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Friday, January 22, 2010

It's Never "Just" a Meal

With Brian in Singapore all week, I had a sweet friend offer to bring us a meal.  It turned out to be a blessing beyond what I would've thought to ask for and I'm sure beyond what she thought she was offering.  Here's part of the thank you note:

"There's no way that saying "thank you" is enough.  I know about meal's a gift, a blessing.  Sometimes it's easy to double the batch.  Sometimes it's a real stretch to get it together for your family AND someone else's.  Sometimes you can't tell if it's filled a real need or if it's simply taken as a kind gesture.

Tonight, when I would've been preparing a meal for five, I was able to fix my Grandad and me something to drink and sit with him for a while.  We started watching Bonanza and during the first commercial break he said, 'Well, I'm glad you've got a spare few minutes and I'm glad you've decided to spend them with me.' The kids came in and the five of us curled up in his room to watch the guys with the white hats win again.  When we got up to go to the kitchen for your yummy chili he reached out and took my hand.  He smiled real big and shook his head...sometimes when he gets emotional he can't get the words out.  He said, ' I don't get lonely often, but I do sometimes and I'm glad you've been here this evenin'.'"

So, thank you.  For thinking of us, for the chili and for letting me have a few unexpected and special minutes with my Grandad."

You'll never know what a blessing you give when you offer to serve someone else.  Thanks to my friend for the reminder.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yes, Other People Get to Name Your Fruit

A sweet friend gave us a clever Christmas gift: a dinner plate tastefully painted with fruit on it. Attached to it, a small envelope with this on the outside:  

Set this plate at the table for a family member who has exhibited the Fruit of the Spirit. Challenge everyone to show these characteristics and to look for them in one another. Parents AND children can reward one another with this plate when they see the Fruit of the Spirit lived out.

Inside the envelope are nine place cards, each with a specific fruit and examples of it lived out all based on the Galatians passage: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

Enter Samantha.  The creative, crafty, observant one.  When asked to set the table, she often creates place settings with flowers, cut out pictures, etc.  A few weeks ago, she got out the fruit of the Spirit place cards and gave each of us one.  Here's how it played out:
  • Chase: Gentleness -- showing tenderness to others; being thoughtful and careful with little children; being able to respond with calm words.
  • Ava: Faithfulness -- being a true and loyal friend or family member; sticking up for others; keeping your promises.
  • Samantha: Goodness -- doing the things that are right and good, even when no one is watching; making good choices.
  • Daddy: Patience -- being able to wait calmly for something that is expected, even when you are so excited on the inside that you could explode.
  • Mommy: Self-control -- choosing not to give in to the powerful urge to speak or act in ways you know you shouldn't; or overcoming a bad habit or tendency.
I asked her why she chose each one, expecting her to give some exemplary behavior we'd exhibited.  Instead, she said, "I gave each person the thing they need to work on."


She said I need to work on not raising my voice at her when I get frustrated.  

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus is clear when he says, "By their fruit you will know them."  No one knows us better than those with whom we share a roof.  So, a little self-control with my tone of voice is what I'll be working on in the coming months.

What place card would your family give you?


Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Winter Swim

After the roads were cleared from our six inches of snow last week, we drove to town to run errands.  As we neared downtown, Sam noticed a window display and said, "Mom, they're already selling bathing suits in that store!"

I looked up in time to notice she was talking about the Garden of Eden -- Adult Fantasy Boutique.

Bathing suits, indeed.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's Not You, It's Me

That's what I said to Facebook when I deactivated my account a few months ago.

It really was doing nothing but highlighting my worst faults.  I don't condemn or judge anyone who uses Facebook for the fun socializing tool it can be.  I just couldn't handle it. I'll confess the details only in hopes that my kids won't make the same mistake, not that it does my heart good to put it in writing.

There were several factors converging at once to give Facebook the power it had over me for a time.  The biggest is that I was lonely.  Plenty busy at home, mind you, but not a lot of one-on-one grown up interaction. It started out as a way to get out without getting out.

It was also feeding my pride: what can I say this time that will generate even more comments? And then, I'd check my computer every (you don't want to know how often) to see if anyone commented. Brian used the term "addicted" in all seriousness.  And, he doesn't use such finger-pointing words very often. That's when I really started thinking about it.  It did feed my spirit (I hate to write "ego" even though that's probably more accurate) to get comments, to leave comments and get more comments back.  Seemed like lots of interaction.

Then envy kicked in.  There's irony all over this part, because I LOVE MY LIFE!  Before FB, I couldn't have named three things I wanted to change about my ENTIRE life.  But I found myself giving a good "hmf" when I saw an old high school buddy was going to spend the day lounging beside her in-ground pool while her kids were at school. A twinge when girls I knew would talk about how they had such a good time last night or lunch the day before and clearly no one called me. A little heart ache to see moms talk about their kids' birthday parties that my kids weren't invited to. 

All of those examples are so real and so silly!  I wouldn't trade home schooling for a YEAR by any pool. I've never really needed a lot of girl time and it's not like we let OUR kids have big birthday parties! And yet there they were...seeds of discontent.

This is the kicker:  I realized that one of my good friends talks the same way to all her other friends as she does to me.  You see, before FB, I didn't have access to such interactions. I was actually a little hurt that I have a friend who is just as nice, sweet, loving, welcoming and caring to her other friends as she is to me. Is that not the MOST ridiculous thing you've EVER heard?

Without sounding too pitiful, I started to take stock in the phone calls that came in or knocks on the door.  Would you sing for this event? Would you teach this class? Would you happen to have this I can borrow? Would you keep my kids a while? Not a lot of "let's go out" or "tell me how you are."

Then I heard a teacher suggest that parents who give their kids cell phones with texting might be giving themselves the illusion of control.  And immediately the thought came to my mind that Facebook was giving me the illusion of relationship.  I don't want to live under any illusions...reality is hard enough, so I deactivated it.  And, not surprisingly, my email inbox was sparse from then on.

It was kind of a hard time, because it's not like this is the kind of thing you can talk to your friends about without sounding -- heaven forbid -- needy.  I am NOT the needy friend. Because of that, I could feel an even bigger lesson coming.

What I ultimately realized is that I don't have a need to be needed.  I've got plenty of people of who need me and (most of the time) I'm happy to serve and help people any way I can.  (So, I'll probably always watch your kids, teach the preschoolers and let you borrow anything I have.) What I realized is that I want to be wanted.  You know, just for me.  For who I am, not what I can do.

No hurt comes senselessly, so it wasn't long before I was off the computer long enough to remember that that's what God wants from us: to love Him for who He is.  He's done plenty to be deserving of our love, that's for sure.  Blessings, near misses, abundant grace despite our many screw ups. But to realize that He just loves us because of who we are, certainly not because of what we've done.  

Makes me think of that Casting Crowns song:

Not because of who I am,
But because of what you've done.
Not because of what I've done,
But because of who you are.

I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow,
A wave tossed in the ocean,
A vapor in the wind.
Still you hear me when I'm calling,
Lord, you catch me when I'm falling,
And you've told me who I am.
I am yours. 

Funny, it took the FB experience to help me see that it's enough for me to know that God hears when I call and I am His.

So, you see Facebook, you are fun and cool and hip and a great way to share photos and connect perfectly normal, sweet friends.  I, on the other hand, am prone to envy and arrogance and I don't need anything else to plant false seeds of discontent. 

Really. It's not you, it's me.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Siblings to the Rescue

With about six inches of snow on the ground and more falling, the kids have loved bundling up to play.

Today, they pulled their three-man sled across the street to play in the neighbors' hilly yard.  I got all suited up after about 30 minutes and was headed out the garage door to play with them when I realized they were back on our front walk yelling that Ava got hurt.

Apparently, she tripped and one boot and sock came off.  Her big brother and sister put her on the sled with her bare little foot and pulled her back across the street, so she wouldn't have to walk and get hurt worse.

Once I realized she was fine and the kids told the story, my heart was full to overflowing.  So precious!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas '09

Yes, I know most of you are spending today taking down the decorations and hauling the Christmas tree to the curb.  I'm just not quite ready for it to be over.  It's the fastest Christmas break on record for me.

We waited until after Samantha's birthday on the 5th to even put up the first decoration.  So many of the decorations we have were handmade by my grandmother and her family.  Like this ice skate ornament...I can't even count the sequins and beads and pins, but we have several in this category.  

Several more in the category with silk threads and more beads.  

I'm not terribly crafty in that way, but when my Mom passed onto us the family advent calendar I went to work replacing two  missing ornaments. What's cut off at the bottom is a dated pocket for each of the ornaments on the tree. Can you tell which ones we made this year? Honor, you can guess, but you don't win the prize, if you get it right!

Our Thanksgiving trip to Arkansas yielded one new decoration for us. I might even leave it up year round.  Anyone else have one of these?  

When you light the candles.....some scientific thing happens that makes the angels go round and the bells ting as they go.  (I won't really do science like this until 3rd or 4th grade, so don't judge my ignorance.)

We don't do a lot of outdoor decorations, but we've lived here almost five years and I've still not decorated the outside of our house like I want. I was raised with candles in every window, which I love, but we can't do that here since our dormers are fake. (Thankfully, our neighbors decorate their house just like I want, so I have a great view!)  I did decide to make new bows for the garland on our porch rail as the first step toward upgrading the outdoors. I thought this ribbon was just darlin'.  All candy cane striped and Christmassy and all.

Turns out, from the road all six of them look baby pink.  And stupid.  We're like the breast cancer awareness holiday house or something.  

This winter wonderland is across the tracks from some of your fancier models, but it tells some of the story of our holiday celebration.  

Again, Mrs. Claus was made many, many years ago.  (As evidenced by the joy detergent bottle that gives her fine curves.) The big house in the middle is the one Samantha made with my mom when she spent the first week of December in Kentucky.  It's been a great tradition for them to put up GiGi's decorations together and get to put together a gingerbread house without the "help" of her siblings.

The other houses were made when our adopted college friends came to visit.  If they hadn't come, I would've given up on those (&^$*^()! things.  One of the girls was going dress shopping for a big law school shindig the next night.  We rummaged through my old cocktail dresses for her and found the perfect red dress.  What she didn't know is that the shindig was a ruse for her boyfriend to propose!  I love that.  If she ever sends photos, I'll post them here.

The cereamic reindeer was from Samantha's birthday. She chose one friend to go with her to the pottery place to paint anything they wanted.  It was a terrific touch to our winterscape.  It was also a lot cheaper than hosting a dozen squealing girls at our house for pink icing and well, pink everything!

And, the little marshmallow looking snowmen and reindeer came from our small group Christmas party where the kids did crafts, ate snowman ice cream and the grown ups swapped white elephant gifts.  We walked away with the best gift...a pair of IU tickets to the Big Ten opener.  I don't know who ended up with the flying monkey. 

The lone tree in the scene is from the day we learned about the tradition of the Christmas tree.  We used sugar cones, green icing and mini-M&Ms to make the trees. You can imagine why there's only one there now.

So, you guys just box and wrap and vacuum away.  I'm going to reminisce a few more days about our very fast, very full, very fun Christmas holiday.