Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hope and Love

"It's not a song about money it's a song about love and hope."

So I was listening to a song by "Everclear"  called I Will Buy You a New Life   on Youtube Art Alexakis, said, "It's not a song about money, it's a song about love and hope."  I love to turn this song up LOUD and sing along.  I know the lyrics, but I never thought about it that way.  Love and Hope...but its true. 

When I was first married (almost 18 years ago!) to the Husband, I remember my mother saying his biggest fault was that he wanted to buy me the moon and put a fence around it.  She meant it as a good thing, mostly. I don't think she actually believed he would try to buy the moon (or buy me a star for naming rights) but that he wanted to shower me with gifts to show me his love. 

My mother, even without reading The Five Love Languages, saw that his love language was gifts.  I have written about my inability to recognize this more than once.  Sadly, mine is not so I did not pick up on it for a long time.  Don't get me wrong, I love to buy gifts, I just don't always accept them well.  Ironically, I self-identify my love language as words of affirmation but I struggle with accepting compliments too.  (Why yes, I am a mess, thank you for asking? ;) )

We have a lot of love and hope in our home.  Except when we don't.  Sometimes when enough plans go awry, when enough things break at the same time, when the weight of enough unrealized dreams feel suffocating I need to remember the love and hope of the moon with a fence around it, the new car, perfect shiny and new...

Or that there is at least that desire to do those things.  It isn't always easy to remember.  I am getting old though. :D

Hope and Love.  Gotta have Hope and Love. When it feels like hope is fading I try to find the silver lining.  My cup half empty personality isn't always successful and when the cup half full husband struggles, it's a sad day.  Usually, looking at the faces of the kids is enough to remind us what is really important.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011


One year ago, at 7:23 pm, our family gained a princess.  The testosterone levels got tempered just a smidgen when Miss M joined the family.

She has been treated like a little princess since that moment.  My heart melted when she was whimpering at 3 days old and the then 15 yo rushed across the room, lifted her up and gently rocked her in his arms.  "It's okay if she fusses a little," I said.  "Not my sister," was the shocked reply.

That protectiveness is evidenced in all five of her older brothers.  Sometimes we joke that she'll never be able to go out on a date because the big brothers will scare the boys away.  I usually add that it's a good thing too because the Husband and I won't be able to chase them with our walkers...

You might think we're raising her to be self-centered.  I hope not, although developmentally it's pretty normal for all kids to think the world revolves around them. 

I do want her to believe she is a princess, that she is valued and special just as she is, uniquely and wonderfully made.  Do you see where I'm going with this?

There is a book I saw at convention (there I go again!) called Gigi, God's Little Princess by Sheila Walsh.  The story is about a little girl who is always told she is a princess (and she acts like one. ;) ) but she wonders where her castle and jewels are and when she asks her father, he tells her that she is a child of the greatest King; she is a princess because she is a Child of God.  When I got home I was telling her Godmother about this cute book.  (Even after a year of buying tutu skirts and tights, I am a newbie to buying girly things but Aunt S is a pro with three beautiful daughters (and one handsome son) who already knew all about it.)

This morning among the gifts from her Godparents was a little pink box with the word princess embossed on the outside.  Inside was a pendant shaped like a crown, with pink and white crystals.  Inside was the verse, "Delight yourself in the Lord." Psalm 37:4.

Oh sweet Miss M, I pray you always know how precious and special and loved you are.  I pray that you never need  to look to others to feel special or loved or valued.  I pray that you know from the tip of your toes to the top of your head that you are loved by your family and more importantly by God who created you with a purpose and that you will "Delight yourself in the Lord."    Your brothers and father and I love you so very much, but even as much as we love you, God loves you more. 

God loves each of us more than we can possibly understand.  I wish I had realized that a very long time ago.  I am thankful to know it now and I hope that my children (and you and yours) know it too, and believe it.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Hugger

I'm a lover not a fighter.  My husband may dispute that but in all honesty, you know how some people love a good debate?  I. Do. Not.  At all.  I really find discord unnerving.  I find people who try to fuel discord unpleasant.  I like to keep the peace, not make waves. 

Sometimes though, I recognize that it is improper to just be quiet.  Sometimes it is not engaging in drama to speak your piece and sometimes it is totally appropriate to speak.

I am not the greatest advocate for my kids.  I am more about blending in with the cement brick of the school halls than I am about speaking up for my kids.  I am not proud of it and I am very thankful that the Husband is comfortable filling this role.  (Too comfortable at times, in my opinion.  Let's keep the waves down, shall we?!)

I am learning, though, that sometimes the greatest sin I can commit is one of omission, of not speaking out or up.  There is a poem on an Alfred Tibor sculpture at the seminary I attended in Columbus, Ohio that talks about how one ignored injustices done to other groups and then when they came for the subject, there was no one left to speak out on the subject's behalf.  (I wish I could find the exact text of the poem, google is failing me today!)   We can blend in and laugh along or we can go against the grain and speak out.  We can be part of the mob bullying the different person or we can be brave enough to stand up and say, "No." 

I try not to judge, but I do.  I try to find compassion, even for the person I disagree with.  I do not, you see, always know their story or motivation. They may feel or behave the way they do for a reason and we may never see eye to eye.  I am working to become alright with that, to accept that we all have different ways of being and that God has a reason for creating us all uniquely; wonderfully and uniquely. 

I am learning to stick my toes into the cold and murky waters, of speaking when it would be easier to remain silent.  I am reminded that I can do it because it is right and good and what God would want.  I can do it because the strength does not come from within me but from He who created all things.

Praying that in all things we can recognize God's call on our lives, when He calls us to speak and when he calls us to be silent.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Mother of the Student

If you've seen the movie, Father of the Bride, with Steve Martin playing FOTB (father of the bride), you may recall a scene where he went to the grocery store and got a little miffed about the fact that hot dogs and hot dog buns are packaged in different amounts.  I believe it got him a visit to a holding cell.

Today I was trying to finish the school supply shopping.  All I wanted was a yellow, wide ruled 1 subject notebook, in the store brand.  Think "chipper (cheaper) chicken."  Every, and I do mean every yellow one-subject notebook I found was college ruled or of the shrimp or filet mignon variety.  Then I found some multi packs of notebooks and I slit the plastic wrap open to see if there might be a yellow one hiding in the middle.  (I would have bought the whole package, don't judge me!) Alas, there was not a yellow notebook in the bunch, I ended up finding one at the grocery store. They might not carry "my" brand of peanut butter anymore, but they came through with a notebook. 

And to be clear, the notebook was not all I  wanted needed.  I have extensive and extremely specific lists for three of the four school-aged children.  The high school senior will come home with his lists the first day of school when the store shelves are picked over and the prices are high. 

As I searched the aisles of F-O-U-R different stores, trying to finish the school shopping I've been doing for three weeks, I started to identify with FOTB.  I mean, here I am needing all these folders in specific colors (Why is orange so hard to come by in "chipper chicken" brands?), multiple 2" binders in specific colors (also not available in "chipper chicken"), post-its,  motivational stickers, tennis balls, flash drives...and I felt for FOTB.  I mean really....Are orange folders and yellow-covered notebooks really going to make my children learn that much better? 

I have nothing against the teachers and I'm sure they have systems and plans and they have the best interests of the children at heart, but the color of the folders are not going to enhance their learning any more than serving filet mignon at a wedding reception is going to guarantee a happy marriage.  (Happy guests, perhaps, unless they're vegetarians...)

I was feeling very agitated and I did start to get annoyed at these specific (and can I add costly) lists.  Then I took a deep breath and realized my reaction would not change things.  I could refuse to buy the lists of stuff but then my kids would probably pay for my "statement".  I could email the teachers and tell them their lists are a hardship, but then my pride would be at stake. 

I took some deep breaths, resolved to do my best and yes, you guessed it, I prayed for peace and calm.  I prayed that my feelings of frustration and worry would not sour my attitude.  I said a prayer of thanksgiving for God's provision. 

I do not always agree with or understand why items are required.  Sometimes "chipper chicken" is perfectly acceptable.  Sometimes though, we have to suck it up and buy 8 buns and 10 hot dogs, just because that's the way things are.  In those moments when things are the way they are, peace and patience come from the Lord. 

Maybe FOTB should have prayed...maybe then he wouldn't have ended up in the holding cell. ;) 


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Good Soil

This is the second year we've planted potatoes in a container.  As renters we are only allowed to garden in pots and while some people have grand success planting all sorts of produce in containers, we have the most success with cucumbers, hot peppers and potatoes. 

The soil in our potato container is rich and dark and the potato and cucumber harvest this year (Which I apparently neglected to take any pictures of) was/is absolutely delicious.  The Husband composts potato and carrot peals and other vegetable-type matter in the bins each year and there are worms crawling's a veritable bin of goodness, well to the worms and growing things, it's not where I would want to be if one of my kids built a shrink ray and I found myself trapped outside the size of an ant, but I digress...

My point is the bins are full of good soil.  The Husband puts good things in to fortify the soil, give it nutrients and the things to help it help our potatoes and cucumbers grow.  If we just tossed random trash in the bins along with vegetable peelings, we would have....a bin full of garbage.

If my heart is full of garbage (negative thoughts, feelings and expectations), (like green sock puppets of sin ) there is not going to be "good soil" there either.  When I notice the linty green puppets rearing their heads, I have to make a conscious decision to take that trash to the curb and instead nurture love and compassion and understanding, to read the Bible and to pray.  It is work, like tending a garden or raising children, but I'd rather have tasty potatoes and cucumbers than a linty bin of trash.

Lord, let my heart be good soil. 


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's What You Feel....

Sometimes I get my feelings hurt.  I feel left out, discounted, ignored or slighted.  One of my professors several years ago said, "No one can make you feel something, its your perception that gives the emotion." 

Okay.  Fine counseling words.  I learned to try to erase the phrase, "You made me feel..." from my vocabulary and to even think about why emotions are rearing their ugly heads.  Imagine little green heads like sock puppets with badges saying things like envy, self-pity, judgement or disdain sneering at you (or me ;) ). 

Why do I feel the negative things?  Most often it's because I'm letting my own perceptions of a situation impact my emotions instead of taking things at face value with a positive outlook.  I'm on the defensive and those green sock puppet guys grow and start to get some serious attitude.

You know what that is, right?  Those green sock puppet guys are sin, separating me from God and from His blessings.  My own insecurities start to control my feelings and perceptions.  Other people don't make me feel, sin and separation make me feel

In Tenth Avenue North's Song, "You Are More," they sing:
This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved

But it's not even about what I feel, is it?  Not really.  I can spend a lot of time navel gazing, worrying about my own bruised ego and hurt feelings.  What do I get?  An eye full of lint (green sock puppet lint. Yuck!) and a bad attitude. 

When I remember to put others first, put the glory of God before myself, my "hurt feelings" (or false perceptions??? hmmm???)   seem to shrink away and the joy of serving for the sake of serving gets its proper place of prominence in my life.  The green sock puppets of sin melt like the witch in The Wizard of Oz in a rainshower and I am left feeling the love of God.  That's the feeling that doesn't come from my own pereceptions and self-deception, but from what He gave to me. 

May you feel His Love.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Under the Table

You might think it's uncomfortable lying underneath a table.  I'm sure there are times when it would be. 

Then again, if you're in a folding table fort decked out with pillows and fleece blankets and some cute guys, AKA *I* and the Husband, it is actually quite cozy.

Choosing to be there instead of doing dishes or schoolwork or any number of chores was mighty pleasant.  I could have fallen asleep... errr, well, at least it was comfy like bunny slippers.

I love the moments when we do unexpected things.  It wasn't like the parents planned to build a fort for the beasties and hang out.  *I* built his blanket and table fort and then invited us in.  So often I try to create these memories, anticipating their happiness and I think I try too hard and it loses something in the effort.  Perhaps in my imagination I expect greater applause and joy and perhaps I try too hard to contrive moments of happiness instead of letting them come naturally.

A friend was recently talking about how she was planning something, trying to figure out the options and all the while God had been working His plan behind the scenes so things were coming together.  Her response to this realization?  "Isn't God amazing?!"  She was full of thanksgiving and joy. 

How great is our God! He can do all things through us and through others.  Sometimes a 4 year-old can create the memories and the warm fuzzies for us.  Sometimes we can grow full of our own competence and vision and lose sight of Who is holding us all in His hand and making everything we do possible.

Lord, thank You for these gifts and the opportunities to use them.  May we use these gifts to glorify You and stop to pray for guidance so that we can  further Your plan.  Thank You for wrapping us in Your amazing grace and love. Amen.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Expectations May Not Match Reality....

I found this adorable fabric at Joanns the other day.

It screamed at me from the shelf, "Make Miss M a dress from ME!"  Okay, it didn't really scream, that would be a totally different problem.  But I was looking for fabric with apples to make her an apple picking outfit, because one must have an outfit for picking apples.  (It's my first girl, cut me some slack. ;) )  Alas, I have been unable to find apple fabric suitable for the image in my mind.  I'm picky like that.

Anyway, now I have this fabric and I have some idea of how I want the dress to look.  Not all one fabric, kind of bohemian, a little patchworky.  (I need some coordinating fabrics.  Shucks, I must go back to Joanns.  ;)  ) I found some patterns that sort of resemble what I want. ( but not exactly because a fall dress in my neck of the woods usually means long sleeves. 

There is another issue.  I am not an expert seamstress.  I mean, I can follow a pattern but I haven't perfected things yet.  (This is why knitting is so nice, you just rip it out and start over, no cutting out etc.). There is a part of me wondering if I should even try to make the dress in my mind's eye for Miss M.  It very well may look like something a 10 year-old made for her doll. (And I'm not talking a gifted 10 year-old, I'm talking me at age 10. : D)  In my mind, it does not look like that, it looks adorable and perfect and like something I would proudly (pride may be a problem) dress her in for church. :)  What if it turns out looking like Cinderella's castoff?  That's time and money and well, pride. :O.

Only time will tell.  A lesson I've heard it from my builder brother my whole life was reinforced yesterday.  "Measure twice, cut once."  Apparently, I mismeasured Miss M because the adorable circle skirt will fit her next fall or maybe the one after that.  The good news is, at just under a year, I could have sworn her waist measured 17"...apparently it's considerably less.

I could write a whole bunch about how God has a pattern for our life and no matter how we muck with it, He will use it for good.  I do believe that.  I also believe that trying to make the dress is the most important part because it's about the journey and the process not only the destination or the final product.  I just want the product to be wearable (and cute and to match my expectations.)  Just sayin'. 


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rolling. Silent But...

So today I read something and I found myself rolling my eyes.

When I roll my eyes, there is usually something snarky on the tip of my tongue, but my mouth filter is working so I don't say it our loud and the finger filter was functioning, so I didn't type it out for my facebook peeps to read. 

My heart filter wasn't working though...because I did roll my eyes and I did feel snarky things in my heart.  My feelings are my feelings and my thoughts are my thoughts but that doesn't make it right or good or in any way acceptable.  You see, I can feel a certain way, but if in my heart was judgement or disdain for another person, is it any different than tossing stones at them?

If I dislike or disagree with another human's words or actions, do I have a right to sit in judgement, no matter how much I want to or think it's funny or whatever?  Even if I am right and the other is so patently my opinion... should I exercise my eye socket muscles? 

No.  Not so much.  It's neither Biblical or kind.  State my own opinion or outlook?  Yes.  Keep my opinion to myself?  Yes. But the snarkiness is like poison for my heart and others hearts too.  I might as well toss little pebbles by the fistful or pitch larger stones or maybe heave one big ol' stone, because it's all the same.  And we all know what Jesus said about throwing stones, right? 

Lord, please help me to tame my snarky thoughts and rolling eyes.  Help me to remember that judgement and unkind thoughts tear down everyone, even me.  I pray for the kindness of heart to do as Jesus would do so that I can be a builder of things just as He was.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Village

So there's that saying about how it takes a village to raise your kids.  Some people will quip, "I've seen the village and I don't want them raising my kids."

I am fortunate to have an awesome village.  It isn't geographic though my neighbors are nice.  My village is my MOPS ladies (Yes!  Those women again!) and our church family.  We moved here four years ago and so we haven't had a ton of time to build relationships, but the blessing of MOPS and an amazing congregation have given us a place to belong, feel welcome and call home. 

That doesn't mean it's all smooth sailing.  It doesn't mean it's all sugary sweet, because people are human and we have different opinions and the stuff of life goes on and on.  If it was sugary sweet, it wouldn't be real or if it was "real" how healthy could it be?  Just think of all the cavities!

I am thankful for my village of people who care enough to celebrate in the good times, but not to turn away or judge in the less than perfect times.  It is in the bad times, when they can stand beside you and give you a hug and offer a shoulder or a tissue that I know how awesome my village is.  I love the times of laughter and of joyful celebration, don't get me wrong.  It's just good to know that your village isn't full of fair weather friends who only want to hear the answer, "Good." when they ask, "How are you?"  (I'm not advocating spewing all your stuff as you say a passing, "Hey!" at VBS drop off, don't get me wrong. There's a time and a place, but if you need a shoulder, it's okay to ask then, too.)

I'm reminded of the theme song from the sitcom "Cheers":
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

It's not so much about escape, as about community.  People that understand that everybody has worries and "stuff".  My village gives me a break from my worries because I can see that I am not alone, that I have people to shoulder them with me, to listen and to pray. 

I pray that you have a village of people to love and support you, in the great times and the not-so-great times.  We were created to live in community and I pray that you have a community, a village, that blesses you with love and joy and shoulders, that you and your village can be His hands and feet to one another.


Sunday, August 14, 2011


Do you use a sponge in your kitchen?  They can be useful to absorb spills or to wash dishes.  Sometimes though, they can pick up bacteria and that's not a good thing.

When a child comes to me in tears, it usually it means they got hurt, either on their own or with the aid of a sibling.  (I'm not proud of the sibling squabbling, but sometimes it happens.)

Last night, *E* burst into tears and asked to be excused from the dinner table.  "What happened?!"  I asked. "Did you bite your tongue?!"  He just shook his head no and kept sobbing, big tears rolling down his cheeks.  I brought him up to my room and shut the door, snuggled him close, rubbed his back and waited for him to be ready to tell me what had made him so very upset.  "It's hard to say," he said.  Now, let me tell you my heart just about sank to my toes and my mind went to some dark places.

"I'm worried that there will be poison gas and Miss M will die while she's a baby."  Okay, now I was baffled. "Did your brothers say something about poison gas? Where did you hear about that?"  Still tearful, he said, "At school."  What?!  Apparently he saw a movie about environmental problems and they said something about poison gas and he has been thinking about it and worrying about it for months.  Poor little man.

I reassured him that we lived in a safe place and that daddy and I would do everything we can to keep he and his siblings safe.  This little guy was so very worried about his baby sister, it was heart wrenching.  He got worried about it again today and started to cry and the Husband snuggled up with him on the couch and talked to him, reassured him too.

I  love that my kids can be sensitive and I remember being worried about things I saw or heard as a child.  It just goes to show we never know what will impact a child or how they will respond, or even when.

Kids are sponges.  They are getting information from us, from their siblings, from television and movies and whatever they are exposed to.  While the intent of the movie *E* saw was to educate him about taking care of the environment, he became frightened about worst case scenarios and how they could impact his beloved baby sister.  Kids overhear parts of conversations and misunderstand.  OR....they could sit in worship on Sunday and hear the pastor preach on a loving, forgiving God (even while doing a word search) and soak that up too.  They can hear us pray, or say "I love you" or "Thank you" or "how can I help?" and know that it is good to pray and use manners and care about others.

Kids are sponges that soak up good and bad, happy and ugly.  My job as a mom is to keep checking on the sponge, making sure it doesn't have "bacteria" that could harm them growing unchecked.  I am so thankful to have other "bacteria fighters" on my team; the Husband, friends, our Pastor and lots of other trusted adults that know and love and care about their well-being.  But, the biggest "anti-bacterial" of all is God who loves and protects, heals and cleanses even in the midst of all the yuck that a sponge can pick up.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Focus and Press On

Yesterday I was feeling a little overwhelmed.  There was so much noise, not from the beasties, but the static of life in all it's glory, that I could not focus my attention on what mattered, or even figured out what it was that did matter. 

I thought the problem was that I couldn't hear myself think. 

I was ready to clear my plate of obligations.  Instead of discernment, I was experiencing a little bit of fight or flight response.  Fortunately, after some time, deep breathing, snuggles with the kiddos and prayer, I was able to refocus.  The static was drowned out by the still, small voice as I listened to Him.  I didn't need to hear myself.  I was getting in my own way. 

I like to repeat that quote, "Life is what happens when we're making other plans."  There is a Yiddish saying, "Man plans, God laughs." Sometimes my plans don't work out the way I expect or plan.  Sometimes, I do think God has a tremendous sense of humor....and timing.  Sometimes I do not understand God's plan, but often, if I give it enough time, I can see a purpose and His blessing, even in the "unanswered prayers" of my own spoiled plans. 

I do not need to clear my plate to hear, I need to clear my soul and tame my prideful heart.  I need to focus not on myself, but on God. 

Last night as I read Paul's letter to the Philippians, I came across this verse, "...Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (3:13b,14)  

I will press on, focus on the future, not on myself and the noise I create in my own head but listening for the still small voice that will direct me.  I guess God can be the ultimate white noise, drowning out the nonsense and bringing peace. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Risky Business?

I am working on a project right now.  When am I not working on some sort of project?  This is not a hands-on sewing or knitting or cooking project  It's more of a presentation for an interview.

I was discussing my plan with *J*, the oldest beastie, and he turned to me with mild alarm on his face.  "You can't mention religion!"  "But they're interviewing me because I have a Masters in Theology."

You see, my public school educated son was concerned that mentioning religion would be akin to shooting myself in the foot.

After my initial knee-jerk response, I gave some thought to my son's words and we were able to talk about exactly what he meant and what I meant and how it would all go down.  Now, he may be right, I may be crazy.  The institution may feel that any mention of religion in any context, even my historical reference, is unacceptable. Guess what?  If it is, then it is not the place for me.  I am willing to take that risk.

In case you did not notice (as if!), I just returned from a MOPS convention.  MOPS is a Christian organization focused on nurturing mothers.   I am a Christian.  My worldview is shaped by my faith, a faith that was strengthened and energized through my experiences this weekend.  If anything, my experiences solidified my boldness to declare I am who I am.  I know who He was and is and what He did and now I cannot forget who I am because He is within me.  (Do you need a map or a chart to follow that? ;) )

Does this mean I need to be in your face, or anyone's,  about my faith?  No.  (If you're reading this, the title should tell you what you're probably going to get.)  If I am living authentically, I hope I remember to act with grace and mercy, compassion and generosity.  I am imperfect and so frequently I fall short but, living out my faith is more than a Sunday morning worship service, more than a Bible study, more than saying grace at dinner.  It is a way of living in this world.  It is in the actions and the silent prayers, the laughter and  the tears, the mercy and love that faith becomes life-giving, hands and feet of God living.

If being who I am shoots me in the foot, I can handle that.  What I'm not sure I can handle is ignoring the One who died for me.

Praying for a balance of boldness and sensibility, honesty and discernment at all times and in all things.


Monday, August 8, 2011

Home Again, Home Again Jiggety Jig!

Or the long, long ride back home.  Thank goodness for wonderful roadtrip buddies.  5 women, 1 minivan, heavy traffic and a detour could have been ugly.  Very, very ugly.  Instead, we kept laughing even when "Nasty Nancy" kept pushing back our arrival time thanks to road construction, fair traffic and rain. 

When we were travelling the road less travelled, also known as the road that went around the construction and traffic jam, we experienced a little history. 

    Here we are at Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace.

I am changed.  Plain and simple.  I feel amazingly blessed by this experience and by the women with whom I shared it.  I learned so much about them, from things they said and just from being in their presence.  I learned about myself, too. 

The first evening of convention, Sara Groves sang a song called, "Twice as Good". 

When I am down and need to cry till morning

I know just where I am going
when I'm in need of sweet commiseration
to speak out loud

Raise a glass to friendship and to knowing
you don't have to go alone
we'll raise our hearts to share each others burdens
on this road

With every burden I have carried
with every joy it's understood
life with you is half as hard
and twice as good

With my good news you're dancing on the table
babies born to celebration
the joy of life oh what a sweet communion
shared with you

I know we're growing older
can you imagine what that will bring
it's all a mystery to me now
but this one thing
will be half as hard, and twice as good.

This is what MOPS has given me.  (And I cannot leave out some dear sweet friends who I am blessed to know), my Sisterchick (You know who you are!), and my Sistah's (a shout out to my KKGs, one of whom I saw this weekend!  Small world,) and lots of other women who have made my life amazing just by being a part of it.

Now I am home and hanging with the amazing Husband and tremendous kids and I know I am a better wife and mom (or at least I will try to be) because of the gift that was this weekend. 

Praying that each of you have the gift of amazing people to lift you up, support you, pray for you, laugh with you and cry with you. 


Sunday, August 7, 2011

The End of Convention..Or Renewal

It's kind of being like being sent forth, really.  Reignited for the mission and the ministry.

On the last full day of MOPS convention, Lauren Dungy referred us to 2 Timothy and Psalm 111 she told us to, "Use sound judgement when faced with difficult and ambiguous information." "Relying on God, is the only way to be a sensible mom." 

Later we heard a little from the author of MOMSense, Jean Blackmer.  What is "momsense" you ask?  That is mom intuition  common sense. 
A photo of our group with the author, Jean Blackmer (2nd from right)
 Jonalyn Fincher spoke to us about prayer.  We heard her speak at MOPS summit and I think we had a little Jonalyn Adoration society. :)  Can I just tell you she has an amazing way of sharing theological understanding?  She would not be unhappy to see me refer to it here as feminine, as if she is going to ever read this! LOL.  (Read her book,  Ruby Slippers.)  She spoke with candor and vulnerability, empowering and encouraging us to pray all sorts of prayers.  "If you can pay attention, you can pray."  Her admonition to anyone who might feel as though our prayers go unheard or responded to, who may feel as if their faith was not great enough, perhaps not even as big as a mustard seed, sieve it through the filter of, "Is this something God would want?" 

Jonalyn with a few of us.  She is 2nd from left.

After this, we took some time to see the sites at the Gaylord, Opryland.  Some of us took a boat ride through the Delta section and enjoyed some other amazing sights!  That place is HUGE and GORGEOUS!

Convention finished with an amazing gift.  Mary Beth Chapman shared her story.  I want to, I must, read her book, Choosing to SEE. Steven Curtis Chapman performed.  Wow! Wow! Wow!  I heard him sing "Cinderella" live.  I swear there were those little packs of tissues making their rounds all over the room.  I get teary every time I hear that song, reminded that in the midst of lots of busyness, my children will be growing up and I will not always have the opportunity to dance and play. 

I feel as though I did not do justice to this amazing, empowering, inspiring day. 

We ended our day, again, with laughter and conversation around a dinner table.  After joining hands, we prayed, taking turns, going around the table, sharing our thanks, our praise and joy in the nurture of our relationships.

We embarked on this journey knowing each other, but I am not alone in recognizing how much I have learned about my fellow travellers.  (I talked a lot (shocking, I know! ;) ) so I know they learned about me.)  I also listened and payed attention.  We took this journey together because we have a passion for MOPS.  Convention fanned the ember of our passion into roaring flames and now, we are going home.  Home to share what we heard, just in time to reignite the ministry for the new season of MOPS to begin next month. 

As we hit the road  today, I pray for travelling mercies.  I pray that the passion we grew over the past few days for sharing the MOPS ministry will continue to burn brightly and that we will be an encouragement to each other as well as to others even when the flames get doused by life's realities.  May we turn to each other in those times so that we can pray for one another and encourage each other.

Shelly Radic said last night, something to the effect of, "We don't have a superpower, we have a divine power flowing through us."   Can I hear an, "Amen!"


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Laughed and Cried and Laughed 'Til I Cried: Day 2 MOPS Convention

There were moments in our amazing adventure that is MOPS convention when I had chills.  There were moments when I was fumbling for a tissue and moments when I laughed 'til my face hurt.  

As Travis Cottrell led us in the opening and had a couple thousand women singing "Oh Come Let Us Adore Him." I got goosebumps.  Seriously.  It was that beautiful.  It reminded me of the lyric in "The Little Drummer Boy", everyone in that room was giving their best for Christ and all around me were beautiful, passionate voices joined together in praise.  Wow!  Lots of women (and a few men, who let them in?! joking!) all worshiping God is a powerful thing, y'all! (I just love "y'all" and I am in Tennessee.)

You know what I LOVE about MOPS?  It is relevant to me.  Me with 6 kids ages almost (gasp) 17 all the way down to almost a (sob) year! 

Shelly Radic spoke about gifts, and in doing so told a story of an ill-fated harmonica and her own teenage son and I was relieved to hear her story because if her teen can act well, as the Husband would say, "his age", then it is okay for mine to do so too.   Then we saw a video of  Kendall Parkhurst's 3 yo and 9 mo son's  delight in a 99 cent whoopie cushion. That, too, is my life.  Oh, the humor of boys. :)

In a nutshell, THAT is why I love MOPS.  I have a lot of answers  (most of which begin with, "Every child is different...") but sometimes I just need to know that I am not alone.  Because of MOPS, no woman has to mother alone. 

And not only that, we learned that is is Biblical to say, "My, your butt is miniscule."  What woman does not need to hear that?  Lisa Harper had us laughing until our cheaks hurt but also gave us food for thought and shared with us that when we see God clearly, we can live out our gifts boldly.  There were points, too when I had tears rolling down my cheeks.  "God doesn't just notice you, He gazes at you..He delights in you."  "Jesus is not just on our team he moves heaven and earth for us!"  We had the opportunity to meet her and she signed books for us.

In other sessions, I learned more about public speaking and about MOMSnext. We laughed and talked some more.  And walked and walked. Got lots of freebies at the resource fair

And then came General Session number 2. 

We laughed at the the humor of John Banyan.  He finally explained a great mystery of life,  God created woman from man's rib and that was the rib men used to read minds!  A ha!  Now I know why the Husband cannot read my mind.  After that, the floor was literally rocking with the energetic, high powered performance of Mandisa!  Awesome and inspiring! 

After a long, inspiring and passion-filled day, we enjoyed a leisurely dinner, laughed and talked some more.  We collapsed into bed and are ready for another day of praising and growing and learning  to be Bold, Loving and Sensible leaders as well as mothers, not just in MOPS but in the world at large.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Well-Fed: Day One of MOPS Convention.

My first MOPS convention experience. Wow. I have so much to share and so little time and space (and a spotty internet connection.)

I can honestly say that the MOPS Storyboard session last night was amazing. I do wonder whether one of the speakers has been hanging out inside my head, though?

Kathi Lipp referred to women feeling like they get pecked to death by a thousand chickens and as God is my witness, and some of my boys might confirm (they're spotty on memory and I might have sounded like the Peanuts adults...:Wah Wah Wah...") I have said several times in the last few weeks, "I feel like you're a chicken pecking me to death!" These darling children of mine are, in a word, needy. Mostly, they need things revolving around food and the kitchen and there is apparently a sensor that means they need whatever they need as soon as my butt hits a chair. (Pecked to death by chickens, I tell you! Maybe I should make them chicken costumes for Halloween?! Nah, too many feathers would end up all around my house.)
Much of her message resonated with me. I am already living out my story though. I may have put life on hold a little bit when my first son was born, but I am following my dreams, some of which I am afraid to say out loud to most, but I am moving forward. You know what scares me though? (Mom Sanity issues ;) ) What if, in the process of pursuing my story, my dreams and my goals, I am not there for one of the chickens kiddos when they really need me? That is something I will need to work out. My amazing Husband has assured me that, as a team we can do this. I suspect he has more faith in me than I have in myself.

HOWEVER…the key theme of the night, not only through Kathi Lipp but also through the beautiful music of Sara Groves and the preaching of Max Lucado (I know! Talk about a gift for the soul!) was that it’s not my list I need to focus on, it’s not done by me! Me, me, me, getting pecked by chickens, me! It’s about God, blessing us through the pecking, blessing us through the trials, blessing us through the anxiety, being there for us in the moments and refining us through the failures. God.

Max Lucado, spoke of Jesus being within us. WITHIN us. Jesus’ heart beats in us and when Satan accuses us (he accuses me daily in my head and I let him because I forget even though I am told Paul writes a mighty 216 times of Jesus living within us), when Satan accused us he is stopped short by the pure heart of Jesus beating with in us. Can I hear a collective, “Wow?”   How about and, "Amen!"?

And Sara Groves' amazing music and stories spoke to my heart. What a blessing her music is. She sang a song that had me sobbing into my mini-kleenex, dabbing smears of mascara away. About wanting children to be free, to go away, but "don’t forget to call your mother."  Totally buying her CD(s)!

Our evening ended with an amazing dinner at Ravello at the Gaylord.  The six of us, our flying lady met us at lunchtime, talked and ate and laughed and ate and some of us ate some more.  After an amazing feeding of the soul, our bodies were well-fed too. 

Lord, I thank you for bringing so many women, moms, together to hear this message of hope and grace. Thank You for giving me pecking chickens to nurture and cluck at.  Thank you for writing my story.  Thank You for holding us in your hands through the joy and the stress of each and every day.  Thank You for bringing me here with an amazing group of women.  Lord, I ask that you grow our relationships and help us to live out who you created us to be, that we may be a support and comfort to one another through it all.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Journey Begins: MOPS Convention 2011

Or ,Wow, road trips without children are different.

Yesterday, 4 ladies and I drove 8 hours in a minivan.  The time went amazingly fast.  We had one bathroom break and one stop to eat.  No one whined they were bored. I did not have to mediate disputes and the only snappish voice was that of Nasty Nancy, the GPS, who peevishly told us she was recalculating when we took said bathroom break and dinner detour.

8 hours in a car is 8 hours to talk and to listen and to laugh. 

In so many ways, it reminded me of the road trips with my sorority sisters a lifetime ago.  (Okay, the radio wasn't blasting like back in the day.) My MOPS ladies are trusted friends, confidantes and sisters too, sisters in Christ.  We are all women with a common goal and focus of supporting other women, mothers, on the path we're all walking together.  Sometimes we lead.  Sometimes we follow.  Sometimes we prop another up on the journey.  Sometimes we speak out.  Sometimes we hold our tongues.  Sometimes we flat out disagree.  Through it all, we pray and ask God to guide us and do His thing.

Lord, thank You for all the amazing women you have brought into my life through MOPS.  I feel so blessed to have these relationships and opportunities to nurture others and to grow myself.
8 hours in a car is an opportunity to learn about others.  It is also an opportunity to learn more about You.

Wishing you peace and blessings in this day.  If you're at MOPS convention, maybe we'll meet. (I am so excited to attend Storyboard this afternoon!) If you're at home, you can find information at  If you're a mom and don't belong to MOPS (yet) you can find groups in your area at the website.  (There's a group or preschoolers, a group for moms of older children (MOMsnext) or, if you don't fit into either of those groups, perhaps you can mentor other moms.  Think about it, not for me, but for you.

     The roadtrip ladies on the way into Graeters for ice cream.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Thank You, Husband.

Today is the day I leave for MOPS Convention.  I sit at the counter typing away instead of ironing (pointless before packing you might say, but I can't help it) and packing.

I will return home Sunday evening.  The Husband will be flying solo for the better part of 5 days and I am not worried, not one bit.  He is well-equipped to herd cats parent our 6 kids without me around.  They will be well-fed, bathed, in clean clothes, properly supervised and entertained while I am away.  The house may even be in better shape on Sunday than when I leave today.

So, today, I publicly thank the Husband for being a great parent and spouse and life partner.  He shares the daily grind and doesn't flinch.  (Well everybody flinches a little, right?  Otherwise, you're just foolish.)  I am so thankful that he encouraged me to go to convention.  I am thankful for all he does as a father and a husband and I don't say it nearly often enough.  Thanks, Hubs, for being the man you are and for modeling what a husband and father should be to our kids.

Gracious Lord, as the ultimate Father, thank You for your guidance and your model of love and care.  In each day, may we strive to be more like you as we walk on this earth.  Thank you, God, for blessing me with a great husband and father for our kids.  I could not be the mother I am with him or without You.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hitting the Road...

Tomorrow I'm climbing in a minivan with some cool women and we're driving to Nashville. 

It's a road trip with some brilliant, funny, resilient and supportive women..  I'll be hitting the road with some MOPS ladies to attend MOPS convention. This is my first time but I have wanted to go for years.  Last year I was great with child and tonight I gave her extra snuggles and inhaled her baby shampoo scent.  I've never been away from Miss M overnight.  I've never been away from the kids this long at all and you know what?  I am okay with it.

I will miss them (mostly, the teenager is making me twitch lately but I was brattier at 16 than he could dream of being, not that I'm going for a "who's the worst teen" throw down).  Mostly, though, I am excited for the opportunity to get away with women I know who have a common goal, to be the best moms and women and leaders they can be, all for the glory of God. 

I have written about my love for MOPS before.  I love that MOPS is a place where I can build relationships with other women.  We might not have the same hobbies or passions or politics.  We might not live in the same neighborhood or attend the same church. We might not even have the same parenting philosophy or fashion sense.  However, we come together and bond in the unity of our shared roles as mothers and as women of faith. 

When I attended a MOPS summit this spring, a speaker said, "We must keep our MOPS focus on Jesus because if we lose that focus, we're just another' mom's club."  Not that there is anything wrong with any mom's clubs, but that what makes MOPS special for us is our focus on God and faith. 

I am attending convention with women with whom I have worshipped and served but I look forward to knowing them better; nurturing our relationship.  I look forward to meeting other MOPS women from all over the country as we attend workshops and hear speakers.    I look forward to being open to the still, small voice of God and the big moments where I hear Him loud and clear. 

I look forward to this adventure, this opportunity to grow and grow in relationship with God and with other women, mothers, friends.

Prayers for travelling mercies for all those heading to convention, for anyone travelling, really. I pray that wherever you are, you find blessings and opportunities to grow and nurture others in their growth.  There are opportunities all around us, may we embrace them and fully enjoy them.  May we all look forward to opportunities and embrace the moments we're in right now.