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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

When things need fixing

The other day a couple of my crew were at odds.  Different than when their frustrations were vented in hits and hairpulls, this was of the verbal sort.  Unkind words.  Hurt feelings.  Spreading out to members not involved in the conflict.


They angrily separated.  Too old for parent-enforced time outs but perhaps the principle learned in the early years was wisely relied on.  Good idea to retreat.  Stop the assault of wounding words.  Tears.


I appeared in the aftermath.


I think each one expected me to point out their error.  To reprimand them and exhort corrective action. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Rhythm for the Breakfast Blues

When life brings changes, I feel a little rattled til I can find a new rhythm to adjust to the change in tempo.  This month has brought with it some unfamiliar developments and it's taken me some time to figure out how to adapt.  "School starting" has meant not only the courses I teach Betsy but also her one day per week courses which means I have to get her somewhere.  In the morning. 

Now I know for you seasoned conventional school moms, it is pretty pathetic to need to adjust to one day per week school -- you do it five days a week!  Trust me, you have my most ardent admiration!  Thinking of, planning for, and preparing lunch before I've even fixed breakfast requires skills not tapped into since my college calculus classes.  Whew. 


On top of the once a week expectations, Chip is now a high school Senior/college freshman doing the whole joint enrollment thing.  No courses under my tutelage.  Probably his dream come true??  So he's gone every day just like normal people!!


And then, with my Mom being incapacitated since her fall, I've had to figure out how to make this new tempo work and get everybody what they need and when.  Namely food.  And specifically breakfast!  4 out of the other 5 folks in this house need to break their fast at a different time.  And while I adore them all equally and love to prepare tasty nutritious food that conveys my deepest feelings every day, the only one that really merits that kind of attention is the hubs. 

SO, what to do? How to feed the masses from 6-9 AM five days per week?


Breakfast freezer meals. I've done freezer meals for dinner for over two decades but now my arsenic hour (you know - that time lapse of 5-6PM when you're trying to fix dinner and nobody cooperates?  Arsenic hour - either take it or give it!) comes in the morning, not the evening.  Freezer meals for breakfast.  That's become my solution.  That's my new rhythm.  And I think some of you might find an idea or two that can simplify your mornings, too.


Here's a couple of sites that gave me some ideas and then I'll share the menus I've already prepared in case you want to try some, too:


http://www.notconsumed.com/2014/02/21/diy-breakfast-station-easy-bi-monthly-cooking-for-busy-moms/


http://www.5dollardinners.com/15-grab-n-go-breakfast-ideas/


Over the course of three days, about 45 minutes to an hours each day, I stocked my freezer with


breakfast burritos
strawberry muffins  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/strawberry-muffins/
banana chocolate chip muffins  http://www.5dollardinners.com/whole-wheat-banana-chocolate-chip-muffins-pantry-challenge-recipe/
baked oatmeal muffins http://allrecipes.com/recipe/baked-oatmeal-ii/ (I add chocolate chips instead of cranberries)
cooked sausage patties and homemade biscuits
apple cake bread  ( doesn't sound healthy to eat cake for breakfast - so I changed the name)
strawberry bread (because I don't like bananas but I do love Washington Farms strawberries from my freezer!)
sausage & cheese muffins
cheese grits casserole (for a crowd - not individual portions)


 I asked my FB friends for some breakfast ideas and got awesome suggestions.  Thank you!  Trying some already! My friend Tricia shared a cheese soufflĂ© recipe that I'm going to try out this weekend when the whole gang will be here.  It looks DIVINE.  I'll give you that one once I've sampled it.  I cannot wait - it has a boatload of cheese and green chiles - oh YES!!!!


Other breakfast ideas :  http://livingletters4.blogspot.com/2014/01/breakfast-included.html


http://livingletters4.blogspot.com/2013/10/update-of-love-for-my-living-letters.html


Now I can grab what I need for each person (after I've served the hubs his daily bacon and eggs) and pop it in the microwave  (or in the hands of each child.....) , add a boiled egg or strip of bacon (which can also be prepared ahead!) and presto! Breakfast is served!


If you have some ideas for how you simplify your mornings, I'd love to hear them. And maybe we should just meet at Cracker Barrel to chat about them around 9???

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Love covers

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.  I Peter 4:8


Love covers.  What a great truth.  Love is willing to overlook an offense, to absorb being wronged, to pay the cost for someone else's sin.  Wow. 


I want to be loved like that, don't you?  For my family and my friends to forgive me when I mess up, to give me the benefit of the doubt, to understand me and accept me.


I know what the opposite feels like, don't you?  I've had friendships dissolve because I wasn't enough something for the other person.  I've felt walls go up because conflicts weren't resolved.  I've been shut out because of a perceived wrong.  Whatever the reality may be, the bottom line was that there wasn't enough love to cover.


I'll bet you have similar stories of hurt.  I understand.  I hurt with you and for you.


We have a choice about what to do when love falls short of what we need.

We can act in retaliation, hoping that the best defense is a good offense.  Unfortunately, what works in basketball doesn't apply in relationships.


We can react out of self-protection.  But we need to know that keeping our hearts in a cage does more to keep love out than to protect us from harm.


We can reciprocate with pretense and denial, insisting that we don't care what happens, we are fine no matter what others do.  But the only one who's fooled is ourselves.  The wound still bleeds, whether we ignore it or not.


We can wallow in our pain, hoping someone will rescue us.  Good luck with that one!


Or, we can respond in a way that is counter-intuitive.  Actually seems to invite more opportunity for offense, for wrong, for pain.  We can let our love cover the other person's offenses.


I know I want to be loved like that.


I know I want to love others like that.


Like Jesus does.





Monday, August 18, 2014

Standing Up

My dad has the sweetest habit.  He is such a gentleman that, even at 85 years of age, he stands when a woman enters the room.  It's positively charming.  A friend of mine dropped by the other day and popped into my folk's apartment to say hello to them.  He stood up to greet her and remained standing until she left. 


Not just this once.  He does this every time.  It's absolutely adorable. 




Now my dad wasn't a "blue blood".  He never went to "finishing school" to learn etiquette.  I suppose most all his generation knew how to treat people from watching their elders.  And those lessons stuck.  He opens doors for women, speaks respectfully to others, and, yes, stands when he is introduced to someone, especially a female. 


I am touched by that every single time.  What a show of kindness.  Of respect.  Of affirmation.
It makes the other person feel so valued.  What a gift!


One of my most cherished memories is that of coming home, after having left home, if you know what I mean.  College days.  Marriage.  Family of my own.  Coming home - where Mama and Daddy lived.  I'd pull into our long driveway and hit the horn a couple of times.  I could see my Daddy in his chair by the window, and by the time I'd parked the car, he would have gotten up and come out to my car with his arms open wide.  Welcome home.  Welcome home.  What a feeling of love, expressed in my Dad's simple gesture of getting out of his chair to greet me.  To embrace me.  To welcome me home.  Every time.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is it ever "right" to complain?

Some of you asked for clarification regarding the earlier post on taking problems to the Lord.  Understandably, you want to know if it's ever ok to "complain".  I am right there with you! What about when we are concerned for someone else's safety?  What about when the other person is clearly in the wrong? And we want to make it right?  Isn't it the right thing to do to call attention to the problem?


Well, let's look at what Scripture says..............


 Philippians 2:14 instructs us to Do everything without complaining and arguing.  That's all inclusive and completely clear.  We are not to complain.  Other translations use the words "grumbling, disputing, arguing, murmuring".  I think we get the picture.


How do we apply that to everyday living?  Is there ever a time to call attention to a problem?


Clearly, there is.  Matthew 18:15-18 lays out the way to handle problems - If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector




Go directly and only to the person involved in the problem.  And to God for help and grace and wisdom....and to check for any beams that need removing first....Matthew 7:5....




If your fast food order wasn't prepared correctly, humbly, kindly, gently take it back to the cashier and ask for the right sandwich.  Don't immediately go on TripAdvisor and blast the company. If your child's teacher can't manage the classroom, perhaps you can volunteer as an aide but don't chew her up and spit her out over coffee with the other Moms in the class.  If your best friend is an alcoholic, get professional counsel and seek intervention instead of bringing her problem up every week in Bible study for group prayer. 




It seems to me that the bottom line is (as always) a matter of the heart.  If my motive is to help move someone out of danger, to restore them to health and wholeness, then I am definitely exhorted to address the problem with them.  In gentleness and humility, as Galatians 6:1 explains. And this is to be done privately.  Not in a public showdown on social media or at the office's water cooler.  Privately.  So as to restore.  So as to avoid falling into a pit of my own.


If, however, my motive is in some way selfish, if my "rights" have been violated or  I want to prove how right I am or  to inflict an offense in retaliation, then I think the passage that we look to is Proverbs 19:11 - Good sense makes one slow to anger and it is to his glory to overlook an offense.  Overlooking a wrong.  Not calling attention to it (complaining) or insisting that it be made right (arguing) - overlooking it.  I cannot count the number of times I have been warned by the Holy Spirit to refrain from a comment and just overlook.  I also cannot count the number of times I have failed to heed that warning....and oh how I wish I had!


What does it mean to "overlook an offense"?


It doesn't mean to deny an offense has occurred. That's not truth.
 Instead, it means forgiveness and grace in place of demanding to receive what has not been delivered.  It means valuing the relationship and the other person more than our own personal desires for comfort, pleasure, significance, or joy.


When someone has wronged us, there is a debt.  They "owe" us.  Christ's example is that we not "make them pay" but rather that we forgive the debt and then pay it ourselves.  When someone has failed to treat us as we (think) we deserve, we "get that debt of love paid" by seeking fulfillment from Christ's love instead of trying to extract it from the debtor.  And, in Christ's economy, debts we are owed get paid by "spending" love on the one who incurred the debt.  It's incredulous but it's true - when someone has wronged us and we are due justice - or at least an apology - Jesus would have us not seek that payment.  But instead to make investments of love in others (including the offender). 


Investments of love include not complaining or grumbling or airing our offenses.  But instead overlooking them through the lens of Christ's love for us on Calvary.  Miraculously, our own hearts get filled.

Complaining won't do that.  Love will.




Love covers.  A multitude of sins.

I've got this problem.....


I pour out my complaint before him;
    I tell my trouble before him

Psalm 142:2


Here's the thought for today - next time we have a complaint about someone or something, next time we are troubled about someone or something, let's tell the Only One who can help.


Instead of our neighbor.  Or our sister. Or our husband.  Or Heaven forbid - Twitter!


 Let's tell our Heavenly Father.  Really tell Him.  As in casting all  our cares on Him.  Because, remember, He cares for us!  (I Peter 5:7)



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

We can't settle for "normal" now

It's surreal. 


The atrocities going on across the sea. 


In Israel and Palestine and Gaza.  In Iraq.  Especially in Iraq.


I read online reports.  See the news.  And I am horrified.


Then I go grocery shopping.  Take my child to piano lessons.  Look after my Mom.  Life is normal.  I give little thought to the horrors.


But the anguish returns.  I wonder if it is all true.  Perhaps some lies are being disseminated.  Then I read reports from credible sources that reveal more evil. Normal is shattered.


HOW CAN THIS TAKE PLACE?


Children being beheaded.  Women kidnapped and forced into slave trade.  Crucifixions.  Victims being buried alive.


Surely this cannot be!  We live in a civilized world....or so I thought.  The shocking barbarity that I learned about when studying the Middle Ages - AND THE HOLOCAUST - are not just in the history books.  Humans are capable of unspeakable evil.  Here and now.  We cannot pretend or deny or ignore. 


The most heartbreaking issue of all is that this inhumane cruelty is in the name of religion. 
I cannot process it.   I simply cannot.


So I go back to my mundane normality.  My blessed, precious, wonderful, mundane normality.


But I cannot stay there.  I have to do something.  We all do.  We must not return to our "normal" and ignore this horrible truth.


We know the quote from Edmund Burke --  "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."


What can we do?


1.  Pray.  I know that sounds trite.  But it's true.  Only God can change the human heart - and that's where the problem lies.  For all of us.  I don't even know what to pray but God can take care of that, too.  Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  Romans 8:26-27
So, I ask myself, am I really praying?  Really??


2.  Give.  Yes, God is the only answer but He often involves us in the process by giving food, water, relief.  Some organizations I suggest are Voice of the Martyrs, Open Door, International Mission Board SBC.  These groups are getting stuff done quickly.  They have missional "ground troops" that are close to the crisis and know how to respond effectively.  GIVE.  But give to groups that can really help.  Many news sources report that the majority of the humanitarian relief provided by some outlets was unusable once it was dropped on the mountain.  Give.  We have so much -- too much, really - we can help significantly if we all just give.


3.  Spread the word.  Tell others.  Keep the focus on what's happening.  Perhaps the terrible slaughter of the Holocaust wouldn't have happened if people that knew what was going on had spread the word.  Make sure the attention of governments and all the world is riveted on these horrifying events.  Social media.  Conversations at the water cooler.  In the pulpit.  Talk about it.


4.  Contact Congress and the White House and let your horror be known.  Insist that our government not allow evil to triumph by doing too little or even nothing. Humanitarian aid is insufficient.  We need to rescue these people.  Be their voice and be sure you get heard.


5.  Do not return to normal.  Pray without ceasing.  Give sacrificially.  Keep talking about it.  Be relentless in insisting that effective action be taken.


When I read about the horrors of the Nazis or visit the Holocaust museum, I cannot grasp how this took place....while the majority of the world went about its business being normal.




What will history say about our response?




One final thought.  As much as we want to believe that these evil people are uncommon, they are not.  As much as we long to believe that humans are basically good, and given the right education and upbringing and governmental programs , all people will behave with civility and compassion, that's just not true.  Humans are inherently bent towards evil.  Apart from the intervening grace of God, every one of us is capable of committing unspeakable acts of evil.  And as much as my heart cries not only for rescue of the victims but also irreversible retribution for the perpetrators, I must acknowledge that they need a Savior --- just like I do.  And so I must pray for them.  I must.  I cannot slide back into normal.  They should be stopped and brought to justice but I must not hate them.


Hate is what spawned this evil to begin with.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Hey! Ya wanna build a sand castle?

Lessons learned from the beach


We built sand castles today.   I'm glad my crew was still willing to do it - I don't think I'll ever grow tired of drizzle castles and beach moats.


We were at it for the better part of an afternoon.  Topped off riding the waves and reading on the beach.  I learned a lot from today's activities and thought I'd share.


1.  Building a pretty castle is insufficient - it needs to be protected from the sea by deep moats and wide walls.  After you spend all that time decorating it, you really hate to see it swept away in 5 minutes .


2.  If you spend all your time building the walls and digging the moats, though, you run out of time to build a pretty castle.  And pretty castles are nice.


3.  It's very helpful to build castles in pairs.


4.  And it's a lot more fun.


5.  You can waste a lot of valuable time debating castle plans.  Better to just get to work building.


6.  Wondering what passers-by think is also a waste of time.  In reality, they're probably not even paying any attention to what you're doing.  They're too busy thinking about what they are doing.


7.  Comparing your castle to the one down the beach is a waste of energy.


8.  Additional input is wonderful.  Unless you get too many chiefs and not enough Indians.


9.  Building lots of walls is a good idea. One layer after another.  Insulation.


10.  It's very gratifying to watch your work withstand the assault of the sea.  Especially castles that don't look like they're gonna make it and are even labeled "lost causes".


11.  I get tired building sand castles.
12.  When somebody that's already finished with their castle comes over to help you, it's very encouraging.  Especially if their walls are positioned in a way that lends some protection to yours.
13.  You can spend all your time documenting that you're having fun via instagram or you can just have fun.


14.  Sooner or later, the waves are gonna win.  Trenches and thick walls can hold off the attack for a while. Our construction lasted over 30 hours and still counting!  But sooner or later, every sand castle falls.  So be sure to have a lot of fun in the building!
15.  The real fun is the work, not admiring the finished product.
16.  Building lives, or parenting, is an awful lot like building sandcastles.  Except that the waves don't always wash all the evidence away.


17.  While I love building sandcastles, I've decided I'd rather build lives.  On The Rock.




But I learned a lot about the latter from the former...............


 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it
Matthew 7:24-27

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It's harvest time. What'd ya plant?

Blessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Psalm 1:1-4

I want that "prospering in all he does" and "yielding fruit" and "not withering" part, don't you?  How can we become women like this?  Instead of ones that get blown away by the winds of life?

Here's what this Psalm exhorts:

1.  Not following wrong counsel.  Sounds simple and straightforward, doesn't it?  But it's not.  Wrong - wicked - counsel is everywhere.  Magazines, well-intentioned friends, talk shows, and blogs :)  It's extremely easy to find (and to follow).  It's harder to learn to discern wise counsel from the wicked.  To recognize lies in contrast to God's ways.  And then to obey it. But that's what successful women learn to do.

2. Loving the Truth and the ways of God.  Making God's Word a priority in terms of time and treasure.  Studying it.  Finding joy in it.  It's a challenge to find the time to do this in the midst of all our demands.  But successful women learn that this is the key to meeting all those demands.  Just like we eat because we're hungry, not because we have to - successful women feast on The Word of Life.






When these things characterize a life, that person will be full of life.  Vibrant, constantly nourished by life-giving water.  This life will be like a strong tree that won't be torn down by strong winds.  Its leaves won't dry up when the heat bears down. 


Instead, this life will be a source of fruit for those around it.  Rich.  Abundant.  Prosperous.






One last thought - this fruit is borne "in its season". 


Fruit is borne in one season but it's been planted and fertilized and nurtured throughout preceding ones.


Hmmmmmm. 






May we be ones that are tending to our vines so that the season of fruit production will be rich.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Being a Boy's Mommy

I've been at this for 18 years now.   Being a boy's Mommy.


 You'd think I had it figured out.


I still feel like a neophyte. 


But it still feels great.


Today marks the 18th birthday of my son.  He gets to register to vote.......and for the Selective Service.  (Just giving notice to anyone who ever decides to reinstate the draft, you will have to deal with some upset Mamas.  Including me. Especially me.  Just warning.....)


I've cried over his socks that have long been indistinguishable from his Dad's.  I've grinned back the tears during his first prom pictures.  And I've pulled out the memories of Matchbox cars lined up by the basement stairs, shots made from half court, and frustrated tears over sibling squabbles.  Being a boy-mommy is a cherished gift.


As I looked ahead to this momentous occasion, I thought about how much our world focuses on girls.  On treating them right.  On giving them a "fair chance".  On how they deserve to be viewed. And treated. And I'm all for that.  My husband has done a herculean job of modeling for our girls how they should expect a fella to act towards them.  Date nights.  Tender touch.  Lots of time with them.  And especially how he treats their Mama.  He has set the bar high for the men in the lives of his girls.  I am so very grateful.


But what do we do for little boys?  Who's showing them what to expect from a girl?  Not just how to treat females but especially how they themselves should be treated!  Who's setting the standard for respect and tenderness and responding to his leadership?  Who's helping him figure out what God's calling is on his life? Who's gonna let him know he shouldn't settle for a girl characterized by mean-spirited sassiness or disrespectful putdowns disguised as humor? Who will instruct him that the old saying "you can't judge a book by its cover" doesn't apply to girls and their clothing (because that book didn't select its cover but, be assured, young women carefully choose their outfits!)?  Who's got his back? Who else is protecting and nurturing his heart, the wellspring of life?