen the bittersweetness in life and am reminded of it every time I write Amelie Hope's middle name. For all these things, I am thankful that even though she risked much by opening herself up bare to the world, Shauna dared to share her stories and her discoveries of God's grace.

The bittersweetness of my day today is that I have finished reading this book.
But, I am so pleased to get to offer one of my readers a signed copy of the book! Yes this is it, my very first giveaway and what an honor it is to be able to share it with one of you. Please leave a comment on my blog before the end of the day on Friday, October 22nd and I will randomly choose a winner. I know many of you read and comment on these notes in Facebook, but for this giveaway, I will just look at comments on the blog itself.
I can only have one winner but I encourage everyone else to check out the book for yourself.

15 October 2010

Mommy Brain

I hate pretending to be dumb.

I'm not blonde, but jokes about a woman's intelligence as if it related to her hair color make me want to jump up and scream smart phrases and maybe draw a couple of those economic graphs I came to love with my dear smart Econ friend Vanessa (who does happen to be blonde).

Now that I'm a mom and do crazy nonsense things like showing up at church with my shirt on inside out or putting milk into the pantry, I've been tempted to blame it on my intelligence's transformation into mommy brain.

And now that drives me crazy too. As a woman who used to spend her days in the corporate world brainstorming and talking intelligently, I already struggle with hours filled with playing sheriff is coming and figuring out why Amelie doesn't think she can ever consume enough snacks.

When I discovered a book about how being a mom actually makes you smarter, I researched all I could about the topic. I haven't even read the book yet, but love the research I discovered when I wrote this article for the Pantagraph about how having a mommy brain actually does make you smarter than you previously were.

Not smarter in an IQ sort of way, but smarter in a way of being able to better use more of the mass of muscle in your head. Smarter in perception, efficiency, resilience, motivation, and emotional intelligence.

When Walter read my article, he asked if I was saying that I was smarter than him. And to my extremely intelligent, math-brained husband I proudly said YES!

(Heads up to you my faithful readers: For the first time in my 3 years of writing this blog, I am hosting a give away on Monday. But it requires comments!! So instead of telling me in person that you read my blog, I'm excited to see some electronic comments that you, my readers do exist! :) )

12 October 2010

Keep your brave

We had fish for dinner last night.

I rarely make fish, but love it, love it! There's something about buying fish at a Midwest chain grocery store that takes away some of the appeal of freshness and all those health omega whatevers. But I had a recipe in my line-up that I wanted to try and so fish came up on the menu last night.

This is the actual conversation we had last night at our dinner table:

Walter: Asher, eat your fish.
Asher: I'm scared to eat it.
W: You're a brave boy, you can do it.
Asher: I'm not brave. I gave all of my brave to Evan today.
W: I will give you some of my brave.
Asher: Well I will take it off
W: I will duct tape it to you.
Asher: I will take it off with tweezers.
Angie: Then I will knit some brave together and wrap it around you so it won't come off.
Asher: I will take it off and throw it onto the smoke detector.

Really, I'm not making any of this up.

Don't know where he gets his ideas, must be the same place that used to inspire him to make a puddle of sap for his little sister to sit in.

Being an emotionally charged mom who always sees the deeper meaning behind his words and never wants to miss a teaching moment, I wanted to tell Asher to NEVER give his brave away!

NEVER. NEVER. NEVER.

Whether it's needed for eating fish, meeting a new friend, joining the track team, standing up for the truth he believes in, life must be met with lots of brave.

And if he does give it all away to a good friend, mommy and daddy will always have enough encouragement and love to fill him back up with more brave.

Never run out of brave my dear Asher!

11 October 2010

Whe Mommy is sick

I picked up Amelie's dress from my desk in the living room this morning. It's the adorable brown corduroy dress she wore to church yesterday for the first time. I felt a tag underneath and thought Walter had forgotten to cut it out before she wore it to church. I lifted up the skirt to remove the tag and found instead the matching brown bloomers still attached by plastic cord to the back of the dress and I laughed out loud. This is what happens when Mommy is sick.

But a million other things happen while mommy is sick that make up for a little girl wearing bloomers still attached to the inside of her dress.

Saturday may have been the sickest day of my life. I couldn't keep anything down and found myself believing I should bring the sleeping bag to the bathroom floor because it would take less energy to just stay there. Walter got the sickness first in the middle of the night Friday and spent much of his night in the same bathroom. Although he was functional throughout the day on Saturday, I know he didn't feel completely well.

But he took over, sacrificed a much needed day of studying, and brought me glasses of ice water while setting up episodes of The Office for my entertainment. And I was reminded of the wonderful caring husband I have.

When Mommy is sick, kids eat crackers in her bed, 4 year olds spend too many hours shootin' em up on the iphone, and birthday parties are missed. But I don't take for granted the help of family who step up and do kind things. My brother brought our sickly family chicken noodle soup and popsicles just when we wondered what would make it to the table for supper.

Yes, when Mommy is sick, little girl's wear bloomers still attached to their dresses, but when Mommy is sick she is reminded of the ones who go to great lengths to care for her and she is thankful!

06 October 2010

First lines

"Call me Ishmael."
Voted the best first line in a novel, this opening sentence from Moby Dick begins an adventure (a long adventure) of whale hunting that remains popular more than 150 years after publication.

I read through the list of top lines from novels and smiled as I remembered reading some of them for the first time years ago and became intrigued about the rest of the story of others.
What is it that makes an opening line great?

Quick analysis tells me it's an element of surprise mixed with a perfect choice of words and names. "Call me Angie." just doesn't have the same effect as Ishmael. "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." from 1984 obviously throws a curve ball of surprise and immediately makes a reader stop and wonder what would make a clock strike 13?

I watched the movie Enchanted last night and when the mean step-mother sent the beautiful princess tumbling down the wishing well, she wished her bad luck in a world, our world, where there are "no happily ever afters." Those words put together in the opposite of the familiar "happily ever after" stopped the flow of thought processing in my brain and I'm still thinking about the idea today of living in a place where fairy tales don't really come true.

As I've been doing Bible study in the book of Isaiah where God's wrath and judgement dominate, I admit I have wanted to stop, to skip over it and move on past what I don't want to hear and on to the good stuff of love and peace and hope. It's shocking to be reminded of a God who demands obedience and who will appear on a throne with flying six winged angels. Shocking almost to a point of not being able or want to understand.

But equally shocking is a God who loves enough to die for me. A God whose love is equally as powerful, relentless, and just.

Definitely shocking and the first line of my story.
I leave you today with another shocker...
"I want a moustache just like my brother."


04 October 2010

Hard to be cool

We added a third child to our mix this weekend and traded our red Jeep for a white mini-van.
Like the Go Fish song says, it is in fact "hard to be cool in a mini-van."
Not that we are so cool with two carseats in the back of our Liberty, but there's something in my mind that believes taking that step into mini-van land will push us over the edge into true suburban parents. And I'm fighting that final step.

Walter and I both admitted to each other that we had learned how to drive in a mini-van (talk about uncool!), so it was a homecoming of sorts. Back to where we started - in the car with parents and kids - one big happy family.

I remember growing-up days with my happy family in the mini-van. All of my five foot self sprawled on the back bench while my taller but YOUNGER sister shared the middle bench with baby brother in the carseat. After all, I frequently reminded her, it was a step up from her former sleeping spot on the floor of the Oldsmobile when she had to navigate the hump in the middle of the floor.

Oh yes, good times in the mini-van. I'm sure there will be those good times to come for us when we finally break down and realize it's not worth being squished just to avoid the uncoolness of a "bubble driving down the road."

We are thankful for the use of the mini-van so we could get around all in one car, but I'm still wondering if our good friends left the "hard to be cool" song in the cd player on purpose?

01 October 2010

Tulip Planting

Planting anything in the ground ranks near the top of my favorite activities. Digging a hole with a purpose, sticking a onion shaped bundle of flowering hope into the dirt and then covering it back up with anticipation of what will happen under the ground gets me excited about God's miracle of life.

The first year after my family moved to Ethiopia and I lived in a home with a yard I could plant things in, I went crazy planting tulips. It must have been one of those perfect almost spiritual moments because I feel it like it happened yesterday. We had an off-site work meeting which got over early so I raced home, threw on grubby clothes, and sat outside on the sidewalk of that condo in the sun digging and planting tulips and more tulips. The perfect therapy for the loss I felt with the move back to my hometown to find it completely different especially without my family nearby.

The following spring, those beautiful tulips reminded me of the beautiful fall day and the anticipation I felt of better days to come.

Then I got married and moved again. That first fall in the new house, before I knew of the abundance of spring bulbs previous owners had planted along the driveway, I spent another perfect fall afternoon digging and planting, once again anticipating the excitement of seeing new life springing out after a hard winter.

Bunnies and squirrels teamed up to ruin that dream and also began my six year battle with the woodland creatures living on White Place. A couple of my tulips survived the stockpiling of winter food, but mainly I enjoyed the established tulips that had been there for years and years.

The warmth and sun drew me outside yesterday to plant tulips around our new home. With a silly four year old and a clingy 18 month old, the digging and planting wasn't quite the idyllic moment I enjoyed that first year of planting.

It started out family picture perfect with Asher interested in the process and wanting to put the bulb in the ground.

And then I let him turn the hose on to fill my watering can.
And then I sat in a puddle I didn't realize he had sprayed onto the sidewalk.
And then Amelie had a diaper taking away my ability to imagine the fresh spring smell of tulips.
And then I battled the tarp that keeps weeds out of the landscaping.
And then my holes got shallower and sloppier.
And we finally finished.

Once again I'm anxious to see how these authentic Holland tulips (thanks Becky!) will bloom. Maybe ten years from now when life is different, I'll miss these days of having a clingy girl and a silly boy and the memory will become just as fond as the one of me, alone, on a sunny day planting tulips at my parents condo.

28 September 2010

Selah

A red leaf falls in your path.
Selah.

A babbling toddler stops to pick up a feather.
Selah.

A four year old in complete Sheriff gear races his big wheel down the sidewalk to watch football practice.
Selah.

A fireplace is lit for the first time of the season while water destined for hot chocolate boils on the stove.
Selah.

Selah, a pause. A specific instruction to stop the previous activity of reading or walking or rushing through mounds of laundry and weigh the meaning of what has just been spoken or otherwise sensed.

After so much heat and sweat, Fall is finally beginning. What's not to love about Fall with its cooling breezes, colorful trees, and amazing treats made out of apples and pumpkins?

Way too quickly this time of change jumps into a time of preparation and hurriedness as the rush of the holidays creeps further and further back into these months of just Fall.

Just Fall, not Halloween, not Thanksgiving, and certainly not Christmas. Just Fall, leaves that are still mostly green but just tinting towards red. Just Fall, warm enough some days to still sit outside and eat a popsicle after dinner. Just Fall, when we sit around a fire and listen to birds preparing for their flights away from the upcoming frost.

This is Just Fall.
Join me in a pause and weigh the meaning of what we have just seen before plunging forward into what will be next.

Selah.

24 September 2010

Wind

Wind blew in wave after wave through our open windows last night.

I'm not talking gentle breeze. These were the kinds of gusts that made me wonder if we had been transported to the edge of a hurricane. Branches and leaves from the Ash tree madly danced around. I'm certain many of them escaped from the hold the tree had on them and I will find them lying exhausted from their dance on the ground this morning.

Whenever we begin to question an issue of construction quality of our house, we rest knowing a well-known builder in town built this house for himself and lived here for 15 years. I guess that implies I don't believe he would have cut corners on his own home and this house probably won't blow over minus a tornado touchdown.

The wind fascinates me not only because I'm concerned about whether or not our house will still be standing in the morning, but for the metaphoric reasons of life blowing and swirling around me.

Right now we're adjusting to the changes of being back in preschool, returning to Bible Study lessons, reconnecting into groups of friends, and missing daddy while he studies furiously.

The hot summer wind that blew across the wide open space of day after day of unscheduled time is gone and I'm actually thankful to be swept into something new.

For me the new means fresh opportunities.

bok choy in stir fry
preparing to be the provider of Thanksgiving dinner for 30 at the Rock Castle
crochet flowers and knitting adult sized sweaters
girl time with Amelie while Asher cuts and practices letters at school

I hear the next tidal wave of a wind gust building up in the trees outside.

I do find comfort in trusting the builder who constructed this house, but I find far greater comfort in knowing the Creator of my soul. And I rest in knowing the winds He sends can not harm the soul He created.

22 September 2010

Mental snapshots

Asher asked me to close my eyes promising he would bring me a surprise. Even with my eyes closed, I knew where he was going. He ran off the porch through the still wet grass to our exploding mum bush. When he declared I could open my eyes again, a purple flower sat on the arm of the red rocking chair and my 4 year old boy told me he will always love me, even when he goes to school.

My heart melted and I wanted to stop time and record his promises to always tell me that he loves me. There is no pause button in this continuum of time and so I settled for a snapshot.

A mental snapshot.

I looked in his sweet face, studied the water droplets still on the flower, and replayed his little boy voice over and over and then I closed my eyes and made a silent "click."

Recorded, forever in my mind.

To read more about mental snapshots, check out my Pantagraph column from this past weekend.

20 September 2010

Flashback

Flashback to Homecoming in the early 1990's.

Purple, or maybe aqua, suede skirt with blocked silk shirt of an equally bright color.

Next year velvet is in and get ready to explain why if you show up to the Homecoming dance in anything other than a velvet dress.

And now flash forward to Homecoming 2010.

Super short strapless dress with a bubble skirt. Sequins and flashy bling in just the perfect proportion.

I thought we were just going out to dinner on Saturday night because I was craving Olive Garden's salad and capellini pomodoro. But once we got there, my obsession became getting the best possible view of the Homecoming crowd.

Yes, I already transformed into one of those mothers who whispers to her husband about whether they would ever let their daughter out of the house in such a revealing skirt!

I mumbled to the hostess on the way to our table about how early Homecoming is this year and how crowded all of these kids make the restaurant for the rest of us "normal" people. But of course I chose the chair at our table with the best view. I continued to watch the flow of groups of girls giggling to the bathroom and nervous guys wondering how much longer they have to hang out in the uncomfortable suits and ties.

Oh what fun we had! I think I have more fun watching Homecomings and Proms as a spectator than I ever did as a participant.

Just please poke me if you hear me exclaiming over the styles too loudly. I still can't get over the fashion changes and will begin praying now that skirt length styles will start going down again before Amelie ever reaches high school.

16 September 2010

Claustrophophia

I love my kids. I love to snuggle and hug them. I've started to love laying with Asher at nights while he falls asleep. I like to be close to them. Even though physical touch is not one of my top love languages, I completely understand the need to show love through hugs and cuddles.

But I don't love working while being cuddled and hugged. In this picture, it is not Amelie wearing the cowboy hat, but of course the Sheriff who is snuggled in so close to Mommy working at the computer that all you can see is his hat.

Veteran moms tell me to enjoy these days because eventually they will be too embarrassed to be so close to me. Someday Amelie won't feel the need to position herself between me and whatever countertop I happen to be working at. Asher won't insist on sidling as close as he can to me in restaurant booths. And as hard as it might be to believe, they won't need to pile on top of me whenever I sit on the couch.

So in these days of claustrophobic touch, I am learning to love to be close!

14 September 2010

Reading

Why do you read?

Or maybe I should first ask, Do you read?

On top of the standard books, magazines, and newspapers we have so much reading material waiting for our eyes to land upon. Blogs, facebook updates, online newsletters and news sites. There literally is no end to the information available to read since new content is continually being produced.

Do you read to get information about what's going on in the world?
Do you read to be entertained?
Do you read to keep up with the lives of friends?

I read for all of those reasons and more that I'm not even aware of, and I'm wondering if I'm alone in the way I spend afternoons curled up turning page after page of a good novel?

How many people sit down, open the cover of a book and flip pages?

Really is there a need for that kind of reading anymore?

As my husband often says, it seems like there are so many more exciting things to do than sit down and read. He forgets how much he enjoys a good story until we go on vacation and he reads his quarterly book. Then we've been known to stop at a bookstore so he can grab another one and soak in as much reading time as possible until we return home and he once again forgets that reading isn't boring.

So, why do I read? I read because I do think it is exciting. I love learning about the lives of people not like me and also feel normal knowing there are people exactly like me.

I read not because I need to escape from my daily life, but because the experiences I learn about in books enhance my daily life. Asher and I read a history of cowboys and from the information I learned, I've been in wonder all summer about the amazing invention of barbed wire!

For years, I neglected my love of reading because of busyness, a feeling of needing to be more productive, and because I spend so much time reading books to my kids. But this summer I've rediscovered the joy of being so caught up in what will happen to Katniss Everdeen and Lisbeth Salander and I'm so thankful to be reminded of why I read.

Take a minute to think about it, why do you read?

10 September 2010

Yes, you can!

No smoking.

No children in the front seat.
No pets allowed.
No digging.
Asher has been really curious about signs that have a circle with a line through it.

He constantly is asking me, "What are you not supposed to do?" while pointing to yet another warning about how death could be imminent if you wear a necklace while sliding down the slide or wear shoes while playing on the McDonald's playland.

With my heightened awareness of what we're not supposed to do, I've realized most of these signs relate to children. In one way, it confirms what I've been telling my children about being cautious. But in another way, if we took absolutely seriously every single one of these signs we would be afraid to do anything.

I'm sure each of these warning signs came from a tragedy. A freak accident where a child did become injured after doing what the sign now forbids doing. And I don't take the fact that accidents happen lightly.

But I wonder where all of the signs telling me what I can do are? What about a sign with a circle and no line through it that tells me to go ahead and pick the flowers, enjoy the sun on my face, run freely down the sidewalk. Where are those kind of signs? The ones that say, "Yes, go ahead and enjoy all the fun of life."

Even in my parenting, I find myself constantly shouting out the "no's."

Don't say that word about pottys anymore!
Don't wear more than one pair of underwear at a time!
Don't put Cheerios in your hair!
Don't drink the water from the sandtable!

Don't, No, You can't, Never.

Maybe today I will try to shout out only the "yes's."

Yes! Give your sister a kiss!
Yes! Take turns on the slide!
Yes! Eat more Jello!
Yes! Use more chalk!

Yes! You can!

07 September 2010

Almost a missed opportunity

Seven years ago today, Walter and I forgot to do something we had looked forward to for months.

As an engaged couple who intended to spend our wedding night at a hotel across the parking lot from Panera, we talked on our weekly visit to get bagels and coffee about the great fun it would be to simply wake up and walk over for yummy cinnamon crunch bagels and hazelnut coffee.

So on the morning after our wedding, we brought our suitcases, leftover cake, balloons, and bulky wedding dress to the car and then proceeded to get into the car, turn it on, and drive the short distance over to our favorite breakfast spot! I think we actually turned into the parking spot of Panera and were about to get out of the car when I realized we had just missed the very thing we were so looking forward to!

The luxury of walking to Panera had passed.

Never ones to waste an opportunity, you can guess what we did. Yes, we drove back to our parking spot by the hotel and got out of the car so we could walk back to the same spot we had just driven to. Almost a missed opportunity.

I think much of life is a missed opportunity. Things I've talked about enjoying for years are happening right now and I'm driving on by without fully loving the experience.

Yes, this is life and it is what I've looked forward to!

02 September 2010

A billion rewards

We joined Walter at work for lunch yesterday. It's been two years since I left my paying job at the same office building where he works, so I looked forward to going back in for a visit. After the four of us ate our pizza without too much commotion, we walked through the space where I used to sit. It's been only two years, but in the ever changing corporate world, it might as well be an eternity.

A cleaning staff member must have grabbed everyone's name plate, mixed them all up in a bag, and returned them at random to offices and cube aisles. No one sits in the same spot and I recognized about one in five names. Where a row of windows once allowed light onto the floor, managers enjoyed their own private sunshiny real estate in their newly converted office space.

With so many physical changes on the floor, it would take me weeks to understand the workflow and assignment shifts that all of these moves represent. And I feel a twinge of sadness knowing that just two years later I would be lost if I reentered the department that I had once been such a part of.

As we walked through the doors of SC-4, Asher asked where we were going and why Mommy used to have a job and why Mommy doesn't still have a job so Bekah can watch him again.

I wonder those things too.

Don't misunderstand. I will never regret staying home with my kids.

This is absolutely what I want to be doing and I do not take it for granted that Walter's hard work allows me to do this. But some days I get nostalgic and think about the old days when I didn't get asked to play "Cowboy is coming" ten times before ten o'clock but finished ten research requests before ten o'clock.

Being a stay at home mom has a billion rewards but I don't know that we often acknowledge it has a hundred sacrifices. Clearly the billion outweighs the hundred, but every once in a while
I think the sacrifice needs to be noticed and understood.

Thanks for noticing and understanding.

30 August 2010

Simply

Jesus asks if we "think God sits in a box seat" waiting to hear our prayers?

I imagine God arriving early to the theater to get an expensive seat with a perfect view of the stage just to listen to a formal and distant monologue from me and I shake my head at the absurdity.

From what I've discovered about His desire for intimacy and close relationship, I can more easily imagine God preferring a cozy corner table at Starbucks (or maybe the Coffee Hound because He probably believes in supporting local businesses! :) ) where we can talk over concerns, hopes and I can learn His perspective on it all.

Not that I put myself at on an equal plane with God, but I don't believe He desires the formality or specially worded prayers.

There's a place for awe and respect in the way I speak to Him, but there's also a sincere need to be honest and not put on a brave perfect front. That's not me and He wants to meet with the real me, not Angie in a disguise.

When I've ached for something, like another child or for someone to buy our house, I've wondered if I needed to say the magic words.

Could there be a phrase like "Bippity Boppity Boo" that would unlock the door holding the treasure I desperately desired?

There must have been a game on The Price is Right that works like that. I could hear Bob Barker, or now Drew Carey, saying "Select the right key and you will win fabulous prizes that you can't even imagine" while beautiful women hold the keys that I need to choose from.

But no, God doesn't run the world like a game show and thank goodness Bob Barker and Drew Carey can't compare to Him.

There are no special words or techniques.
He desires simplicity, honesty and adoration, and this is what Jesus calls us to;

"The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply." (Matthew 6:7-8)

23 August 2010

Techno Addict

It's been really hard.

I feel like I've gone through withdrawal, but for the past couple of weeks, I've stayed away from the internet and the iphone for one day a week. My mind constant turns to wondering what else I need to check online and it drives me crazy. I don't want to be mentally tethered to the silly screen but there must be some happy button that gets pushed when I find new information.

The idea of a techno sabbath isn't new and really I want to unplug for more than one day a week, but this is my starting point. You can read more about my addiction journey to this point in the Pantagraph column.

Gotta go, Facebook to check, emails to send, and online sales to shop.

18 August 2010

Eating, Praying, Loving

Wanderlust is tugging inside of me again and I blame it on Julia Roberts, well really I should blame Elizabeth Gilbert.

Last night on a rare girls night at the movies, we saw Eat, Pray, Love. I knew what to expect since I've read the book, but I didn't guess the amazing streets of Italy, the mystic bustle of India, and the pure paradise of Indonesia would be so incompatible with my scenery consisting of rows of cornfields in Illinois.

What woman can't relate to and desire the courage to do what Liz did when she set off for a year of self-discovery in absolute romantic locations? No matter how much we love our families, friends, and places of influence, that fairy tale tug, perhaps ingrained from too many bedtime Cinderella stories, doesn't disappear. And this movie fueled the hope of finding something more fulfilling in a far-off country.

For these reasons I totally love Liz Gilbert.

But for more deeply held convictions, I totally disagree with her. I want to be her soul mate and aspire to be like her, but I just can't.

I can't agree with her spiritual revelations.

It sounds so good to say as Liz does, that God is everywhere and that God is within you. If you stop there, I completely agree. God is huge. There is no where to hide from Him. And God lives in everyone who asks Him - in the form of the Holy Spirit.

But I can't agree with the so called enlightened idea that God is me, that I am God. I see spirituality as black and white. I am not God (thank goodness for that!) and no amount of meditation or search for bliss inside of myself can bring the peace and grace that only comes from the holy true God.

I know I sound unenlightened and so backwardly conservative in my spirituality. Call me unliberated and Midwesternly out of it, but I do believe I have experienced God in the form of love, peace, grace and hope. These have been gifts from somewhere so far outside of me that I spend my prayer times looking out rather than within.

So, Liz Gilbert I thank you for stirring up the spirit of adventure inside of me. I can not agree with you on many counts, but in my own place and own way I look to enjoy life by Eating, Praying, and Loving.

16 August 2010

In the neighborhood

A Sold sign sits in the yard a few houses down and we have anticipated the new neighbors moving in for several weeks. The rumor is that a 4 year old will be living there and we can't wait to find out if that 4 year old is a girl or boy. Neighbors make great friends and like it or not, the close proximity brings many opportunities to learn the good and bad about each other. But the comfort of knowing friendly people are there and ready to lend a travel book, or drop off a strawberry pie adds sweetness to home.

While we're anticipating the new neighbors on our street, I am so thankful that more than 2000 years ago, God kept His promise to move into my neighborhood. One of the promises that must have filled the Jewish people with great hope in the times of Zechariah the prophet, and perhaps even today is the assurance that God will be moving into the neighborhood.

"Shout and celebrate, Daughter of Zion! I'm on my way. I'm moving into your neighborhood."
(2:10)

With Jesus' birth, that promise was fulfilled and He literally slept, ate, and lived in a physical neighborhood. He knew the concerns the issues, the sicknesses of people around Him and entered into the challenges of the day in a tangible way. As Jesus wept, celebrated, and healed among the friends and strangers in his hometown and in surrounding towns His presence couldn't be denied.

Jesus isn't physically moving into that house down my street, in fact He is already here. Not in some mystical way that I need to search inside to find, but in a tangible way through the Holy Spirit living in everyone who has found life through Jesus.

He is in my neighborhood and He is in yours.

12 August 2010

Tilt a whirl

My stomach hasn't done flip-flops for a while.

It's been a few weeks so my neck is lined straight up and down again.

I forgot about the feeling of adrenaline swirling up inside only to be sloshed to another side.


But I won't forget the thrill of watching my little boy experience something so shocking and I look forward to the next time we can ride on a carnival ride!

Long Live the Tilt a Whirl!!

Change in profession

Nine months ago, Asher dressed as a Knight for Halloween. Every day since then he has put on his armor and insisted on being called Knight. His passion for Knighthood led him to add Knight to one of the three words he can spell. The others being Asher, and Keep Out (a story for another day). He has had battles with his dad, played with Princess Amelie, and studied many books to know everything about Knights.

Then we had a cowboy themed VBS.
Then we vacationed in Colorado and watched a Cowboy Parade.

And now my knight has become a cowboy - actually not just a cowboy, a sheriff. For a while he wanted to keep a foot in the knight genre and switched between armor and a bandanna. But the other day he officially switched.

In that calm moment before the beginning of his quiet time he asked, "Mom when I grow up can I be a cowboy instead of a knight?" I agreed that would be a good profession and he officially changed his dreams.

10 August 2010

Notes from the DMV

Everyone knows not to expect any form of good service at the DMV. Rudeness and apathy abound. I reminded myself of this before I renewed my drivers license last week, but still held on to hope that someone behind the counter might actually smile at me.


Didn't happen.

When I got back in my car to leave after the delightful experience, I jotted down several observations so I could remember to vent about them later. Here they are.


Observation #1
Mirrors not allowed.


The drivers license picture is the single picture of me that complete strangers will see most often. I will show it to cashiers almost every day for the next four years. So of course I wanted to make sure I didn't have a stray hair sticking up or cottage cheese stains on my shoulder (both equally likely possibilities). However the DMV photographer smugly replied, "Nope, no mirror." when I asked to look at myself. I wondered how many times a day she delights in telling drivers that news and why no one had thought of actually providing a mirror for one last look before the picture is snapped.


I'm thinking of donating a mirror to the cause!


Observation #2
Grumpiness required.


Walmart specifically hires greeters - kind men and women to stand at their doors simply to smile and say hello. These employees might occasionally pull out a cart or provide direction, but their main job is to welcome customers to the store. The DMV specifically hires grumpers. Men and women who serve as the first point of contact to make the customer feel unwelcome and begin the initial infusement of grumpiness that pervades throughout the building.



Observation #3
Bring your own sanitizer.


Not only did I get the privilege of being grumped at by the second person I was directed to, but I also got to watch her consistently reach two fingers into her mouth to pull out pieces of ... (gum? skin? paper?) and deposit them in the garbage. This must have happened every 30 seconds and after she threw away whatever piece of whatever from her mouth, her fingers jumped right back onto her keyboard. I barely passed the vision test because my eyes focused on where her hands went to make sure they weren't touching anything that would soon be handed back to me.


Observation #4
They really don't want your money.

I should know by now that they don't want it to be convenient to pay the registration tax. This is the one area I should applaud the DMV because they do now accept credit cards, but I'm still frustrated that my primary method of paying everywhere else is not an option at the DMV. The sign taped onto the cash register simply taunts me as it states, "We accept Mastercard, Discover, VISA." With a BIG "X" through the VISA. Who doesn't take VISA? Yes, of course it would be the DMV.


Despite the inefficiency and unfriendly treatment, I made it through the experience, passed my drivers test again, and have another bad picture to carry around in my wallet for the next 4 years.

06 August 2010

Really Alive

"But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive!"
Habakkuk 2:4
I am so drawn to this idea of being fully alive! Really alive!
My world is so practical and task focused that I get frustrated with finding those opportunities to be fully alive. Finding them, and then pushing beyond my tiredness to grab and act on them.
Pushing past inhibitions and practicalities is hard enough on a normal day, but on the days when I'm tired of figuring out what we can have for a snack and sibling scwabbles are constant, I have no energy for doing what it would take to live up to my mind's image of being free and alive.
As a mom of preschoolers I don't know what it looks like to live that fully alive life day to day.
But, by looking at these words in Habakkuk, it looks like being fully alive starts with right standing before God.
So is it freedom from my worry and fears that would allow me to stay in right standing?
Is it constant confession?
According to the one who gives life, Full life comes from having right standing before God.
How simple that seems.
Right standing comes when I put faith in Jesus and accept His gift of grace. I've done that. So in theory, according to Habakkuk, I already have full life! real life!
And this is where the choice for abundant life comes - the choice to trust the path of grace and rest in love I've been shown rather than trying to forge my own new and wandering way.

03 August 2010

Do you hear it?

Do you hear it coming?
For me, it's just five more weeks.
Five more weeks until my schedule begins!

That's just a little over a month until the days become strict and we start rushing around from preschool to Moms Group to Bible Study to nights of fitting in all the unfinished business. And while I've loved the vacations, parks, and pool times we've had this year, I'm ready for something a little more to my days.

Structure - I miss you!
I hear God getting ready to do something specific with our days and I'm kind of anxious for it to begin.


Like sounds of a distant ice cream truck which Asher has superpower hearing for, I am waiting to see what this year of activity is going to bring. Sure, we're enjoying our summer, but in a laid back way of knowing these lazy undemanding days aren't going to last.
When we first moved to our new neighborhood, we didn't get much warning that the ice cream truck was driving by. We heard it and by the time we made it to the front door, we saw the back of the van heading down the street - too late. No ice cream again.

So Asher's hearing has miraculously become capable of hearing the Candy Man music while it is in distant neighborhoods. For the past 2 Saturdays, he has sat on his dinosaur lawn chair patiently waiting by the mailbox for over an hour. About 15 minutes before it shows up, I begin to hear it, but until then the truck makes a noise similar to a dog whistle, music only heard by 4 year old boys who love popsicles.

And after the waiting comes the reward. It's what he waited for and he delights in the icy sweetness.

I hear my structured schedule approaching and am patiently waiting for those days to begin.

29 July 2010

Coffee Name

Do you have a coffee name?

You know, a name you give the Starbucks barista even thought it's not your real name.

Walter heard a story on NPR yesterday about the realization that those names scrawled in black marker on the side of the white logo clad cup might not be accurate. Like a fake phone number you give to the person you really don't want to get a phone call from.

Sure, my number is 555-1234.

It's a name intended to portray an identity different from your own. Sometimes meant to confuse, sometimes to shock, and maybe just to add a moment of whimsy to your day.

We sat on the porch discussing our coffee names for a while as Asher did his "sport" of throwing a tennis ball over the tree. I gave Walter his new coffee name and he approved of mine.

Calvin and Calie talked about the lattes and dark roasts we would enjoy together as we sipped coffee in romantic coffee shops looking up at the mountains or while digging our toes in the sand.

Then Walter and Angie went into the house to change a diaper and set the table for dinner.

27 July 2010

Don't forget Amelie

I often say God gave Asher such an interesting personality so I would have something to write about. With my oldest child providing so much material for me to analyze, I often forget to write about the sweetness of my Amelie.


Three years ago, I started this blog as an outlet for writing and to keep family and friends up to date on the happenings in our family. RealReedy has morphed through different phases from focus on family stories, to what I'm learning from God, and then just random thoughts that need to find their way to a page. But one thing that has remained constant is my desire for this to be a record of our lives whether that means I am entertaining or not (sorry!).

So I'm taking opportunity here to share about Amelie.

She is the girl whose face lights up when she waves and blows kisses to anyone and anything. She waves at her pacifier when we leave it in the crib, she waves to Elmo on her diapers, and fervently waves at pictures of Asher hanging on the wall.

She is the girl who loves shoes and hats (won't we have fun shopping in a few years!?). The crocs I bought for her to wear next summer are her favorites and if they are not on her feet, she brings them to me so I can put them on for her.

She is the girl who loves to eat. If the toddler-proof snack bowl is in her hands, she smiles. Our son refuses to eat at most meals, so Amelie eats her portion and often moves on to Asher's.

She is the girl who appears to have an obsessive side like her mommy. She insists on putting things away properly (don't put the toothpaste away without the lid on!) or you'll have to do it again.

She is the girl with no fear of water - who runs along the edge of the swimming pool until she has escaped my reach and then decides to lunge for the water. I'm constantly running back and forth trying to estimate where she will decide to jump in.

She is the girl who cuddles with even Touch and Feel books, trying to rub them onto her arm and be as close to the soft feeling as possible.

She is the girl who loves to dance. Instrumental, Pop, Folk, Washing machine buzzer, Learning toy tune, it doesn't matter, she's not afraid to show off her moves.

She is the girl who God gave us as a reminder that there is much Hope in the world.