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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Be happy - tip # 12

We humans tend towards extremes.  And, generally speaking, life is well-lived with things in balance.  So it is with tip #12.  When trying to shake the sad state, I have found it best to avoid the extremes of isolation and over-activity.

Either of these can push me towards feelings of depression and either can certainly prolong those feelings.  Seems to me, that we can use "over-activity" as sort of anesthesia.  Keeping ourselves "too busy" means we don't have time to deal with difficult issues...or to feel pain.  Althought that might seem like a good thing, it's not.  Pain is not always bad.  It's an indicator that there is a problem that needs our attention.  If we go without feeling pain for too long, we never address the problem.  And so things get worse.  Just as physical pain can be helpful (ever touch a hot stove?), so can emotional pain.  Always avoiding the pain can lead to bigger problems. Too much busy-ness is just not good.  AT ALL.

Just as too much activity/time with others is an extreme that we don't want to live in all the time, the same is true for isolation.  Now, don't hear what I'm not saying.  I strongly support time alone, time away from the crowds and routine demands.  Time to refresh and replenish.  And repair.  But we were made to need other people- and for them to need us - and when we find ourselves continuously pulling away from friends and family and responsiblities....and pulling inside ourselves, we need a red light to go on in our hearts.  Signalling trouble. 

Happiness comes with a balance of time alone, time with others, time giving, time receiving.  Check out your "extreme-o-meter" and see if you are registering too far in one direction or the other.   

Friday, March 29, 2013

Be happy - tips 10 & 11

Tip # 10 - Monitor music and media

We already mentioned this briefly in another tip post but it bears being singled out as its own post.  Check out your time on social media, watching movies/TV and what you are mindlessly listening to.  Major mood influencer. Beware of thinking you are spending less time than you actually are.  Cut out all social media and screen time for a solid week and see if you wind up with spare time on your hands.

Tip # 11 - Nature

Scripture says in Psalm 19 - "The Heavens declare the glory of God".  Get out there and look at it! Use your senses to take in the wonder and glory of God - listen to a nightingale's song; look at a breathtaking sunset (or better yet- sunRISE!); taste the sweetness of fresh strawberries straight from Washington Farms; smell honeysuckle on a walk through the woods; rub the wool on a lamb's back.  Experience this amazing world that God created with generous beauty.  Soak in the message His creation sends - we serve a mighty God.

And He is bigger than you and me....and our sadness.  Soak that truth up all the way into your bones!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Be happy tips 8 & 9

Tip #8 is a given but it's really interesting how much we think about doing this but never get around to it.  Pray.  Talk to God about our lack of joy.  The Psalms show us that David poured out his heart to God, revealing deep emotions that almost seem irreverent. But he wasn't being irreverent - he was being transparent with a honesty that God alone can deal with.  Apparently, King David knew that he needed to get the negative emotions out before they could be replaced with positive ones.

So, talk to God.  Then listen to what He has to say.

Tip # 8 -- Pray.

Tip # 9 involves talking, too.  Talking to yourself.  I know that sounds crazy but hear me out.
Psalm 42:5, 6 records the conversation David has with his soul...and the answer he gives himself.

 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation  and my God.


I find it very beneficial to monitor my self-talk --- instead of letting my soul speak lies and negative thoughts, I tell myself to instead listen to the truth. It's amazing how much of our thought life is not based on the truth.  We fall prey to vain imaginations ("I'll bet so&so said/did/thought such&such about me" or "What if _________ happens? What will I do then??") and false assumptions ("He will never change" or  "I can't do this anymore") and outright lies ("I am hopeless" or the equally destructive opposite "I am right"  and "Nobody understands what I'm going through")  Lies that steal our peace and joy.  Instead of Truth. And that Truth gets me back to tip #7 -- God's Word.

When the blues threaten to overtake you, try having a self-conversation like David did.  Ask yourself "why are you so sad?  why are you so stressed?"  Then, give yourself the answer of TRUTH before the voice of despair can respond - "My hope is in God. He is my joy and my salvation.  I shall praise Him."  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me"  "God's love is from everlasting to everlasting.  He will never leave me or forsake me". " ALL His ways are loving and faithful".  His plans for me are good, plans to prosper me, to give me a future and a hope".  "My heart is deceitful so I cannot trust it - instead I will trust in the Lord".

Tip #9 - Speak TRUTH to yourself.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Packing a lunch to feed a crowd

I just read a great book that I highly recommend to you all.  (Side note - one of the most fantastic blessings as your children get older is when they encourage you in your own spiritual walk.  I am constantly having the most edifying conversations or insight or book/website/music suggestions from my kids.  This one came from my son)  It's called Embracing Obscurity.  By Anonymous.  It's fabulous.  A must read for today's church, in my opinion.  ("Church" as in those who follow Christ, not just the 501c3 instititions)

Celebrate Easter

This Sunday, we will head to church to celebrate Easter.  New clothes, pretty flowers, yummy food.  All good things but what are we celebrating?  Let's take a few minutes to focus on what the day really means.

Jesus died.  The One who healed folks who couldn't see or walk.  He even brought some back to life. The One who fed the hungry. The One who loved people to wholeness, showed them how to live.  The One who said if we saw Him, then we had seen the Father. 

This One, the Hope for all the world, died.  And He said He had to.  That it was why He came. To be the perfect sacrifice, required for the sin of the world.  Can you imagine how His followers felt?  Talk about grief and disappointment and confusion.  I mean, really, they followed this Man and believed that He was going to change the world.  Then He ups and dies.  Certainly they must have had a few moments of doubt - if He were really who He claimed to be, wouldn't He have asserted a little Divine power and wiped out the bad guys??

Then, to the amazement of them all....even though He had told them...His body isn't in the tomb.  He appears!  Living and breathing!  NO WAY!!!

  He paid the debt we owe God .  Sin is costly - it exacts death from those who commit it.  And Jesus's voluntary death was the only means by which our debt could be paid.  So He paid it.  Mercy.  Amazing mercy.  Love beyond compare.

But then He did the impossible.  He defeated Death!  No longer would man have to fear Death because Jesus overcame it!  Not only can our sin be paid for so that we can be acceptable to God, but we now don't have to fear Death.  He conquered it!  Because of His resurrecting Himself, He gives to us the promise of resurrection.  To live forever, without sin or death. Oh hallelujah!

This year, as we celebrate Easter,let's focus on what His death AND His resurrection do for us.  And ponder, just for a moment, that this same power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in us. NOW.  Is there anything in your life that could use some resurrection power?  A relationship?  A dream?  Finances?  Self-control?  Joy?  Hope?  Because of Easter, that power, that Glory, can be present in our lives through Jesus.  Those of us who are Christ-followers have resurrection power that enables us to live supernatural lives.  If that doesn't describe you, do you want it to?

Celebrate Easter.  For real.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How to be happy - tip #7

Don't worry that this is tip #7 but post #6 -- a couple were combined early on :)

Let's recap briefly:
1.  Check out possible physical problems (fatigue, hormones, illness)
2.  Acknowledge God's command to be joyful
3.  Don't blame others - accept responsibility for your own joy
4.  Confess sin
5.  Address systems errors (ways to do things better/more successfully)
6.  Accept the unchangeables.

Monday, March 25, 2013

How to be happy - part 5

Anybody remember "The Serenity Prayer"?  God, grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference!!  That is a whole pile of truth right there.

How to be happy tip #6 is

Don't try to change the unchangeables.  Granted, with God, there are few things that fall into this category.  He is in the business of the impossible.  And He delights to bring beauty out of ashes.  But  sometimes  what He wants to change is our perspective, not the situation. 

For instance, our past.  If what's making us depressed is our history of past failures, we need to adjust.  Our perspective - not our past.  It's an unchangeable.  But the way we view it isn't. Instead of wasting energy and emotions regretting what cannot be changed,  focus on the attitude about it.  Let God redeem it, use it for His glory, free you from its bondange.

Or other people.  We spend untold amounts of valuable emotional resources in angst over people that we think should change.  Maybe they really do need to change, but our stress over them will not accomplish that for them!  Instead of being depressed over relationships that disappoint or wound us, resolve to let God change them.As Ruth Graham once said, "It's my job to love Billy.  It's God's job to make him good".  We need to change our role in the lives of those folks that stress us out.  (Now don't hear what I am not saying -- I am NOT suggesting that you dump everyone that causes pain in your life!!!  No, I am saying that we focus on changing our response to those folks, not on "fixing" them.)

Other unchangeables are things like world peace, government spending, and the war on terror.  Although I definitely do strongly advocate being involved in worthy causes, becoming an informed and active voter, and voicing your opinion respectfully, we must be take caution that we don't stew and fret over large scale events.  I can get pretty worked up over things like folks that work for me who overspend my money (just sayin') so it helps me to remember who is ultimately in charge.  And it's not a certain political party.   Isaiah tells us in chapters 45 and 46 truth like this "I am the Lord and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none besides me.  I am the Lord and there is no other." And" For I am God and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times, things not yet done, saying 'My counsel shall stand and I will accomplish all my purpose' calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.  I have spoken and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it".
Job learned this lesson very well and responded to the Lord "I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted".

So, happiness tactic # 6 - Don't stress over unchangeables.  God is in control.  And all His ways are loving and faithful.  His Word is true-er than our circumstances!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

How to be happy - part 4 -Systems error

Sometimes our sadness can be the result of some sin that separates us from the source of joy.  So we can confess it and have our Joy restored.  Sometimes, though, our lack of joy is a "systems error".  We feel discouraged or disheartened or disturbed because we have an insurmountable "to do " list.

Tactic #5-
Establish systems that lead to success.

In other words, if your family frequently gets frustrated because they have no clean clothes to wear, then you have a systems problem.  Figure out how to fix it.

If you feel stressed repeatedly ("stress" is the antithesis of "joy") because it's almost dinnertime and you're not prepared to feed your crew, then you have a systems problem.  Check your priorities.

If your daily routine is anything but routine, then you have a systems problem.  It needs to be repaired.

If the numbers on the scale or on the receipt of the ATM transaction cause you to be distressed, then you need to address the appropriate system.

Sometimes the path to joy is systematic.  :)

Friday, March 22, 2013

How to be happy, part 3

To summarize, some tactics to use against a lack of joy:
1.  Check to be sure you are healthy and rested.
2.  Embrace the truth that we ARE to rejoice - therefore, seek to be happy in the right way.
3.  Don't blame others if you aren't happy.

4. This one isn't going to win me any friends, but, here goes.  Confess sin.  Yep, confess sin.  That probably doesn't sit too well with you if you are in the pits of despair.  Might make you feel worse, in fact.  So why do I include it?  Because it's necessary for us to examine ourselves and see what wrong resides within us. Notice I didn't say "if".  Why am I presuming there is sin present just because we are depressed?  Because there usually is!  If nothing else, there's probably a shred or two of self-pity over our sadness......

Psalm 32:3,4  says "when I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away.  Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;  My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer".

Sounds like lack of joy and lack of confession are connected to me.

Pathway to joy - ask the Lord to reveal anything between us and Him....anything between us and somebody else.  When He does, confess it.  Where necessary, make things right with others.  Then accept His forgiveness.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How to be happy, part 2

So, after I take care to be sure I get in bed early and have adequate exercise, etc, what do I do if the sadness persists?  I am no counselor but I have found some things that are helpful.  Other than considering the physical aspect of "the blues", I go through a list of strategies and apply them.

2.  Embrace the truth that, as Christians, we are commanded to rejoice.  In the Lord.  This means we are to be happy! So we need to learn how to do just that.  It helps me to understand that this desire to be happy is really a longing for Christ.  In His presence is fullness of joy.  So I must realize that if I am experiencing despair or despondency, I must accept responsibility for it and do what it takes to be obedient to His command.  While I don't think this means we are to expect a circus euphoria perpetually nor does it mean we should be deceitful to ourselves or to others when we feel this lack of joy, I do think that we need to take seriously the need to find our joy in Him.

That said, what are some ways to accomplish this?

3.  Stop blaming others and stop looking to others to "fix things" so we can be happy.  This is alot easier to type than to practice.  It is very natural to feel that some of our lack of joy is a result of the actions (or inactions) of others.  This may be initially true but it blaming others serves only to prevent our reaching the goal line of happiness.  It is probably the biggest block, in fact.  Expecting others to take responsibility for our joy is immature and ineffective.  In short - it just won't work.  Ultimately, it short circuits not only the relationships where we place the blame, but most other relationships as well.  After we pass about age 3, other people just won't accept the burden of making sure we achieve our goal of joy.  That obligation takes a dramatic shift towards ourselves.  And the sooner we accept that, the happier we - and they - will be.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Don't aim....miss

My pastor shared a marvelous concept in his sermon the other day.  I am sure he won't mind if I share it with you.                          

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I just want to be happy!

How many times have we heard that heartcry - from friends and family....and from the depths of our own soul!  Most of the time, I consider myself a happy person.  I love life and people and it makes me happy just to "be".  Sometimes I find myself just grinning wildly -- for no apparent reason. 

But other times, I don't feel that joy.  I want to, but it eludes me.  What I feel instead is a need to get to the shower and have a long, deep cry.  Sometimes my schedule affords that luxury and oftentimes the weeping is cathartic.  Getting those sad emotions out makes room for happy ones.  Other times, though, there is no opportunity to escape to solitude and cry it out.  And, sometimes, even when I can make it to the shower alone and sob, the release of emotion does not erase the despondency.  It seems to fuel it instead.

I have discovered through the years that I am neither insane nor alone in my fight for joy.  From talking with my friends to reading the stories of some giants in the faith to digging into the Psalms, I find that most everybody has to do this same battle.  Some find more victory than others. Over the next few posts, I will share some things that I have found helpful, in case you find yourself waging war against melancholy moods.
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Friday, March 15, 2013

I have been asked about our weekly chore list.  It's a little humbling to admit that we actually do so little but, we do, so here goes.  There are some excellent resources available that are much more detailed and extensive than what we are able to accomplish over here.  But, here is the list we use each week and it's what works for us.  A few times a year I get really motivated and we do some deep cleaning, but, honestly, I am pretty dirt-tolerant.  Clutter drives me batty but dirt I can live with.

Morning routine -
              Get up and get dressed (shower, whatever)
               Personal quiet time
               Breakfast (with family as much as possible)
              Chores
              School

Evening routine-
             Be sure room is straightened up
             Think through the next day and do whatever prep plans are needed (clothes, backpacks, etc)
             I often throw a load of laundry in and/or turn on dishwasher.  I also think through meal needs
             for the next day and do any advance prep work that I can.

Mondays - Laundry (wash, dry, fold/put away)
                  Bathrooms (toilets, sinks, floors - tubs/showers as needed...which often results in different
                                     interpretations of what "clean" means...)
                  Vacuum all floors
                   Dusting
                   Empty trash cans/ take trash to street

Tuesdays - just basic kitchen duty

Wednesday - basic kitchen duty

Thursday - laundry
                  empty trash cans

Friday - Bathrooms (same routine as Monday)
              Vacuum all floors
               Wash towels and bed linens (OK - in the spirit of full disclosure, my bed linens don't get
                washed every week - don't tell DFACS)

I recommend a website called flylady.net   This has really good lists of what all needs to be cleaned every week and lots of other info.  I aspire to it all but my above list is what we can actually accomplish. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What's in a name?

Psalm 9:10 tells us "Those who know Your name will put their trust in You". Do we know His name?
In order to trust Him, we need to!

Elohim - The Creator
El Elyon - The God Most High
El Roi - The God Who Sees
El Shaddai - The All-Sufficient One
Adonai - The Lord
Jehovah - The Self-Existent One
Jehovah-jireh - The Lord Will Provide
Jehovah-nissi - The Lord My Banner
Jehovah-mekoddishhkem - The Lord Who Sanctifies You
Jehovah-shalom - The Lord Is Peace
Jehovah-saboath - The Lord of Hosts
Jehovah-raah -  The Lord My Shepherd
Jehovah-tsidkenu - The Lord Our Righteousness
Jehovah-shammah - The Lord Is There

God is so beyond our comprehension that He uses lots of different names to help us begin to grasp who He is, His glory, His power, His love.  Today I want to focus on just one - Elohim - The Creator. For those of us who are Christ-followers, we probably have no difficulty embracing Him as The Creator in a macro-sense-- we are confident that He created the world and everything in it. And that everything He made is good.  And that He is The Ultimate Creator, beautiful and powerful and good.  We stand strong against worldviews that purport otherwise.  But when it gets down to the "micro" level, we might be a little shaky.  The level of His creation of us.  Of you.  Of me.  Oh, now I don't mean that we think we evolved from an amoeba.  Or that random cells arbitrarily assigned themselves as this function or that.  No, not that.  But deep down do we celebrate and cling to Him as Creator of us, including our physical characteristics, the circumstances of our birth, our abilities (or lack thereof)?  Do we accept ourselves as having been conceived and fashioned by Elohim? With the assigned purpose to give Him glory?  Do we believe that every single detail of who we are was orchestrated by our always good, always loving, always powerful Heavenly Father in order to establish a relationship between us and Him? Or do we think He must have made a mistake or two in His design?  Do we hold to a desire that He had tweaked a few details differently?

My prayer is that we, that I,  would grasp our Elohim and His creation of us so completely that we wouldn't feel the need to expend our energy on trying to change our unchangeables.  And that we wouldn't catapult into anxiety and discontentment and insecurity over our efforts. And that we wouldn't be consumed with thoughts about how God could've done things differently.  And then anger and disappointment towards Him because He didn't. 

May we heed Proverbs 18:10 which encourages us that "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe".  Elohim dreamed us up and designed the particulars of who we are just as He desired.  To bring Him glory.  And to bless us.  He loves us.  And He doesn't love us because He made us --- He made us because He loves us.  We are beautiful and precious in His sight.  Run into the strong tower of Elohim!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Growing kids into adults

In speaking with some Moms, I have often mentioned that one of the goals for my children is for them to be able to run the house by the time they are 12.  Aside from the fact that I am inherently lazy and want them to do all my work, I do have a Scriptural basis for this objective.  (Wouldn't ya just know it)  When Jesus was 12, His parents left him at the Temple and He was able to fend for Himself for three whole days.  (Now, don't be too hard on Mary for forgetting one of her children.  I figure that by the time Jesus was 12, she probably had quite of brood of kiddos.  And I can completely understand not realizing one was missing.  If I were planning to leave one, though, I'd have left somebody other than Jesus.  Just sayin.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Betsy....Letter #4

Can it really be that 11 years ago today God sent our family a bonus blessing?  Baby Betsy.  The one who made our little tribe complete.  The one who filled the hole of a baby sister for Mary, a baby for Katie to "mother", and a sibling who elevated Chip to leader status.  The one who filled the little hole that was left in my Mommy heart. 

Oh, the questions and comments.  "Are you done?"  (Whose business is that???) "Was this planned?" (From the foundations of the world, you bet it was!) Since Chip was a baby, I wanted at least one more.  Just a little hole in my Mommy heart.  Who knew that God would time it just like He did.  Perfectly.  March 11, 2002.  Our family grew by two little feet. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Post script from Betsy

Betsy told me emphatically that the reason she is good friends with her siblings is  mainly due to the fact that none of them are weirdos. 

Great point, Betsy.  Great point.  Makes my parenting you all alot easier.

Kudos.

Note to all Moms -- if you are blessed enough to have kids that are not weirdos, they will want to hang out together.  Just sayin....

How do I love thee?

One of the things that Moms want to be sure their children are confident of is their love.  We want them to know how we value them, which can be sometimes be difficult and complicated. One of my young-Mom friends recently asked me how I did this as well as how my four kids turned out to be such great friends to one another.  I told her I'd get back to her on that - not sure I feel qualified to answer that question -- but I do want to try.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Posting letter # 3 - to Chip

About ten years ago, I received a poem that I will cherish forever.  It ranks higher than any written by the great poets of the ages.  Cuz it was written and presented to me by my boy. Unabridged, unedited, here it is:

Mom, Mom, super Mom
Mom, Mom, your da bomb
Your as pretty as a pearl
I just hope that you don't hurl.





Wednesday, March 6, 2013

When we all get together

I believe that one of the greatest dangers to living a joyful, victorious Christian life is isolation.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mary - Letter # 2

Psalme 127:3 proclaims "Behold, children are a gift of the Lord,The fruit of the womb is a reward."

21 years ago tomorrow, God - with abundant lovingkindness - sent our family a gift, a reward:  Mary Suzanne Chambers was born.  In typical Mary fashion - 10 days early, late at night, just a little slender bundle slipping into the world.  I was so happy to make you my namesake and to share a birthday month with you. 

How to describe this gift from the Lord?  The first word that comes to mind is beautiful.  Breathtakingly so.  When you were a baby, complete strangers would stop me to comment on your beauty.  Cherubic little face.  Bouncing black curls.  The light in your eyes.  And that smile.  That smile started early.  Even through the pre-braces years when the overbite tempted you to hide it, Daddy nurtured your confidence in that smile.  "Smile, Buddy," he would say, "I love your smile."

The next word I would choose is zest. Not the soap - the vibrancy, the seasoning, the fervor.  Always ready for adventure and excitement.  If you have any fear at all, it's of being bored!  Your energy is contagious - when you are in a room, the whole place lights up.  Yep, "zest" fits you well. Sometimes your zest outkicks your comfort zone but that's not always a bad thing.  Which brings me to the next word -

Resilence.  Of all of us, you are the best at this.  When things begin to not work out so well, you not only have the backup plan in mind, you have already set it in motion.  You don't languish in defeat or self- pity - you move on.  You get over it.  Rub off on me, please.  What an enviable quality, one we all want to emulate.  Which segues into the next word...

Influence.  True leadership.  The ability to effect voluntary behavior change in other people.  From fashion to fun to faith - you are a leader of other people.  People just naturally like you and admire you and want to be like you.

Mary, you are a wonderful sister.  Little and big.  One of the many reasons I am so thankful you are ours is because of the role you play in the lives of your siblings.  From "sister secrets" with Katie to nurturing Betsy to encouraging Chip's journey as the lone brother in this clan, you are a fabulous sister.  OK, there have been some dubious moments like the lure for Lemonheads under the bed and your penchant for wanting to feel "cool and free" when the pastor was over for dinner.  Help.  Can't breathe.

And you are a genuine blessing as a daughter.  I love that we are alike enough to empathize with one another (and call one another out as needed!) and yet UNalike enough so that I can enjoy and admire those qualities in you that I aspire to.

Happy 21st, dear daughter. May "the generation to come set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God and keep His commandments. "Psalm 78:6,7 Remember Psalm 84:11 always.  And Joshua 1:9 "The Lord your God is with you wherever you go".  I love you.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

12 feet under

Ask my kids where I am the happiest and they will tell you "12 feet under".  Now that's not a reference to being so dead that I am buried twice the normal 6 feet.  Nor is it a lament on my insurmountable to do list. Nope, 12 feet under means all my offspring are home and gathered round to make "12 feet under my dining room table."  Everybody home.  What a great feeling to this Mommy-heart.

While they were all growing up, and there were 8 feet underneath my own most of the time, I didn't really spend much time pondering the merit of "everybody home". They always were!  Truth be told, I probably spent some time wondering if MY two feet could leave these others here alone!! Even during those years of constant demands and busy-ness, though, my happiest times have always been when my whole family was under the same roof.  (OK I do have to include that we all need to be liking each other for my happiness to be complete.  Anybody know what I mean???) But together.  All of us.  Happy times.

When my oldest left for college, this longing for us to all be together became acute.  Nobody had told me what it felt like for bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh to get her mail at a different address.  That was probably a good thing cuz I probably would have tried hard to convince her that God's will for her was to stay at home until He returned.(Now don't any of you scoff at my grief, knowing that she was only relocating a mere 15 minutes away.  It was still farther than just up the stairs, where she had been for 17 years! ).  I knew it was supposed to be this way.  I knew the point of raising children is to raise AN ADULT.  One that becomes independent and self-sustaining and all that stuff. However,  I also knew that she was really leaving and my family would never be the same and I liked it just the way it was, thank you very much.  But leave, she did.  And she thrived.  Made me so proud of how she turned out, I busted buttons.  Then the next one left and did the same thing.  I alternated between grief and supreme joy at watching my two oldest children turn into adults.  (Amazing ones, in fact.  Turns out their grandparents were right!!)  I truly am thrilled that these letters I helped write are being read and loved and admired in places beyond my dining room table.  I see the unmistakable evidence that God has graciously and generously answered my prayers for their lives.  And, true to His nature, He does above and beyond what I have asked and imagined.  Gives me confidence that the last two letters will experience the same when they take flight.

Yet none of that joy changes the fact that my heart still longs for them all to be home.  I'm OK with the fact that it won't be all the time.  (In fact, I can even manage a smile that one day it'll be only the same 4 feet that started all this crazy stuff! We're gonna have some fun, just us!!)  But those times that we are all here ....and liking each other.....well, that's truly a taste of Heaven for me.  I cook as many favorites of each person that I can fit in.  (We spell "LOVE" - "F-O-O-D", how bout you?) I just want them here so I can love on them.  Feed them.  Serve them.  Just be with them.  I don't need to do anything special, I just want to sit back and watch them.  Interacting with each other.  Laughing.  Sharing.  Yes, teasing.  Eating. Remembering.  Planning.  Belonging.  Loving.  12 feet under.

And now we've added more feet.  Happiness for me is now 16 feet under. Had it this past weekend.  Katie here, bringing with her two big feet and the cutest two little feet ever. Mary here.  Joining Chip and Betsy and Paul and me here. Heavenly togetherness.  A new table is on my wish list!

Just one thought before I close.  Lest you think I am hopelessly sappy, let me tell you that I got this longing from Jesus.  His heart's desire is for those that are His to be with Him. Check out John 17:24 where Jesus is pouring out His heart to His Father.  In this prayer, Jesus asks God to protect us and strengthen us and keep us holy.  He prays for our mission, our transformation, and our pursuit of the Father.  And, after asking all these things for us, He asks for something for Himself.  He tells His Father that He wants us all together.  You and me and the Son and the Father.  Together.  Forever.  Just so we can experience the glory of the Father, the love of the Son.  Wow.  What an awesome dining room table that's gonna be!