Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thursday Thoughts

"It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them."

Leo F. Buscaglia

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blog Rewind--The Truth of the Matter

This week I will register to attend The National Hearts at Home Conference in March. Below you will find a blog I wrote a long while ago about the first time I attended Hearts. It was an amazing experience and one I recommend. I hope to see you there!



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Shuffling through my registration papers, I traced a line from the title of the sectional to the room location. Acting without thought, I began to make my way from where I stood on Illinois State University's campus to where I was scheduled to go. I did not know the speaker then... but I had already heard that if you have a chance to hear Julie Barnhill speak, you have to take it.

A knot grew in the pit of my stomach. It is one thing to hear a well-recommended speaker... It is another thing ENTIRELY if the topic makes you cringe.

I looked down at the paper again. I glanced at the map and wished I was better with directions. Time was ticking away and I knew I would not walk in late. Where was this room? What was it called? Braden... I was looking for Braden. Glancing at room names, now back in the main building, my unfamiliarity with all things ISU was obvious. I was not yet lost but certainly not found and I knew I could not ask the way. Then, they would know...

I had not expected Hearts at Home to be... so... well... honest. There was so much laughter, so much joy... but I was caught off guard by the fact that people talked about the struggles they had. I anticipated a lot of sharing about our kids, our successes, our moments of pride. But, this sectional confirmed for me that this was a place about more than all that... not separate from it... but interlinked. The good AND the bad, the beautiful AND the ugly, the moments most proud AND those filled with shame.

I looked down again. The title looked back. "She's Gonna Blow!", it read. And there I stood, just outside the door.

Now, there are no perfect mommas. I know this very well. But I have always wanted to do a good job. I have always wanted to be kind, connected, compassionate. And yet, standing outside of Braden, not knowing what to expect, the reality hit me full force. In the two years since Mark and I had left Trinity with Noah and Benjamin, our number of children had literally doubled. Our home was too small, my patience was thin and I was juggling the lives of school aged children and babies not yet in school. My frustration with many things had gotten the best of me and sometimes my tone was too strong and my anger too big as I sought to care for our fast-growing brood. I wanted to do better. I wanted to be better. And now, standing outside in the hall, I wondered what people would think if they saw me enter this room? What would my friends, my MOMs Group, my family think if they knew I was going to a sectional about anger?

I stood there for a moment feeling lonely and shameful and small. Surely, this room would hold only a handful of moms who struggled with anger from time to time. Feeling conflicted, I decided that I had come to this conference for help, for support, and maybe it could be found on the other side of the door. Grabbing the handle firmly, committed now to the task at hand, I opened the door and could not believe the sight that lay before me.

Braden was not a room. Braden was an AUDITORIUM. It was, in fact, the name of the auditorium that held ALL the mass meetings at Hearts at Home, making the space easily able to hold thousands of women. And, inside, there were hundreds and hundreds of women taking their seats.

I actually, physically stopped then, amazed at what I saw. In even walking through the doors, all these women admitted to struggling with anger in one way or another. Some had been angry for years... some for a day here and there. But, however it happened that they came to this place, this sectional, it did not really matter. It mattered that they were here and that they were telling the truth. Sometimes, parenting is HARD. Sometimes, it gets the best of us. Sometimes, we need to admit that we get mad at our kids. For some, seated in that room that day, their anger had turned to rage. Some were just afraid it might. But, what struck me most was that there were so many of us there. And all of a sudden, it became real to me... this is NORMAL.

I love my children with all that is in me to love. I play with them, wrestle with them, read to them, care for them each and every day. I want what is best for them and want to do right by them... but sometimes.... all this closeness and all this love and all this hope and all this planning and working and trying and doing come right up against the unpredictable reality that is child-rearing at it's core. And sometimes, I get mad. Sometimes, I manage that in a way that is good and healthy. And sometimes, I find myself regretting my tone, my volume level, my choice of words. And you know what I learned that day in Braden Hall? It happens to you too. And, in letting that truth sink into my soul, healing took place.

There were a lot of people there that day. And Julie spoke such grace and truth to the whole of us. She shared her story and, in doing so, gave us permission to own our stories as well. The room was full of people who are trying to do better. Our kids see that, you know. My kids see that there are more days that I pull them close than days when my voice sends us all in different directions. There are more days of laughter and game playing and working together to cook or bake than days when we fall into bed frustrated and still a little bit mad. More days of laughter, less days of tears. And it is good. Can you see it, too? We are not called to be perfect. What good will that do our children? No, my friend, we are called to be real. REAL. And in doing so, we help our precious babies to see what life really looks like. In being real, we show our kids what it looks like to fall and get back up, to make a mistake and ask forgiveness, to be sad or angry and find a way to laugh again. That is what they need from us and that is what will impact their every day lives for years and years to come.

Seeing that group of women gathered together on that day impacted me in significant ways. I know what it is like to feel alone but at Hearts at Home, I realized that even on my loneliest day, I stand in good company with thousands of mommas who are doing the best they can. Just like me. Just like you.



Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Morning Routines and Chaos: Knowing Better, Doing Better

It has been said that "when you know better, you do better". In my case, this is not always true. Especially as it relates to mornings... school mornings... and children... and well, being on time. I am sure this never happens to you, but we really struggle with getting out of the house on time.

How's this for a math problem? If four children need to be at school by 8:25 AM and all the children lay out their clothes the night before and pack their snacks the night before and if school is only 7 minutes from home and if all the children know exactly what they need to do to be ready for school the next day, what time do they need to get up to meet their goal? I am beginning to think that the problem is unanswerable.

If you have heard me speak on Sticks (http://www.nadiaswearingen-friesen.com/), you know this is something we have worked on in our family before. In fact, we have fully conquered the problem of morning chaos. Conquered. But somehow, every now and then, I forget what I know I once knew and we revert back to the insanity of mornings unleashed.

It's no fun. We begin with my getting the kids up. We have alarm clocks but I give in to mommy guilt and start rubbing their little backs to wake them up. Turns out this takes time. And, because I take responsibility for waking them up, guess who does NOT take the responsibility? That's right... my children. And it is, after all, their task to do.

From there, I begin to follow them around, reminding them to do the things I know they know to do. I am stressed. They are stressed and all of it seems to take forever. When you know better, you do better, right? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. Somewhere along the way, I fell off the no-nag wagon and began to ignore the advice I give to others when I speak. Until today.

This morning routine problem has been worsening for weeks. Yesterday, we left the house a whopping 25 minutes later than we should. We drove in frustrated silence the 7 minutes to school where my children went in with little time to play before starting their lessons for the day. I knew we needed a change and that the change would come from me.

After school I sat them down and told them that I would give them NO reminders in the morning. I told them that they already knew what I would say. They know what they must do. We do the same things everyday. I told them we were leaving at 8 AM and that they would be ready by then or... get this... they would not go. I explained that there are plenty of chores that need to be done during the day at home and that I would LOVE the help. Turns out when a child is faced with a day of chores, school looks pretty good. : )

Here is what I know: children are smart and they know what they need to do. They also know that if I will take responsibility for telling them every, single thing, they do not need to think about all that stuff. The job, fully theirs, becomes mine. When I allow this to happen in my own home, how am I preparing my children to become responsible adults someday down the road? What am I teaching them? What do my actions say about my belief that they are capable of doing age appropriate tasks to prepare themselves for the day ahead? Today, I began to remember that I know better.

So, the kids woke up this morning and I poured myself a cup of coffee. They started to get ready for school. Because I was not following them, fussing at them, I had time to make breakfast... baked pancakes and sausage. To help them get ready, I posted a reminder list (with pictures included for my littlest one) and worked hard to stay out of the fray. I got dressed, brushed my hair and teeth and washed my weary face. All the while, my four, owning their own work, ran around the house putting away lunch stuff, gathering school supplies, remembering their own homework, checking the posted list and doing what needed to be done. They ate a hot meal, put dishes in the dishwasher, pushed in their chairs and cleaned up their mess. And, at 8:00, I announced I was leaving and reached for my coat. Two of my kids were already in the van and the other two flew out of the house just in front of me. We left the house 25 minutes earlier than yesterday and I said almost nothing to make that happen. But I had time to cook, time to hug and kiss my babies, time to get myself ready, time...

What does morning look like at your house? What supports have you put in place to help your children know what they need to do? At our house, we use Sticks. But, it takes more than a system to make it all work. I have to trust that I have taught my children well and then let them show me what they know. I have to stand back and allow them do what they will do and let them hold the responsibility they own without my trying to snatch it back. And when I do all of this, what I see is almost miraculous. Four children in coats in the van at 8 AM... and a reminder that they are learning what I am teaching them every, single day.

Sometimes, in order to teach our children, we need to say less, do less and take a big step back. When we do this, we will see that they are capable of far more than we may think and that doing for themselves feels good. When we do this, we may find that we are driving to school with smiles on our faces... what a wonderful way to start the day!

Blessings on your day!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Seminary and Law School... Or Maybe Not.

Last week, as I was tucking Josiah into bed and after I had kissed him goodnight, he asked me a question.

"Momma, do they still speak Hebrew in Israel?"

"Hmm...buddy, I am really not sure but I am happy to look that up for you." I replied.

Josiah was thoughtful a moment and answered, "I would like to translate the alphabet into Hebrew for them."

Josiah is 7.

Last night, Mark and I were watching the Vikings game and the kids were off doing things of their own for a while. Josiah wandered back in and sat down next to me to read. I could hear Noah and Benjamin laughing at an inside Star Wars joke and Elizabeth singing to her dolls. I leaned over and kissed Josiah on the top of his head and asked him what he was reading.

"The Plague of Hail." he answered calmly.

I looked down and found him holding the Bible in one hand and tracing the sentences with the other.

He is seven years old.

Sometimes I think we are given a glimpse into what our children may grow to become. The glimpses may be brief and we may miss them altogether but I am convinced those views are there. And maybe it will all come to fruition or maybe our vision is clouded and we see what we want to see but the longer I mother these children, the more I think it is true. We get to see their gifts. We get to see their strengths. And maybe, just maybe, those qualities have something to do with who they will become.

Josiah, I think, is headed for the ministry.

When Noah and Benjamin were little, Mark and I were struggling to find time to spend with one another. Felt like bedtime kept getting pushed later in the night and by the time the kids were asleep, we were too tired to talk. We decided to talk to the boys about our situation so they could hear that going to bed and staying in bed was really important to us. The boys were 3 and 4.

"Boys, daddy and I love each other," we began, "and we are going to be married to each other for the rest of our lives. We love to spend time with both of you but we need time to talk, time to spend together, so our relationship to each other stays strong. So, we need you to stay in bed so we can have that time; so we can be momma and daddy to you and husband and wife to each other for a very long time."

Noah sat thoughtfully and then began, "How long were you dating before you married each other and had Ben and me?". He was four years old at the time.

I looked at my boy and said, "Four years buddy. We dated each other for four years."

Without missing a beat, Noah responded, "Then I guess you have had time to talk."

Law school. Noah is headed for law school.

Sometimes we get a little glimpse into what our children do well...

Like when Benjamin runs down a soccer field as fast as his legs will go... and suddenly a smile breaks out on his beautiful face.

Like when Elizabeth walks into a new situation, a new place, a new class with the confidence of one far older than she... as though everyone there had been awaiting her arrival.

Little glimpses. Beautiful peeks into a possible future... or at the very least, an opportunity to see what they love, what they are great at, what they have been given to use to make a difference in this world.

And what are we to do with it all? Should I run off and open a law school savings account or start saving seminary dollars? Should I fast track Noah into speech and debate clubs and remove the distraction of soccer and baseball? Why do we get to see it at all?

What if the point of these views or visions is three-fold? I see it like this...

1. I have the chance to affirm my child in what it is they do best. But I have to be really careful to remind myself that strengths have a way of changing over time. I need to be open to what is new in my children today. Yesterday it may have been law school, tomorrow it may be teaching. But, hearing me name their strengths can effect the way my children see themselves. It can help them remember, on a really tough day, that there are things that they do well... and that these gifts will be needed some day.

2. I have the chance to help my child prepare for their place in the whole, wide, world. As they are affirmed and their gifts are seen, I have the delightful opportunity to remind each of my four that they are important and that God has a plan for their lives. Now, I don't know if it will matter at all but when I think of how that must feel, to grow up knowing you are needed and important, it really makes me smile. What does that do for the heart of a six-year-old struggling to learn to read? What does that do to the esteem of a 13 year old learning to stand up against the pressure of peers. Knowing you have a purpose... a God-created purpose... seems like a pretty powerful and positive thing.

3. I get to be reminded of the wonder in it all. There is great WONDER in parenting, friends. Sometimes we are too weary to see it but honestly, it is there. Every day, I get to wake up to these four beautiful faces and discover strengths and weaknesses that are fully owned by them. I cannot take the credit, nor should I try. But, watching them develop into the people they will be is an amazing thing to even be this close to. Benjamin's athleticism, Elizabeth's compassion, Josiah's heart, Noah's vision... all of it astounds me. Watching a little person I so deeply love find out what matters to them... and what they can do with that... is completely and totally wonder-full.

I have no idea what will become of my kids when the path they choose is theirs. I have no idea if a lawyer or pastor live somewhere under my roof. And truly, none of that matters. What matters to me is that today I find a way to help them see what God has given them to offer back to His great big world. Today, what matters is that I affirm my babies and help them find their feet. Because someday THEY will choose. Someday, the paths will be before them and in a step of faith and courage they will set their foot upon one and a new part of their journey will begin. And I can only hope that what I say today and what I see today will help to prepare them for that path... and that as they take that very first step, they will do so knowing they are loved and accepted and seen and heard. And always have been.

Blessings on your day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Food


Friday dinners are made for fun! Looking for an idea? How about this? Bubble Pizza is a filling favorite of our family and is quickly and easily made. Give it a shot on a night when you are looking for something everyone will enjoy.

Bubble Pizza

Ingredients:

2 rolls of biscuits (Grands work well)
1 jar pizza sauce
assorted pizza toppings of your choice (We use browned Italian sausage or veggies)
mozzarella cheese
Italian seasoning

Directions:

Preheat the oven according to the directions on the rolls.
Open the tubes of refrigerated rolls and separate the rolls. Cut each roll into four pieces.
Scatter the rolls into a greased (we use Pam) 9x13.
Put pan in the oven to allow the rolls to begin to bake.
Once the rolls begin to puff and brown, remove the pan (before the rolls are done).
Pour the pizza sauce over the all the rolls.
Add your pizza toppings. We put Italian sausage (browned) on half and leave half meatless.
Top this with mozzarella cheese. We sometimes add a bit of cheddar, too.
Lightly sprinkle Italian seasoning over the cheese (just a titch...).
Put the pan back in the oven until it is bubbling throughout and your cheese is melted.
Remove pan and cut into squares.
Serve with a side salad and beverage!
Easy peasy Friday meal! Enjoy!
Blessings on your day!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Thursday Thought


"Affirming words from moms and dads are like light switches. Speak a word of affirmation at the right moment in a child's life and it's like lighting up a whole roomful of possibilities."

-- Gary Smalley

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thankless

Such a thankless job, parenting. If you are reading along here, you likely know this to be true. We work for our families day and night; washing clothes, cleaning the house, wiping noses and brushing hair. We read repetitive books, draw with chalk, sweep up Cheerios, and change more diapers than we can count. While we do this all out of love for our kids, the reality is that very seldom do we hear a word of gratitude. While we may not work in hopes hearing it, sometimes the silence is deafening.

When Elizabeth came home from China, Noah was 7, Benjamin was 6 and Josiah was 2. From the outside looking in, we had a bunch of very young children. They seemed close in age and while it was very busy, we loved being surrounded by all those little kids.

I am not sure how I didn't see it coming, but honestly, I had no idea that someday we would have a kindergartner, a first grader, a fifth grader and a middle-schooler, ALL AT ONCE. What looked like a pile of little precious, people 5 years ago turned into a busy bunch of beloved babies, growing, grown and going in a million directions at once. On a regular day, I can find myself reviewing letter sounds, teaching spelling words, refining leadership skills and contemplating the effect of hormones on a preteen mind. There is a span to it that leaves me both loving my varied life and wishing for a nap.

Last week was busy and stressful, to be sure. The end of the academic quarter necessitated a lot of tests and Mark and I both helped children finish projects, review for quizzes and get ready to wrap the whole thing up. Most of the kids handled the schedule fine. The older boys, who have more things due at the end of a quarter, had a harder time. We reviewed good study skills and tried to help them stay organized. By the end of the week, it was unraveling for Noah. While he does well in school, keeping track of all that is needed takes up a lot of room in my boy's head. He was tired and weary and worn.

A fresh start is good for everyone. Tuesday, school returned and with it came a new quarter and new classes and new assignments. But before we could jump into all that, I sat with Noah on Monday night and asked to see his assignment book. We went over ways to make it work better for him... ways to think it through and track his work so he does not feel overwhelmed by details slipping by. I offered him an incentive to stick to it and told him I would ask to see it on Tuesday night.

He was excited after school the next day to show me what he had done. I looked and listened and encouraged him to keep it up. He went about his day and I went about mine... books to read, dinner to cook, kids to hug and some to scold.

Before I go to bed, I always go and look in on the kids. I love to watch them sleep. I will stand in their rooms with a little flashlight, cover them up and pray for them, one by one. Last night, I did just that. Elizabeth had a hard night and I spent a few minutes praying in the dark by her bed. Then I tip-toed quietly into the boys room and did the same. Prayed for their friends, their difficulties, their gifts, their spouses-to-be. And then I headed off to bed.

You know, by now, that in the hallway hangs a dry erase board that I use to write notes and reminders and words of encouragement to my kids. As I passed this board, I noticed a bit of handwriting that was not mine.

It read, "Thanks for helping me with my assignment book. It made my day a lot better."

I stood in the hall and smiled. Yes, this is a thankless job. Maybe that's okay because when one comes, spoken or written or whispered, oh it tastes so sweet.

Little things matter... they matter a lot. And what you did today made a difference to those you love the most. Whether they said thank you or not.

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Writing, Speaking and Resolutions

This week is beginning with an overwhelming feeling that I am somehow behind. With a holiday yesterday, Monday is gone, and Tuesday is knee-deep in details. I have things to mail, a bank stop to make, an article to write, a blog to mull over and speaking engagements to plan. I have a lasagna to cook, garlic bread to bake, kids to care for and a marriage that cannot be set aside. There are a lot of things to do and while all of it is chosen, it leaves me wanting a nap.

Last week, a friend of mine asked on Facebook what dreams we had for ourselves. Given the fact that my resolutions are still fresh in my mind, the answer came quickly for me. I want to write. I love my speaking ministry and want to do more. Two easy sentences but so much to do!

So, today I am breaking it down and looking at it piece by piece. Sometimes, when we make those New Year's Goals, we are left with a broad stroke, a beautiful dream on a huge canvas. But the picture will only become clear as the details are added... a splash of ink here, a flower there, a bit of red, a glimmer in an eye, a shadow or highlight and then before our eyes, a masterpiece!

Today is my day of details. I am reminding myself that it is not enough to want to write. I must, in fact, do it. I must plan an outline, do my research, pray for guidance and wisdom and pull together the message that I want to share. It is not enough to passively accept speaking engagements. I must, in fact, seek them, advertise for them, expand my topic list and then get the word out. It is not enough to make the goals. I must, in fact, break them down into tiny pieces and then find room in my life to chip away at that list. It is in accomplishing these little things that the beauty of the whole will begin to be seen.

In the end, my to-do list will sound less like a bunch of "have-to" and more like a lot of "want-to". Because that is really the truth. Today may be full and I may feel behind but I am privileged to work at what I love to do.

So tell me. Need a speaker? I would love to help you out. Planning a parenting retreat or MOPs group or MOMs Group? It is what I do and what I love and you and I need to chat. Need a writer? Peruse the blog and see what you think. I have several works in progress and am excited to do more.

What about you? What resolutions did you set for yourself that someone here might be able to help you reach? How amazing would it be if we came together and helped one another to do the very things that God is nudging us to accomplish this year? I want to speak more. I want to write more. What about you?

Blessings on your day.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A Dry-Erase Message and an Unhappy Boy

If you have been reading along, maybe you saw my post last week about the small things we can do with and for our families that make a big difference. (If you missed it, check the past post log on the right and look for the one about Passive Programming.) And you also know that I have messages to my family written on several mirrors and dry erase boards around our home. I love knowing that they are getting little reminders from me about how loved, how beautiful, how smart they are.

Tonight, Benjamin was feeling out of sorts. At some point in the afternoon, he had reached a point where he was just unhappy. We talked to him, gave him space, offered more yes than no responses and still he was not himself. He reluctantly went to basketball practice and came home nearly in tears. I sat down with him, one one one, and he told me that at practice he "sucked" and "couldn't play at all" and he sat a few minutes and cried.

I tried to make it right but the truth is I just can't. I cannot make him happy and that may not be my job. My job is to sit with him and love on him and listen to him and in the end pray like crazy that some of that makes a difference.

It was time for his shower and he asked if he could use the shower in the bathroom in Mark and my room. I said yes and went in with him to check and be sure he had a towel to use. As I was leaving to give him time to himself, he looked at the mirror and cocked his head.

"You're going to miss this..." he said aloud, reading the message I left Mark and myself. "What mom? What will you miss? What does this mean?"

I smiled at him then... gazing at that face I know and love so well. I reached out and touched his sweaty, curly hair... the only one of my kids who inherited my unruly locks. Leaning in, I kissed his forehead and smiled again.

"You, bud. We will miss you. When you are grown, we will miss you so much. Sometimes it helps to have a reminder now to pay attention because we just love you and the days go awful fast."

He looked at me then with a funny look on his face, like he was trying to understand. He looked me square in the eyes and stepped in close. He wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his head on my chest. He hugged me tightly and then looked up at me again and he smiled. Arms still surrounding me, he looked down and we stood there like that for a minute or two... my 11 year old boy and I.

I leaned in then and whispered to him.

"Benjamin, this is my best thing today." And I kissed the top of his head.

When he stepped away, there was a tear in his eye but on his face, a smile. A weight I could not identify had washed away and Benjamin was Benjamin again.

We never know, do we? What will help today? What can I say or do or refrain from doing that will connect to the heart of my child? It can be a shot in the dark... or sometimes just the truth.

The truth is this: I love my boy and standing still with his arms around my waist at the end of a long day is just what we needed most. Both of us. And the truth is that when it is all said and done and my sweet babies all grown and gone, I want memories like this to fill my heart. A simple exchange between momma and son that, for that one minute, made all the difference in the world.

Blessings on your day.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti and the Bricks We Hold

I am struggling today. As I go off to work out at the health club and enjoy a healthy snack, as I drink freely from a bottle of clean, cold water, as I write out the ingredients needed for our weekend menu, I am acutely aware that none of this is happening in Haiti. When I was in college, I did a short-term mission trip to the Dominican Republic. We had contact with Dominicans and with Haitians. I saw the poverty for my own eyes and came to love the people living on the island of Hispaniola. Those faces are in my mind today. I cannot set it aside. I probably shouldn't try.

Years ago, Steven Spielberg directed the movie Schindler's List. The whole movie was shot in black and white... the whole movie except one small detail. A red coat. A little girl was seen a handful of times in a tiny, red coat. Why? Why would Spielberg splash a bit of color onto a child's jacket? To make us see. To make us focus. When faced with extreme chaos and despair, we can easily compartmentalize the pain associated with big loss. What breaks our heart? Knowing that it happened to an individual. We may be able to think through the loss of so many Jewish lives... reason it... separate ourselves from it to make it possible to understand it from a distance. This is very difficult when we try to understand the loss of just one child. Just one girl. A girl in a small red coat. Our minds and hearts draw near to one in a way that is different from the pain of millions.

My friends, what happened this week in Haiti happened to individuals. It happened to men and women and children. It happened to people with names... like Grace and Daphne and Cleo. And these people, these children, are sitting there right now while you sit reading this. Except they are likely hungry... and tired... and afraid... and sad.... and feeling terribly hopeless. They are real people, like you and me, and they are awash in extreme need.

What are we to do? What am I to do? What can I teach my children about all of this? I have been thinking about these questions all day long and even spent some time wondering if I am supposed to go. One of the things I have wrestled with today is that my children go about their lives, we all go about our lives, while a whole country cries out in despair. We can easily insulate ourselves from the pain that others are experiencing. But, just because we CAN do so does not make it BEST. How can I help my children to connect to this country, these people, so far from here?

I have hatched a plan to help my children think about Haiti, pray for Haiti and do what they can--in some small way-- for Haiti. Tomorrow will be our day... and this is what we will do:

1. We will get get up and gather for breakfast. Before we eat, each child will share a bit of information about Haiti. I will print these up for them tonight and things to be included will be a map, information about the language they speak, details about the foods they eat, etc...

2. For breakfast, we will eat Haitian food. This is the recipe I am planning on making:

Beyen

Ingredients:
3 ripe bananas
1 T. flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. vanilla
1 T. sugar
1/8 t. baking soda

Directions:
Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Drop teaspoon-full in very hot oil until golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.

I don't think this recipe will make very much and maybe that is okay. I am hoping to raise some awareness for my family about what other people live on every, single day.

3. One of my facebook friends has posted some pictures of life in Haiti (before the earthquake) that we will look at together. We also have several friends and acquaintances who are adopting from Haiti right now. We will pray, by name, for these sweet little ones.

4. At lunch time, we will eat Haitian food again. Here is my plan:

Beans and Rice

Ingredients:
2 cups of long grain rice
1 cup of red kidney beans
1 finely chopped onion
1 chopped hot green pepper
1/4 cup salt pork or bacon cut into small cubes
1 tbsp of butter
2 chopped cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
1. Cook the beans in 4 cups of water for 2 hours or until tender in a medium pot
2. Drain the beans but keep the water which will be used to cook the rice
3. Fry the salt pork or bacon until crisp (use oil if needed)
4. Add the onion, garlic, and green pepper
5. Add the beans along with salt and pepper to taste
6. Add the water used to cook the beans and bring to a boil
7. Add the rice and cook for 20-25 minutes.

This is a meal that is an absolute staple for many, many people around the world. To be honest, this is a much fancier version of a very basic meal that provides sustenance to those who live on far less than we do, each and every day.

5. After lunch, we will spend some more time in prayer.

6. In the afternoon, we will find a way to help financially. This will be done either through a donation or through a shopping trip to buy supplies. We know several people who are heading to Haiti soon. If they need supplies, that is the way we will go. Otherwise, we will have the kids participate in giving some of their own money to this important cause.

7. Dinner. You guessed it. I have another Haitian recipe.

Chicken in Sauce

Ingredients:

Ingredients
1 (3.5-4 lb) fryer, cut into 1/8 's

1 large onion, sliced thin
1 scotch bonnet pepper, chopped fine
6 garlic cloves, smashed or minced garlic
3/4 cup tomato sauce (have more on hand, if needed)
chicken broth as needed
3 tablespoons sugar
salt, to taste
2-3 limes or lemons
vegetable oil

Directions
1. Wash chicken well & pat dry.
2. each piece with limes/lemons and sprinkle with salt.
3. Heat oil in heavy ovenproof pan.
4. Preheat oven to 375°F.
5. Fry chicken pieces in hot oil.
6. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine garlic, sugar, tomato sauce and salt; mix well.
7. After 5 minutes of frying the chicken, add sliced onions and chopped pepper, for 5-7 minutes.
8. Remove pan from heat and drain excess oil and add the tomato mixture, stirring well.
9. Place the pan in oven & bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked completely.
10. Transfer chicken to serving platter
11. Served with diri blanc (plain white rice) - pour sauce over rice.

It is probably important to tell you now that several of my children are pretty picky. I wish this wasn't so and I know that it will make these three meals especially difficult for them. But there is value in that struggle and value in that awareness and value in thinking about life for someone else.

The thing that just breaks my heart is that when I looked for Haitian recipes online today, I had to go by many, many articles on what the poor in Haiti actually eat. Reading these titles broke my heart and caused a deep sense of conviction in me. Our family is deeply blessed... and the truth is, we take that for granted. Even with the financial struggles that have plagued us since the recession began, we STILL have more than people all over the world. And yet, we complain. We worry. We sit in our warm, nice home with food in our bellies and supplies in the cabinets and back-up supplies in the basement. We have socks on our feet and can literally throw away socks with holes! How dare we take that for granted? How dare we not look around ourselves and see this beautiful world full of people and ask ourselves, "What can I do? How can I help?"

So, what did those articles about Haitian food say?

"PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - It was lunchtime in one of Haiti's worst slums and Charlene Dumas was eating mud.

With food prices rising, Haiti's poorest can't afford even a daily plate of rice, and some take desperate measures to fill their bellies.

Charlene, 16 with a 1-month-old son, has come to rely on a traditional Haitian remedy for hunger pangs: cookies made of dried yellow dirt from the country's central plateau.

The mud has long been prized by pregnant women and children here as an antacid and source of calcium. But in places like Cite Soleil, the ocean-side slum where Charlene shares a two-room house with her baby, five siblings and two unemployed parents, cookies made of dirt, salt and vegetable shortening have become a regular meal.

"When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Dumas said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the 6 pounds, 3 ounces he weighed at birth.

Though she likes their buttery, salty taste, Charlene said the cookies also give her stomach pains. "When I nurse, the baby sometimes seems colicky too," she said.

States of emergency
Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for bio-fuels is pressuring food markets as well.

The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places.

The global price hikes, together with floods and crop damage from the 2007 hurricane season, prompted the U.N. Food and Agriculture Agency to declare states of emergency in Haiti and several other Caribbean countries.

Caribbean leaders held an emergency summit in December to discuss cutting food taxes and creating large regional farms to reduce dependence on imports.

Dirt cookies become bargains
At the market in the La Saline slum, two cups of rice now sell for 60 cents, up 10 cents from December and 50 percent from a year ago. Beans, condensed milk and fruit have gone up at a similar rate, and even the price of the edible clay has risen over the past year by almost $1.50. Dirt to make 100 cookies now costs $5, the cookie makers say.

Still, at about 5 cents apiece, the cookies are a bargain compared to food staples. About 80 percent of people in Haiti live on less than $2 a day and a tiny elite controls the economy.

Merchants truck the dirt from the central town of Hinche to the La Saline market, a maze of tables of vegetables and meat swarming with flies. Women buy the dirt, then process it into mud cookies in places such as Fort Dimanche, a nearby shanty town.

Carrying buckets of dirt and water up ladders to the roof of the former prison for which the slum is named, they strain out rocks and clumps on a sheet, and stir in shortening and salt. Then they pat the mixture into mud cookies and leave them to dry under the scorching sun.

The finished cookies are carried in buckets to markets or sold on the streets.

An unpleasant taste
A reporter sampling a cookie found that it had a smooth consistency and sucked all the moisture out of the mouth as soon as it touched the tongue. For hours, an unpleasant taste of dirt lingered.

Assessments of the health effects are mixed. Dirt can contain deadly parasites or toxins, but it can also strengthen the immunity of fetuses in the womb to certain diseases, said Gerald N. Callahan, an immunology professor at Colorado State University who has studied geophagy, the scientific name for dirt-eating.

Haitian doctors say depending on the cookies for sustenance risks malnutrition.

"Trust me, if I see someone eating those cookies, I will discourage it," said Dr. Gabriel Thimothee, executive director of Haiti's health ministry.

Marie Noel, 40, sells the cookies in a market to provide for her seven children. Her family also eats them.

"I'm hoping one day I'll have enough food to eat, so I can stop eating these," she said. "I know it's not good for me."

I want to share this information with my family. I think beans and rice might taste okay after we read this together. Eating Haitian food will not help Haiti but raising children who understand what is happening in the world around them just might. It just might make it real enough to make them wonder what part they play. It just might make them focus on the "red coat" in Haiti and not turn their backs on the hurt of so many.

Friends, we have to find out what we can do. We have to educate our families and help our children to see that they have a part to play in the lives of people all over the world. We can do that in a way that is positive or negative... but what I want for my family is to help them find a way to be a force for good in the world. I want them to look around and understand that there is a Kingdom being built, God's beautiful Kingdom, and that in each of their little hands they hold one important brick. It is their job as Children of the King to find the right place to carefully, lovingly place their brick. It is a big and important job.

What about you? What brick do you hold? What will you do with it to make a difference today?

Blessings on your day...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dry Erase Markers and Passive Programming

It's a cleaning day in our house... not my favorite way to spend a morning. Mark is at work and all the kids are busy at school. I am walking, room to room, with a plethora of cleaning supplies and scrubbing bathrooms, bedrooms, hallways and such. I wish I liked it more. I wish I was better at it all. Truth is that it is discipline for me and most of the time I end up feeling a little bitter that I have so much to do. All my kids have chores and all those chores are done every day. But in the end, someone has to scrub it all and that someone is usually me.

Today, as I moved from room to room, I decided it was time for me to think about ways to see this work as an extension of my parenting. While washing a bathroom floor, I found myself thinking about the years we spent as residence directors at Trinity Christian College. It was my job then to come up with ways to extend the education being offered in the classrooms by doing programming for the resident students. We lived and breathed programming and came to understand that there were many ways to teach students. One way was active... getting them involved in doing something that taught a life lesson that they would need somewhere down the road. The other way was passive... leaving the information behind in places where students would gather in hopes of them finding it themselves. While the latter is less sure, truth be told, it was more effective. When students found themselves in contact with educational material that was not being pushed upon them, they eagerly soaked it up. Is there a lesson there for my parenting? How can this apply passive programming to what I want to offer my children?

Grabbing a pack of dry erase markers, I got to work! What do I need my kids to hear from me today? Here is what I did:

We keep a dry erase board near the bedrooms for posting reminders to the kids. Instead of nagging and crabbing at all my sweeties, I can leave the information for them to find. Here is our board today:


All my kids share a bathroom and are in there many times a day. With common culture brewing a sense of entitlement and discontent among the Millennial Generation, I want to find ways to foster positive thinking in the Friesen Four. Here is what is written on the mirror in their bathroom:

(Where do you see God's blessings today?)

Raising a girl is a big responsibility... especially today! It worries me that a whole generation of girls are being encouraged to set aside standards and often disrespect themselves. I want to raise a strong, smart girl who knows that she is beautiful and intelligent. I want her to have a connection to her Creator that leads her to find her own value in Him. Here is what I wrote on the mirror in Elizabeth's room... the very place she stands every day to brush her hair.

(God made you smart and beautiful!)

Mark and I are not exempt from losing our way. Frustrating days and a loud, busy house can lead us to a place where we forget to find value in what's in front of us today. On the mirror in our bathroom, I wrote this:

(You are gonna miss this...)

The downstairs bathroom in our house is used by visitors to our home as well as by our family during active times. Can I remind us that in this place, in this home, we are all deeply loved? Here is what I wrote on the mirror downstairs:

(You are loved in this place...)

My friends, this job of being a wife and mother is big. It can feel overwhelming. We can feel eternally behind or frustrated or stressed. We can lose our way and find ourselves falling short of the goals we set for our time with our kids. But, we must remember this: Powerful moments in mothering our babies are found in the minutiae of our ordinary days. It is the truth we pass to our children. It is the minute we spend with a child on our lap. It is the reminder, again, that they are loved and valuable and seen. It is the tiny things we do that pour into the hearts of our babies every, single day. It matters. All of it matters to them.

What can you do today? What tiny thing can you offer to those you love best that can help them to learn what you know matters most? It doesn't have to be something you say. What can you give them today?

Blessings on your day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Another Hearts at Home Blog!


Looking for something to read? I am guest blogging at http://www.hearts-at-home.org/ again today and would love it if you stopped by!

Be sure to check out the conference area, if you have not already! The National Conference is an amazing experience and a wonderful place to find encouragement for this mothering journey. Take a peek!

Blessings on your day!

video

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nintendo, Texting and the Jones': I Don't Have To...

After working through yesterday's post, I started thinking about the decisions we make daily as parents to our kids. While I processed this in my own mind, it became clear to me that a lot of choices we make for our families are based on pressures we feel from outside sources. Sometimes, this is cultural. Sometimes, it is fear-based. Sometimes, decisions are made on the fly and when we look back on them, we wish we had done it all a bit differently.

What if we released ourselves from some of those pressures and changed our focus from fear to freedom? What would our parenting look like then? What if we let ourselves embrace not the "have-to" but instead the "don't have-to" in life and focus our decisions on what we want for our families today?

Here is a list of things that might help us to find our way:

1. I do not have to be afraid what might happen if I ______ (insert your own idea here or choose from this list: put off potty training, co-sleep with my child, turn off the TV, say no to constant demands, allow a pacifier, breastfeed, bottle feed... etc...). I need only pay attention to my child's needs and the quiet voice inside that tells me how to respond. I will not parent out of fear.

2. I do not have to keep with the Jones or the Smiths or any other neighbor down the street. I need only to provide what I feel is important for my child and my family. This applies equally well to clothing labels or techno-gadgets. I will not parent out of pressure.

3. I do not have to make my child happy all day, everyday. In fact, it just might be my job to help my sweet little one to figure out that happy has little do with having and much to do with being. I will not parent to meet my child's desires but instead to meet the goals my husband and I have for loving and raising my kids.

4. I do not have to say yes. Not to video-games, not to snack requests, not to co-ed sleep overs or Spring Break trips or anything else that raises the hair on the back of my neck. It is my job as their momma to see the big picture... delights and dangers... and help them to learn to choose well. I will not parent out of a desire to do the "next big thing".

5. I do not have to: let my kids watch movies I think are too much for them, allow video games to be played whenever asked, provide email addresses for grade school children, allow them on social networking sites they are not ready for, provide cell phones for texting, say yes to what Johnny's mom says yes to, or do anything else that I think might be inappropriate for my child. I will not parent to meet common culture but instead to prepare my child to engage and evaluate common culture.

I do not have to do any of these things and do you know why? Because I am a mom to four sweet children that I love with all my heart, and with that job comes much responsibility. Mark and I are the ones that God blessed with their whole, young lives and we are the ones that will have to live with the choices made on their behalf. We are the ones who dream about what this family can be and we are the ones who can make or break that dream. We are the ones that they will come home to and the ones they will question about all of this and so much more. We know them best. And from that place, with my husband by my side, we will choose the path to take together. Though, with all that said, we also know that as they grow, we can and will change our minds.

My friends, hear this: You don't have to. You don't have to do the things that you know are not right for you and your kids. There is a time to embrace culture and a time to set it aside. All of it is a choice and the making of that is yours. Parenting is fluid, moving, dancing, changing all the time. The choices you make today may need some tweaking down the road... but for today, know what you choose and why. Know what you want for the family around you and be purposeful in the things that you pick. You will not answer to the Jones or the Smiths. Your accountability is not to them. Instead, it is a to a God who loves you fully and graced you with the babies at your feet. What would He have you do? What would He have you change?

It is still January and there is time for making goals. What does your family need today and how can you bring about needed change for them? Not because you have to... but instead because you can. Dream for them today and set aside the fear that drives your decisions. Freely choose... and embrace the blessings you will find.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Oprah and Ipods and Twitter and Email and How We Lose Our Way

This morning on the Oprah Show, a challenge was issued to a techno-savvy family to set aside their electronic distractions and focus more on each other. Not a new concept, but today it made me think.

What are the things that draw our attention away from the people we value most in life?
Why do we let this happen?
Is there anything we can about it all?

I am often amazed at how far technology has come. With a smart-phone and a laptop and an ipod in tow, I am able to be in contact at all times, keep up with all breaking news stories from anywhere in the world at all times, listen to music, watch favorite programs, take care of business and play electronic games at all times. There is great fun in that and in some ways, great necessity. The expectation is that anyone at all can reach me right now at any time of day or night. Stepping out of that is difficult... and the cost to me could be great. If I delay in responding to a request for a speaker, that engagement may be booked by someone else. We can lose opportunities and the worry of that keeps us checking, phoning, texting, twittering, on and on an on.

But, what's the flip side? What might it cost us personally to be so totally accessible and screen-glued day and night?

Mark and I have talked a lot about trends that have developed in families over the past 10 years. We have observed, as you have, families who go out to eat together while mom and dad check cell phones, teens listen to ipods and text their friends and children play hand-helds in worlds of their own. Seems like it all sneaks up on us... a little at a time.... until we look up one day and realize that we have not talked, really talked, to our family in months. We don't mean to get so caught up. But in our effort to stay connected to the fast moving world outside, our connections to those we love most dearly can easily fall away.

In our family, we are trying to choose a different path. I don't know if it will work but I know I want to try to keep a handle on techno-distractions so that we can stay connected to one another. Here are some boundaries that we have created to help us do just that:

1. Video games are for weekends and vacations (not school days) and are to be used in tandem. We want to build community in our home. Doing these things together can do just that.

2. Mark and I have cell phones and we have an extra phone available for use by a child who needs it. This is new to us this year and is mainly available to our 7th grader. It is NOT his phone but instead is a family phone that he is allowed, on occasion, to use.

3. Ipod use is encouraged in community. Make a play list and let us all learn to love the music you enjoy. We use speakers in our home to listen to our Ipod music together. Listening alone is great for walking the dog or a bit of down-time. It is not great for time together or for use at meals.

4. All screens are in public places. The accountability this creates is important. This is true for all computers and televisions. Screen time is limited and available after homework and chores are completed and time has been spent reading and practicing music.

It is our hope that these guidelines help us to keep the positive aspects of all these gadgets without compromising our connection to one another. While it is fun to keep culturally current, 10 years from now, I want to know that my children are close to one another, that they know how to have a verbal conversation, that they know their parents and that we know them. We want to look back and see that providing electronic devices for our children worked to help us meet the goals we set for our time together and did not, instead, detract from that.

It is all a tricky thing and something we are still working out in our own home. It is not perfect, not at all. I am still on the laptop too much and Mark has office tasks that must be done at home, after hours. But, knowing what we are working toward is helpful in reigning it all in. Because in the end, I only have today to listen to Noah's middle school worries. I only have today to think through a 5th grade science project with Benjamin. I only have this one day to see Josiah's eyes twinkle when he tells me, toothlessly, about recess in first grade. And, I only have today to watch Elizabeth pretend she is going to school on Saturdays and Sundays, backpack in tow. Tomorrow, all of this will fall away and knowing that I kept current with email and Twitter will not hold the importance that I am giving it now. Should I give it all up? Turn my back on technology like the Oprah Show talked about today? If I find a way to strike a balance... and teach that very thing to my kids... the benefit of all this stuff can enhance my life instead of drag me away. Seems like a lofty goal but one worth working for today.

What about you? What needs to be tweaked in your own home to meet the goals that matter most for your family today? What stands between you and your babies knowing one another well? Think about it some. There are choices to be made. Knowing what you want, what you value, what you desire to give your children will help you find the way. And when you are sitting together one night, laughing over a board game or shared inside joke, making that choice will be worth all the work and worry. This I know for sure.

Blessings on your day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Resolutions #2: No Do-Overs


There is a lot of pressure that comes with the beginning of a brand new year. Self-imposed, culture-created, but real nonetheless. In some ways it feels like a do-over, a chance to begin again. There is lie in that, though. Untruths. Misunderstandings. I am not sure that a do-over is really possible in life but as I think that through, it's probably okay. I would rather think of the New Year in terms of a staircase than a complete erasing of the past and a new, fresh start. I may not be proud of all I have done or all the experiences I carry with me but all of that has a part to play in the place I sit right now. So, in thinking about resolutions, I want to take a step... preferably a step UP... to get closer to a place I choose.


My kids have been in school all week. Chicago was caught in a snowstorm that left us with about 8 inches of snow and once it cleared, the lake-effect flakes hit again. I know my kids were hoping for a snow day but I did not share that desire. Much as I love to be with them, this week I wanted to have time to think through goals and start to work toward them. Many goals, no fresh starts, lots of thinking and praying and wondering what I need to do next.


Sometimes we hope for such big change that the resolutions we set for ourselves are grandiose and lofty. This is not what I am looking for this year. This year, I want to think in terms of small changes that may (or may not) lead to bigger goals. I am categorizing these adjustments in terms of areas of my life... Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, Social, Professional, etc... in hopes of hitting them all within any given week. Not sure this is possible. Not going to get discouraged if I miss. But, a small goal helps me know how to structure my time and if I know that goal is getting me somewhere, motivation grows!


This week, I went back to working out. Truth be told, I dislike it. A lot. Never have enjoyed working myself up into a sweat for the sake of doing just that. And yet, I am 42 years old and my babies are growing up and what I know for sure is that I want to be here for them. I want to watch them grow. I want to be present in their lives to wrap my arms around them when their hearts are broken and laugh with them when the day is good. I want to be here with my husband, Mark. I want to continue to walk this life we have made together for decades and decades to come. I want to grow old and have grandchildren and be active and helpful to this world and God's Kingdom. And not one bit of that can happen if I allow the physical part of me to be ignored and fall away. I hate to work out. But this week, I went Monday. I went Wednesday. I went today. Goal accomplished. Small change that can, maybe, lead to a bigger goal. It was a start for me. And knowing that I did it, even just for this one week, feels good.


What about you? If you have set aside big plans for yourself this year, what small step can you take to make it possible to see those plans come to fruition? What do you want a year from now? Five years from now? Ten? Can you break it down into small pieces, something you can really wrap your arms around, so that you can make an adjustment today?


As I sit here now, I will not seek a do-over. I will not even try to set aside the life I have lived thus far. Instead, I will try to find the stairs. One step up. That is all I need today. The movement itself is gratifying and the thought of where it might get me gives me strength for the climb. Wonder what the view is like from up there?


Blessings on your day.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Making Resolutions


As I was preparing to blog about resolutions, I came across this quote:


"Making resolutions is a cleansing ritual of self-assessment and repentance that demands personal honesty and, ultimately, reinforces humility." Eric Zorn

I love the way this is said. So true.

I am planning on writing about my own resolutions soon. I would love to hear some of yours. As we think it through together, let's also plan for ways to achieve the goals we are setting for ourselves. Hoping for change does not, in and of itself, lead to change. Planning, praying, doing... this is what is needed to move in the new directions we are seeking.

Come back soon for more on this important topic.



Blessings on your day!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Taking a Tumble


I don't know why it still surprises me but the truth is that for a mom with four kids, there is never a dull moment. Right when I think I have a handle on what is happening with my small army of children, something happens to make me realize all over again that life can change in a moment, right before my eyes.

My children went back to school yesterday after a long Christmas break. We loved the downtime together but my four LOVE school and were eager to return. They were sleepy. They were scattered. But, they were thrilled to be back with friends and teachers who love them deeply. After school, we did chores and homework and took care of details and then started practice for a winter basketball league that our family really enjoys. Mark was running kids to and from practice while I ran those that were home through showers and tucked them into bed. By 7:30 pm, Elizabeth was in bed, Benjamin was at practice, Noah was doing homework and Josiah was getting ready for a shower. Right before climbing into the tub, he was going to run downstairs to grab something and so wrapped himself in a towel and headed for the stairs.

I was standing at the top landing when it happened. No hands on the handrail, two hands holding a towel... you see where this is going, don't you? In a split second, while I watched, my third born missed a step. Down he went, totally in slow motion, first his knee... then this abdomen... then his armpit... then his hand, fingers split on a step... then his chin.... then the whole of my sweet boy sliding down the remaining stairs until he landed full out on the wood floors below. It was quiet for a split second before Josiah started to scream a high-pitched release that filled the house and cut to the core of my momma-self. You know that scream? The one that makes you run faster than you thought you could to get to the little one who is releasing that cry?

"Don't move, Josiah! Don't move!" I said, as calmly as I could. Down the stairs I flew, desperate to help my boy.

He was writhing then... towel splayed sideways and 7 year-old naked, ready for his bath, on the floor.

"My hands, Momma! Oh my hands!" he screamed.

I grabbed my boy and pulled him on my lap... there were scrapes everywhere. He was still crying, yelling, trying to talk. We sat there for a good long while, rocking together and trying to make it all better, all the while wondering if he was really okay.

We decided to trade the shower for a bath and I loaded him gingerly into the warm tub for a soak. I could see that, while bruised and bumped, most of him was going to be fine. Still worried about his hands, I gave him some stacking cups to play with for a while.

Josiah is a lefty and that hand seemed usable, for the most part. He was sore, for sure. But the fingers moved and the distraction of pouring one cup into the next gave him enough to think about while I watched for any other injuries. The right hand? He kept that soaking in the water, still at his side.

By the time he went to bed, I had a sense that he had hurt his right hand. When he woke up this morning, we found swelling and bruising and a visit to the doctor is in order for sure. At appointments this afternoon, we will face poking and prodding and x-rays and I just feel awful for my sweet boy.

It is January and we have a couple of months of basketball and soccer planned. We have family excursions to sledding hills coming and all of sudden I am reminded that everything can change in an instant. Sure, it is likely only a broken finger. Of course, he will be okay. I know it could have been much, much worse. But, the reminder that life can be so... shifty... is uncomfortable to me. Our plans for the day, the season, our lives, are subject to whatever might come our way in the blink of an eye.

When I drive my kids to school each day, Benjamin reads to us from a devotional book for kids. Today, he read about a boy who was having a really bad day. His momma came and sat with him, talked with him, prayed with him. The boy later realizes that He can go to God with his troubles anytime. That God is there for him, loves him, wants to help him... just like his mom. And he starts to feel better... a little more sure... a little more confident.

Josiah piped up then, from the back. "Hey, he is just like me. He is having a bad day, too. But he can pray and so can I. God will help me, too"

Life can be unsure. Things can change in the blink of an eye. Our plans can be altered or canceled without our consent. It can feel like something to fear or worry about because the whole of it is just so unknown. But, the truth is that ALL of life is not so like shifting sand. Josiah is right. We have something to rely on that is greater than all our well-laid plans. And the fact that we are not alone in our ever-changing lives can offer enough comfort to set our feet in a surer spot to stand.

I need to remember today to rest in the truth of a God who cares and helps and comforts instead of a life well-tended. Easier said than done for me, especially when watching my baby falling down the stairs. But, if a 7 year old can wrap his sweet arms of faith around a God who will help him, too... surely I can follow suit. : )

Blessings on your day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's STILL Christmas??

At church this week, my pastor began his sermon by talking about how short Christmas really is... While we have a long Advent season and a lengthy Lent season, the days of Christmas, the 12 days, are really awfully short. As he continued, he told our congregation that the 12 days of Christmas are actually the days following December 25th. This came as a complete surprise to me. How about you?

As I sat in church on Sunday, in my head I was already making plans for how and when we would pack away the Christmas paraphernalia. With the weather so cold in Chicago, the outdoor decorations will need to stay put for now, but I am so eager for the neat, open look to return to my home. I want my furniture put back in place, dying trees to be retired outdoors and the tidiness I find comforting to return. I love the Christmas holiday... the celebrations, the focus on Christ, the food, the wonder... I love it all... but it is really taking up an awful lot of space in my life.

And yet... today is day 11. Pipers Piping. Ladies dancing. Maids-a-milking. It is all still going on. It makes me stop and think a bit... should THE most important story I will ever hear or tell be something I am eager to move on from? As I seek the comfort of the tidy and predictable, where do I set the story of God who embodied humanity and deity in one small babe? Where was comfort to be found for a loving Father who so desperately wanted to be with us that He gave up all that mattered most to make us a way? Is there predictability in that?

There are pine needles on my wood floors and a Nativity set on my bookshelf. There are candles on tables and wreaths on doors and bits of wrapping paper beneath the couch. It may be time to clean but how dare I even move to set it all aside. The story of the birth of Christ is not, in any way, seasonal. It is not a decoration or a trinket or even just the "reason for the season". This story is hope. This story is truth. This story is where faith begins and blossoms and finds it feet. I am loved. You are loved. We have a God who so deeply adored us that He sought a way to set aside comfort and in His sacrifice, offer us joy.

My house may need a good cleaning. The time may have come to set some things aside. But not this story. Not this truth. Maybe the discomfort my decorations cause me today is a good thing... a good reminder. It is not over, my friends. Not at all. He loved us then and loves us now and I don't want to accidentally set that aside.

Blessings on your day.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hearts at Home Blog!

Happy New Year!

With my children back to school and 2/3 of my house somewhat cleaned, I am taking a few minutes to update my blog. It has been a while but I will keep chipping away at this task until I am happier with the frequency of my posts. I am thankful you continue to read along. : )

I am grateful to be blogging with Hearts at Home again this year. Today, my blog is featured on their site. If you have traveled here from there, welcome! If you stopped here first today, I want to encourage you to bop on over to the Hearts website and take a look around. There are so many resources for women there, I know you will feel right at home. Hearts at Home's website is http://www.hearts-at-home.org/. If you are looking for the blog area, click on "What We Offer" at the top of the page and choose blog from the drop-box. There are guest bloggers featured there each weekday and you will find many ideas and words of encouragement within these blogs.

While visiting their site, please look over the conference information. Registration for the National Conference is now open and it is an amazing experience. Totally, TOTALLY worth your time! : ) I cannot wait to go myself!

Blessings on your day!
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