Thursday, September 5, 2013

Stress Be Gone!

I don't know about you, but when the seasons change...the stress seems to build around here. This seems to be a season with quite a bit of change as all the kids are now in school and I've been trying to figure out the right balance of work vs. family/home time.  And of course, what seemed like a simple transition got a bit more complicated when an unexpected job possibility popped up...and then ultimately dropped off the radar as suddenly as it appeared, leaving chaos and stress in it's wake.
Why is that?  You'd think after quite a few years of life on earth, us humans would be a little more adaptable.  I even claim to be a pretty laid back person, but a change in routine or even thoughts about change can send me into hyper-stress mode...

So I give you my solution: Stress Be Gone!  (Only $19.95 plus $7.95 processing and handling.  Act now and get one free and pay only the processing and handling fee.  A double blind study in Timbuktu shows fast results for 63% of participants.  Avoid where prohibited.  Not valid in New Mexico.  Side effects include dizziness, drowsiness and constipation.)

So I found myself generally freaking out with adjusting to the school schedule and suddenly filling out a job application and finding references and researching going back to school(for a PART-TIME job, mind you!)...when I had to stop and breath and figure out a plan before jumping over the edge.  Here are my tried an true stress relievers.  Feel free to add your own in the comments section!

1. Don't neglect your time with God.  It's so easy to skip that quiet time when the routine gets disrupted and life is overwhelming...or miss church a week or two...neglect serving at church or elsewhere...but DON'T DO IT.  If anything, it's time for me to spend a little more time in the Bible and prayer.  To keep at what I said I would do for church. To sit at the piano and just play and praise until the anxiousness fades away.

2. Share your stress; there are those who can share your burden even though vulnerability is hard.  I'm a bottler.  I will keep everything locked up inside sometimes until it explodes.  So it's good for me to schedule a time to meet a friend when I'm feeling pressured and we get to catch up and eat something yummy.  And there's a few awesome friends out there that I can share my worries with and I KNOW they will pray me through it!  And my husband is a great sounding board, too.  I may not always agree with his take on my decision, change, dilemma, worry, circumstance...but he certainly lends a more objective perspective that whittles down the mountains I make out of molehills.

3. Determine what kind of stress it is.  There are some stressful circumstances in which I have absolutely no control over.  None...nada...zilch.  With those things I can continue to stew, letting it steal my time, mind, heart and energy.  Or I can decide to trust God, give it to Him, and keep giving it to him each and every time my mind wanders back to worry.  Sigh.  It's my default setting.  God's been working in me a lot on this for the past, oh...20 plus years.  However, there are some types of stress that I have created myself and could do something that will improve it.  Sometimes I need to have a conversation I'm not looking forward to.  Sometimes it is doing a task that I have been putting off.  Sometimes it's simply making a decision.  When I act, the reason to be stressed is gone!  I know I've done all I can do!  Then like the other stress, I give it to God. Yet sometimes I'm tempted to play the dramatic stressed victim a little bit longer before I am pushed to action.  Woe is me!  I do declare, how whilst I ever survive this terrible stress?!?  That's just unnecessary.  And not Godly. I DO need to be careful and think through my decisions and actions.  But more than a day of contemplation for me usually just adds drama.

4. If I've worked through 1-3, my next step is to do "happy things." If I'm feeling pretty good, it's a dog walk or a bike ride.  A visit to somewhere pretty.  A little browsing at Goodwill.  Listening to my favorite music.  Reading something light. Talking to my hilarious kids.  Doing some porch sitting with my hubby. Drinking a good cup of coffee/tea.  Eating ice cream/chocolate/that stupid key lime Greek yogurt that has become way too much of a staple in my diet...  I'm fortunate to have lots of good "go-tos" I've developed over the years that keep my mind and emotions in a healthy place.  And I've learned to work them in here and there even when there's a LOT to get done in a day.

OK, all jokes and Greek yogurt aside, some stress is more than we can handle even with the stuff listed above.  Illness, death, heartache and tragedies are on many of our doorsteps.  The long term really tough and really real things in life require a network of supportive people, God's continual grace and encouragement, and many times professional help to overcome. And I don't want to minimize that.  I just know that much of my personal stress is not big things.  It's little things that inch their way into my heart and set up camp where the one and only, true, living and loving God should be. "Oh for grace to trust Him more," right? 

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I do have a part-time job.  Well, three actually.  1. A few music students one afternoon/evening a week.  2. I frequently watch a couple of awesome kiddos after school.  3. I will be starting to volunteer for AmeriCorps I think next week (training tomorrow!).  And although it's technically "volunteer" work, I will get a living stipend each month and money towards going back to school.  So all in good time, maybe that other job option will work out.  But for now, work plus school plus not quite enough money to pay for school guessed it...too much STRESS! :)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (I Peter 5:6-7)

Friday, August 16, 2013

34 is the new 34!

Today is my birthday!  I made myself blueberry pancakes, I am still sitting in my pj's at lunch, and I get to attend my kids' school open house tonight.  Probably not the birthday I dreamed about when I was a kid, but definitely a good birthday for easing into my mid-thirties.  Pardon me whilst I wax nostalgic.

At Sixteen.  My five best girlfriends in high school (In sixth grade three cousins sat at lunch with their best friends and the crew was born!) threw a slumber party for me and we had tons of fun.  By that time we spent less time together because boys and a million and one extra curricular activities had gotten in the way, but I have ALWAYS appreciated them doing that for me and I'm very happy to catch up with them from time to time.  They are an awesome, smart, and talented group of women who do some amazing things these days... Also, somebody teepeed my house for my sixteenth birthday.  I always have suspected the boys in my youth group but never proved it.  Outwardly, I was annoyed because I had to clean it up.  Inwardly, it was the best compliment they could have given me.  They thought of me enough to annoy my entire family and neighborhood.

At Twenty One.  I drove down to Frank's parents house in the wilderness outside Deputy, Indiana to spend my birthday with him.  We spent a lot of the day by the creek just hiking and playing around in the water.  So much for becoming an adult!  I lost one of the lenses out of my glasses and drove four hours home with one eye closed.  I was about to start my senior year at ISU and had no clue what the future held.  I always thought I'd go to grad school or something (Um, I had no real plan), but I quickly saw my future changing to include this guy named Frank Sabelhaus.  Less than a year later he would lead me, in the middle of the night, to that same creek to propose, the way illuminated by some kind of light he had to rig with a car battery because he couldn't find a flashlight. that man.

At Thirty. It seems odd that just four short years ago I was entering the thirties and my oldest child was starting kindergarten.  Now my youngest starts kindergarten on Monday, and I feel like a school age mom veteran.  While I'm wistful that there are no more babies, no more toddlers, no more pre-schoolers's hard to be sad when my newly minted five year old is "JUST. SO. EXCITED!" for school.  He is very ready for this and I can't wait to see how much he learns and grows this year!  At thirty I was soon to begin my awesome job as the Jobs for America's Graduates teacher in Vincennes.  I still had a pre-schooler and a baby. We were living in Sullivan but working hard with the church plant in Terre Haute.  Never ending work on the house. Frank was working for the city. I had no idea chronic illness loomed in my future.

At Thirty Three. It's been weirdly cold this August and I can't help but compare it to a year ago when we were still moving into the house in Terre Haute...and it was just so hot and so dry.  Everything was in upheaval with moving and remodeling the house and I was apprehensive about how changing schools would go for the kids, how I would adjust to staying at home again for the most part, what church we would attend, what lay ahead for my health...  Lots of question marks that God has turned into exclamation points of thankfulness this year.  Plus my Momma came to visit for a little chaos control and took me out to eat and shopping for my birthday.  She's the best!

Today. Just so blessed.  Just so thankful.  Even though I don't physically feel great this week, I now get infusions with medicine that is very effective for my ulcerative colitis and I know after my infusion next week I will be feeling better soon.  Chronic illness is a lifelong roller coaster learning process.  It is ever changing and the solutions must change along with it...but I have had so many ups this year and just a few downs.  We(read: Frank, poor Frank) are STILL working on the house...Annabelle's room will soon be completed and her stuff is strewn about the house at the moment, but I now have a beautiful living room, dining room, and kitchen thanks to my AMAZING husband.  I had a good year teaching some music students and am looking forward to teaching again this year with some returning faces and maybe some new ones.  Annabelle and Joey had a great year at their new school!  They handled the transition better than I did, probably, and it has been a very positive change. Also, the kids and I have truly had the best summer...being lazy when we want to, getting some things done when we had to, and exploring the world around us in some just plain fun ways.  I have dreamed of a summer like that since I became a parent and I finally had the opportunity to do it!  We've attended Maryland Community Church this year.  Not only have we grown spiritually and been challenged there, we have the extra blessing of meeting and becoming friends with some great people.  Friends I think I'll have for a very long time!  And I'm kind of in awe that Frank and I get to be a part of the worship team, too.  What a privilege and joy to serve on that team.  And the icing on the cake (Ooooh, birthday metaphor, watch out!) are yet even more things God has brought my the opportunity to watch some great kids after school and earn a little extra money for my family...or getting to reconnect with some of my college friends that live close by...or making a new friend who shares my same disease and "gets" me...getting to lead devotional worship at the House of Prayer each week...or bringing the perfect Assistant Girl Scout Leader to me who actually LIKES keeping track of the bank account! 

Thirty four is a fantastic place to be.  I don't wish I was younger.  In some ways I feel younger and freer today than a decade ago.  Wiser, more confident, and more fun.  I can more easily let the unimportant go and cling to the important and know the difference between the two.  I get full night of sleep now that the kids are older.  Highlights still mask my strands of grey. And I can rock some chucks without people giving me the stink eye.  I don't really wish I was the time next year rolls around...35 will be the new 35, and that will be cool, too.

The Future.  So, I can't just sit and eat chocolate and watch day time TV while my kids are at school this year, right?  (Well, maybe from time to time.)  But I don't really desire to enter the rat race of full time employment either.  So I've got some part-time AmeriCorps volunteering that's in the works for this year...along with music lessons, some watching kiddos after school, Girl Scouts, church stuff, continuing to take care of the home front...yeah.  I'll stay busy.  But hopefully not TOO busy.  And if health allows, I still would love to finish a half marathon by age 40(or next year!).  Maybe go back to school or back to a career or both...but all in good time...all in God's time.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Being Last

Do you ever have a day where you wake up and from the get-go, God seems to have a specific message for your day?  Like wherever you go- there it is!  That doesn't happen a lot for me, but when it does, I can't help but slow down and say..."Ok, God.  I'm listening!  Teach away."

So...Sunday morning I sat down to my bowl of cereal and my giant cup of coffee and a chapter or two of Genesis, which is what I've been reading in the mornings.  I'm pretty familiar with most of the stories in Genesis, but as I was reading Genesis Chapter 48, I found the passage is less familiar than most.  It is about how Jacob is blessing Joseph's two sons before he dies.  Strangely, he crosses his arms while putting his hands on the heads of the two sons.  He puts his right hand on the head of Ephraim, the younger son, and he puts his left hand on the head of Manasseh, the older son.  The right hand symbolized the bigger blessing and their dad, Joseph, gets kind of grumpy about it.  To paraphrase it, he calls his dad out on the mistake...Um,'re pretty old...maybe you didn't realize Manasseh is older...and then Jacob simply replies he meant to do it that way.  So end of discussion! 

Taken out of context this seems like a strange little occurrence, but a little side note in my study Bible caught my eye.  It reminded me that the younger brother had a history of getting the blessing in this family.  So it wasn't so strange!  After all, Jacob elevated Joseph, the second youngest son in his family, to be his favorite.  Jacob also tricked his older brother out of his birthright and received a bigger blessing from his father, Isaac.  And Isaac was given preference and inheritance over HIS older brother Ishmael.  It was a whole long line of the younger brother over the older, totally contrary to the customs of that day, I imagine. what?

Well, I would have filed this under interesting but not really relevant to my life(Hey, I'm the oldest!)...until...I was prodded with the concept of humility for the rest of the day.  There are certain modern day prophets that exist today, although I think they are pretty rare.  I am very fortunate to count Marvin Adams, the director of the Wabash Valley International House of Prayer, as a friend and one of these prophetic and spiritually beautiful people.  Shortly after my Bible reading on Sunday, he posted this on facebook (used here with permission!):

"I know of only one kingdom that isn't based on selfish gain, that is built on servanthood and that you enter through a cross. It's power is based in hiddeness and humility where the first are last and the last are first. I long for that kingdom to be fully manifest and restored to its rightful place. I have an ache til that happens."

BOOM!  And with that, the dots were connected for me.  Abraham and his descendants weren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  There was a lot of deception and hurt in those generations taking blessings traditionally held by the oldest son.  BUT.  God had, and continues to have, a large scope of a plan and it was already unfolding.  There were principles already being established in book one of the Bible that would mesh with the coming of Jesus hundreds of years later far down the same family line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.  Namely:

The last will be first.

I had to laugh to myself when we arrived at church that evening and I opened up my bulletin to the sermon outline.  First point: Humble ourselves.  Text: All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God apposes the proud but shows favor to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)
Of course!  A verse from the new testament on humility that quotes a verse from Proverbs in the Old Testament!  So, God has intentionally been putting an emphasis and importance on humility in his people for a long time.  I get it!  But...what's the application here?  For me?

Well, Peter was writing to the first century Christians being persecuted and killed for their beliefs.  And even though they weren't high on the social ladder, they were instructed to persevere and also serve each other, too.  My context is as a white, straight, Christian woman in her thirties living in the Midwest of the U.S.A. with her middle class (what DOES that mean???) family in the first part of the 21st century.  By the standards of most of the population of the world and most of the population of my own country, state, and city, I am beyond privileged.  I am no where near last in any measurable category.  Sometimes I feel pretty far down in the athletic ability...but last?  Probably not.  (Unless you count the many 3200s I ran in high school track.  I was last a lot.)

And if I'm honest, I do desire that other people would have the same opportunities as myself.  To have their needs met physically and relationally.  To have access to health and education and to pursue a career and family and not be persecuted and treated like someone without value.  God made everyone unique and valuable enough for his perfect son to die for specifically THEM.  Everyone should not just have equality but an infinite value placed upon their life.  But how do I show others everyday that they do indeed hold this value?  That they are beyond just equal to myself and that they can go first and I can go last?  That is simply hard to live. Extremely hard.  We struggle as a country to ensure equal rights for all and define what that even is.  So how much more is the struggle to put others AHEAD of ourselves?  I'm not trying to get political here.  Really.  I am just struggling to put into motion the huge challenge of Jesus of living a daily life where I put God first and others before myself. 

I don't know about you, but I am guilty of taking the last ice cream treat in the freezer and eating it secretly before my kids find me.  I am guilty of not doing a chore on purpose, and hoping my husband does it instead.  I can't even put my own flesh and blood first with stupid little things, let alone big important things of spiritual impact!  It's hard to get over myself and show others that I think they are valuable because God has made them of great value.  So I ask God to change me and continue to work in my heart so that a life of selflessness and humility grows.  It becomes natural and causes others to ask...why?  It's so backwards to what the world defines as success.  You can't help but stand out when you willingly become last.

So, along with this I think I'm going to study the life of Jesus for awhile to find examples of how he puts others first.  Which is good, because I'm running out of chapters in Genesis.  And I'll ask for examples from my readers.  How do you put others first?  How do you make yourself last (but not forget God has made you valuable, too!  Even Jesus had to take care of himself and rest up!)?

But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (Matthew 19:30)
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Mid-Summer Madness

Well, I was talking with friends during the holiday...and I said it out loud.  "I have written myself out...for the moment."  Not that I don't think about writing or have anything to say...I'm sure inspiration could hit again anytime.  But all my ideas are kind of...meh.  But, I did semi-promise an update on my big list of things to do to keep the kids from being bored this I can surely do that!  (If you want to check out the list, you can find it here: .)  Plus it gives me an excuse not to trim some weeds that have literally grown into trees around here.  (Last summer= death and dryness.  This summer= tropical rain forest. Ahhhh...Indiana.)

So. What have we been up to?  Here's what we've crossed off the list so far!

1. We've visited the library several times.  Annabelle and I tend to run of reading material quickly...and we went to the water show they had which was ok, but we'd seen the same one in Sullivan last year and it wasn't a very water show day.
2. We've made it to the Terre Haute Children's Museum once so far and I'm sure we'll be back before the summer ends.
3. We had a great picnic day at Dobbs park and looked around the Native American Museum, the Nature Center and took a nice walk on the trails.
4. We've ended up swimming at the pond at Fowler Park a few times.  Kind of reminds me of Price's pond where I grew up...little beach...some shady trees to throw your stuff under.  We like it, although I try to go earlier in the day.  It seems more crowded later on, and since it's free...some of the, ahem, patrons, can have some colorful language.  But I'm cheap.  And I hate chlorine.
7. We did some strawberry picking.  Very fun and the kids loved it.  Since we were just picking to have some to munch on at home, an hour was plenty to pick and we came away with over five pounds and no sibling quarrels.  I'm not sure I would take younger kids, though, as Jay continually wanted to pick berries from rows not assigned to us.
10. We attempted to ride bikes/walk on the Heritage Trail one day with our Parents of Young Kids group.  Two out of three kids had bike wrecks and Jay howled for a good 15 minutes about a skinned I haven't been plentiful in the energy department lately...that's been our only attempt! Can't win them all...
12.  We did read Bunnicula out loud at bedtime last month.  I forgot how funny that book is!  Joey and Annabelle loved it.  Jay still prefers picture books and made that fact well known. Loudly.
16. We took a trip to the Bouncin' Barn this week. I always feel like I'm on HIGH MOM ALERT at that place, but the kids always have a blast.
18. One of the first things the kids chose to do on the list was make recycling bins for the house.  They even printed out pictures of what items go in what bin and put them on the outside of each bin.  We have been doing a good job of sorting out our paper, plastics, glass and metal this summer.  I, for one, have been surprised about just how much we used to throw out that could be used again.  Lesson learned for mom more than kids, I think! We had hoped to take a tour of the recycling center at ISU but their only scheduled tours were during our vacation and on an infusion day for no luck on that so far.  But the kids have been extremely helpful in this.  I'm proud! :)
20. We did, in fact, see alpacas and nuns at the White Violet Center at Saint Mary of the Woods College.  We got a very cool behind the scenes tour from a nun who showed us where they store and work the alpaca fiber into yarn and then into objects we can use.  Then we wandered around to see the alpacas in the field, the gardens, and saw some of the pretty views/history markers on campus, too.  I got lots of questions about life in the 1800's around Terre Haute and Catholicism, so it was definitely a big learning day!
35. We did get to camp and have s'mores, too!  We took a four day/three night vacation to Ohio and camped for a couple nights followed by a spontaneous and more restful night in a hotel with a kid-friendly pool and a water slide.  We did some hiking in the park we stayed in, saw the US Air Force Museum in Dayton and the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus.  Pretty nice time for not a lot of dinero!  And of course, we ate well both on and off the campsite.  I tried Five Guys burgers for the first time.  Yum!
36.  I added this to the list after the blog post, but we made ice cream in a bag!  Very fun.  And louder than I thought possible with three kids shaking bags of ice violently on the kitchen table.

So...even though it sounds like we've done a lot so far...there's still many things on the list to choose from.  And I STILL have to fight the kids from complaining of boredom and fight in myself the urge just to let them play video games all day.  I think we're at the point in the summer where we're a little sick of being in each others' faces all the time.  But over all...good stuff.  I am so thankful that I have a summer with them like this.  Carpe diem, baby! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I was changing the bag on the vacuum cleaner the other day, and a funny thing happened.  Even with a sparkling clean new bag, the thing just did not have suction.  After poking and prodding and a little grumbling, my smart and more practically minded husband detected the problem.  The filter needed to be cleaned.  And how. Ewwwww.  I will never cease to be amazed at how filthy five people can be.  Now this may be a little bit of a mental leap, but take a mind base jump with me.  It got me thinking about the filters through which we view life.  What they are...and how they can make us effective...or render us pretty useless like my poor vacuum.

You see, I take each new experience, new person I meet, new opportunity, and run it through this kind of filtration system that's accumulated over my thirty something years.  What I choose to do with it or what I take away is based on past experiences, the people I already know, and the identity I've accepted about myself.  My biggest filters right now, in no particular order, are:

1. My parents, siblings and my childhood
2. My husband
3. The Bible, Christianity, my church
4. My educational and work background
5. The small town Midwest culture in which I grew up
6. Myself as a mom
7. Myself as a friend
8. Myself as a musician and worship leader
9. Myself as a person with a chronic disease

I'm sure I could find more and dig into the nitty gritty, but these are the main things that make up who I am and how I view my world.  Some of my filters have been around my whole life. (Hi, Mom!!) And some of them are fairly new.  Two years ago, I never filtered things through a disease...weighing whether the activity was worth precious energy,  the risk of pain, or the risk of getting sick, since my treatment makes my immune system about as strong as a newborn's or the elderly...but it's a filter I'm slowly adjusting to.

When we meet someone who shares a lot of the same filters, I think there's cool instant connection.  (Oh! You pegged your pants in the fourth grade and can sing all the lyrics to 80's and 90's Amy Grant songs! Rad!) But to me it's equally cool when I meet someone whose filters are pretty different from my own.  I can learn a whole lot from that person and maybe if we dig a little deeper, we WILL find a few filters in common.  Or not!  But it's a fun journey all the same.  I'm pretty sure I don't want my whole world to be full of Beth Clones. Yikes!  Imagine a world that's unable to have clean carpets because it's full of people who can't figure out clogged vacuum filters...

So it occurs to me that good communication comes from an understanding that the person I am interacting with comes to the table with a different set of filters than I do.  Thus two people sharing the same conversation remember it very differently sometimes. 
He: "I told you about that a week ago."
Me: "Oh, I don't remember talking about that at all."
He: "But you nodded and smiled and said yes."
Me: "Was it after 10 pm?"

Or through my filters, I thought I explained something perfectly clear!  Why doesn't that person get it?!?  How can they not believe passionately in the same things that I do?!?  Yeah...I catch myself being self-centric a whole lot.  And while most of my filters come from good, healthy things, the filters can easily start clogging with things like negativity, cynicism, worry, fear, envy...if I don't give them a good regular cleaning.  I quickly become ineffective in relationships and ministry, if not destructive.

So what's the cure-all for clogged filters?  Simply this: Love.  The perfect and pure love of God.  Did I just compare God's love to a vacuum filter cleaner? Why yes, yes I did...  God in the majestic.  And God in the mundane.  But God really does reach down and scoop out all the disgusting junk I let accumulate in my life.  Because I ask Him, and He loves me. 

I can't help but view life through the filters I have.  It's what makes me uniquely me.  But when those filters are full of love instead of sin, I am much better at reaching out to those around me.  I ditch the self-serving attitudes and the judgement.  I communicate more effectively.  I see people and situations much more clearly.  Now...I know there's a fantastic "sucking" joke in here somwhere to end this.  But I've been told that word is not very ladylike. How I do love a good metaphor...

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.   As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. (I Peter 4:8-10)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dad, Dad, He's our Dad!

As Father's Day approaches, I am reminded of how blessed I am to have my Dad.  As my generation grew up, divorce became a lot more common...many of my peers grew up without a dad in their life every day.  Maybe they got to see him on weekends.  Or in the summer.  Or holidays.  And I've worked with so many children who had absolutely no father figure in their life.  Some children rise up.  But so many crumble and carry lifelong scars.  So, like my Mom post, here's ten parenting tips I learned from my Dad:

1. Model confidence in excellence.  There's no two ways about it.  My father is a very smart man.  Valedictorian of a large high school class.  Finished his undergrad in three years.  Is a doctor.  Teaches ethics and bio-ethics.  He's not arrogant about it.  But he doesn't apologize either.  He has a kind of quiet confidence that I've always tried to emulate.  The world doesn't always value the smart kid in the class.  So I try to let my kids know it's ok to be smart and confident in that.  (Just don't let it get boastful.)  Because with confidence in your God given abilities and lots of hard work, doors can open like scholarships and jobs and leadership opportunities.

2. Teach your kids to seek the truth.  Teach them to seek answers to the tough questions.  I don't think many kids grew up talking about apologetics at the Sunday dinner table, but I did.  I learned a lot about Christianity and why my parents believed what they believed just by listening and asking questions at the dinner table.  If my dad wanted to know something, he found out about it and learned about it.  And this was before Google.  Studying Bible passages...studying church history...taking things back to the Greek or Hebrew...these were not new concepts to me as an adult.

3. Treat your kids like valid human beings.  I always felt like Dad listened to us and our points of view like we were an equal and not a goofy kid who didn't know anything.  Even though a lot of times, I'm sure we were goofy ignorant kids and it took a LOT of patience!  I will say that this is a struggle for me now.  I am so glad my kids love to learn new things, but sometimes it's hard to be in the mood to listen about the burrowing habits of the Peruvian horned mouse.

4. Take an interest in their interests.  Some of my favorite memories of my Dad are when he would take time out of his day to watch my cross country meets.  That meant the world to me.  I know that many times it wasn't convenient, but when he came, I was so proud!  We would ride home in the car together just him and me and have good talks.  And many summers he would take just me to the big sports store and we would take our time picking out the perfect running shoes for the season.  I loved that!

5. Demonstrate to them the value of hard work. Family practice doctors work very, very hard.  Lots of long hours and paperwork and cranky sick people and nights on call where the phone rings at 3 am.  It may mean going in to deliver a baby...or telling Mabel Sue that her itchy toe can wait until tomorrow.  I saw it all, and for some reason decided not to go into medicine... However, I did learn that any job that supports a family is going to require work, and a lot of it.  Some of it is very rewarding.  And some of it...just plain work.

6. Be a leader in your church in front of them. Dad served in lots of capacities at church while I was growing up.  He was on the board. He taught a Sunday School class. He helped rewrite the church by-laws.  He searched for pastors.  But the thing I admire most is that he did it all with integrity and a peacemaking spirit.  I think being a peacemaker is a rare and precious gift.

7. Speak wisdom into your children's lives. There are a handful of times when I remember clear and specific pieces of advice my dad has given me.  One was that he told me to be sure enjoy my college years and take some classes just for fun.  I did, resulting in things like ballet and choir and going to Spain for a semester.  But on the more serious side, I remember him coming home from a Promise Keepers conference once (Remember those?) and he said he heard a lot about how racial divisions in the church need to be healed.  He knew that he did not always have the opportunity for that kind of ministry, but I happened to be volunteering that week at a camp for inner-city kiddos, and he prayed that I might be the one with that opportunity.  I feel like that was almost a prophetic moment.  I see many times over my teen and adult life that I have had the privilege to reach across racial lines that seem to keep the American Church so very compartmentalized.  I pray those opportunities continue.

8. Take your kids on adventures.  Maybe we didn't travel the world in a sail boat (Doesn't everyone know a family like that? I do.), but we learned how to build a fire, pitch a tent, and canoe thanks to Dad.  We hiked quite a few miles of state park trails in Indiana and beyond.  We saw museums and caves and made lots of cool memories on summer vacations.  Even if Dad's long legs had us kids scrambling to keep up most of the time.

9. Never underestimate the fun in a game of keep away.  Some of my very earliest memories of my Dad were when he would take a toy, ball, etc. and hold it juuuust out of reach.  We would lunge for it...and he would quickly switch hands.  Foiled again!  Hilarious!  Again, Daddy!  How loved and secure I felt when Dad was on my level.  I love that my husband does the same for our kids, and seemed to have a knack for it the second they were born.  Joy...overflowing.

10. Think through something before making a decision.  It's no wonder I'm a ponderer by nature.  Both my parents are big thinkers, but I think Dad is the greater methodical thinker.  No rush.  Weigh the facts.  Consider the options.  It can drive others crazy (Ahem, sorry, Honey).  Yes, we heard what you said.  We're just thinking about it.  And it may take us awhile to choose our words as a response.  Deal with it.  But it is a trait, especially in parenting, that will save you from some rather bad and hastily made decisions.

So I close with verses that remind me of my Dad.  And videos of two of my favorite sitcom dads just for fun. Love you, Daddy!  Happiest Father's Day!
Proverbs 14:26 - "Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge."

Proverbs 17:27 - "The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered."

Joshua 24:15 - "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Friday, June 7, 2013

And the Winner of the First Book Giveaway Is...

My friend Jessica!

Which is so fitting because:
A. She's a Media Specialist at a school.  She has the power to spread the reading love.
B. We drew the name out of a Colt's hat and she's one of the biggest Colts fans I know.
C. She lives here in town and now I don't have to pay shipping! (Okay, maybe that's an advantage for me and not her...but hey...this cheap girl celebrates any dollar saved even though I would have been very happy to send it elsewhere.)

Congrats, I think you'll love the book and thanks to all who entered!  Hopefully I will be giving more books away in the near future.  Now back to your regularly scheduled blogging program.

Don't forget to pick up a copy of the book!  It hits shelves on Tuesday, June 11!

When Mockingbirds Sing

Monday, June 3, 2013

First Ever Book Giveaway!

I am trying my hand at being a literary critic this week.  My main qualifications are as follows:

A.  I killed my English classes.
B. I am an avid reader.
C. I have opinions about what I read.

So maybe that doesn't qualify me to be a professional critic, but I was fortunate enough to be asked to review a book that has just been released.  Which kind of makes me feel like a secret rock star, so of course I said YES!  And the best part is, I have an extra book, so one lucky commenter will get a copy dinero! (Yes, I know two of those are Spanish, but it's the only other language I know.)  Don't you want to know more?  Here's the skinny....

 When Mockingbirds Sing

The book is When Mockingbirds Sing by Billy Coffey.  This is his third book, and really, I recommend them all (Snow Day and Paper Angels are his other titles).  His website is on my blog roll if you want to go visit.

Here's a summary of the book from the publisher:

Leah is a child from Away, isolated from her peers because of her stutter. But then she begins painting scenes that are epic in scope, brilliant in detail, and suffused with rich, prophetic imagery. When the event foreshadowed in the first painting dramatically comes true, the town of Mattingly takes notice.
Leah attributes her ability to foretell the future to an invisible friend she calls the Rainbow Man. Some of the townsfolk are enchanted with her. Others fear her. But there is one thing they all agree on—there is no such thing as the Rainbow Man.
Her father, the town psychologist, is falling apart over his inability to heal his daughter or fix his marriage. And the town minister is unraveled by the notion a mere child with no formal training may be hearing from God more clearly than he does.
While the town bickers over what to do with this strange child, the content of Leah’s paintings grows darker. Still, Leah insists that the Rainbow Man’s heart is pure. But then a dramatic and tragic turn of events leaves the town reeling and places everyone’s lives in danger. Now the people of Mattingly face a single choice:
Will they cling to what they know . . . or embrace the things Leah believes in that cannot be seen?

Here's my take:

I love Billy's writing because as a small town girl, I relate.  I know I see corn fields outside my window instead of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but he describes American small town life with the richness and reality of one who's lived it.  I love that, because he knows just how to put to pen what I've experienced for years...that odd combination of wonderful close-knit ties of community, strong values, and then a darker side that's rarely discussed in the name of good manners.  I feel like I've met his characters at the store a time or two.  I went to church with them. I graduated with them.  While I can relate to each character, I seem to find myself fitting in particular characters' shoes pretty well.  The opening of the story puts us in the birthday party for a nine year old girl.  Guess who's daughter turned nine the day after I began reading the book?  I was instantly hooked.

One of my favorite writers growing up was Frank Peretti.  I loved that he looked beyond the senses of what we physically know on this earth and brought another spiritual dimension to Christian fiction.  I will always appreciate the layers of spiritual depth, imagination and intelligence in his work.  Now I'm a bit uncomfortable making comparisons because Mr. Coffey most certainly has his own unique voice as a writer, BUT.  This book did for me what I so love about Peretti's books.  It opens the door to a God so much bigger and fantastic than what small boxes our human brains have tended to put Him in.  Wrapped up in a beautifully told, compelling, and suspenseful story, there is a message that God's ways of working can be far beyond of what we can dream for ourselves.  That God still masterfully draws people to Himself.  And that heroes can be found in the most unlikely of people.  Makes me think of how the Bible is full of similar underdogs that God takes and uses for His glory.  So I think you will be rooting for the underdogs just like I did in When Mockingbirds Sing.

(Plus, there's birds that really creeped me out.  Just sayin'.  Great reading for a stormy summer night under the covers with a flashlight!)

How to win your copy!

So, if you would like your own copy of the book, please leave your name and email address in the comments below.  One time only, please.  If you are my facebook friend, I'll let you have one additional entry in the contest by sharing a link to this post, but you must let me know you shared!  Leave your named and "shared on facebook" in the comments section here or tag me on facebook, please and thank you.  Entries must be in by 8pm Eastern on Friday June 7th, and then my nine year old daughter will pick a random winner from a hat, old school style.  I will contact the winner by email and snail mail the winner the book.  You must be in the U.S. to win, although if any of my out of country relatives or friends want to enter and have an address I can send it to in the states...well...I think that counts!  So here goes the first ever giveaway for my blog...Woo hoo!  I'm a rock star!

If for some reason your comment does NOT appear, please enter the contest by emailing me your name by Friday at 8p.m. Eastern.  It seems Blogger is not a fan of comments by phone.  My email address is: .

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

"I'm Bored" is Not Allowed: AKA the Sabelhaus Summer Project

Summer is weird to me.  In theory, it seems like it should be the best season of the year.  Warm weather, outdoor fun, a more relaxed schedule...What's not to love? But since entering adulthood, Summer and I have had a love/hate relationship.  I don't know what it is, but my mood seems to dive with Memorial Day and doesn't bounce back until after Labor Day.  Maybe it's the lack of routine.  Or too many daylight hours.  Or the fact that I've usually had to work in an office indoors all day while my heart is in the summers of my childhood, where there are endless hours to play outdoors and dream.  Whatever the case, I've found that my Summer Blues are much improved when I have something to look forward to.

Enter the Sabelhaus Summer Project!

This summer, a bunch of things have come together to give me a much anticipated summer.  First, my children are big enough to make outings about 50 billion times more enjoyable than they were a few years ago.  I am unemployed for the moment, making me a full-time at home Momma with very little scheduled this summer.  And if we stretch our dollars, we can afford a little bit of extra gas for local trips and treats.  So, my brain has been churning away, excited to make this a summer I can enjoy with my kids.  I truly want them to experience some new things...learn through fun...pick up some values along the way...and most of all, NOT BE BRAINLESSLY BORED.  Believe me, I am so very OK with some daily TV time, game time, and general chill time.  But when I don't set up some kind of structure, we seem to digress into endless video games and TV...and well, Facebook for me...

So. Ahem.  I made a list of things we can do this summer. Included are some general guidelines to the day that will help them earn their weekly allowance.  Most of the activities are cheap, free, or use items we already have. When I share the list with my kids, they will also know how much it costs.  If they really, really want to do something that's a little out of the budget that week, I may ask them to chip in.  (Right now they have more cash on hand than I do, so I don't think it's a bad deal. Financial literacy and all.)  The places mentioned are mostly local to Terre Haute, Indiana, and I've tried to include a website for reference. If you live somewhere else, perhaps they will serve as a starting point if you're looking for some new things to try this summer.  I got a few of my items from other people's summer lists, so feel free to borrow!  When I started writing them all down, however, I was pleasantly surprised about the number of things there are to do around here with kids.  Goooo Haute!  These activities are also geared toward kids preschool to mid-elementary school age.  I'm guessing my almost five year old probably won't relish every moment at the history museum, and my nine year old might roll her eyes and opt out of story time at the library to read her own big kid stuff...but hey, we're a family, and sometimes you must make compromises to accomplish the goals of the team.  I plan to ask my husband and the kids if they have any other ideas and we'll see if we can do some of those, too.  Hopefully, I'll have an update or two to share with you as the summer goes along.  I don't always do parenting type stuff on here, but this list seemed pretty natural to share.  So before I babble on incessantly, I give you....

"I'm Bored" Is Not Allowed:

Week day summer rule- Before you may play computer, Wii, or watch TV, the following must be completed:
1. Straighten your bed.
2. Get dressed and brush hair/teeth.
3. Eat breakfast.
4. Read a book, write, or do something math related for 30 minutes.
5. Complete any other chores Mom assigns you for the day.
6. Like the rest of the year, you are still responsible for having a clean room, taking all dirty laundry to the laundry room by Saturday, feeding pets, and washing the basement bathroom sink.

When chores are done for the day, here are some things we can choose to do this summer!  Maybe you can think of some ideas to add!  Let's see how many we can mark off the list, and let's not be borrrrrrred.

1. Visit the library. Get books, do the summer reading program,and go to library events. (Story time every Wednesday at 10 am.)  Cost: FREE!

2. Go to the Terre Haute Children's Museum! Cost: FREE for members- that's us!

3. Visit the Nature Center and Native American Museum at Dobbs Park. Cost: FREE!

4. Go swimming!  How many places can we swim? We could try...Hawthorn Park, Fowler Park, Sullivan Lake, Shakamak State Park, Lieber State Park, Deming Park...
Cost: FREE to a few bucks/person

5. Make up a Lip Sync Dance.  Choose a song.  Make up a dance to it and pretend to sing the words.  Mom will video tape it so we can giggle later. Cost: FREE!

6. See a movie!  Meadows Theater Free Kids' Summer Movies are on Tues, Wed, and Thurs at 10 am Cost: FREE! (Well, maybe we'll get some snacks, too.)
Or, we can convince Daddy to take us to the Drive-in Movie Theater!
Cost: $24 for our family plus the cost of giant pickles or other concession goodies.

7. Pick strawberries or blueberries. Yum!  Cost: Depends on price of berries and how long we last...

8. Visit a Farmer's Market and buy some fresh yummy produce. (Saturday mornings)
 Cost: Depends on how hungry we get looking at all that food.

9. Go for a hike. But which State Park or Rec Area to choose?  There's one less than an hour away in every direction!
Cost: $5/car for an Indiana State Park.  Illinois Parks are FREE.

10. Ride our bikes on the Heritage Trail.
Cost: You guessed it, FREE!  But Mom will have to figure out how to get all the bikes on/in the car...

11. Listen to an outdoor concert in the park! (Usually Saturday evenings) Cost: FREE

12. Read a chapter book out loud together before bed. :) Cost: FREE

13. Make something to feed the squirrels and birds.
Cost: Recycle things to make it, plus the cost of bird seed.

14. Plant something and watch it grow. Cost: Soil and seeds.

15. Visit Ryves Youth Center and play with other kids.  Maybe we can think of a project or games to bring or join in with their fun stuff?
Cost: FREE!

16. Visit the Bouncin' Barn and jump until we're silly! Cost: $5/kid Mon-Thurs

17. Learn piano or play music games on the computer. 
Cost: FREE thanks to Mom and Dad and the joys of the Internet(which is not free)!

18. Set up a recycling bin and visit the recycling center so we can start using our resources more wisely! Cost: FREE

19. Go bowling. Cost: $2.75/kid for shoe rental plus whatever Mom has to pay because let's face it, she'll be bowling like there's no tomorrow!

20. See some alpacas! And probably some nuns!  Cost: FREE, I think?

21. See some cool art at the Swope Art Museum. Cost: FREE!

22. See some cool history at the Vigo County Historical Society. Cost: FREE!

23. Go roller skating.
Cost: Wednesday Family Night, $1.00 entrance and $2.00 skate rentals, so $15 for the family

24. Go to Bogey's Family Fun Center. 
Cost: Mom and Dad will get you some tokens, but you can bring allowance money to play extra games.

25. Paint a masterpiece or create your own art project.  (Let's get out all the craft stuff and make something. I think there's even a leather punch set somewhere...) Cost: FREE

26. Build a fort in the basement.  Play the Imagination Game. Cost: FREE

27. Cook dinner for Daddy. You can help me shop and figure out what to make. Cost: Whatever the food costs, but I'm guessing we won't be having lobster.

28. Act out  Bible stories.  Be sure and put together costumes! Cost: FREE

29. Go to the Dollar Store and find something awesome for a dollar!  Cost: $1/kid= $3(plus tax)

30. Make sidewalk chalk paint and paint the sidewalk. Cost: Couple $$ for chalk

31. Invite a friend over to play or do things with our Parents of Young Kids group from church!
Cost: Usually FREE

32. Visit a playground or park we've never been to before.  Make up a nature scavenger hunt to do while we're there. Cost: FREE

33. Learn the rules a sport or game we've never played before and try it out. Cost: FREE

34. Three words: water balloon fight. Cost: We'll get the good balloons that cost more than a dollar.

35. Have a camp out in the backyard (or Uncle David's backyard).  Make s'mores.
Cost: Our backyard, FREE. S'mores, a few dollars.  Travel to Michigan, that may get more pricey.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Voice to Create

My daughter was in first grade when her teacher came to me at a school function and said, "I just love seeing what she writes.  She already has a voice!"

That's probably one of the best compliments I could get about one of my children.  Even at the young ages of  9, 7, and 59 days until 5 (He keeps me informed of the birthday countdown), my kids desire to express their unique take on the world as they know it.  They want to create their own stories.  They sing their own songs.  They like starting with a blank piece of paper and turning into a masterpiece of their choosing.  They constantly play what they call the G-A-M-E (Imagination only, no toys required). They love to create and they are finding their unique voice.

Not surprising, considering their parents tend to walk on the creative side of life.  If my husband and I aren't creating something, we tend to lose our joy.  Yeah, I would be that person at work who would have an idea and actually go and ask my boss for permission to make it happen.  Usually resulting in a lot more work than I intended, but I love seeing an idea come into reality.  When I spent a semester in Spain in college, I paid the bouncy little man who owned the music shop a nominal fee just to play his piano in the back room for 30 minutes.  No lessons, no books- just played and sang my heart out.  I'm pretty sure he thought I was nuts, but I'm sure he considered all Americans nuts... My dear husband really can't NOT have a couple projects going at any given time.  Right now there's an almost finished 5' x 9' utility trailer in our garage that he made from scratch.  Why?  Because he wanted one and knew he could figure it out.  (And making it yourself is always cheaper.)  Sometimes we just have to have a home jam session.  Although, that's a bit difficult with three small children afoot.

So yes, we are a family of creators.  Frank and I met serving on a campus ministry worship team, and we've been serving as part of a worship team somewhere ever since.  I feel a kind of kinship to the Levites appointed by David in the Bible whose job it was to make joyful sounds(I Chronicles 15).  Because that's what we do!  And also like David in the Psalms, nothing brings me through the tough times like putting my focus on God and worshipping through music. Or writing. Or making something hideous in play-dough with my kids.  Something about creating sooths the soul and brings life.

I believe that every human is made in the image of God, and part of that is God as Creator.  So in turn...people are creators.  We can't help but create.  It's who we are!  I think there's many people that suppress this in their adult life, rationalizing that whatever they create isn't worthy of a museum and not worth their time.  But whether it's a yummy meal or a beautifully landscaped yard or the perfect spreadsheet solution to a workplace conundrum or making a craft with friends or building a trailer or building a relationship with another human being, we create.  In those creations there is a unique voice to be shared, a single facet among the billion facets of our Creator.  And how I long to be a joyful sound reflecting just a tiny, tiny bit of my Creator's beauty in my creations.

One of my blog friends, Matt Appling, is an art teacher who wrote a whole book on this very thing...(Go visit him! In Life After Art, he describes what happens as we leave the art room as a child, and how our desire to create beauty fades.  For me, this desire never really went away.  I must create.  I simply must.  But...this passage grabbed a hold of me and didn't let go:
"It was exceedingly easier for mankind to fall than it was for God to redeem His beloved and fragile creation from sin.
When resolving to create beauty in the world, remember this: beauty is fragile.  It is precious.  It takes a lot more work to create beauty than it does to destroy it.  Creating beauty will be meaningful but difficult work.  This is not the place for laziness or fearfulness.  And all along the way, ugliness will be crouching at your door, waiting to steal it from you."
So...what are you creating?  What does your creative voice say?  Is it intentional or not? Is it beautiful?  Is it ugly?  Is laziness or fear keeping you from creating?  How is your Creator is reflected in your creations?

He who forms the mountains,
who creates the wind,
and who reveals his thoughts to mankind,
who turns dawn to darkness,
and treads on the heights of the earth
the Lord God Almighty is his name. (Amos 4:13)

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds;  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

10 Parenting Lessons I Stole from My Mom

Usually stealing is bad. (You hear that, kids? BAD!  Even taking that dime from my purse!  Yeah, you think I didn't see that, did you?)  But these are ten things that my Mom did so well as a parent that I'm stealing them and using them with my own brood.  Don't worry, Mom.  This isn't your only present!  It goes in the mail tomorrow... :)

1. Support and love their Dad.
I know that this may be a different ballgame if you are divorced or separated from the father of one or all of your kids.  Same goes if you are remarried, single, or working through a difficult marriage issue.  It puts more of a "support the dad as much as is healthy for everyone" spin on it.  But if you are married to the father of your kids, let them hear good things about him come from your mouth.  If you are verbally tearing down your husband in front of your kids when he's there (or not there), what kind of message does that send?  If they don't see you welcome him home...give him hugs and get the idea.  I was outwardly mortified as a teenager when my parents would walk around our neighborhood in the evenings HOLDING. HANDS.  Ug!  But inwardly, I was so glad that our family and my parents' love was secure.  And my mom would always do things like be the first line of defense on the phone when dad was on call for work, or support his hobbies like running or biking even when she'd had a long day and probably wanted to run away herself.

2. Let them see you in roles other than Mom.
When I was little, my Mom did not work outside the home.  But as I got a little older, I saw her do things like host an after school Bible club at our house, do office work for my dad's medical office, work as the Worship Coordinator for our church, cover local events and write articles for local newspapers, and eventually she went back to school to finish her college degree.  Seeing her as volunteer, employee, and student gave me insight that my mom was a valuable person even outside our home.  I saw I had a lot of options for what I could do with my own future.  As a mom, I have had seasons where I worked full time, part-time, and have stayed at home.  All have had their unique challenges and rewards, and I have not felt that one was any "better" than the other.  I hope that my daughter and my sons realize that God may give them different seasons of work outside the home and inside the home.  Listening to His timing and providing for their families' needs the best way they can in that season is the more important thing.

3. Teach them independence intentionally.
My mom has always been a good teacher.  She wanted to make sure that her children were prepared for life on their own.  We had chores.  Lots of chores.  Every summer morning there was a list of chores for each of us on the kitchen table from cleaning toilets to cleaning our rooms to trimming those infernal bushes every summer.  And the chores had to be done before Mom came home from work.  Or else.  When you began high school in our house, the laundering of your own clothes became your responsibility.  Mom also taught us about money.  Saving, tithing, spending.  I had my own checking account at an early age.  She taught us to cook as we helped to cook.  Her babies would not enter the adult world without the skills to take care of themselves.    

4. Reveal to them the joy of simple things.
Some of my favorite memories of childhood were picking violets and making dandelion chains...watching the clouds...taking walks...having a picnic...enjoying the free awesome stuff that God has given us.  Yes, my kids like their TV time and video games...but we take a lot of time to enjoy the simple things, too.

5. Be an active participant in the things you do with your kids.
When we went to the pond every summer, Mom jumped in, too. She loves to swim.  When we went to the roller rink, Mom skated- backwards!  She loves to skate.  We'd dance around the living room to the radio and Mom would join in and show us dances that she did as a kid.  She likes her toes in the dirt on a warm day.  And recently she braved the trampoline with my kids.  She rarely was the mom that sat and watched her kids have fun.  She was a part of the fun.  Let me never be too grown up to join in the fun!

6. It's okay for moms to apologize to their children.
News flash: Moms make mistakes.  I've made plenty.  But I distinctly remember times that my Mom apologized to me.  Usually when she lost her temper.  She didn't release me from responsibility or punishment if I had done something wrong (also usually the case), but her apologies taught me that saying things in anger is not ok and that moms are, in fact, human.

7. Model a love of learning.
Being a nerdy family, there were always plenty of books around the house and trips to the library.  There were family vacations where we took historical tours of Abraham Lincoln's past or explored Mammoth Caves.  It is not unusual for both my parents to be found reading side by side.  My siblings and I always did well in school, but our parents sparked in us a love of learning beyond the walls of formal education.  We are all know-it-alls and we kind of love that.  I am just thankful that I live in the era where I can google the answers to questions my kids ask that I don't know.  Because they have a lot of questions.  And I gotta keep that spark alive!

8. Encourage them to be the odd duck.
My mom is a fantastically creative person.  She sings, plays piano, and composes music.  She writes for a living.  She always says she's a terrible artist, but she taught me about art in many forms and about appreciating it.  I think for much of her childhood she felt like the odd duck out...a dodecahedron peg in a square peg world.  So when we would create worlds and languages in our imagination....wanted to play songs of our own instead of practice our piano lesson...spend hours doing any number of odd duck things...she understood.  And knew that it would serve us well later in life even if most of the world didn't "get" it.

9. Listen to the "big" problems in your child's life.
Adults tend to minimize kids' intelligence and problems.  I don't get that.  I think most of the problems we have with kids could be worked out by simply treating them as a real person.  When you acknowledge a child is smart and let them know their issue is worth listening to, that goes a long, long way to working things out.  I was a pretty care free kid until I went to middle school.  Then my friends started this once a month cycle of fighting and making up.  I would get so upset that so-and-so and so-and-so weren't talking to each other anymore and come home and just pour it all out on my mom.  She would listen.  Treat it as a real problem.  And gave me a little advice, too.  But mostly she just listened.  When I had broken heart as a teenager, she would drive me around town and let me cry it out or take me on a walk to work out the anger.  Not that I would always let her...but I always knew she was there if I wanted to talk, walk, or drive it out.

10. Walk out your faith in front of them.
This by far is the most important.  And the most difficult.  There are many times when the day far outlasts my patience as a parent. (I had one of those days yesterday, in fact!) And I grunt out the words to "Jesus Loves Me" at bedtime and I have to silently confess before I pray with my children.  But if a negative and grumpy spirit starts ruling the whole day, week, usually means I've neglected my relationship with God.  I haven't been reading my Bible regularly.  I've neglected to pray.  I've let the to-do's and temporary circumstances take ground where worship and a correct perspective used to be.  I'm pretty sure every Christian mom struggles in this. ( If you don't, PLEASE share your wisdom!)  But I know I will keep fighting to keep my faith  first and growing.  I will intentionally teach my kids about Jesus, God, and the Bible.  We may not do a family devotional each evening, but we read the Children's Bible and answer the questions at the end of the story.  We make God an everyday part of our conversation.  And that's certainly important- my parents did similar things with me.  But there's something about a true and deep relationship with Christ that can't be explained or taught in a book.  Some of my most treasured memories of my mother are of times when I really wasn't supposed to be there.  I was the early bird of my siblings, and countless mornings I would find my mom sitting, looking out the window, praying, and reveling in the early quiet of the day.  Two things were always with her- an open Bible and a steaming cup of coffee.  So many nights I went to sleep to the sound of Mom playing the piano and singing...or on those summer nights when the windows were open it was Mom playing her flute on the porch.  In those moments I knew, surely, that God was more than stories in a book.  He was something worthy of my mother's beautiful worship and devotion.

Every parent falls short of perfection, whether we repeat the mistakes of our own parents or blaze a trail of mistakes all our own.  But if I get one thing right, I hope it's living a life of worship that speaks louder than any words I could impart to my kids.  With every passing year I realize more just how precious a gift that was from my beautiful and how rare.  I love you, Momma.  Happy Mother's Day and thank you for being my Mom!

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Comfort Zone

I like being comfortable.  A few weeks ago my husband and I were cruising the aisles of Big Lots (this is how we roll), and happened upon some memory foam pillows.  Name brand!  $12 each!  Well our current pillows had pretty much had we took a chance.  And every night since that fateful day, we've been sighing with satisfaction as we hit the hay.  These things are AWESOME! Comfy bed....comfy jammies...comfy's a good way to end a day.  I've been waking up right before the alarm, well rested.  The pillow may not be 100% responsible, but I think it's been a huge factor.  (Did I mention it was $12???)

We may not live in the nicest home or drive the nicest cars, but we have a home and two cars in a quieter neighborhood by a school.  Frank has a good job. We have plenty to wear and plenty to eat.  We have three healthy, smart and beautiful children.  We have a dog...a cat...two guinea pigs. We even have some luxuries, like our stash of musical instruments and more than 100 channels at the press of the remote button.  We have fantastic families and friends and we're starting to realize how wonderful our new church family is.  We are blessed.  We live a comfortable life.  And there are many around us who do the same.

However, just a few minutes away, there's an elementary school where almost 90 per cent of the kids participate in the free lunch program.  Yes, 89.4% to be exact during the 2011-2012 school year.  The most recent census says that 19% of the people in my county live below the poverty line, but the poverty rate among children is over 25%.  According to the CASA website, there are over 300 children in my county in foster care on any given day.  Recently, there has been over 300 inmates in our county jail, not to mention the hundreds in the federal penitentiary in our community and the three state correctional facilities less than an hour's drive from here.  I couldn't find statistics on the poverty rate for the elderly in my county, and that is both interesting and sad to me.  Add in many living in facilities to care for mental health, physical health, juvenile detention centers, group homes, homeless shelters, addiction treatment centers....

Why all the depressing in-your-face stats?  Well, besides proving that I indeed am related to my economist brother, a plain fact emerges.  There are many that are not comfortable.  In MY county.  In yours.  In my country and yours.  And millions around the world living in circumstances we cannot imagine.  This is overwhelming.  We know this.  The collective Church and local churches here do some amazing things to try to minister to people and meet their needs. Locally and globally.  I don't want to downplay that.  And yet, there seems to be a frustrating lack of change as we see generation after generation in physical, emotional, and spiritual poverty.

Here's the truth.  I don't know the answers to these big needs.  I have a few clues and hunches based on my work with non-profits, churches, schools, and workforce development in the last 12 odd years. But this is what I read:

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)

 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.(James 1:27)

I see in these verses an active relationship with those who are the most vulnerable and have the most need.  I don't see a check being written with a quick photo op.  (Believe me, those working in non-profits see this a lot.) Yes, giving to the church you attend is important.  Giving to charities we love is good.  Be obedient to God and do that, please! But I think we've missed a crucial element in Christianity if we fail to get to know those in need.  How do we even know WHAT they need unless we're willing to get to know them?  Did Jesus give his disciples a big fat purse of silver and tell them good luck in life?  Did hey say to Mary and Martha, "So sorry your brother died; here's a pamphlet on grief and we hope to see you at church next Sunday!"  Maybe this is a little harsh.  There's a lot of Christians who get it.  But I think there's still many who don't. Jesus got to know those in need.  He died for each and every single one of us.  We are valuable enough for him to have a personal relationship with us.  So why is it so difficult for us to build relationships with "others"?  Why do we always say that doing this type of serving is out of our comfort zone?  I feel like we treat it like it's only for certain brave and bold Christians with a certain skill set or spiritual gift. Shouldn't it be the norm for a Christian?  Do people with great need remind us a little too much that we have great needs that only God can fufill?

We had a gal at church last Sunday share about her experience going on mission trips to Nicaragua (Thanks, Kathy, for allowing me to share your story!!).  She said that she was a happy wife, mom, volunteer, and church member who was actively involved.  She said yes to going on a trip to Nicaragua and was unsure if God could even use her in a strange and scary capacity like that.  But she said that instead of it being outside her comfort zone...she felt like she had, for the first time in her whole life, FOUND her comfort zone.  She could be used by God to help those in desperate need and she loved that!  This just resonated with me.  What is my true comfort zone?  What have I accepted as my comfort zone that might be a poor substitute for my real comfort zone in Christ?  Who is God placing in my path that I can get to know and meet his or her needs?

So I end with lots of questions.  But definitely questions worth working through.  There is not a person on this earth in all of time that Jesus wasn't willing to give his life for.  While I usually find it easy to love those in the margins of society, I still tend to get hung up on who is "worthy" of my time, money, and my help.  Everyone is worthy.  Every one.  I just need to stay off my high horse and cling desperately to God in order to clearly see my true comfort zone.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Thanks, God, for Cat Pee

Ok, so the last post was a little in depth.  Serious. The short version is we need to consciously name the things for which we are thankful.  They are all gifts from God to us.  It helps put things in perspective about how good God is to us.  Always. Here's how that process went for me one day last week:

As usual, I was doing some laundry.  I had taken a load of laundry out of the dryer which I thought was dry, but noticed some of it was a little damp.  I left the damp stuff in the dryer to re-dry and put the dry clothes in a basket when I started to notice a particular smell.  A smell I know.  A smell of cat urine.  Well, the litter box is next to the dryer, so in vain I hoped that kitty just had a particularly smelly day.

Nope. Upon further investigation...he had peed. IN. THE. DRYER.  On CLEAN clothes!?!  That's about a 12 on the 1 to 10 disgust-o-meter.  And so I started the clean up process.  I swore under my breath.  Grumble, grumble.  General nastiness radiated from me.  Put the clothes back in the washer.  Grumble.  Sit and figure out just how I am supposed to clean and sanitize the inside of my dryer. Grumble. Gag. Clean dryer.  Bleach the heck out of the clothes.  Glare at cat. Gag. Grumble. Stomp upstairs and check on kid happily playing.  Grumble.  Jump into shower to attempt to wash the smell from memory. 

As I was standing under near boiling water, I finally took a deep breath.  Wasn't I supposed to be thankful and content in all situations?  I sighed and looked up at the bathroom ceiling that needs a paint job. "God, WHAT in the world is there to be thankful about in this????"

So I grudgingly starting making a mental list.
1. I have a dryer that works and dries our clothes.
2. We have clothes.
3. I had a good supply of detergent and bleach and didn't have to make an extra trip to the store on a rainy day.
4. It was a load of mostly towels, socks, and t-shirts that COULD be bleached.
5. Josh the peeing cat was a birthday present to Frank and the cat makes him happy.
6. We had the money to get Josh and rescue him from the humane society.
7. I have a sensitive nose and caught this before my kids went to school smelling like cat pee.
8. At least I didn't close the dryer with the cat in it.
9. At least it wasn't the dog.
10. At least is wasn't a kid.

At this point I was laughing out loud in the shower and the list went unfinished.  And I marveled that instead of grumbling, I was now giggling and realizing just how ridiculous the whole thing was and how fortunate we are to even be in the position to have this happen!  First world problem.

I know that all situations are not this easy to laugh at.  Oh, believe me.  I know.  But there is always something to thank God for.  If nothing else amid your dark days, you are reading this.  Alive and breathing.  In your own language. On a device that was merely science fiction a few decades ago.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18), God, for cat pee.