30 April 2010


My heart may be more inclined to these kinds of books, or this could be the latest trend in the Christian world, but recently I've come across several voices speaking out to call Christian believers to a more radical faith.

Francis Chan in Crazy Love holds nothing back when he challenges readers to love God in ridiculous ways by making hard choices to live out the words we say about being a Christ follower.

Do Hard Things by two teenagers challenge their peers (and adults!) to not settle into a comfortable American life but to stretch ourselves to make sacrifices for others.

On my list to read in this vein is The Christian Atheist and now Radical. These books too are meant to be a wake-up call to American Christianity to actually look at how Jesus lived and then to follow His example.

That might mean giving away more money than a 10% tithe. It could look like becoming friends with people very different than us. They challenge us to let go of some of the defining traits of being American like consumerism, living the American dream, and safety.

In a different life stage, these kinds of challenges would have pushed me into a different life path. I might have followed my inquiries into living in Siberia. Living in an inner city Chicago house could have appealed to me more than it did.

But I'm not in that stage to leave and when I say that it sounds like just another excuse leading to my great frustration. It's a tension between desire to do these hard things but being so entrenched in the circumstances of my life that I don't see the way to follow what these writers - ultimately the voice of Jesus call me to do.

I'm part of a blogging for books preview team for Waterbrook which gave me access to the first chapter of Radical. You can also read that first chapter here and then request a free booklet which is an even longer summary of the book here.

I don't have the answers, just have been reminded again of the challenge. I'm looking for ideas. Any others out there living out radical Christianity in their American world?

29 April 2010

I need a Mom!

With swords, armor, torches, and weapon accessories scattered all over his room, it's no wonder Asher couldn't find the helmet and dagger he needed! Before you think I'm a terrible parent for allowing my child to build an armory in his room, I better say these knight pieces are parts of Asher's various Playmobil obsessions.

I sat quietly in the living room while I heard him look for me in the kitchen, and then the screened porch. When he didn't see me in either of those places, he muttered, "I need a mom!" Wanting to be that mom who could solve any problem, I called out that I was in fact just around the corner in the living room and he rushed in describing the case of the missing dagger and helmet.

Because he has been as careful as only a 4 year old in keeping track of all the tiny pieces that go with his castle, I couldn't resist the opportunity to remind him of the repeated words he knew about the imminent reality that some of those pieces would get lost.

But I was happy to be the mom he needed!

Who doesn't need a mom sometimes?

I need a mom right about now and I'm excited that she will be coming home a week from today!!

26 April 2010


Before I ever got pregnant with Amelie, Asher shouted his feelings about babies every time we spotted an infant carrier. He would run through the church hallway shouting that there should not be any babies there. So we knew having a squirming new one at our own home would bring a big set of challenges.

And it has.

Even a year later, that sign about "no babies" still gets hung back up on our porch and he regularly tells me of his frustrations with having Amelie around. Thankfully God provides glimpses into Asher's heart that reveal he really does love his baby sister, but the words that come from my son's mouth don't usually match those inner feelings.

Through my frustration and extreme desire for my kids to have a bond that will last a lifetime, I take every opportunity to probe into his heart to understand the root of his negative feelings. I think I understand the basics.

1. He is mourning the loss of Walter and my complete attention.

2. He wants her to be a friend that he can play with like his best buds that he acts so silly with.

The attention is an obvious threat. I prepared myself for that one and clearly see him wrestle with it daily. He wants to show us how he can walk since Amelie is now taking teetering steps. He tries to prove his knowledge of animal noises as Amelie begins to make woofing and tweeting sounds.

But I am surprised by his intense desire for Amelie to grow up. I see now that a baby who cries and sleeps and sometimes smells stinky is of no use for a 4 year old. Even though I've pointed out that she can play catch now and they can chase each other or they can look at books together she's still not old enough.

This weekend, he asked if we could make a countdown calendar to the day when Amelie will be grown up. Envisioning us creating a 17 year calendar that we could mark off every day until she officially becomes grown up brought a lump to my throat. As her mom, I'm not looking forward to that day when she is grown up and leaves the house! I love having my cuddly girl with her wide grin.

But Asher's time frame for when Amelie would be grown up isn't quite so long. When I asked when that time would be when she is grown up, he told me, "When she is two."

And I smiled.

If I only have to wait another 11 months until her second birthday for Asher to finally like his sister, I will be a happy mom!

22 April 2010

His Delight

Thinking of a fantastic name ranks near the top of every pregnant mom's to do list. After years of dreamy discussions with girl friends during the early morning hours of slumber parties, when the time to make a choice approaches selecting the perfect name can become an obsession.

There's so much to consider.

Names stick from those first moments of life when we sweetly coo the name into the babies ear until that same name is called from the platform of some graduation stage and then through their career - whatever that may be - into an age when they too will rarely hear that name because the people closest to them refer to them as "Honey" or "Mommy."

No pressure!

It took us (well actually it took Walter) several months during my first pregnancy to get serious about choosing a name. But in the end we felt sentimental attachment to the names we had chosen for our children and I would be sad to think of them being called by another name.

I'm sure my parents went through a similar process when they picked out Angela. Because no one ever calls me by my full name, I often imagine a different me when I'm referred to by that name.

Angela always dresses up and looks sophisticated. Angie wears jeans and a t-shirt.

Angela sits at a desk managing corporate issues. Angie manages naptimes and what's for dinner.

Angela's life is always put together. Angie hopes putting pillows back on the couch will cover over life's chaos.

Both Angela and Angie fit me and on most days I like the person she is.

So when I was reminded of God's plan to give me a new name, my intrigue went up and I wondered what I would rather be called.

The book of Isaiah tells that, "(I) will get a brand new name straight from the mouth of God. (I) will be a stunning crown in the palm of God's hand, a jeweled gold cup held high in the hand of my God. No more will anyone call me Rejected , and my country will no more be called Ruined. (I) will be called Hephizibah (My Delight), and (my) land Beulah (Married)." (62:2-4)

It's hard to imagine being called any one's delight - let alone the God of the Universe's. But believers, as part of Christ's church, are indeed the recipients of His complete attention and love. Unique in the person He has made me to be I keep being reminded that He longs for me to live in that assurance even now.

I'm feeling challenged today to know He delights in me and has a new name for me that supersedes all the negative labels I constantly place on myself.

19 April 2010

Chop it down!

Asher had a run in with a tree this weekend. When the Knight gets hurt, I wouldn't say he handles his wound with grace, yet. We usually listen to shouts about the fact that he will never feel better in his whole life or that the scrape on his knee will be there forever.

And he has plenty to say about whatever inanimate object attacked him.

Saturday it was a hydrangea bush. Moments earlier, he climbed about six inches off the ground into its branches and declared his new perch to be in the best tree ever and the next minute he wanted to chop that tree down. In those few seconds between love and hate he fell out of his best tree friend and gained a scrape along his neck that of course will never ever feel better.

For the past 24 hours the bush lurks outside our backdoor as the enemy. When we walk past or even when we're doing something completely different, Asher reminds us that we need to cut down that bush.

Wouldn't it be great if it were that easy? There are a few things that have wounded me that I wish I could just get rid of! The desire to retaliate is so intense that Asher's honest words about what to do with an attacker verbalize what I want to do with the things that cause me pain.

Who wants to face the enemy everyday? Whether it be a friend who has wounded me, a jester hat that I can't knit up right or a bush that I fall out of, getting rid of the problem sounds like a better plan than overcoming and even trying again.

Wow does it mean that if I want Asher to let go of resentment and try something again that I need to learn the same lesson?

Why do my kids seem to inherit the same issues I want to run away from? Somehow seeing it in him intensifies my realization of my problem spots. I think God has a sense of humor that way.

15 April 2010

Inspection Day

Inspectors will arrive soon to look this house over from the top of our drafty attic to the bottom of the basement drain. All the flaws this house has accumulated over its 90+ year lifetime will soon be exposed. We've discovered most of these flaws during our years of living here, but I'm sure there are a few we haven't become aware of...yet.

I don't really want anyone poking and peering all throughout this wonderful space I call home. Whatever the issues are here, we have come to accept them and even overlook most of them. I'm nervous that an outsider might find these familiar problems are more than "just the way it is," and label them as something that can be fixed.

We say that a lot around here as if it ends the discussion and elimiates a need for change. "That's just the way I am," Asher says when he tells me he doesn't like babies. "That's just the way I am," I inform Walter when I explain why my critical words tumbled out of my unguarded mouth - once again.

Some of the problems in our house have even become endearing. I smile at the frost on the clothes in my closet. We sigh over the bathtub handle that won't stay on straight. And we chuckle as we realize the chipmunks have added another tunnel in their elaborate labryinth under our backyard.

The negative patterns of family interactions and personal flaws also become comfortable. I know many of them are there, but its easiest just to chalk those things up to "that's just the way it is."

But I'm guessing the inspector today will tell us and the buyer will request for this not to be the way that it is. There are fixes for many of the issues in this house. Most of them would be expensive or require a lot of time and manual labor. But problems don't have to remain problems.

It doesn't sound fun or easy, but there are also fixes for the negative issues...ok I'll be blunt, the sins...in my life. Those sins don't have to be "just the way it is."

Jesus didn't die for me to be comfortable holding on to the very things he experienced agony for just because they are costly or difficult to fix. And I don't want my only explanation to Him for why I didn't take advantage of His life changing power to be "that's just the way I am."

It's Inspection Day and "that's just the way it is" won't be explanation enough.

13 April 2010

Different kind of challenge

I visited a new mom friend yesterday. She' s not a new friend, just a new mom.

I think my kids scared her.

They didn't break or spill anything, but Asher made his usual pokes at Amelie and climbed on the furniture. Amelie eyed my friend's cookbooks stored at her level and got hit in the face by a flying breastplate. (Yes, we traveled as knights yesterday.)

My dear friend who I used to meet for lunch once a week in my previous corporate life watched our craziness while her sweet baby slept through it all. She talked about the challenges of sleeplessness and nursing and revealed how the idea of packing him up to head out into the world loomed as a mountain to climb for another day.

It was her first day home alone with the baby and my wise friend shared her secret thought that it would be easier to go to work then stay home with the baby.

She's not alone with that thought. There have many many Monday mornings when I ask Walter if I can go to his meetings to talk about rate making and he can stay home with the Knight and the Princess. I'm certainly not saying heading out and working long hours in an office or classroom or any setting is easy. It's just a completely different kind of challenge.

I remember stressful days of meeting deadlines that seemed impossible or dealing with customers that I wanted to throw my coffee at. But some days that different kind of challenge would be, well ...fun. (Somebody stop me before I get too excited about dressing up in a suit and sipping coffee while chatting with my coworkers.)

Today will be a different kind of challenge. I will manage dressing little bodies - one squirmy the other picky about his clothing choices. Then I'll provide three different breakfasts to demanding patrons who won't leave any kind of tip besides an abandoned stuffed turtle or bananas on the floor. And then we'll be off for a day where anything can happen.

It's a different kind of challenge, but don't worry Melissa, as you shift from actuary to mothering skills you'll realize your rewards are now better!

08 April 2010


As a responsible yet fearful child, I felt the panic of being lost regularly. My height doesn't help. I can't see over the clothes racks at department stores even today. When I shopped with my mom, hanging shirts and dresses often turned into a maze and I navigated them with rising worry that I would be lost in the store forever.

So when I lost Asher while shopping last year, that flood of panic intensified a billion times with my overdrive mom emotions. I did find him again and we now have a plan for how to quickly locate each other when we are in that panic mode.

God also has a plan for us when we need Him. Its as simple as crying out His name. You can read the whole story here.

05 April 2010

Believe in Hope

We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus yesterday and He is still alive today! The hope we sang about and proclaimed on Easter Sunday doesn't end when the day is over and that is the best source of joy I know of.

For one weekend, Asher changed his insistence on being called "Knight" to the new name of "Easter Bunny."
Yes, I'm serious.

He wore Easter Bunny ears with his Easter clothes to church yesterday, walked into his Sunday School class proclaiming to his teacher that he is the Easter Bunny and left those ears on throughout all of his class. As a parent I felt like I should hang a sign around his neck stating that he does know the real meaning of Easter. Nothing stopped him from morphing into the fluffy bunny who delivers eggs and candy.

It seems just as easy for Asher to believe in the Easter Bunny as in the rabbits he sees hopping around our backyard. Kids have no trouble believing in crazy things like a bunny who delivers chocolate rabbits surrounded by plastic grass or in someone rising from the dead. For them, there is always hope that the impossible is reality.

The great news about Easter is that for once, the impossible really did happen. Jesus really did rise from the dead and He really does still live, promising us ultimate hope of eternal life if we put trust in Him.

02 April 2010

Busy Night

It's been a busy night.

No I haven't been awake with a crying baby or insomnia. But today I recognize that early in the morning some 2000 years ago, while ordinary families slept, Jesus endured trials and mockings. As I lay snug under the covers of my comfortable bed soldiers led Jesus from Jewish priests to Roman rulers, back and forth until ultimately selfish pride ordered his death sentence.

It's been a busy night.

While my body refreshed itself with sleep allowing this flesh to be full of renewed expectation for another day, they mangled Jesus' body. After he surrendered himself to the detachment of soldiers armed with spears the physical torment began. With floggings, thorns pressed into his forehead, and spit dripping down his face, Jesus' body bled and muscles began to weaken.

It's been a busy night.

The soldiers, Roman officials, and Jewish religious leaders carried out the sentencing and torture so many years ago, but it happened because of me. My pride, my selfishness, my angry words, my critical spirit did it. For my sins, Jesus allowed Himself to be condemned.

Although I slept soundly, it's been a busy night.