Monday, October 27, 2008


Yesterday I had the opportunity to experience for the first time a little bit of what God might feel when someone isn't loving one of His kids the way He thinks they should be loved. I know it's pretty crazy that I've never really internalized such an experience before. I mean, I have been a parent for almost seven years. I guess I'm just a little more clueless than I'd like to admit.

It all started about three weeks when our four-year-old decided to start a separation anxiety thing every time we go to church or Bible study. We were approaching the parking lot at church the first time her new phase showed its terribly tumultuous little face. Unsure of the catalyst but clear on the fact that she needed to get through it, we lovingly convinced her (or maybe just ourselves) that she would have fun at church as we left her in the very capably loving hands of the Kuddly Kittens coordinator. (That would be the wonderful lady that oversees the 4-year-old department at our church.) Well, yesterday when we made clear our intentions of going to church, those many tears returned, yet again. And yet again, we questionned her as to what it might be about church that she doesn't like. And again she answered, "We have to do so much work!" So we probed a little more and were told that there's just to much coloring involved! OK, hold the phone. This is the four-year-old who has been coloring perfectly beautiful pictures for about six months, in the lines and everything. So. . .

It occurred to me that perhaps there's just a little too much structure for my young four-year-old. After all, she will be in the four-year-old class for two years before she enters the kindergarten class. (Because of her late summer birthday, she misses the kindergarten cut-off date by one day.) So my husband and I decided to put her back into the less structured, more playing-time Busy Bees class (aka the Sunday School class for the three-year-olds). We decided to have her repeat that class instead of the Kuddly Kittens class before going on to kindergarten in two short years.

Unfortunately, I hadn't thought through the possible added stress this impromptu decision might cause some of those who work with the three-year-old class. And I was caught off guard when I saw that stress written all over one's face as she tried to calm a screaming child (not mine -- thankfully) while processing the idea of adding one more child (mine) to her already very full classroom. What an amazing servant of God this woman is. But also, to my pedestal-breaking disappointment yesterday, human.

So we sent our beloved in, after some deliberation with the powers that be, and went on to our own class, where I proceeded to start crying before walking back out. I just wanted my daughter to be loved. I knew that she was in very loving and capable hands. I just wanted her to feel the love of those hands more than the capability of them. Oh, how I long for my children to want to know Jesus! And to know His unexplainable love! I wanted their love for her to be sincere. Not forced. And it made me cry to think that she might not experience it the way I wanted her to. The way I expected her to.

In spite of all of this, she was beaming when we picked her up. She had fun. She even remembered the story! And she played with friends and had snacks. I am seriously thanking God Almighty for that! She had nary a clue about any of what had gone on in my own heart (and in the privacy of the bathroom stall where I broke down and cried until I could compose myself).

And as I debriefed myself yesterday afternoon, I realized that maybe, just maybe, that's a little bit how God feels when I don't love His children sincerely and with authentic love. When any of us doesn't genuinely love someone that He loves, I think it probably tears Him up inside. I'm guessing He doesn't need to go into the bathroom stall at church to let it out, but I am pretty sure it hurts Him just the same.

But it's hard to love the unlovely! Yep. Just like it was probably hard for that Sunday School teacher to get past the idea of adding even more possible stress to her time with the very busy Busy Bees. I mean, my daughter was having a hard time in the other class, so who was to say she wouldn't experience that kind of turmoil here too? But I still desparately wanted that teacher to love her and to want her in there.

Romans 12:9 and 10 says, "Love must be sincere...Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." Too much to ask? Maybe. But the beginning of that twelfth chapter in Romans is where we are told to "offer (our) bodies as living sacrifices." And to "be transformed by the renewing of (our) mind(s). Then (we) will be able to test and approve what God's will is." So it's His deal -- this sincere and genuine love. We let Him have His way with us. He transforms us. We love like He wants us to. Yep. Definitely too much to ask without that plan. But it's His plan I'm living for. Not mine. It's His love I'm called to give. Not mine. It's His four-year-olds I am called to tickle and serve and teach and LOVE. Not mine. Good thing. Because sometime it's hard.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Nostalgia From The Bend

I've had some pretty deep thoughts going on in my head lately. So it would have been nice to blog about them. But, obviously, I have not. And, now that I am actually sitting down and taking the time to blog, the thoughts are mostly gone, which leads me to wonder what I am actually going to write about....

There's oh so much that's gone on these last few (ok, more than just a few) months. My husband's settling into his new job in the bioenergy field, which has deepened my commitment to recycle more and more. (Here in this town that's not really a town, we have to actually drive our recyclables to a central drop-off spot and separate them into their appropriate containers. It actually is somewhat of a commitment.) It has also gotten me thinking that I'd like to start composting sometime. I am so proud of him and the job that he's doing. And I am so in wonder and awe that God picked him up out of the struggle of the automotive industry and put him into an industry that's exciting and growing. At least once a week, I find myself just thanking God for getting him out of there. Not knowing why He chose to be so kind to us, but thanking Him all the more. He is so good!!

And, in the midst of it, last week I followed my thoughts to my life as it was in South Bend. Since that day, I still haven't totally returned to the pleasure of life here. I miss my old life in a lot of ways. Don't get me wrong -- there are so many things I absolutely love about living here -- the beautiful hills and trees of Wayne and Holmes County, the awesome church we get to be a part of, the great school that Grace goes to, living in the country next to some awesome neighbors, not to mention the number one best part of living here -- being so close to our families and all of the many amazing benefits of that. But I felt like, in South Bend I was just settled into my routine (as mundane as it sometimes was) in a more wholehearted way. Mostly, I miss my friends.

"Friends are the family we choose for ourselves." I have a plaque that says that. (I think I may have written that here in a previous blog.) And that was true of our lives in South Bend. Because our families were four to five hours away, we had to choose some for ourselves. Actually, I believe God chose them. And allowed us to develop those friendships to the point of kinship. I miss them. The girls and I got to go there for about a week in August. We stayed with some of these dear and kindred friends. Oh, it was so great. And it was good to come back to my husband's hometown, too. I guess I'm just feeling sentimentally nostalgic. I love you, my friends. And miss you.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Family Friends

When I was growing up in California, we had these really good family friends, the Jameses (their last name was James, and I still to this day am not sure how to pluralize that). They were my parents' best friends in high school and had actually been responsible for the blind date on which my parents met each other. They had two boys close to the same ages of my sister and me. We were very close, like sisters and brothers almost. In fact, many of my childhood memories include them. Family vacations. Summer days. Playing after school. Going to church. As I said, we were very close. Family friends.

I've always thought that the meaning of that phrase "family friends" meant "friends of the family", which it does. But now that I'm grown and have a family of my own along with family friends of our own, I'm starting to find a better meaning. Friends as well as Family. I have a plaque that says "friends are the family we choose for ourselves." It was intended to be a gift for a good friend who moved away, but I never actually sent it (unfortunately this happens way more than I would like to admit -- a card, a note, whatever, that is never sent -- sorry to those of you who have been victimized by this major shortcoming of mine). Anyway - after spending a day with some good family friends from Indiana on Tuesday, I found myself treasuring this new meaning. Loving that my young family has such friends. Such family. And very, very thankful that, even though we moved "home" to be close to our family, we still have "family" in Indiana. And I believe we always will

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Number Two

(note: if you haven't read the post "To Pray Or Not To Pray", you might want to read that one before you read this one)

So -- my youngest will be four in about three weeks. And we've been working on potty-training for about, oh, say seven or eight months. Not diligently or vigilantly, mind you. Subtly. And sometimes frustratedly (is that even a word?). But last week, after we had seriously run out of diapers (with the exception of one), we decided to try again. Only this time, we added prayer. My husband said, "you know, we've never really prayed about it." So we both decided that was a good idea.

And God got my almost-four-year-old to keep her panties clean and dry in oh, say about one day. (With the exception, of course, of the one time she forgot to pull down her panties while she sat on the potty and peed. Isn't she hilarious?!)

So, to sum up my week last week, from Monday to Sunday -- God saved my grandma's life and taught my little girl to pee and poop in the potty all in the same week!


Sunday, July 13, 2008

To Pray or Not To Pray

I dont' t know why, but I am so amazed at God's willingness to answer prayer.

Since I was a young child, I have believed that He does actually want us to ask Him for things. My whole life long, I have been learning what that means, searching for His desires, reconciling the words that He spoke with the reality of seemingly unanswered prayers. I mean, He said that He will give us the desires of our heart. And that whatever we ask for in His name He would gladly give. "Ask and it will be given to you ... For everyone who ask receives..." (Matthew 7:7-8)

So I have prayed for lots and lots and lots of different things. When I was about six or seven years old, I remember praying that our firefighter friend, Jimmy, would get to go and help fight the forest fires in California, because that's what he really wanted (though his wife was not so thankful for my prayers, I think). And praying that I wouldn't have any bad dreams or spiders crawling on me while I slept. When we lived in Paris, I remember realizing that prayer was just about the only effective thing I could do to help the homeless man and the beggar woman that I saw frequently, since I wasn't fluent enough to explain anything to them.

And so, when I grew closer to my grandma last summer after moving close enough to see her more frequently, I started praying for her joy. And, as I spent more time with her and realized that she was really struggling with all the changes she had experienced in moving across the country, I started praying that God would show her why He still has her here and that He would give her a true sense of purpose.

Well, yesterday, she almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning. And as we waited for news of her condition, expecting the worse but seriously hoping for the better, I didn't even know if I should ask for the best. I didn't have a clue what to pray. I wondered if He had heard my prayers for her over the last months. I tried to figure out how her dying would be an answer to that prayer for her renewed sense of purpose. I asked friends to pray for her. I begged God for what He knew to be best. And I seriously did not expect her healing.

BUT GOD HEALED HER!!! I expected the worst. But He performed a miracle. He even made her brain scan clear. NO negative effects after 17 hours of carbon monoxide poisoning! I am still in wonder! I didn't know what to ask yesterday. But He answered my prayers from months ago. He saved her life. Clearly. Unabashedly. He absolutely wants her here still. No doubt.

This week, we have seen God work in amazing ways. Two clear answers to prayer. Two more reasons to keep praying and trusting that in fact God's got it taken care of. I'll tell you about the second one next time . . .


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

so much to do, so much to say ...

So I know it's been a while. And in the midst of that long while, I've come up with some great blogging topics, which I will now list and hope to return to someday . . . and here they are in no particular order . . .
-people are really entertaining to watch at concerts (Eric Clapton, May 31, Blossom Music Center)
-grass and weeds are really difficult to dig up with a shovel, but it's a great workout
-I very much dislike being busy, but am learning a new definition of discipline in a rather new stage of life
-The eldest is now taking swimming lessons
-is it wrong to bribe your children with McDonald's Happy Meals in order to reward them for getting her face wet during swimming lessons?
-getting up at 6am is really not as bad as I once thought
-homemade strawberry anything (i.e. pie, jam) tastes unbelievably good if you've just picked the strawberries
-tricks for keeping an almost 1st grader busy during the summer (any ideas?)

I'll be back soon with some more.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Prog

So last night we took the girls to their first ever Cleveland Indians baseball game at Progressive Field. And what an appropriate name for the field it turned out to be.

This was my husband's and my first trip to Progressive Field. It used to be called "Jacob's Field" or, even better, "The Jake". We made many memories at the Jake (now called Progressive Field), so you can imagine our sense of dismay (ok not really DISMAY, but you know what I mean) when they changed the name. We spent many a date at The Jake before we were married. We got to see the American League Championship Series against the Seattle Mariners there in '95, in the frigid October air. We got to sit in a loge (spelling?) once with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. We even got to see the home opener of 1996 at the Jake, when they received their World Series rings (even thought they didn't win, they got something for just being in it the year before). We went there on a whim on our 1st wedding anniversary as we were driving by after having a nice brunch aboard the Good Time Two. We were listening to Tom Hamilton on WTAM 1100 when someone hit a homerun, the crowd went wild, we heard it and decided we wanted to be there too. So we parked the car, found a scalper and the rest is history. :)

So when The Jake changed its name, we struggled a bit. What would we call it now "The Prog"? (That was actually my husband's idea.) But last night, it proved an appropriate name for this new stage of life we've recently hit. Namely, the stage where we can go to a large public gathering, such as a professional baseball game, with our children and actually find more enjoyment in the process than stress. (Notice I did not say it was entirely stress-free.)

So we are progressing. And we had so much fun (despite what I may look like in the above picture taken with the cell phone)!

And Cleveland even won!


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fishsticks and Lilacs

Since I started my blog, I've been trying to be more aware of and actively searching for those mini revelations I often get while just doing the mundane. That worked for a while, and kept my blog going for a few weeks, but now I'm back to the mundane with not much depth of thought to share. I'm sure there's lots going on somewhere in that brain of mine, but it just ain't revealing itself quite yet. So for now, we'll have to settle with just plain updates.
I have found that as the weather gets increasingly beautfiul, the family meals become decreasingly so. Last summer, I thought maybe I had lost my love for cooking. This time around, though, I've discovered that it's not so much a love lost, but a love put on the backburner (no pun intended, though it turned out nicely, huh?) for a season or two (namely spring and summer). The nicer it is outside, the less likely I am to be inside cooking or even planning a meal. Sadly, in fact, during this season I often find myself in the late afternoon/early evening having forgotten entirely that I have a family that will be needing dinner in an hour (or 5 minutes, depending on how lost in the moment I am). So I'm scrambling (in my brain while I remain outside) to come up with something that can be thrown together quickly. And usually I come up with something like ... fishsticks. Well, at least for the girls. I can often throw together something like a salad or something for my husband and myself expecting that we'll scrounge later when we get hungry again. :) And there actually are some great things about the fishstick meal at our house. First off, I'm almost guaranteed that the youngest (seriously the very definition of PICKY when it comes to food) will eat (provided ketchup is also involved in the meal). Secondly, they are absolutely the easiest entree to complement with side dishes -- anything pretty much goes with fishsticks!! Finally, the aforementioned benefit is that it's a quick and easy meal. (Albeit not very healthy.) I guess we can't have everything.
Well, at least we get to enjoy the lilacs we cut while being outside all day as we eat our (not so) gourmet meal! :)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Blogger In Training

This morning I got to help the oldest write a story. I know I'm a little biased, but I'm telling you she's a really good author! :) So today, in honor of her hard work, I've chosen to publish her story, kindergarten spelling and all, on the bria blog ...

the big bug

Once upona time there was a bug named Lola. She was a very small butterfly. She sall (i.e. saw) a very big bug. When she sall the big bug she flyd (i.e. flied) away. When she was back home she wishd to be big too. When she went to sleep her wish came troo and she was Lola the big bug just like the big bug.
the end

Ah, if only it were trooly that simple. :) Good stuff, huh?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Familiarity of the New

Did I mention I love springtime?

Today as I continued the "rolling my lawn" process, I got to bask in the sunshine and in the loud silence that my earplugs provide (so I don't go deaf from the loud engine). And I was reminded of the joys of last summer. I got excited to be approaching a new season in this beautiful rural land from a more experienced circumstance. I mean that this will be our second spring here, so I know the fun stuff I have to look forward to. As I drive past the sprouting daffodils and budding lilacs, I know what they will be. And I can anticipate all of the overgrowth in the woods which will bring with it lots and lots of blackberries (I hope) along with much poison ivy and thorny things. So I'll be more prepared this time -- to soak it all in as it comes, and to kill the dreadful poison as it makes itself known.

Usually I am one who loves and thrives on newness. But this year I am really enjoying the comfort and security of knowing what to expect from the spring and the summer -- long days playing and working outside with my kids. Playing bocce ball with my husbnad. Pulling lots and lots of weeds. Watching the bunnies eat my strawberries and then trying to figure out how to beat them to the perfectly ripe one.

I can't wait! And I'm loving the wait. All at the same time. :)

Look at how much fun we had last summer!

Monday, April 7, 2008

I Love This Yard

This week marks the one-year anniversary of our official move to Moreland. Not quite a town, no zipcode of its own, but a way-out-in-the-country little community which our family has grown to love.

There is so much to love about this place. Franklin Township Elementary School and all 150 or so students and teachers. The beautiful rolling hills that constantly scream out God's creative majesty. Listening to the clippety-cloppety Amish buggies rolling by as we eat dinner with the windows open. Mowing the lawn. And, as of today, I can add to this list the joy of rolling my lawn (see picture above). You see, a short twelve months ago, I had no idea that there was even such a thing as rolling a lawn. And now, not only do I know about it, but I know first-hand HOW it is done! I also know, as of this evening, how to get a riding lawn mower unstuck from a muddy lawn (Calmly turn the mower off before walking inside your home, and lovingly tell your husband you got stuck in the mud. Then, when he tells you the ground is still too soft to be rolling the lawn if you're getting stuck in the mud, smile innocently and grab the camera before following him outside to "help him".) And I love my new knowledge. Mostly because I love to mow my lawn. There's just something about driving on the grass that is so fun!! And it's so beautiful! This is what I get to look at while I mow . . .
I'm so glad we live here!!

Ok, just so you don't think I'm a total nerd, I still love Starbucks and Target.

But here's one more look at our backyard . . .
Ain't it purty?!?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Grandparents Weekend

So a few weeks ago, my mom and dad invited the kids for the weekend after Easter. That would be the weekend that just passed. And when I say "the kids" I mean both of mine and all three of my sister's. That would be five kids, two grandparents, a brand new house and four very happy adult children who would drop off their children for two whole days!

What a blessing to have parents that want to and can spend time with their grandkids making memories and building forever bonds! And oh, the memories they made. Like going to the zoo. And being the first overnight guests in my parents' brand new house. And my eldest eating Chinese food with chopsticks. What fun! And the youngest daughter's first injury-induced trip to the emergency room for a split lip. (Praise God no stitches were needed!) Those memories will last a good, long time, no doubt.

What a blessing to live close enough to our parents that stuff like that can happen!

Not to mention the refreshment I felt as we drove them home yesterday after picking them up. And the escape that my husband and I got to experience as we watched a movie on the big screen (10,000 B.C.) for the first time since ... um ... I think Charlotte's Web was the last movie I saw at the theater. (Wow! That's sad, huh? Good thing we have Netflix.)

As the weekend began, I found myself anxious for time away from my normal routine. I thought, at first, it was the time away from my children that I was wanting and needing. But I came to realize that, like most people, I just looked forward to a bit of relief from my normal routine of life. Recalling the longing I had, just seven years ago, for a routine that included children of my own, I was struck with the reality that the grass usually seems greener in somebody else's yard. Seven years ago, I was so anxious for those endless weekends of getting up early, countless hours of watching Disney movies instead of my own. And the abounding joy of sharing life with my own offspring, teaching, laughing, wiping noses and all. And now, seven short years later I often seek time away from that routine. Maybe that's what McDonald's was talking about -- "we do deserve a break today." But just a break. Because I wouldn't have it any other way -- my children bring so much fun to my life. So much excitement and love of life. What a blessing they are! Truly.

So here I am on Monday. Thankful for my routine. And thankful for time away from it. Enjoying each moment I'm given when I'm given it. And enjoying my children even more because of my awesome parents who had the foresight to see that we all needed a break this weekend.

Thanks, Mom and Dad. Now it's your turn for the break! :)
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