Thursday, September 29, 2011

Car Conversations and Teen Talks

She climbed into the back seat of my car two weeks ago. "How was your day?" I asked. Short brown hair falling into her eyes, she buckled her seat belt as we drove away.

After a few minutes of conversation, my teen daughter burst out, the story tumbling from her lips. Someone had made barbed comments several times that day, couched in the term, "It was just a joke."

I listened to my daughter's accounts and tears, reaching back to squeeze her hand as I drove one-handed. We tried to reason out the situation, striving to understand and read pure intentions into the person's actions. Recognizing our own human insecurities, she and I talked of forgiveness, and grace, and love-filled assertive words.

Arriving home, we sat in our driveway for a few minutes to hug, wipe away last tears, and pray for a chance to show unconditional love to this person, while practicing helpful assertive phrases. Then we gathered our belongings and started through the door to prepare lunch.

Once upstairs, God suddenly nudged me. In all of our good psychological responding, I hadn't yet filled Morgan's void up with God's truth of who she was. Rushing downstairs, I grabbed her, pulling her close to me. Whispering in her ears for privacy, I started speaking God's words to her.

"You are loved, precious, highly valued, his child, bought with a price, a daughter of the king, a new creation, the apple of his eye. The king is enthralled with your beauty. He died for you, will rejoice over you with singing, takes great delight in you, carves your name into his hand, gathers up your tears, saves you, calls you his own, created by him, as his masterpiece, created to do great things which he has created in advance for you."

Her tears fell on my shoulder as she melted into me. A sigh shuddered her, and I felt truth course through her. "Thank you, Mom," she whispered, hugging me fiercely. "Thank you, God," I mouthed quietly to my Abba Dad.

What about you? What truths resonate deeply in you about who God says you are? What experiences have you had with teen children and friendships? 

(Update: My daughter is thankful for all the people in her life, and that situation is going much better now.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

5 Sure Signs You Haven't Been Working Out Consistently

1.) You have to introduce yourself to the new childcare staff when you drop off your son.
2.) The baby diapers in your work out bag are two sizes too small.
3.) Your locker lock is still at home in your "Let's go to the outdoor pool!" bag alongside sunscreen bottles. 
4.) Counting laps around the track involves sheer determination and internal bullying. ("No, you can NOT stop! Yes, I know you are dying. We are going to 30..."
5.) During cool down after the two miles, you seriously fear your legs will give out and send you toppling over the railing to the gym of basketball players below.

Grab your workout clothes and join me in the wobbly, sore legs feeling! It's a great sense of accomplishment. (For those who were with us last week, we were talking about persistence. This is me starting to be more consistent in working out.)

How about you? What do you wrestle with in being consistent? What victories have you seen this week? Spending time in God's word is a big thing too that Christians wrestle with in being consistent. Let's spur each other on. Where are you reading in God's word today/this week? 

The Romance in the Moment to Moment winner from this post is Britni. Britni, email me at with your address so I can send you a tailor-bought gift card for your town. Thanks.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Autumn is Here: Children's Homework and Pumpkin Pies

Are your windows flung wide open too? Crisp autumn air streams through my windows, almost making us cold. Navy storm clouds hover in the horizon teasing with their threat of storm.

My two teens lean over the kitchen table, working on a history project together, speaking of the Mayflower, William Bradford and the New Plymouth colony. My toddler son plays on the deck, splashing toys into a small pot of warm water.

Pumpkin pie sounds perfect right now, doesn't it? I can't resist and so pull the ingredients out of the cupboard, whirling, whisking and whipping the frothy cinnamon-specked pumpkin puree. Looking for pie pans, I am confronted with the fact that I packed all my pie glassware to stage our cupboards for this move. Drat! After some crashing and clanging into the far corners of my cupboard, I resurface with a cheesecake pan and a small round skillet. Experiments in the kitchen. (What does that say about me if I pack my pie pans yet save my cheesecake pan?)

The pies are baking now, the heat from the oven nicely offsetting the chill from the open windows and deck. My toddler talks from his bed, as he struggles to fall asleep for nap-time, and my children have moved onto more school.

Care to join me for pumpkin pie? Those who live close are welcome to stop by for a slice in forty-five minutes, otherwise whip out your appropriate glassware and join me. Here is an adapted recipe from one of the basic pumpkin pie cans that I used today.

Easy Pumpkin Pie
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger (I was out so I omitted this today.)
3/4 tsp ground cloves
4 large eggs, whipped
1  29 oz can pumpkin pie puree
1  12 oz can evaporated milk
1  12 oz can full of normal milk from your fridge (use above can to measure)
2 refrigerated pie crusts

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake for about 45 more minutes. The pie is ready when a knife inserted at center comes out cleanly.

There is still time to put your name in the hat for the free gift card to get your first rate inexpensive dates started! Simply stop by here and leave a comment for me. Winners will be announced tomorrow on Friday, September 23.

What about you? What do you like best about fall? What foods have you enjoyed making lately?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Romance in the Moment to Moment --Plus Free Information & Free Giveaway!

The first aisle or two had hors d'ouevres-- small, savory, bites of all types. Next we ambled through the aisles with main dish samples. Stroganoff, pizzas and sandwiches. With a few more aisles to go, we were thrilled to discover that for this store's anniversary extravangaza, there were even dessert samples!

A college professor passed the word to my then-boyfriend husband in that youth ministry class years ago. "Bring your special girl to this free date on Saturday!"  Scrimping pennies to pay for an expensive private college, this announcement sent most guys racing out the door in excitement to secure a date for that Saturday. Mark and I were no exception, walking the mile or so to the store that sunny day for a free grocery store sample date.

He and I grin at that memory now too. While our budget has grown since that day, we recognize that romance can easily be found on a shoe string. We can rekindle the romance through small choices each day:
        -sitting close to each other at church, or on the couch
        -stealing kisses in the kitchen during meal prep
        -sending small gazes at each other across a public room
        -sincerely stating and remembering things we like about each other
        -spending date times together, even just at a coffee shop for an hour

I came across these two fun websites with ideas for easy cheap dates. Thanks to Rod Froseth's "21 First-Rate Cheap Date Ideas" and Dallen and Katie's "Ideas for a Cheap" for their info. Check out their sites.

What about you? What cheap dates have you found? 

In fact, as a thank you gift for your  ideas, I'll enter your name in a hat to buy you a small gift card to start off your date night. Here's how to win
1.) Post your answer in the comments below to get your name in the hat.
2.) Optional: Answer this question on your blog also with a link to my blog there for another chance to win.
3.) Optional: After commenting with your answer here, click Share to Facebook to post this site with your good idea on your facebook wall too.

Three ways to earn your name in the hat for the gift card. Let me know what you do in the comments section below so I can get your name listed as many times as possible. I'll post the winner on Thursday.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Potty Trips and Persistance

He reached down and with one flash flip of his hand, he sprinkled me and the wall behind me with wet droplets. Euuuh! It was my fault. Trying to be efficient, I had left an old pull up in the potty chair, to act as a sponge for fast clean up.  My preschooler, surprised by an unexpected item in his chair, whipped it out, accidentally showering me with the unthinkable. Euuh.

Who else is potty-training right now? What tricks have you used to get your toddler to race to the toilet? We've used rewards of m&ms, stickers on a wall, cheerios to aim at, and lots of praise. It's coming, and we have more and more successes! With my older children being 16 and 12 years old, I notice that I am mellower in my parenting. Life is short, and potty training will come! Consistency is key.

Wow, consistency is key in so many areas of life, isn't it? For this potty-training season I'm in with my brown haired toddler; for this new discipline of naming and counting God's gifts in my life; for striving with God's help to be my husband's biggest fan; for carving out time to be in God's word, listening, journaling, reflecting; for trying to be consistent in homeschooling, writing, and giving of myself in ministry.

I don't know about you, but I seem to have a hard time being consistent with everything at once. If I can keep the above things consistent then I'm often dropping a ball somewhere else. Right now, I am failing at being consistent with exercise. I want to add that to my juggling. Feel free to ask me about that to keep me accountable.

I'm enjoying Isaiah 50:4-5 right now, as I strive for consistency morning by morning with my Maker. I love that God doesn't change, doesn't wrestle at being consistent. He is unchanging, faithful, true, the same yesterday, today and forever.

What about you? What are you juggling? What helps you be consistent?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Peek into a Last Summery Weekend

My brother flew in from out of state this last week and stayed with our family for five days. With my parents and sister, we were the "Original Five" again, sharing laughter, conversation, endless games of Rook, bike rides, picnics, and boccee ball with our extended families. One day, we drove up to a rural country church that used to be home, spying decrepit decaying tree forts, remembering romps in the graveyard, and wondering about a buried time capsule.

Sandwiched in that weekend, I sneaked away for an overnight annual camping trip with two close friends of mine. A thirteen or fourteen year tradition, we escape to a nearby cliff and winding river campground, cook tinfoil packets of food in glowing embers, and talk late into the night around a smoky fire in the crisp autumn air. Deep talks and silent shaking laughter under the full moon.

Now, my brother is gone, the vacation is over, and I catch up on family and home. Laundry whirs downstairs, the dishwasher runs, kids take a break from school by climbing high in a windy tree outside, and the toddler sleeps.

What about you? What did you do this last week and weekend?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Playing Phone Tag With the Police

Nine or ten days ago, the local paper posted a cryptic one-liner in its Police Beat section. "A camera and video recorder, reported stolen from a garage in the 2400 block of _______, were later returned to the owners with a note."

The freelance writer in me perked up instantly. A mystery! Who took the camera? Why did they return it? And what in the world did that note say? Admit it. You're curious to know what was in that note too.

So, like any Nancy Drew-style detective, I called the police to find out more. I tried to sound more sophisticated to the police sergeant with whom I was leaving a message by listing some of my recent published articles, but deep down I was just a girl following a story. The police sergeant and I played phone tag for a few days to no avail, until his vacation time started and the story became old news. That mystery stills comes to my mind though at times and makes me smile. Missing pieces and an incomplete story. Who? Where? When?

My life feels that way at times-- like an incomplete story with some missing pieces. Our house has been on the market for two months, and we are waiting for it to sell before we settle on and purchase a new one. To stage our house, we packed up half our belongings. This week as our homeschooling year began, I pulled out two boxes of school books from the garage and unpacked them. To my horror, I discovered that one box of school books had been taken away in the U-Haul truck to be stacked, shrink-wrapped, and lifted 30 feet off the floor with other pallets. Aiye! It's gone now, until we move someday, and some of my kids' subjects are in that box! We have been scrambling to borrow and react to my mistake this week.

This limbo period, though, of waiting and wondering on our house and life feels like a mystery sometimes to me too. Wondering where, and when.... Missing pieces and an incomplete story. Curled up on a leather chair in a coffee shop for an hour this Tuesday, some verses in Isaiah resonated with me: 
"Surely, as I have planned, so it will be,
and as I have purposed, so it will stand." (Isa. 14:24)

"O Lord, you are my God, 
I will exalt you and praise your name,
for in perfect faithfulness
you have done marvelous things, 
things planned long ago." (Isa. 25:1)

"You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you. 
Trust in the Lord forever
for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal." (Isa. 26:3,4)

The questions still tumbled in my head then at the coffee shop, amid the jazzy crooning and whooshing espresso machines. The questions still rise in my mind at home sometimes. Missing pieces, and an incomplete story, but I pause, breathe, and choose peace, knowing the Rock and the Storyteller. 

What about you? Do you have parts in your life that feel like missing pieces? Are the plot lines of your story replete with questions of Who, Where, When, How? Feel free to share here or email me and we can pray for each other. Or share a verse that has brought you joy.

Monday, September 5, 2011

You Had Me at ...Avocados

He was waiting outside the bathroom door for me, flowers in one hand and two avocados in the other hand. I grinned and kissed him, pulling him close. It was our wedding anniversary, and my husband was speaking romance to me in my own language. Having lived overseas for many years as a kid, I crave mangoes, avocados, and guavas, yet the frugal woman in me hates splurging too often on the exotic produce. My husband knows me well and woos me in avocados!

YOU are being wooed and romanced too. You are studied, understood, and known intimately. The Artist knows your cravings, knows your sweet tooth desires, knows your hidden longings. He remembers what makes you smile. He records your tears, and cradles your broken heart. He woos you --woos US--like a Lover bringing flowers.

I am on a journey to see God's gifts, to thank him, to run to him. This journey, this new discipline, is exciting! The "dare to live life fully right where you are" renews my way of thinking, forces me to see the gifts, name them, and run to the Giver. My family has joined me in this. We now have a "Gifts"/gratitude book that we keep on our kitchen counter and add to daily as desired. It delights me to see various hand writings scrawl their gifts across the page... daughter, her friends, son, my visiting parents. Like a guestbook of naming gifts and thanking the Giver, the Artist, the Lover. He romances and woos us, like a husband holding flowers and avocados in my hallway.

What about you? What gifts have you seen from the Artist today? We counted a huge rainbow yesterday that spanned our sky, enjoying family today, sweet cantaloupe juice, laughter and games as a family, and "happy for a great summer," says my daughter.