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Monday, October 29, 2012

Clean floors make me smile

Clean floors make me smile. I love it when my carpets are well-vaccumed, my bathrooms floors are free of gunk, and my treasured pine floors are conditioned.  I feel like they are smiling at me so I smile right back.

Now, you gotta understand something about me and cleanliness.  I'll own up to disliking clutter and messiness but I am not the poster child for household management.  My motto regarding housework is"Lower your expectations".  Good enough is good enough for me.  Cleanliness?  Well, isn't that why we keep up to date on tetanus shots?    I have friends whom I dearly admire (ok, and secretly envy) whose homes rival the surgical floor of ARMC.  It is a delight to drop in on them and appreciate their dust-free ceiling fans and cobweb-less chandeliers. Heck, their silverware drawers probably don't even have crumbs in them!  Really!

Lower standards work for me.  I can happily use a windfall of free time reading a book or baking granola or calling my Mom - the splatters on the microwave don't make me feel one bit guilty.  (Speaking of Mom, she will clean those splatters when she visits anyhow.  This way, I give her something to do.  Actually, when I think about it, I am not lazy at all.  Instead, I am really being thoughtful,  Kind. To make my Mom feel so appreciated.  I am glad about this.  Told you this worked for me).

Also, not having high expectations means I am perfectly happy to delegate.  Yes, the infamous chore chart.  Kids do the work.  All in the name of child-training, you understand.  And I am happy with fairly mediocre performance.  (None of my kids follow this blog so I think I can get away with that...)

All that said, clean floors make me smile. I don't know what it is about a clean floor that makes me happy.  (Good thing that's not the only source of my joy...)  And I had been frowning for quite some time at the floor in the kids' bathroom.  It didn't even meet my low expectations.  Been this way for, well, I am not secure enough to admit how many different kids have been assigned this bathroom and for how long, so just know that the floor was really bad.  They all insisted they had scrubbed and scrubbed and this was the best it could look.  Well, tonight I had a windfall of free time, no current book to read, trying not to eat so much granola and had already talked to my Mom...soooooooooo I took a stab at it.

Turns out the kids were right.  I used every cleaner in my arsenal and untold amounts of elbow grease and not much progress showed.  Oh well.  Default to the low expectations. Rejoicing that my self-esteem didn't take a hit from the green nail polish on that floor, I went on about my business.

Short while later, my knight in shining armor came through with something he called solvent (???) and said Betsy told him I couldn't get the floor clean so he thought he'd try this.

You can now turn as green as that nail polish, envying not only my clean bathroom floor but also that tall,dark and handsome man that lets me share his name.....and knows what "solvent" is.

I am just smiling.  At my floors.  And at him.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thanksgiving Challenge

November is peeking around the corner.  I have no idea how because it was February just last week.  I haven't even adjusted to writing 2012 when I note the date.  I will get it down pat just about the time I have to change to 2013.  Sigh.  Life is really hard.

Nonetheless, November is here and with it, comes Thanksgiving.  Of all the holidays, this one is the best.  (Now, don't jump all over me for not choosing Jesus's birthday.  December 25 isn't even His birthday and it doesn't feel like we are celebrating Him that month anyway.  But that's another post).

Thanksgiving is about just what it says - giving thanks.  I want to celebrate ThanksLIVING.  I want my posture to always be one of thankfulness. I want my children to live like that and I want to model it.   Gratitude.  To God.  And to others. Authentically.

In past years, I have taken each day of November to post on Facebook something I am thankful for.  This year, I am going to aim to blog it. 

I challenge you to do the same.  I'd love it if you would post on here.  Thankfulness needs to be public in order to be thanksgiving.  But share it somewhere.  On here.  On Facebook.  Twitter.  Better yet, in person.  But each day of November, let's all name something we give thanks for. 

And we might like it so much that we live that way December-October, too.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Laundry, Load 2

A week from tomorrow night, I get to meet with that group of fabulous young women that I told you about several days ago.  You remember - the ones I promised to share my life disclose my 3 biggest failures and 3 biggest successes wrt marriage. 

This time, they want some parenting scoop. 

For marriage, I solicited input from my better half.  This time, I am pulling in the offspring.  I told 'em - Gloves are off.  Anything they want to share about what their Dad and I did wrong...and right :) 
I will compile their info - unabridged - and share it with these gals I do life with.  Feels a little like I am doing laundry in the buff. 

Before any input from my favorite tax deductions, I think the main thing I would tell them that makes for a successful parent is "Grandmothers who pray."  Seriously.  I am eternally in debt to the women in my lineage.  The ones I call Mama and Mimi. And the ones who have already graduated to their reward, some of whom I never even knew.  But they prayed for me, for all those who come after them. Only Heaven will reveal how their prayers have borne fruit, provided protection, supplied wisdom and grace and strength.  Truly, I think that's the main thing.  Pray.  And get as many other people as possible to do the same,

I amxiously await the responses of my kids.  I promise to share it.  As well as some thoughts of my own.  Dirty laundry.  Clean laundry.  Stuff that requires dry clean only treatment.  Stay tuned.

Oh, that reminds me.  When I did the first laundry post, I offered to share my marriage bests and worsts.  Anybody want to hear 'em?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Sharing an idea on growing kids

My husband is the sentimental kind.  He is always doing something romantic or heartwarming or meaningfully symbolic. Plus he is very imaginative.  (I, on the other hand, believe deeply that creativity is the art of concealing your sources!)  But I digress.  I am about to share one of his great ideas and you can borrow it.  He made it up but it's not patented or copyrighted or anything so feel free to plagiarize.

When we brought Katie, our firstborn, home from the hospital, Paul made a trip to the nursery.  But not upstairs to her room - he went to the  other  kind, you know, where you get trees. He bought a little sapling of his most favorite kind of tree - sugar maple - and cut it to the exact length that Katie measured on the day she made her entrance at Piedmont Hospital.  (Actually, he bought TWO of them because he knew I would suffer a fit of apoplexy if the tree died.  So we had "the Katie Tree"....and backup....he is a very wise husband...just sayin...)

Three years later, Paul made another nursery trip to purchase a Mary tree (OK, he got two of them again.  I still haven't changed.)  We loved those trees.  We made pictures of the girls on their birthdays  beside the trees, watching all of them grow.

And then we had to leave the Katie and Mary trees.  The phone company wanted Paul in NC and he felt that would be too long a commute.  I thought we should uproot those maples and take them with us but he felt they should stay. Sort of our contribution to the ecosystem, I guess.  A group of very loving and amazingly thoughtful friends from church supplied us with a gift certificate to a nursery in buy new Katie and Mary trees.  And that's exactly what we did.

After a couple of years of watering and fertilizing, the phone company wanted us to leave those trees in Charlotte so we planted new Katie and Mary trees....and added a Chip tree in Greensboro, NC.  And kept making pictures.  Kept watching all of them grow. 

One day, the phone company wanted to plant trees in Georgia so we relocated to Watkinsville.  The Katie and Mary and Chip trees are growing strong.  We've even added a Betsy tree.  When I pull into my driveway, especially this time of year, I see each of those gorgeous maples and thank God...for those trees....for those kids.....for that sentimental husband.

Those trees keep growing.  (Pretty funny that the Chip tree has outgrown the other three!)  And as they grow, they need our nurturing less and less.  But we get to keep enjoying them.  Admiring their beauty.  Watching them change.  And eventually, they'll be big enough to give us some good shade.  Trees.  Parenting.

Oh, and for the record, I hope the phone company doesn't want us to plant trees anywhere else.  These maples would really miss me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday's Word - What to do about this election

Anyone who has a pulse knows that we are in Presidential election season.  In a few days, we will peaceably go to the polls and participate in the privilege of choosing a man to lead our country.  Sometimes we are so focused on the intensity of our opinion on who that should be that the value of that privilege is eclipsed.  As Americans, we can tend to forget that our right to select our leaders is a rare one.  And one that we shouldn't take for granted.  Nor should we neglect it by not voting. (And if you should happen NOT to vote, then don't breathe a word of complaint for the next four years!)

As Chrstians, however,  there is an even greater privilege and responsibility. The focus God expects of us is less on the front-end of the election....and more on the follow-up.  I Timothy 2:1-4 is not a suggestion.  We are exhorted by the Apostle Paul, not to be a card-carrying Republican or Democrat, but rather to pray for whomever is elected. 

Campaign all you want.  Put up yard signs. Attend the rallies. Be informed on the issues. And, certainly, cast your vote. It is your right and responsibility as an American.  But don't dare neglect to pray.  That is your duty as a Christian.

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in godliness and dignity.  This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

(This is the first of Wednesday's Word.  If you'd like to receive these weekly words, sign up via the link on the right. Thanks!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Introducing....Wednesday's Word

Letters make up words.  And the Bible is the Living Word.  So I am begining a new feature of  Living Letters --- Wednesday's Word. Not based on  my words but rather on God's.  Just a few thoughts mid-week to help us focus on His Words, His Way, His Will.  Starting tomorrow morning.  That's the plan.  If you want to join me, sign up via the link on the right. Towards the bottom -  Follow by email or subscribe to Living Letters.  (honestly, I don't know what the difference is). 

His Word is living and active and powerfully transforming.  I want it to permeate my life. I hope you do, too.   I hope you'll come alongside me for Wednesday's Word!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Laundry Letters

I have the  privilege for a few weeks to hang out with some really great gals once a week in my home.  To me, they are my close and precious friends, but, Biblically speaking, I suppose they are the "younger women" and I am, ummm, the "older woman."  Supposedly, I teach them how to love their husbands and children but, in reality, iron sharpens iron.  I am the one that gets the blessing.

We've been discussing some weighty topics.  Our purpose as women.  (It's not to have a great marriage, raise well-behaved kids, and vote conservative, by the way).  Then an entire evening on emotions.  That one was really good.....and heartily endorsed by our husbands, I think!  We're about to do an evening or so on marriage.  I am looking forward to that - I love being married!  After 26 years, I still love being married!

One of these precious women asked me to share our 3 greatest mistakes as well as 3 things we have done right.  Game on!  I am up for the challenge....and transparency... I think......Actually, it would be a lot easier....a lot share "3 steps to a great marriage".  But that's not how I teach.  I really love these gals, and I think the best way for them to learn...and me to to share my life.  The Apostle Paul put it this way "Having thus a fond affectoin for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the Gospel of God, but also our very own lives, because you had become very dear to us." (I Thessalonians 2:8)

  I asked my husband for his perspective and invited him to share MY greatest mistakes with me so that I can share them with these women.  Since I am not instructing husbands, I don't think it would be helpful to know where husbands have gone wrong :)  Just a wife.  Gulp.  I am grateful that he is kind.  And diplomatic.  But I want to share the truth.  Maybe someone else can avoid a field trip to learn a lesson.  Maybe a lecture will suffice.

So this Sunday night, I will air my dirty laundry, as my husband likes to say.  And some clean laundry as well.  Greatest failures.  Greatest successes. Laundry.  Living letters.

I'll keep you posted. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Measure of a Champion

So let 'er rip, Cowboy!  And hang on tight,
Go for the prize with all your might!
But the measure of a champion ain't how long you hang on,

It's what you do.........when you get thrown.

Words from one of my favorite Mike Dekle songs.  Love the story in the song, the life lesson it proclaims.  The measure of a champion....what you do when you get thrown.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Meet Amy

The papers are full of stories about teens and young adults that are ruining their lives....and the lives of those around them.  It can be so disheartening to read about their bad choices and the consequences that ripple through the world. 

That's why I want you to meet my friend Amy.  She is causing some ripples of her own...for good.  Amy would tell you that she's just an ordinary gal.  I don't know about that.  I've known her half her life  and she's always been beautiful and winsome and passionate. She loves people.  And she's a doer.  .

 I read a book once about helping others that said "Don't do nothing just because you can't do everything."  Maybe Amy can't do everything but she  is doing something.  Alot.  She is changing the world, two lives at a time.

Go to this site.  Read her story.  And I hope you'll be compelled to share in what she's doing..

Blessed bedtimes

For our kiddos, Daddy did the end of the bedtime routine most of the time - the tucking in, reading stories, prayers.  (Yeah, he got the good part.  As drill sargent, I supervised teeth brushing, potty trips, and room quick-cleans. I guess since I'd been with them all day it was only fair to give him the good stuff. sigh)  He would tell the most amazing stories ("Moe and Joe", remember, Katie and Mary?) The tales always had a lesson to teach.  And most of them ended with an admonition to always tell the truth.  No matter what happened in the tale, he always stressed "lying made it worse".  I was flabbergasted that he could come up with such great stories, impromptu!  Maybe he spent most of his workday thinking them up.  Yes, I am sure that's it.

Then he did the sweetest thing.  Still does with 10 year old Betsy.  He blessed them.  He would pray over them and then touch their faces, pronouncing blessings over each part.  He'd thank God for their good mind, strong body, kind lips, pure heart.  And as he kissed them, he always closed with "Mommy and Daddy and Jesus love you very very much." 

What a treasured ending to their day!  Some days were great - chores were completed cheerfully, schoolwork was done with excellence, and sibling squabbles were minimal. But other days needed some cardiac repair.   Feelings got hurt. And bottoms.  Unkind things were spoken.  Self-doubt and deprecation took up residence.  And I thank God that those things were not the final thoughts and feelings in their heart.  The tender words of their earthly Dad, invoking the blessings of their Heavenly Dad, spoken over their little souls, closed out their days.  Powerful. 

What was I doing while Paul was on bedtime detail?  Well, sometimes I needed  cold Tab or a hot bath and I went straight to the appropriate locations to replenish myself.  (Some days called for both.  Simultaneously. Some of you understand exactly what I mean!) Some days I was just glad we were DONE. Blessed bedtime, indeed!  But most nights, as Dad was by their beds, I lay down in the hall outside their rooms.  Face down on the carpet.  Before the Throne of my Heavenly Father, thanking Him for this incredible privilege.  And crying out to Him for grace and strength to complete the task. Reminding Him of His promise to me, found in Isaiah 59:21 - "And as for Me, this is my covenant with you, says the Lord:  My Spirit which is upon you and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring, says the Lord, from now and forever." Amen. I am counting on His faithfulness to that promise. I am confident of it.

 They may not remember those times specifically but I surely do hope they do.  And even if they don't recall the details of the tales, I am confident that the impression left on their hearts is indelible.   I was with my oldest last week and was reminded of these sweet times their Daddy created for them. As my little grandson was being put to bed,  his Mom and Dad read to him, prayed over him, and tucked him in together. I think I am seeing God's answers in action.  I am thankful. 

And many nights you will still find me in the hall outside their rooms.  On my face.  Thanking Him.  Petitioning Him.  Reminding Him.  With a cold Tab beside me, no less!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dandelion Bouquets

My Mary made me a CD with some of her favorite songs.  I listen to it over and over and over, especially Chuck Wick's "Stealing Cinderella".  Don't know why I love that song - it makes me cry, every time. 

Why are all those sappy "little girl grows up and gets married" songs from the Dad's perspective?  Moms feel the same way about their little girls!!  But that's not the subject of this post.

I want someone to write a song about how Moms feel when their sons get married.  I still have mine at home but from time to time I contemplate what it will be like when some gal wins his heart.  (Not sure there are any perfect girls out there, but I am speaking hypothetically)

Wow. It's gonna be a strange feeling to watch him confer his allegiance to another female.  I hope I will feel like I have gained an ally in loving him.  But I am bound to question if she will strive to nurture and protect the vulnerability he will hand her....his heart.  I don't want to forever be his main confidante and champion but I am sure I will wonder if she will understand how to interpret that grin - the one that he tries unsuccessfully to hide when he has achieved something he's dying to share...but doesn't want to boast.  And is she going to know what that grimace means?  The one that clouds his face when he is trying to hide some pain?  Is she going to know how to tell if the pain is from his throwing shoulder....or his heart?  And can she cook oatmeal scones and cinnamon rolls and medium rare eye of round roast sliced really thin?

When she looks at him, she won't be able to see the 4 year old that clasped his arms around my neck and vowed to "always love you bestest, Mom".  She won't know about the scores of dandelion bouquets that graced my kitchen table. Or the time he decked his sister because she told him he couldn't marry me.   Or all the sweaty socks I washed...and cried over when they became the same size as his dad's. She will not have logged untold hours in the stands watching ball games and praying for things like double-doubles or a first win.  She can't have the perspective of a view that changed from looking down into his eyes, to one that now looks way up.  She won't realize that the strong, lean hand that she now grasps used to be a chubby grip on my finger.

One day some really lucky gal will get to stand beside my son and vow to arrange her life around him forever.  And I'll step aside and cheer her on. And I will honestly want him to prefer her to me.  But those memories and insights and position  are uniquely mine to treasure.

I hope she'll ask me for my recipe for oatmeal scones.  He always gets those for breakfast on his birthday.

Parenting when they hurt

After nearly 24 years of parenting, I can confirm what I suspected as a 2-day-old Mommy watching her newborn get that infamous heel prick :  the hardest part of parenting is seeing your child hurt.  The source might be physical - immunizations or scrapes from not quite mastering the two-wheeler.  Or it might be emotional - being left out of a group....again, or disloyalty from a friend. And even more devestating from a consequential standpoint - bone marrow transplants or betrayal by a spouse.  Parenting doesn't stop when they graduate from high school.  When they hurt, we hurt. Whether they are 4 or 40.

And I don't like it.  I don't want them to hurt and I don't want to hurt while they hurt.  I want to fix it.  Fast. Having to stand by, helplessly is torturous.   I want to spare my children the suffering from stresses, from poor decisions, and especially from mean-spirited people. (Although I am certainly not unstirred by physical pain, it's their emotional discomfort that sends me to poke the voodoo dolls under my bed. )

Don't chide me.  I know the truth - growth and change and good come from the painful experiences of life.  The sting of the vaccination needle is necessary to protect from fatal diseases.  The scrapes on the knees are the stones with which the road to proficiency is paved.  The stresses from the demands of life can serve to strengthen and mature.  And the heartbreaks.....well, hmmmmmm.  I'd really rather poke those dolls but I'll concede that even heartbreaks can be used to bring growth and insure tenderness in one's own heart. 

I can embrace the truth of what the Apostle James says in chapter 1, that exhortation to consider it pure joy when we encounter trials.  I can embrace vs. 2 because I believe verses 3 and 4 with all my heart, that God uses pain and suffering to produce endurance and that endurance brings about maturity, completing His work in me.  Yes, I cling to that truth desperately.....for my own life.  But it's harder to do when I am observing God's chisel in the lives of my children.  It's then that I turn to a truth supplied by Timothy (1 Timothy 2:15).  Although this verse is often misunderstood, I believe it is telling us that, if we are parents, then childbearing  is what God uses to sanctify us. Relying on His grace for strength and mercy and patience.  Choosing to trust Him when they hurt, knowing that He is completing the work He began in them...and me.   To "work out our salvation" is one way Paul puts it in Philippians - His saving grace working its way through my soul, my mind, my will, my emotions.  So while I need to rejoice over the trials in my own life, I must also do so when those same maturing agents of suffering are present in the lives of my children.  Not only for their sake, but also for mine.  Watching them grow through pain is God's sanctification process for me, too. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Little socks in the laundry

There is something so stinkin' cute about little socks in the laundry.  While I am here in Albany, nursing baby Jonathan back to health, I decided to wash a few clothes.  Not cuz his Mommy needed help with anything (good grief - the gal already has her Christmas photo cards here, ready for December!!!).  Nope, I did some laundry cuz I like to look at his little clothes.  Specially the socks.  I didn't always ponder the adorable-ness of little socks.  I was pretty busy attacking Mount Washmore so I didn't think much about how cute those little socks were.  More often than not, I recall being irked that the dryer seemed to eat every other sock so that  I had no matching pairs.  (Finally figured out a solution to that one - only buy one kind of socks!!).  Then all of a sudden, I was sorting the clothes and had trouble telling the difference between my husband's Tshirts and my son's. What in the world happened to the little socks?

I hope I get to wash some more Jonathan clothes tomorrow.  And when his socks blend in with his Daddy's, I hope Katie and Mary and Chip and Betsy have more little socks that I get to wash. 

Do you love yourself?

Disclaimer:  I am neither a psychologist nor a trained counselor.  I have no professional expertise in this subject.  (That has never been an impediment to my having an opinion on a matter.  Just sayin...) But I have some lines I'd like to pen in hopes that others will embrace what I confidently believe is true.  Read on.

"Learn to love yourself" has become adamantly popular dogma.  This advice is dispensed as the cure for all sorts of ills - burnout, insecurity, wrong choices, deception, even addictions. Experts and not-so-experts prescribe this sweet-tasting medicine freely and confidently, assuring the afflicted one that loving oneself is learned behavior and that once they master this art, their problems will dissipate.

I want to conduct an intervention!  This counsel is not only not a harmless placebo; it is actually toxic!  The problem is not that we don't love ourselves - we do!  We love ourselves so much that we want to spare ourselves any pain or discomfort.  We want someone or something to fix us so that we are happy and satisified and comfortable.  We do love ourselves -  I promise we do.  Nearly everything we do has a root that can be traced back to the tree of "self".  Very little of our behavior is truly done with thought of only pleasing another person.(But oh, how easily deceived we are into thinking we are only thinking of others!)  Even "selfless" acts for others are often done with hopes of some return.....even if it is as small as hoping for affirmation or accolade.  We do love ourselves.  Really we do.  And unfortunately,  trying to please ourselves does not achieve the desired result.  We might experience some short-lived pleasure but after the buzz of self-indulgence wears off, the affliction that needed repair to begin with, remains. We continue to be insecure or jealous or overcommitted or enslaved to something.

Instead, what we need is to know that we are loved by someone OTHER than ourselves.  That's why Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus to KNOW the love of Christ. (Ephesians 3:19)  He wasn't praying for them to come to Christ - they were already following Him.  But he prayed that they - and we - would KNOW that love.  "Know" in the Biblical sense means to experience that love, to be intimately acquainted with that love, established.. 

Think about how different we will be if we KNOW the love of Christ. Joyful.  Confident.  Secure.  Free to love others without thought of gain.  Free to to fail without fear.  To know the love of Christ, that surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph. 3:19.

That is my prayer for my children.  And for me.  Not to love ourselves (nor to hate ourselves) but to KNOW the love of Christ.  So we can be filled.  With all the fullness of God.

I have more to pen about what we do in our quest for love.  But that will come later.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sharing my Betsy's blog

Cat Care: I GOT AWARDED!!: Hey guys!! I got awarded by Samantha Trice @ , now I probably won't be doing a ton of awards, because I wan...

Monday, October 8, 2012

Confessions of a Juicebox

I am a juicebox.  This is not a manifestation of all the years of picnics with my children.  Nor an illustration of the squishiness of my abs. It's my life.  I think most women are juiceboxes.  We want to provide sips of encouragement, affirmation, merriment, counsel, hope to refresh those around us. 

Sometimes I can become depleted.   I can feel like there are 12 straws sticking in me, all sucking voraciously!  I get empty.  Or worse, filled with juice that tastes horrible when it comes through the straw.

I don't want to squirt nasty juice nor do I want to refuse those straws.  I find joy in dispensing a laugh or a hug or a splash of care to those lives that come my way.  Psalm 11:25b says "And he who waters will himself be watered."  Amen.  I have surely found this to be true.  Whenever I have given a sip of replenishment to another, my own soul has been refreshed.

The challenge is to keep my juicebox filled with sweet juice.  So that when it's squeezed, that's what comes out.  Connection to the Source of Living Water,  abiding in the One who turned water into wine, is what it takes.  Drinking continuously of the Water that He gives fills up the juicebox so that the juicebox not only can share sips with others but also so that the juicebox feels filled.  Joy.  Satisfaction.  Flowing through to others but also satiating my own thirst.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cookies and kitchen counters

Just finished wiping up the kitchen counters.  Betsy, my 10 year old, made chocolate chip cookies tonight.  One of her signature dishes, requested often by her sibs.  The kid really is a good cook - apple dumplings, chocolate sheet cake, chocolate chip cookies, from-scratch pancakes.  (Hmmmmmm, as I list her culinary repertoire, it occurs to me that they all belong to one food group. Not to worry- we have plenty of pharmacists in the fam to  keep us out of diabetic comas.  Cook on, Betsy, cook on!) 

Love the food but gotta work on cleanup detail.  I often find sticky remains of her expertise on the faucet, the fridge handles, the floor, not to mention the kitchen counters.  Often I call her back in to take care of her own messes but tonight I didn't.  After the cookie dough was complete, I was wiping around the counters and she reminded me that Daddy wants" to be sure we wipe off the faucet. " (Thanks, Love).  She said "Y'all always tell me to clean stuff up but you don't notice when I do."  Gulp.  Busted. How many times do I overlook the good things and instead pull out my referee whistle to call out what didn't get done?  Not just with Betsy, either.  Each of my kids could very likely recite numerous times I have focused on the sticky kitchen counters in their lives and overlooked the chocolate chip cookies.

It's not that I don't notice the good stuff.  Honestly, I think that I think I am helping.  Moving them from one achievement to the next.  But, as I squirt some cleaner on the counter, I ponder.  That's not how my Heavenly Father deals with me.  He says "Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox." (Proverbs 14:4)  In other words, when you make chocolate chip cookies, the counters are gonna get sticky.  Literally and figuratively.  We are all works in process and we are gonna make a mess of things sometimes.  When we are busy getting transformed, there will be some messes to clean up.  But God doesn't focus on the dirty manger - He encourages us about the strength of the ox. 

And when He does point out that we need to clean that mess up, His words leave us hopeful.  Encouraged.  Not condemned.  Not feeling that our chocolate chip cookies are overshadowed by the sticky counters.  The difference is in the sweetness of His speech and the pleasantness of His Words.

My counters are clean now.  But I'm focusing on those cookies..............


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Language of Love

A number of years ago, a book about "love languages" became widely popular.  The book explained how people give love, as well as feel loved, differently.  Some folks express love to others with acts of service while some of us employ words of affirmation, gifts, spending quality time together, or meaningful touch to convey love.  Great read - I recommend you check it out.

As good as the book is, however,  it leaves out the primary love language of my family.  In my family of origin, my husband's family, and our own little brood, we speak "LOVE" with "F-O-O-D".  No doubt about it. You might prefer flowers or perfume but we give and receive love with something good to eat.   Often you hear mention of "comfort food"but this is way bigger than that!  I am talking about the ability to channel affection, affirmation, appreciation, ardor, or adulation with chocolate cookies!

Maybe it's a Southern thing but my family speaks "LOVE" with food. When a friend has a new baby, we take food. ( For the Mom and Dad - we figure they can feed the baby.)  When someone has a tough week, I bake my chocolate chip pie. If you move in to my neighborhood, you might get chicken and dumplings or a big pot of homemade chili. In December, a small group of cherished friends get my Chambers Christmas Jam and yeast rolls.  Birthdays at my house call for the celebrant's favs which might be oatmeal scones, cheese grits or homemade Cheerio bars for breakfast.  Reuben sandwiches (or Barberitos!) for lunch.  And dinner of steak or shrimp or corn spoon bread.  Candles have been stuck in ice cream sandwich cakes, coconut sheet cakes, or chocolate chip cookies. Even the crews that have been doing some work on my house lately have been treated to cinnamon rolls, caramel popcorn, and lots of cookies.   Whatever tastes like love.

Now I not only dispense love via food, I receive it, too.  When I go home (as in "where Mama and Daddy live"), my Mama makes fried chicken and creamed corn and sausage balls and fudge.  And "The Mix" - which is her own secret dish for her grandchildren.  When she comes to vist, she brings goodies that are specific to each person's individual palette.  Sure feels like love when she remembers that Mary likes ramen noodles, Chip wants sausage balls, Betsy craves PopTarts (cuz her own Mom won't buy them!) and Katie loves chocolate chip cookies dough. 

This language of love is such an integral part of my emotional DNA that I married a man whose family speaks (or tastes!) the same way.  My dear Mother-in-Love makes oatmeal-peanut butter-chocolate cookies that I know will be served in Heaven.  In fact, my term for them is "righteousness" - the more you eat, the more you want!  And for my husband's birthday or when we gather at her house for holidays or just when she wants to love on us, we are treated to a great big batch of these goodies.  (I have been known to hide them from the rest of my family but that is probably an issue for another blog.  Or a counseling session.)

I don't see it as an expanding waistline - I just feel loved.  When a friend showed up with chicken tetrazzini the day I had some above average demands on me, I felt loved.  When my BFF brought dinner the day we brought my grandson home from the hospital, I felt loved. When some amazing and precious friends offered to make food for Katie's wedding reception, you can bet I felt loved.  One of 'em even DESIGNED the Groom's cake to reflect the drug-dealin' Bride and Groom!!!!  When my dear friend (and pastor's wife!) delivers a loaf of homemade bread to me, I feel loved.  When my 10 year old makes her chocolate sheet cake, we ALL feel loved! 

I want to hear from you all.  What makes YOU feel loved?  (And if it's food, feel free to share a recipe or two!)