Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Take Two, They're Small!"

" ...Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Ruth 1:16b

I will never forget the very first time I met my mother-in-law. I don't remember the date, but I do remember it was just before Christmas. I don't remember anything that I said while standing in her kitchen, but I remember being mesmerized by her earth tone-patterned vinyl flooring. So many interesting patterns seemed to pique my interest, and frankly, I was far too petrified to look her in the eye! Stepping on the squares as though I were playing checkers, I could not stop TALKING! I hear some people get quiet when they're nervous. This is an affliction I am praying for! When I'm nervous, my mouth seems to have a stuck accelerator and no brakes! I can only imagine what she was thinking. Here I was, the very first girl Alan (who was not only her youngest child, but also the shyest) had ever brought home, staring at her floor and chattering like a chipmunk who had eaten espresso beans. Bless her heart, she invited me to stay for dinner anyway. In hindsight, I wonder if she hoped that would shut me up ...

Even though I was understandably nervous to meet the mother of the soft-spoken, adorable cowboy who had stolen my heart, I felt completely comfortable in their home. I think everyone does! Alan's mom has quite a few memorable sayings, like her father before her. If you're in her doorway for more than forty-five seconds, she's certain to offer you a cookie. Barely 5'4", she somehow seems to stretch an extra foot taller when retrieving the vintage Tupperware containers atop the refrigerator. As she lifts off the lid, she always says, "Take two, they're small." She says this no matter what size cookie she's made or how much you've just eaten. It also doesn't matter if you are a small child or a woman on a diet; this phrase is inevitable! Should you politely refuse (and frankly, you are out of your MIND if you do!), she'll gently urge you to have one saying, "Aw, come on. It's good for what ails ya!" Our first meeting was no exception to that rule. :)

After snagging a few cookies of his own, Alan offered to give me "the grand tour" of their home. While walking down the hallway with the most amazing sugar cookie I had ever eaten in my hand, I thought to myself, "I really like her. I sure wish I could have shut my mouth! I hope I didn't blow it."

When dinner came, I did my best to keep my mouth busy chewing, so as not to have another "blab-a-thon." Sensing my unrest, M.I.L. took a candy cane reindeer from a Christmas-themed centerpiece, walked it over by Alan and made it say, "Alan, I want a carrot!" Having grown up in a home where candy canes were not permitted to talk at the table (reindeer or otherwise), I stifled a giggle. Shaking its googley eyes at me, the reindeer asked me what I thought was so funny, while MIL winked at me. My sweetheart looked at his mother, unfazed, and handed the carrots to her. Once I began to relax, I'm sure I talked far too much and put my fifteen-year-old foot in my mouth several times, but I continued to come back. Sure, it didn't hurt that her son lived there and I was too young to go out on dates so we could only go to each other's homes and churches, but I continue to sit at her kitchen table to this day.

I could write for pages just about her homemade cookies, doughnuts, cobblers and pies, but that really doesn't capture her essence. She isn't one to start up a conversation with a stranger, but once she's met you, you are treated like family. She doesn't shy away from sharing her opinions, but usually prefaces them with a wink and a statement like, "But who listens to mother? Nobody. Go do what ya like, hon." or, "What a crabby, bossy old grouch I am. Too bad you're stuck with me, eh?" :) Her mixture of traditional homemaker mixed with a sprinkle of sass and a stubborn streak a mile long makes her a whole lot of fun ... and somebody you don't want to make mad! ;) If she were likened to a television character, she'd be Ethel Murtz mixed with Claire Huxtable with a pinch of Dorothy Zbornack. (If you don't know who any of these characters are, you are either under the age of 30, male or have an aversion to the Hallmark channel. A quick "google" may be in order before you read any farther! :)) I treasure our relationship because I know I am free to be myself around her, yet I will still get a perspective I might not have seen before. She has taught me the art of respectfully standing my ground.

She enjoys decorating for every holiday under the sun-- especially Christmas and Easter. This time of year, there are flowers, baskets and bunnies everywhere you look-- including the bathroom, where the "bendy bunny" is mischievously contorted by her sons when they visit. Many people enjoy "sophisticated" decor for special occasions, giving holidays a "stuffy" feeling. My mother-in-law's decor style is a true extension of her; amongst the doilies from her late mother and candles in dainty holders, you always can find silly decorations that sing, jingle or do something unexpected. Being the mother of three boys (and my poor sister-in law), she seems to enjoy subtle silliness to break the monotony. While that little pink rabbit is usually sitting by a box of tissues or a candle when they first arrive, it isn't long before he is dangling by one leg from a towel rack, has his head peeking out of the medicine cabinet or appears to be scaling the shower curtain. I'm certain she would be disappointed if they left it alone, it's almost as though she's baiting those crazy boys of hers! She's taught me a lot about mothering little boys; the most valuable lesson being that you can embrace the insanity of all that testosterone and still maintain your femininity.

Whether you need to hem a pair of pants or you're too exhausted and overwhelmed to the Lactation consultant alone, she's your go to gal. (Not every one's mother-in-law would sit in on an LC appointment to support their daughter-in-law, even though she'd formula fed all four of her children, but mine did!) If you ever need anything, from a band aid to a needle and thread, it can usually be found in the confines of her purse. She has cough drops, mints, gum, tissues, ibuprofen, snack bags for spoiled grandchildren, paper clips ... and it's not even that big! It's like some sort of "Swiss Army Purse." Her preparedness, she explains, has come from many years of mistakes. While I have gleaned much from her advice over the years, I have probably learned the most from her shared mistakes. Everyone needs a safe place to admit that you just don't have it all together.

From the first meeting, I enjoyed her company, but it wasn't until my wedding shower that I finally knew what to call her. Even though the whole neighborhood seemed to call her "Grandma" or "Miss Phyllis," I had been stuck in this wonky title purgatory. I couldn't just call her "Phyllis;" she was my boyfriend's mother. I respected and loved her, and frankly, I had seen her boys make her mad, and I wanted to stay on her good side! ;) I couldn't call her "mom" yet, I hadn't earned that right. "Mrs. Munson" sounded like a substitute teacher. I often ended up calling her, ma'am, which I'm pretty sure felt awkward for both of us! One beautifully wrapped present changed everything ...

As I sat in the formal living room of my piano teacher (who was also the music pastor's wife), surrounded by childhood Sunday School teachers, ladies from church and immediate family members of both myself and my hubby-to-be, I opened the card from my future mother-in-law. In a sweet, heartfelt card, she added a note that read: "A little something for those nights when you feel like hiding!" I didn't know what to expect, but I opened the package, anyway. As I pulled away the tissue paper, I saw a large Pyrex bowl with something inside of it. Unsure of what the dark green material inside could possibly be, I held it up ... only to discover that she had put silk camouflage pajamas in a salad bowl at my church shower! With a very red face, I turned to her, knowing she had just given me more than her signature practicality with a hint of silliness-- she was treating me like one of her own. The next two words I uttered felt natural and freeing; "Thanks, MOM!"

In the fourteen years I've been "One of her kids," I have been given my share of silly gag gifts, helpful kitchen hints, doses of truth when I needed it (notice, that does not say when I wanted it-- proof that she treats me like one of her kids!), countless meals, and emergency baby-sitting services. I'll never be the "Suzie homemaker" that she is, and she says my schedule makes her dizzy! In spite of our differences, we are bonded in familial love, and in the body of Christ. She didn't just raise a loyal, caring man who makes me laugh, she brought my husband up in the knowledge and love of The LORD. Having that common bond, both in our marriage and in our family, means the world to me. This coming Easter Sunday, I know that as we sit together for the family meal (in spots most likely marked with bunny place cards), we will join in praying, "Come, Lord Jesus" together. I know that as my mother-in-law sips her morning coffee, she will be reading her morning devotionals with my father-in-law at the kitchen table. My children are truly blessed to have four grandparents who not only love (and spoil) them, but they actively pray for them and nurture their walk with Jesus.

As I continue trying to figure out what kind of wife and mother I want to be, I am so thankful for two incredible examples who offer me the best of themselves to learn from, all the while, accepting me for who I am and where I'm at.

Mom M. is not one to make a fuss about anything she does; in fact, this post will probably embarrass her a little. Knowing her, she'll probably thump me playfully on the side of my noggin and hug me when she reads this. The fact that she does so much with so little asked in return can occasionally cause those of us who love her to take her for granted. I want her to know that all those times I drop off my kids while running late for a doctor's appointment, grab a cookie and run out her front door, I'm thankful for a safe and loving place to take my kids. There are so many times when she asks about my life and I forget until the last two minutes of our phone conversations or visits that she's had major medical tests or other stress in her life. I don't tell her I love her nearly enough.

This is why I need my Lenten "pause," that I might slow down and remember. My life is so full of so many giving people whom I often forget to thank, writing about all of them might mean giving up facebook until I'm a grandmother myself! I know I'm not alone in this, we are rushed people. Our gratitude often never leaves our thoughts, a place where it blessed us, but not those who need to hear it most! Whether it's your mother-in-law, a matriarch at church, an extra-special auntie or a caring neighbor, I'm sure there is someone in your life who needs to hear what they mean to you. This post may even cause you to think about writing a card or making a phone call. May we all slow down long enough to thank those who slow down their busy lives to help us!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Sneakers

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24

My two favorite little men were both in need of new shoes last weekend. Wyatt had hand-me downs that fit his feet, just not over his ankle-foot orthodic braces (AFO's for short). I had just taken Alan shopping two weeks prior and let him pick a very cool (and very on sale) pair of hiking boots. They are waterproof (which is why my little "Mr. Practical" wanted them) and work great for playing outside and hiking with daddy, but they are insulated (not exactly ideal for being in a toasty gymnasium) and mark up the gym floor. Oopsie! My darling husband said both boys should get new shoes. A shoe shopping trip with my husband's blessing is something I will NEVER turn down! I don't care if I'm shopping for me, my children, or a HORSE, I'm all about a good shoe-hunt! (But back to the children. Yes, that's right; this story is about the children. Forgive me; I'll switch gears ...)

Children on the Autism spectrum prefer routine, right? Apparently, the "routine" does NOT apply to shoes! As Wyatt and I searched for shoes online, he wrinkled his nose at the orthodic-friendly selection. I can't say that I blame him, as they are mostly clunky, plain and nothing like the "cool shoes" in typical stores. His mommy also wrinkled her nose at the steep price and inability to try them on! (Everyone who is thrilled about the idea of spending $65-130.00 on shoes, waiting for them to arrive, only to send them back at your expense because they don't fit, stand on your head!) I called ahead to several stores, explained our shoe dilemma and visited a few who hoped they could help us. After none of those worked out, I bit the bullet and took Wyatt to a department store known for accommodating kids with special needs. I knew there could be sticker-shock in my future, but I figured they wouldn't be worse than what I'd seen online, and at least they would fit and possibly not resemble bricks with Velcro!

As the grand piano played in the background, Wyatt and I waited for the sales girl to return with a pair of "AFO-friendly" shoes. To our surprise, she returned with four pair, each of which fit his custom-orthodic. Wyatt's eyes lit up with glee when the first pair emerged from the box. To call them a "bright" green and yellow shoe simply doesn't seem to cover it! When she put them on his dear little feet, he didn't "test run" in his shoes, he strutted! As he pivoted and walked back towards me, he shouted, "Mommy, these snazzy shoes make me feel like a MOVIE STAR!" He dismissed the other three option, claiming they looked "stiff and uncomfortable" (Translation: could not be seen from outer space). At this point, I was so thrilled that we had a working pair of shoes he could wear home (instead of waiting weeks for an order to arrive) in a style that made him happy, I probably would have paid just about anything. When I found out they were machine washable, guaranteed to be outgrown before they wore out and cost less than the brick-like shoes we saw online, I plunked my debit card onto the counter and closed the sale.

When we returned home, Wyatt ran to show Alan his "snazzy" new shoes. Alan seemed genuinely impressed and told him they were super-cool. He talked about how green was his favorite color and asked all about the store we went to. While I loved watching my boys connecting, in the back of my mind, I was thinking, "PLEASE don't ask if you can go to that store for your P.E. shoes, too!" I knew Alan would understand if I told him the budget wouldn't allow non-orthodic wearing members of our house to shop there, but I really didn't want to go there if I didn't have to ...

Fortunately, my financial concerns were eased when Alan told me wanted to shop in a store that was close-by, preferably one with a sporting goods section. He even wanted to bring daddy along to help him choose a good, practical pair. Clearly, this was going to be a different shopping experience! I'm certain Alan would have enjoyed the escalators at the department store, but he LOVES sporting goods.

Naturally, we headed there first. As the boys admired the new selection of tents and camping stoves, my darling husband and his namesake discussed the pros and cons of each model. Wyatt tagged along happily, enjoying the comradery with his daddy and brother. As I watched them shopping, I was struck by their similarities (identical hair cuts, matching Carhartt jackets and carpenter jeans)-- with the exception of their shoes. My "Alans" were both wearing hiking boots, as they often do. Wyatt, naturally, was proudly sporting his brand new vibrant-green shoes. My mind drifted to the day when Alan got his boots, and Wyatt said he wished he had some, but he knew his "orfodics" wouldn't fit in there. Knowing how Wyatt always wants to be "cool" like his brother, It made me glad that my boys were in the camping supplies aisle. Hiking is a struggle for Wyatt with his lax ligaments and sensory issues, but camping is an activity he can easily participate in. He adores sleeping in tents, playing in dirt, looking for bugs and, of course, eating smores. I stifled an "emotional mommy moment," loving how my guys could bond without expecting conformity.

Checking the price tag and brand (because of the sale, not because he cares about brands) on each and every pair of athletic shoes, little Alan scrutinized his choices. I noticed him looking at a trendy pair with skateboarding art on the sides and three-dimensional flames on the toes that lit up. Remembering how he had admired his brother's shoes the day before, I asked him if he wanted to try those on. He looked at me, somewhat embarrassed. Having shopped with Alan many times, I understood that while his mouth said, "Um ... those are ... really something ... aren't they?" he was probably thinking, "If I wore those shoes to school, I would either be the coolest kid there or laughed off the playground. This is NOT a risk I am willing to take!"

As he headed to a "safer" section of footwear, I realized that my older son admired Wyatt's individuality as much as Wyatt envied his big brother's ability to assimilate. Alan is by nature a go-with-the-flow kind of child who makes friends easily; probably because of his empathetic, accommodating nature. He frequently notices when someone gets a new haircut or has new clothes on, and makes sure to complement them. He cares far more about people's happiness than their "cool factor."

You'd think a kid who was that mellow about everyone else would be pretty secure in his own style ... not so much. While He'll take risks where it counts in life (such as sticking up for someone who is being picked on or telling a friend he isn't allowed to watch a certain T.V. show), he cares a LOT about what his friends think of his attire. I suppose this is the downside of his caring, empathetic nature.

Alan wears a lot of "safe" clothes, seeing them more as a necessity than a form of expression. I'm sure at times he wishes he had the guts to express himself like Wyatt. Just in case his shoes aren't bright enough, know that the custom AFO's underneath are even more colorful! The plaster-cast bottoms are rainbow paint splotches, the velcro straps are fire engine red and his ankle straps are camouflage! It's fairly obvious that Wyatt worries precious little about any one's opinion, probably because it doesn't occur to him that they don't think like he does! That confidence makes him fearless, but it also often makes him lonely.

If my boys could walk a mile in each other's shoes for a day, I wonder what they would think about the unseen side of their opposing realities. I know that Wyatt wishes he knew how to make (and keep) friends like his brother does. I know Alan wishes he could read and spell like his little brother. While Wyatt envies his brother's "Student of the Month" awards, I wonder if Alan ever imagines how it feels to dance during church while the congregation sings in a joyful, but far more subdued fashion. Two precious little boys; two very different footprints.

While they can't swap shoes for a day, as brothers, they walk together. As they travel towards adulthood, they will help each other and learn from one another. As Wyatt gleans empathy, social cues and understanding from his big brother, Alan will take on some of his little brother's courage, persistence and quest for knowledge. In spite of their constant sibling rivalry, I know at the end of the day that nobody understands Wyatt like Alan, and nobody admires Alan like Wyatt. What a gift God has given them in one another, and what a privilege to watch the adventure of my little "mis-matched pair!"

Father, the journey to adulthood is anything but easy. As I guide my children, remind me to follow in Your footsteps.

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Escape to Girlyville

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
Song of Solomon 2:12

What a strange and wonderful land I visited yesterday! I was dying for my favorite Italian restaurant, needed to run a few errands and my car was in the shop. Missing my buddy Debi, I called her to see if we could swap her wheels for me treating for lunch. Always up for a driving adventure, she agreed and met me at the mechanics' office Friday morning. Leaving behind the black and white checkerboard decor and the aroma of tires and motor oil, with lattes in hand, we were off to our adventure!

The errands were ... errands. Debi made them much more fun! Our lunch, however, was divine! I rarely remember my waiter's name (and I always get the SAME ONE); he is usually just known in my mind as, "that dear fellow who brings me gluten-free fried calamari and espresso in a teensy cup." We took turns clutching our collarbones in sheer bliss. We were dining in a lovely world of exquisite food, people who whisper "Pardon me, Miss ..." instead of "Moooooooo-ooooooooom!" and beautifully decorated tables that had no begging puppies near our chairs. *Sigh* It was lovely.

Just when I thought our day could not possibly contain another drop of estrogen, Debi introduced me to the loveliest purse and luggage galleria in the known universe. Femininity, thy name art Vera Bradley! Surrounded by floral walls, gingham over-stuffed chairs and lovely sales girls bringing me bottled water with a label that matched a purse near me, I was overwhelmed! Every article I studied was simply beautiful. I tried to take it all in, but there was almost too much cute for my brain to absorb! This mysterious land was void of cammo patterns, dinosaurs and dog hair ... This was GIRLYVILLE! Over an hour later, I left with the prettiest disposable water bottle I have ever seen and a purse that had called my name. (Clearly, not answering would have been rude.) Even then, I didn't want to leave, but I knew if I didn't, I'd be explaining to my husband why I had a coordinated set of purses, overnight bags, luggage, a picnic set, stationary and an entire beach collection, but I'd sold the car. Hugging the sales girl Claire good-bye, I promised to return again someday. *Sigh* It was lovely.

Returning to the real world of waiting for my car at a nearby McDonald's was quite a rude awakening. Joined once more by my charming sons (who were thrilled to see that mommy bought a bigger purse that could hold MORE SNACKS!), I watched them climb through plastic tubing for over two hours. There was no soft music here. There were no gentle floral prints on the walls. My beverage, though bubbly and delicious, was not in a pretty container. Even my house was more peaceful than this place! Playland, I decided, was the "Anti-Girlyville."

Returning home, I was thrilled to have "just my boys" with me! There is nothing like constant screaming from several children you can't reprimand to make a gal appreciate the life she'd been clamoring to escape from. I hung up my dahlia-riffic new purse on the hook by the front door. Hanging there among cammo-clad hats, Carhartt jackets and head lamps, it didn't "coordinate," but it represented my family. It fit there, just as the four of us "fit" together.

Looking at my house, our artifacts seem somehow intertwined in every space imaginable. I find action figures with light-up flaming heads in my yarn bags. My husband's truck has lip gloss and barrettes in the middle console (courtesy of his wife; the "vehicle primper"). My children graciously (a.k.a. they don't have a choice) share closet space with their loving parents. The dogs have generously sprinkled their dog hair throughout the house (thank God for lint rollers!). While my hubby enjoys a good hike or hunting season, the boys love playing with their friends and I love having girl-time, we belong here. What good is a purse without the crayons inside to calm an anxious child waiting for a shot at the doctor's office? What good are the boys' Lego's without daddy to make the biggest, coolest vehicles with them? What good is a hunting magazine without a spouse to jokingly offer the his and hers pistol set in a stunning pink and black? (Yes, it really was a Valentine's Day catalog special the hubby showed me!)

While I do love to "escape" from time to time, I need the differences brought by the people I love and live with. Not just the testosterone that hangs heavy in the air here, but the differing personalities. I need the perspective brought into my life by my dry-witted, introverted, organized hubby, my inventive, dramatic and hugable Alan and my quirky, enthusiastic, endearing Wyatt. I don't always want it; but I need it. Sometimes I'm sure I take them for granted, because they're always "here." How backwards is that? The mall will always be "there." Even if it closes, they'll put up another one. How long will Alan want to snuggle in my bed on Saturday mornings? How many trips will I have with Wyatt bobbing through the grocery store, proudly holding my hand? How many nights will I have in a bed with a blanket I hate, but a man whom I love? Maybe a lot. Maybe only ONE.

Lord, remind me each day that these dear ones you've brought into my home and heart are a privilege. Thank you for time to regroup and relax. By Your grace, show us all how to complement, appreciate and truly love one another.

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wobbly Lines and Circles

My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:8

It's a such treat to watch my boys with their father. My boys' loyalty to me is certainly unquestionable; but they also know there are some things this mama just doesn't understand. When I found out my husband let the boys climb the rockery walls on the sides of our fireplace, I nearly plotzed. When the boys talk about bodily functions in a hushed voice with daddy, I risk permanent optical nerve strain from rolling my eyes. When they wrestle like wild dogs on my living room floor, I have to leave the room so I don't worry about injuries. This is why my darling boys have an adventurous daddy! Today, daddy decided it was time for a new adventure for Wyatt-- **gulp** NO MORE TRAINING WHEELS.

Watching from the porch and various windows, I saw my baby first straddle his bike and "walk" with no training wheels. Then he moved up to peddling while daddy held on to the back of his bike with two hands. Then came one hand. A few minutes later, daddy gave Wyatt a starting push and let go. For ten solid feet, my little boy sailed along the grassy pasture ... followed by a swift thud into a pile of dirt. I wanted to run to him and check for bruises, but I saw his daddy ask if he was okay. With a dirt-encrusted grin, Wyatt rose proudly to his feet, gave the "thumbs up" signal and got back on his bike. My brave little trooper was ready to try again! He started once more with a guided push from daddy, then peddled furiously, doing almost a full circle around the south pasture! I screamed with immense pride and enthusiasm in my poor Mother-In-Law's ear, told her I would call back later and ran out to congratulate my big kid. "Did you see me, mommy? Did you see?" He asked. Twirling him around in a congratulatory hug, I told him he was awesome!

While my youngest son had been working with daddy on making it across the yard, my oldest boy was doing figure-eights from one pasture to the next; doing fancy turns in our gravel driveway in between. Watching him, I remembered when daddy had taught Alan to ride his bike. I laughed, thinking about how I insisted on not just the required helmet (which is still a non-negotiable rule with both parents), but elbow and knee pads, tough skin jeans and long sleeved shirts. The whirling blades of my "helicopter parenting" could still be heard in the distance, but I'd calmed down a lot! As Alan breezed past his brother, I thought about how much he'd grown. I remembered the toddler he was when I brought his brother home from the hospital. I blinked and my babies were riding two wheelers. How did this happen?

Every little milestone of their life seemed to start out wobbly. Life with a newborn was wobbly (for mommy), then my days slowly gained a rhythm. I went from staggering about our little house, exhausted from lack of sleep, sobbing with frustration over nursing issues and being afraid to leave the house alone to circling the neighborhood confidently with Alan in his stroller a few months later. As he took his first steps, there was a great deal of wobbling, stumbling and crying. In time, his wobbly little lines became straighter, then faster, and before I knew it, Alan was running circles around me (just in time for me to get pregnant with Wyatt and start this all over again)! In the nine years I've been a mom, I've watched my share of wobbly lines and circles. In the thirty-three years I've been alive, I've lived quite a few of them!

I would love to say that life is like riding a bike, but I don't think that's remotely true. I think life is like learning to ride a bike! There are days when I look at my bloody knees and my battered helmet and can't help but long for a "stationary bike" kind of existence! No falling, no bug swallowing, no having to watch for cars, no crashing into trees, no "helmet hair," no puddles splashing you ... no real movement at all.

It's safe on a stationary bike. You can relax and watch T.V. or read a book, you don't need as much balance, there are no hills and you still get some exercise. Why not live the "stationary" life?

You don't swallow a bug, but you don't feel the wind in your face, either. You don't pass other bikes, but your scenery never changes. There are no flowers to admire, no trees to give you shade, no exhilarating coast down a big hill. The stationary bike is alright on a rainy day, but sometimes you need to pedal on a "real" bike.

As God's children, we are granted the peace that comes from knowing that we never "ride" alone. When we are unsure and wobbly, he holds us up. There are, of course, times when we get cocky and don't watch where we're going, when we try a trail that isn't meant for our skill level, we forget to properly "fuel" ourselves or we begin to doubt God's plan for us. When that happens, we stumble and fall (sometimes rather hard!) Ever our attentive and loving Father, He is there to tend to our wounds, dust us off and encourage us to try again.

I'm not going to start climbing the rockery or belching the alphabet in the near future, but thank God for adventurous little boys (and their wonderful daddy) who pull me away from my "stationary" life! Are you tired of staring at the same wall? Is it time to risk a skinned knee and some helmet hair in exchange for a wonderful new view? Strap on your "helmet of salvation" and go forth!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Where's My Fries?

"Father, forgive them, for they do no know what they are doing."
Luke 23:34a

Oh, how prepared I was for dinner tonight! I began prepping my sour dough starter for waffles in the early morning, since I was already up with my little buddy. My hubby had a meeting after work, followed by his Tuesday evening hike (he's training to summit Mt. Rainer for the second time!). Since I had so much extra time and one lonely banana turning leopard-esque, I thought I'd add him to the batter. Just as I was getting ready to add more flour and beat my egg whites, I got a text that my mighty mountain man was extra speedy and already on his way down the trail! Normally, that would mean I'd still have 30-45 minutes before he arrived, but today we were picking him up at the trail head! Knowing the munchkins were hungry, I grabbed a scant half-cup of rice flour, a little sugar and whole eggs into my batter, mixed it hurriedly and attempted to make fast pancakes. Did you know that adding banana to sourdough batter without well over a cup of additional flour creates flubber? Flustered, I turned off the stove, grabbed some breakfast cookies and rushed the kidlets out the door to get daddy.

As my family munched happily on cookies, I decided to drop our sweaty bread winner off at our house for a shower while mommy hit the drive-thru. Armed with a snazzy coupon book (I love it when restaurants remodel!), I ordered the healthiest items I could find, (smoothies, salads, sandwich wraps, etc. ) followed by a few "treats ."

Wyatt loves fries. I am blessed with two boys who still regard fries as junk food and split a small fry. Wyatt was such a sad little guy when he heard that most restaurants' fries had gluten in them (as was mommy)! :( They are more special to him now than ever (he went gluten-free just after Christmas); he talked about them the whole way home.

As I distributed our food among the starving masses, I reached for the fries at the bottom, only to find napkins. No fries! Daddy would be sad, but he still had burgers. Wyatt couldn't eat burgers with buns, chicken nuggets (or any chicken at all) or anything sandwich-like. His "treat" had been forgotten.

For any child, this would have been a bummer. For a child with my husband's DNA, it is a disaster. For a child carrying my husbands DNA and a diagnosis of autism, it could have been a catastrophe! Poor Wyatt had been promised waffles, then the plan had been changed to pancakes, then he was shuffled out the door with a cheese stick and a gluten-free cookie and now no fries. Talk about a change in routine!

I was rather surprised by how well he took the news. There were a few tears, but he asked if he could have some yogurt. Naturally, I said yes! I told him I'd tweak the pancakes while he slurped his portable yogurt (a godsend for children with sensory issues who fear jiggly food that might spill or make a mess!), and hopped into the kitchen to do so. Fortunately, with a little more flour, the pancakes were yummy. :) Wyatt sat gleefully munching on a pancake roll up with strawberry jam, not caring much at all about his fries. While he breathed the sigh of a little boy with a contented tummy (for 30 minutes, anyway!), I breathed a sigh of relief.

About an hour later, he looked up at me with puzzled eyes and said, "They forgot my fries, mom." I told him there was a very long line and they didn't mean to, but next time I went I would tell them (nicely). That was all he needed to hear, not another word about the renegade fries were uttered after that.

I know that God has a wonderful plan for my life. I know He loves me, I know He cares about me, I know He listens. There are times when people hurt or disappoint me and I know they don't mean to. When they've done something deliberate, I know what to do. There are even times when I can do it in a semi-controlled manner (we won't talk about the other times, other than to say that I'm a great deal taller from standing on several soap boxes). But where do you put the hurt from people who don't know better? Where do you stash those well-meaning comments that prick your heart? Where do you place the disappointments that come from people who are loving you the best way they know how?

There is only one place to learn how to heal from all that baggage: at the feet of Jesus. From the time He was a child teaching in the temple, He was misunderstood by His family. While going through the greatest anguish of his life, His closest friends fell asleep. He was betrayed, denied and abandoned by those who loved him. When we look to His example, we see this response in Luke 23:34: "Father, forgive them, for they do no know what they are doing."

When you're just not sure how to even put into words what happened, you can always crawl into the lap of your Heavenly Daddy and just tell Him that you're hurting. When someone forgets Wyatt's fries, all I can offer is a hug and a pancake. When someone forgets to be careful with your heart, God has the ability and desire to heal it. It wasn't easy for Wyatt to release his plans for dinner, but releasing our broken dreams and unfulfilled promises are much harder. If we let go of our need to protect ourselves from everyone-- including God, He can fill the painful voids inside us, mend our wounds and help us to love once more.

The world may forget your fries, slap you with back-handed complements and ignore you, dear friends, but they know not what they do. God, on the other hand, always remembers, treasures and tirelessly cares for you-- even when you forget Him. All this and no drive thru line-- what a God we serve! :)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Caserole Communing

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
Eccclesiastes 4:9-11

I'm not ashamed; I have a deep and abiding love of tuna casserole, anything resembling spaghetti- only with a ridiculous amount of cheese and "fun" pasta, overnight french-toast, that brunch egg-thingy with hash browns on top, Chile Rellano... that spells comfort food to me. It also spells less dishes, fewer courses and left-overs; what's not to love there? We all know there are times when people (myself included) can go a little crazy, causing a hot dish gone wrong. Come on, do you need THREE cans of "cream of something" in there? Must we have some sort of potato chip, tater tot or breadcrumb drenched in butter atop EVERYTHING? A person could get a heart valve clog just reading some recipes! And please, I beg of you, do not get me started on why pimentos, Lima beans, Velveeta and corn simply cannot be entrusted to the pantries of some well-meaning, but clearly misguided casserole cooks. Clearly, there must be balance among the sauce (be it creamy, cheesy or tomato-based), starch (be it pasta, potatoes or rice), veggies, protein and toppings, but when it's good, it's goooooooood.

Casseroles can help forgotten, but nutritious and lovely ingredients shine. I must admit, there have been times when I've left out a bag of frozen veggies to make for dinner, grabbed something else, then come back an hour after dinner was over. Those poor little thawed peas were clearly not to blame for my forgetfulness, but they can't be re-frozen. Ah, but there are many recipes where thawed peas can be added at the last minute; becoming a happy little companion to a creamy sauce! Forgotten veggie tray friends, such as celery and carrots, can make your chicken Divan Divine! That sad little nub of neglected cheddar that's too small for a sandwich can add a little oomph to the body of any sauce. A casserole can prevent good food from becoming compost!

Casseroles can also revive tired turkey, ham that's "had it" and "beyond-braised" beef. I would love to say that I always remember to set timers when I have a roast going on the oven, but that is simply not the case! OOPS! Chicken jerky is just not the same as jerk chicken! There are also times when I get impatient with a meat that needs a slower roast, resulting in jaw workout for the whole crew! Nobody likes throwing away a beautiful ham that just didn't cook well, but how much ham salad can a person eat? Enter the forgiving support of sauces, pasta and a little cheese on top, breathing new life back into your "dead" meat! It moistens, tenderizes and enhances the flavor of your leftovers, saving you money in a delicious way! :)

A well-balanced casserole supports all the ingredients and doesn't have a glory-hog syndrome. There are times when there's a little meat and a lot of pasta and cheese, there are times when the opposite is true. As long as the flavors are melding, that's keen! (Yes, I typed keen. It's a nifty word, I'm determined to bring it back!) Casseroles rarely turn out the same way twice in my house. I grab what we have on hand, and that's always changing! Writing out recipes for what we eat is a challenge, because I'm often just making it up as I go! It's how my Grandma Howard did it, it's how my mama did it (and still does), it's probably how some of my great-great grand kids will cook in their kitchens. It's about feeding your loved ones the best of what you have, while being mindful of using the resources God has blessed you with in a wise way.

After talking to my missionary friends, a few world-travelers and watching a lot of food-related T.V., I have come to the conclusion that nearly every culture in the known world seems to have at least one "casserole" of their own. From the affluent to the poorest of the poor, families and communities across the globe are melding bits and pieces together to nourish their families. My heart breaks for the mothers who have never had leftovers in their cupboards, while I coax my children at our table, saying, "Everything you love is in here. Just try it ..." How blessed we are to have variety and excess in our lives!

I've always called our worship team "my casserole," because our goal is to share our gifts and support one another. We vary who leads, working on melding together to nourish our body of believers. I awoke Sunday morning to a tickle in my throat. I had two solos and a lot of high (for me, anyway) harmonies ahead of me during service. I asked people to pray after rehearsal, feeling fatigue already entering my vocal chords. By offertory, my voice was nearly gone. Remember when I mentioned the two solos? Well, one of them was the offertory! When my voice wouldn't come out, my buddy Dawn took over for me. During communion, I knew the high harmonies just wouldn't happen. After completing a beautiful solo, Alyssa had my back with the high harmonies while I sang when I could. Thank goodness for the casserole!

I am so blessed to be part of an amazing body of believers, loyal and loving friends and a phenomenal family. I'm pretty good at thanking them internally, but I forget to tell them! Lord, show me this week how I can bless my fellow "ingredients!"

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wonder Woman Wanna-Be

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Prov. 31:25

As a kindergartner, my top-two Saturday Morning Cartoons were the Smurfs (who could resist frolicking little blue people in white, fluffy hats?) and the undisputed kings of cool (well, I suppose you could argue with me, but I WILL win!), The Super Friends! No matter how many smurf mugs, figurines and pajamas I owned, Super Friends was the show! Why? It all came down to Wonder Woman!

You see, Smurfette was just annoying! Always whining, "Oh, Papa Smurf! Papa Smurf!" And making all the blue dudes do her bidding. Ew. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was a force to be reckoned with! Girlfriend had an invisible plane, bracelets that deflected bullets and hair accessories that knocked bad guys on their keesters! Plus, she had something that every female on the planet (especially mothers) can't help but wish really existed-- the lasso of truth! I never had a Wonder Woman costume, though. As a five-year-old, I saw this as mercilessly unfair. As a mother, I see that some things just can't be explained to small children. I don't blame her for not wanting to add bustiers to that list! ;)

In First Grade, I had found another role-model in Princess Leah! I rocked some serious double hair buns and a spangled ensemble (made modestly a la mom) that Halloween. A chick who had amazing fighting skills, snappy comebacks and won the heart the heart of Han Solo seemed pretty cool to me! :)

Fast forward past my "Jem" phase and a LOT of bad neon fashions to 2004 ...

I was a mother a toddler and an infant. (My infant slept all night, my toddler did not.) I was drowning in a sea of dishes, laundry, nurse-a-thons, potty dancing in the grocery store (always at least 1000 yards from the nearest restroom), doctor's appointments and oh yeah-- there was this guy I passed in the hall. The toddler called him Daddy, I believe ... I felt stretched far beyond my abilities, my energy level and eons past any recollection of romance. Was there a super hero with that kind of life? Enter my very first grown-up super heroine, Elastigirl!

Helen Par to most of the world, her super-powers came in handy on a daily basis at home. She was fighting a lot of the same battles I was! A criminal mastermind isn't nearly as hard to figure out as a baby; at least criminal masterminds can talk! She had three children with very differing personalities, tried to find the middle ground between encouraging her kids without creating little ego-maniacs, struggled to feed a hungry (but picky) brood and attempted to keep the flame lit in her marriage while fighting a truly formidable adversary-- two exhausted people!

While most of us (okay, ALL of us) aren't flexible enough to be able to put away laundry and load the dishwasher at the same time; all women feel "stretched" in their daily lives. There is one woman who seems to have it all together; the infamous "Proverbs 31 Woman." I thought I had an "out" for a while when it came to comparing myself to her, Since she had servants. Then I remembered that I have indoor pluming, electricity, appliances and a car. Drat. Foiled again by that pesky, indisputable "Wife of Noble Character!" She sewed clothes, cooked, bought real estate, planned ahead, her children arose and called her "blessed," her husband praised her at the city gate ... She clearly must be a fictional super-heroin.

I struggled with this woman for quite a while; what does she have (besides the servants, I mean) that I don't? Super-human strength and endurance? Endless patience? A calm outlook at all times? Gee, I wish I could have that! Then I remembered, I do-- it just so happens that this power rests inside of me, but doesn't come from me. Phil. 4:13 says that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Perhaps the Proverbs 31 woman clung to her Heavenly Father, instead of trying to be "super-mom" all by herself. Perhaps she worked out of love for her family, not out of her own need to be seen as "amazing." Perhaps her husband and children praised her so because she owned up to her mistakes and gave the same grace to them! If love keeps no record of wrongs, is it possible that there were times when her kids were brats, her husband was demanding and she was crabby, but they made amends and chose not to "air their dirty laundry" outside their home?

Hmmmmmm ... maybe it's not about being super, but serving and living for a God who is beyond any hero-- real OR imagined!

Lord, help me remember as my week wears on how incredibly SUPER it is being Your child! Through Christ, I have been robed in righteousness- and that's way better than a snazzy outfit or a cape! I don't need super-human strength. The weaker I am, the more you can mold me and the more Your strength flows through me! I can't ask for a greater power source than that! Help me, Father, to release my desire to be "super" alone. Let me shine for you, that my deeds might point to You, not me. And now, by Your strength, must move (and fold) a mountain ...

In Lenten Love and Friendship,


Friday, March 18, 2011

Wyatt's Words Part 1

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
Matthew 11:25

This year, I've decided I'm going to write about the little munchkins individually, so I can focus more on my sons as individuals, not just as, "the boys." Wyatt, as usual, was highly quotable this week. Be forewarned, I quote my children exactly, from Alan's run-on sentences (he's like his mother that way) to Wyatt's inability to pronounce his th's. :) Here is a small sampling of my life with Wy-guy:

"Mama, I have somefing very exciting to tell you! It is very important ..." *reads from his first grade teacher's newsletter* "Pwease watch for report cards on FRIDAY!"

{By the way, Wyatt doesn't differentiate much, it's part of his Autism. If it's important in his mind, it is URGENT! It could be a fire in the kitchen, it could be a new episode of Sponge Bob. Here's an example of that from a little while ago ...}

Wyatt: Mama, I need to talk to you!

Me: *in a hushed whisper* Wyatt, mommy's on the phone! Is this an emergency?

Wyatt: Yes, because I really need cheese ...

{At Bedtime}
Wyatt: I don't know who I'm going to marry, so I fink I will just never get married, because I don't have a pwan.

Me: Honey, you're only six! You don't have to have a plan about that yet!

Wyatt: Well what would she fink about wiving in China? Because I'm moving there when I'm a grown-up, you know ...

{Breakfast time blues}
Wyatt: Mommy, this oatmeal wooks wike FROW UP!"

Me: *slightly alarmed by his commentary* Wyatt, that's rude!

Wyatt: But mommy, I didn't say it tasted wike frow up ...

"Mommy, I read my report card, I'm gwad to see that my teacher knows I excel at maff and reading, because I do ... but I need to work on my group activities and cooperating. It says here *points* that I am working on building rewationships and maintaining fwiendships, and that is TRUE!" I fink this is a good report card, what do you fink, mommy?"
(I "fink" there are positives and negatives to having a six year old with autism who can read so well!)

{New words from Social Therapy}
"Mommy, we have a goal for the week from my social finking class-- it goes, 'Fink, Fink, Fink before you act!' That is also called deliberativeness!"

{Dinner Time}
"Mommy, I wove it when the pizza man comes! He turns our dining room into a beautiful Italian restaurant wiff gwuten-free pizzas!"

{Bedtime again, we had just finished reading how Moses was rescued from the Nile by Pharoh's daughter, nursed by his biological mother, Jochebed, then raised in the palace. Wyatt said he had a question; I was certain it would be about Moses. This was his commentary ...}
"I wonder who I should make friends wiff on the pwayground at recess ..."

Yup, that's my boy! :) I know I'm biased, but I really do think he is one of the most awesome people on the planet (or, as he would say it, the pwanet)! I always learn valuable lessons from my kiddos. This week, Wyatt and I learned together about "deliberativeness."

Deliberativeness is not just a really great scrabble word, it's a word my little guy struggles with on a regular basis. He can read it, write it with beautifully-spaced printing-- he can even memorize the definition! Understanding what it really means and applying it, however, is much harder for him. Autism makes decisions very difficult. He either reacts quickly (this rarely ends well) or obsesses, focuses and frets so much over knowing the "right" or "perfect" answer until he dissolves into tears, gets a tummy ache or throws a temper tantrum (and whatever else he can reach at the time) out of sheer frustration. The same brilliant mind that allowed him to read at three years of age is bewildered by the many illogical, situationally-differing and grey areas of life.

There was a situation earlier in the week when the boys had been hyped-up and silly (a common occurrence over here) and Wyatt got so excited that he ran over to his brother and crashed into him, smacking him repeatedly on the head. He wasn't angry, nor was he trying to provoke Alan. He just exerted all that extra energy in an inappropriate (and painful!) way. Alan is used to this, but understandably, he doesn't appreciate it. After removing Wyatt from the area, we talked about his actions. Wyatt hung his little head in shame and said, "Deliberativeness-- I did NOT remember, mama. I didn't 'fink-fink-fink' and I hurt my brudder. I don't wike it when I do this ..."

Hugging Wyatt, we talked about how to make things right with "brudder." Thankfully, Alan is an empathetic soul who is quick to forgive. He even made Wyatt laugh by telling him, "Well, I guess you'll just have to do all my homework!" All was well again; just like that.

Things don't always work out so simply; there are times when making amends with Alan requires more than a hug and offering to make his bed. Last fall, Wyatt was playing his brother's hand-held gaming system. When the batteries started to run low, it wasn't working properly. Understandably frustrated, Wyatt threw the console and broke it. He was immediately sorry; and not just because he knew he was in BIG trouble. Lying on the floor was proof that Wyatt had over-reacted. He knew it was wrong, and he knew he couldn't fix the game. He also couldn't afford a new one. He needed us to intervene.

First of all, Wyatt had to apologize. Not just for breaking Alan's toy, but for throwing it. Even if nothing had broken, he had blatently disrespected something that was not his. Once that was done, we talked to Wyatt about how he was going to make this right. He would lose his beloved Wii for a solid month. With his schedule freed up, he would be doing extra chores around the house to help work off the cost of a new console for Alan. For once, Wyatt didn't argue. He certainly didn't enjoy "doing time," but he took it like a big boy.

We were all glad when the punishment had run its' course, including "brudder!" Even though their relationship was far from perfect, Alan had missed playing games with Wyatt. He had missed hanging out and watching movies while Wyatt was doing extra chores. He had missed chatting with him before bed, since Wyatt also had an early bedtime for a few days. Alan had even tried a time or two to convince me to get his brother off grounding early, saying he didn't really even play with his game much anymore. He wanted the situation reconciled as much as Wyatt did; maybe even more.

As a parent, I have had to help both my children reconcile many times. As a child of God. I am in constant need of His intervention! I have been reckless with my thoughts, words and actions more times than I can bear to contemplate. In pursuit of my own desires, I have broken my relationship with God. We all have. We are so blessed to have a Father who will intervene; knowing we cannot fix this mess ourselves. We can't buy it, we can't make it, we can't earn it. We fall short every time we try!

Jesus was the epitome of "deliberativeness," giving up something that cost him dearly and knowing full-well what the consequences would be. He bore all of our punishment upon Himself, that we might be reconciled to The Father.

While we certainly still endure earthly consequences for our actions, we do not have to "work off" our salvation. We are not "on restriction" until we're good enough! We do not do good works out of obligation, but out of gratitude!

May the God of grace and reconciliation empower us to be deliberative, that we may glorify Him!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

The "Tail" of Mr. Leepers

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6:13

Rural living, while a glorious break from the hustle and bustle of city life, has its pitfalls. I have heard this from neighbors of mine and have found it to be true: When you live in the country, you have one of two choices. One is to feed and house a barn cat. The other is to get the occasional visitor in your pantry-- especially in early spring and fall. Not so long ago, a little visitor popped into my laundry room, lured by an open doggie door and and a bag of dog food ...

It was a typical post-dinner scene at the Munson house; the boys were clearing the table, while I was attempting to clean up the aftermath of the food preparations (my mother says I cook like a whirling dervish-- I'm afraid she's right). Since we all had full tummies, I asked little Alan to feed his puppies, as well. Alan agreed, and ambled into the laundry room. A few minutes passed, and the typical rumbling sound of dog food being scooped was absent, as was the *clang* of the food hitting Bela's metal bowl. Alan returned to me, empty scoop in hand, with a puzzled look on his face. "Um ... Mommy," He slowly uttered, "I think there's a tiny baby mouse in the dog food ..."

Knowing that the laundry room can be a foreboding area with mysterious shadows and the odd clump of Tanky (our lovable red-tri aussie who sheds enough to build another dog) hair, I thought perhaps my little darling could use some reassurance that the bag was, in fact, vacant. I strode confidently into the laundry room; hoping my bravery was contagious to my mislead little boy. About a foot from the dog food hamper, however, I began to waver. What if the dog food container's lid had been left up? (It had.) What if nobody closed the dog food bag? (They hadn't) Undaunted (mostly), I looked into the bag. Two teensy little dark, shiny eyes looked back!

With the aforementioned "great confidence" and "undaunted courage" ... I screamed at the top of my lungs. (Yes, I know. I would have been buzzard meat on the frontier. Moving on ...) Once my breathing resumed, I peeked into the bag again. Alan was right; this was a baby mouse. Scarcely an inch long, this little fella (I presume, I wasn't gonna check!) clasped his little paws together, as if to beg me for mercy. Once I got over the shock of a living animal in the dog food, I saw how absolutely adorable he was! His fur was not "lab rat" white, but a soft-charcoal gray. His eyes were the same color as Wyatt's. I knew I couldn't let Miss Cabela (the mighty huntress disguised as a black tri mini-aussie) get to him. I scooped him up in a cup and brought him to show my husband.

From the buck antlers on our family room walls to the rat traps in the barn, it is evident that my husband doesn't have a problem with "doing what must be done" to keep things in check around here. The venison from hunting season feeds our family all year, and rat traps are a must if you have grain in the barn (and wish to keep it that way). Just the same, he also has a soft spot for many of the critters around here. He fills the bird feeders, leaves berries on high branches for the squirrels and avoids over-trimming bushes that he knows are wild bunny homes. I knew he would spare this little guy, so long as he didn't return. I was right-- he took one look in the cup and said, "Oh my goodness, this guy is REALLY CUTE!" When I asked him to put him just past the property gate, he agreed.

Concerned that our little furry friend might not have enough room in the little paper cup, hubby grabbed a "Mrs. Leepers Gluten-Free Macaroni and Cheese" box and put him in it. As we were heading to the door, he decided we should get a picture of this little guy. Please, if you remember nothing else from this story, remember this: if a brand resembling the word "LEAP" is on a box and you put a wild animal, DO NOT OPEN THE BOX BACK UP TO TAKE A PICTURE! Sadly, this is hindsight, so we did just that. Once that lid opened, "Mr. Leepers" LEAPT out of the box and scurried beneath the couch.

Frustrated, but not ready to send in 'Bela to do the poor little guy in, hubby made a barricade around the couch. We had what looked like the perfect plan. While the boys manned their stations, I lifted the couch. As hubby tried to catch the mouse with a mixing bowl, he ran between his ankles and under the entertainment center.

The next 30 minutes played out like a slapstick comedy. Every time we thought we had him, we didn't. The one time I thought my husband hadn't caught him, he haphazardly lifted up the bowl, only to watch Mr. Leepers run out from under the bowl and into the entry way closet. Of all the places he could have scampered off to, this was probably the worst. As my husband tried to cut him off at the shoe bin, the exasperated love of my life pleaded, "Mr. Leepers, I am TRYING TO SAVE YOUR LIFE!"

Shortly after that sentence was uttered, Mr. Leepers was back in the box. As we walked him out past the gate to a nice little shrubbery, the poor baby mouse was breathing as hard as we were! We placed him gingerly on a leaf, where he curled up and went to sleep; exhausted from the ordeal. Hubby and I wanted to do the same!

Since that happened a few weeks back, I yell, "Ollie, Ollie oxen-free!" before feeding the dogs in the morning. The mouse trap just behind the freezer (which is right by the doggie door) which has been there since last fall, is now baited and set. I certainly don't want mice eating my dog food, but I really don't want to find anybody in the trap, either!

There are seasons in my life when I am headed in the wrong direction, lured by something very appetizing. I see all my desires being met. My Father, however, sees the trap. Time and time again, He scoops me out of the mess, attempting to bring me to safety. I know I'm in the wrong place, but I want to get out my way. Running and hiding from the God (who only wants to protect and provide for me), I end up stuck in dark little places, living in fear. Sometimes I get a toe stuck in the trap, and My Father attempts to free me. Gently, but deliberately, he puts a firmer hold on me; avoiding further injury. Oh, how I holler and bellow, complaining that nobody warned me about the trap! Far more patient than I would ever be with a baby mouse, God continues to spring me from traps, tend to my wounds and lead me to safe places.

One of my favorite names for God is, "El Yeshuatentu," which is Hebrew for, "the God of our salvation, deliverance and victory." When I stop running (usually, due to exhaustion or being stuck) and I see who He Is, I am so humbled. He knows all, sees all and yet, He takes the time to look after me. He never loses patience with me, in spite of my arrogance and rebellion. Knowing the power, intellect and holiness of God only makes His grace extended to His people that much more amazing!

If you're grumbling under a Rhodie bush, feeling bored with clover and seeds, know there is safety there. Wait for the bounty of Spring and Summer. God will provide! If you are in a bag of yummy treats, napping with a full belly, do not fight when The Father wants to get closer to you and scoop you out of your comfy little spot. He loves you. He wants to rescue you from the trap you can't see! If you're curled up in a dark little corner, or worse- your tail's stuck in a trap, call out to Him. The God who never gives up on me will never give up on you, either. :)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Granny Squares

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
2 Timothy 1:5

While searching for the perfect pattern to make a present for a friend of mine, I came upon a very talented artist in the U.K. (Don't you just LOVE the Internet? :)) by the name of Carina. While reading her tutorial on creating a "granny square" blanket, I was extremely impressed by how carefully she explained each step, discouraging short-cuts. In this day and age, such methods are rare-- and not just in crochet patterns! Being the sentimental gal that I am, I felt compelled today to write about my grandmothers and the fibers of wisdom, love and history they have woven into my life.

My Grandma Howard taught me how to crochet when I was a little girl. I can only imagine what had was like for her, knowing what a squirrely little chatterbox I was! I was also left-handed, which meant she had to be my "mirror," not my side-by-side tutor. I only learned two stitches (I'm sure by then I was hungry, bored or thinking about a boy), but that little lesson gave me many other valuable gifts. When the winter winds blew and every book on my shelf had been read twice, I had a fun little way to keep my hands busy. I never got past scarves, pot holders and dolly blankets at that time, but that was enough for me. It gave me a way to create and express myself when I was between plays, not in choir or had no siblings at home to pester.

It was a gift that I didn't really dive into and explore until adulthood. Nothing like the stress of motherhood combined with months of post-op recovery to make you desire something that stimulates your brain, isn't terribly expensive, requires no machinery that a small child can break and can be done while sitting! Now that I've gone beyond potholders and scarves, I understand time time, effort and love stitched into the afghans she made for us. Until you've made an afghan yourself, you have no idea how difficult it is to have a finished project with straight edges, even stitching and back-post-double-crochet detailing. I loved my blanket the moment she gave it to me, but now I see beyond the existing throw. I see hours of counting, grumbling, yarn-detangling, tearing out crooked rows, fishing for missing hooks in couch cushions and the frustration over un-even dye lots or craft stores completely out of royal blue.

I still can't make my stitches as precise as hers; you can't compete with sixty-plus years experience! She was also a grandmother when she made my afghan, the years of hustle and bustle of motherhood were behind her. While she still kept plenty busy for as long as she was physically able, she wasn't as "rushed." I see that more in her daughter (my sweet mama) as time goes by. The urgency of doing more (sometimes even at the expense of quality) is something that made Grandma Howard shake her head. She saw the value of a home cooked meal, a full cookie jar, garden-fresh vegetables and Bible devotionals that weren't sent to your phone. I may hit the espresso stand for my three-dollar latte (which is, quite possibly, the ONE subject where my mother and grandmother shook their heads in joint disbelief), wear pants to church (I'm certain Grandma would rather have worn a skirt made out of a burlap sack) and my house will NEVER be as immaculate as hers, but much of her has been woven into the fibers of my being. Green beans and bacon, angel food cake, Psalms read in the KJV and the hymns she sang in my childhood comfort my soul on days when I miss her. I loved my Grandma Howard, many people did. She was a remarkable lady.

Grandma Harms was seen by many people as a very serious woman. She was different from my maternal grandma in pretty much every way possible. While Grandma Howard was an "ample sample" of a woman who loved to give big hugs and hold babies close to her. Grandma Harms was rather thin, held newborns as though she were carrying firewood and was more of a "leaner" than a hugger. Grandma didn't knit or crochet, but she also wove a lot of her history into the fibers of my being. Grandma loved an interesting story. Even when we only lived a mile away from one another, if she saw an article in the paper, she'd mail it to me with a little note that would say something to the effect of, "Dear Amy: Thought you'd find this interesting. Hope you are well. Love, G. Harms." (By the way, her first name was Wanda. the "G" stood for grandma!)

When Grandma Harms and I were together, we shared our "news" of the week and then just chatted about anything and everything. If you got past her prickly exterior, you were able to peer into the soul of a woman who lived a rich life in her own way. When Grandma came to visit, she usually slept in my bed with me. We were known for our late night chats when, surprisingly, grandma did most of the talking! I never grew tired of hearing about her adventures of life on the farm. One night, when we heard my mother admonish us from across the hall(it was, after all, a school night), grandma whispered, "Aw, you tell her to go sit on a tack! We're having fun!"

As we laid there in bed, giggling like two little girls, I thought about how much fun Grandma was away from watchful eyes. She seemed to feel the need to keep people at arm's length, lest you think she was frivolous or foolish. (I don't think anyone from the senior center would have guessed that my Grandma loved sporty cars and religiously watched Oprah!) As she entered her nineties, she grew increasingly frustrated by how "useless" she felt when she began to slow down. That being said, she also didn't want to die because she might "miss something!" She clung to her Independence so fiercely that she packed for a trip to ocean shores the week before she died; still nursing a broken hip!

My visits with Grandma Harms taught me a lot about her life, but more importantly, they taught me much more about the importance of taking the time to move past first impressions. I have more words of affection written in cards and post cards (often sent with newspaper clippings) than she ever shared face to face. I also think about how "useless" she began to feel, and try to remember that as I begin to lose patience with an older lady writing a check at the grocery store or an older gentleman wanting to visit in the halls at church when I'm late for a meeting.

When I miss Grandma Harms, I eat a hot dog, listen to Kate Smith singing "How Great Thou Art" or drive through the lovely farms near us. I may not wear a hat and gloves everywhere I go (or ANYWHERE I go) and I'll never embrace vegetables, shrimp and tomato juice in lemon jell-o, but Grandma Harms' legacy is stitched forever with mine. She was a remarkable woman; I loved her very much. Too few people did.

Aside from both of these ladies loving their children and grandchildren very much in their own, special ways, there was something they both felt strongly about. They didn't just love to sing hymns, they firmly believed those words. They both had a strong desire for their families to know The LORD, and faithfully prayed for us. When I walked into their rooms unannounced, an open Bible was not a rare sight. Their faith was an inspiration while they were with us and a comfort when they passed away. A legacy of Faith is truly the greatest gift these women gave to their children and grandchildren; it is my prayer that above all else, I continue to pass it to their great-grandchildren.

Like a checker-boarded pattern, these two ladies color my past, present and future. Even in their absence, their love keeps me warm. If you are blessed to still have a grandma in your life, call her. I wish I'd called mine more often. Hug her, even if she doesn't always remember who you are when you visit. Listen when she tells the same story (again), because you never know when those words will be silenced. As I wait for the day when I can sit and have tea with my Grandmas in glory, I am thankful for the loving legacy they have left me. May that be said of all of us!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

*For more information about Carina's blog, you can find her @

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mama's Manna

Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”
Exodus 12:20

In may of last year, I received test results that changed the inhabitants of my kitchen forever. After years of tummy issues, skin issues, joint pain, etc., I discovered that my body wasn't my enemy, the contents of my pantry and refrigerator shelves were. I had over fifty food allergies and didn't even know it! Gluten was a bummer, but expected. Dairy was validation. But soy, all nuts except almonds, beans, grains, cranberries ... it was all a lot to take in. Seeing that I still had a lot of food left that I could eat, I only found one biggie that was hard to get around. Baker's and brewer's yeast were extremely high. How on earth was I going to make bread?

It took a few weeks before I could shop alone (I needed someone to help me check labels!), but eventually I grew confident in branching out. I had given up on even trying to avoid yeast; deciding it was just too hard. My body, however, had other plans. Eventually, I listened to my insides (instead of my taste buds) and swore off yeast. I had tried store bought Amy-friendly bread (there is but one), it smelled and tasted like FEET. It foamed in your mouth while chewing. Good crimeny, it was awful! I had heard a tale in the "bloggesphere" of a delicious gluten, dairy, soy, pea and corn-free artisan loaf available in Seattle for only NINE DOLLARS. I am the daughter of Mary Harms. I don't pay nine dollars for a pound of shrimp, much less ONE loaf of bread! Thus began my quest to make an edible, enjoyable loaf of "Amy-friendly" bread.

As my family, friends and well-fed dogs and chickens will tell you, I now know why a good loaf of allergen-free bread is nine dollars! I've created my share of duds! The little men in my life try (in their own unique ways) to encourage me. Little Alan says, "Mommy, you're a genius! You just invented the first gluten-free eraser!" or, "It's not delicious bread, mom, but I'm sure it will make the perfect gluten-free brick!"

Wyatt, on the other hand, will say, "Mommy, this bread makes you cry. Don't make it anymore! Make pancakes, mommy! You can make those!" or "Mommy, I want you to drive to Seattle right NOW."

My poor husband does his best to comfort me as I sob while holding a rectangular, steaming object that smells like brown rice and could potentially put a hole through the floor if dropped. Looking into my puffy, mournful eyes, he begs me to "just make teff bread."

In the ten months that have passed since my test results arrived, I have successfully created mountains of muffins, a plethora of pancakes and bunches of biscuits. I am far from carb-deprived, but I have only found two bread recipes that work well. I had never worked with teff, buckwheat, amaranth or blanched almond flour before my gluten-free life, but now I can't make bread without them! While they won't pass for a slice of wonder bread, they are soft, comforting and nourishing. When a fresh loaf of "Mommy bread" comes out of the oven, even the gluten-eaters want some! :) I'm usually satisfied with these breads, but once in a while, I want something light (both in color and texture), fluffy and reminiscent of loaves gone by. Last night, I tried two new recipes: they resulted in an eraser and a brick. :/

I have my health back. My children can hug me without it hurting every joint in my body. I don't get migraines. My tummy loves me again. My face doesn't look like I exfoliated with a cheese grater. Why then, do I long for a silly loaf of white bread? It's that darn humanity peeking through again. I know better. After all, Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," not "give us an artisan loaf that makes perfect french toast and can be made for under three dollars."

I know I'm not the first child of His whining about bread; He heard similar whining from the Children of Israel. He rained down flakes of cereal-esqe goodness FROM THE SKY and still the people grumbled. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, one of the objects of temptation used by Satan was bread. Why do we all care so much about bread?

I believe that bread signifies security to us. Every civilization in the world has a form of bread. If you can make bread, it usually means you have a warm fire to cook it in and a home to eat it in. You have food to prepare it with. You have a community to share it with.

When we must depend on God to lead us to the point where we don't know from whence our bread will come, we get nervous. The Israelites had been following a cloud by day and fire by night. They didn't know where the next day would lead them. Even though God had brought them out of slavery and fed them wherever they went, they wanted to be home. When Jesus was alone in the desert, he had fasted for forty days. He was understandably hungry! He knew that His Father would look after all his needs, but I'm certain that He longed for bread. Not just to satisfy His stomach, but I'm certain forty days in solitude got pretty lonely!

What's my "beef" with my bread? It doesn't look like the bread I remember. It's small. It's brownish-purple. I can't buy it at a store or order it at a restaurant. As silly as it sounds, I want to assimilate with my light and fluffy bread-eating peers. My bread may be new, but assimilating has never seemed to be in the plans for me. I'm not a "Ruth," I'm more of a "John The Baptist!" God promised to feed and nurture me, not homogenize me. He has continued to surround me with a loving, supportive community of family and friends; all of whom seem to accept this uniqueness-- which goes far beyond my bread!

As I look at the grains in my pantry; so many of them "comfort grains" to God's precious children in Africa, I know I don't have to look beyond my God for security. May each slice remind me!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Goodwill Hunting (Alan's Adventures Part 1)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1Corinthians 10:13

My little guys were heavy on my mind in church today. During Sunday School, we talked about the awesome responsibility of teaching our children how to grow up to become moral adults who contribute to society, understand their purpose and have a strong foundation of faith. Ironically, our sermon today was on temptation. I didn't have to look too far back to recall a time this past week when both concepts were tested ...

I'm not the only member of "Munson Manor" who enjoys shopping; Little Alan has the bargain hunting gene in spades! He loves garage sales, dollar stores and especially thrift stores. Since the boys had no school on Friday, Wyatt was anticipating a night of "Wii marathon madness" and Alan was hoping for some sort of adventure. I looked at the box of goods waiting for re-homing and my antsy son in cramped shoes and decided it was definitely time for the two of us to "get our shop on!" We scurried into the bargain-mobile (a.k.a. the family SUV) and headed to Goodwill.

As we sorted through racks in search of the coveted red tags (meaning half-priced goodies for us), Alan spied a jacket that immediately caught his eye. It possessed the three qualities he admires most; camouflage material, a hood and LOTS of pockets! As he inspected each flap for working zippers, he found something neither of us expected-- a one dollar bill! This seemed like a dream come true for my son; a coat he loved with a free dollar in the pocket! To add to the irony, the tag said, "as is" on it. While it would have been superb if the reason behind that marking was the extra denero in the pocket, that wasn't the case. The tag was referring to the four inch jagged rip on the hood seam. I sighed, knowing I'd have to tell Alan we couldn't buy the coat. Naturally, he hoped I could fix it. I told him this wasn't an easy fix, it would lay crooked and the coat wasn't on a good sale. I braced myself for the question I knew I would hear, "Can I at least keep the dollar?"

What to do, what to do ... Yes, he had found it, but it was donated by someone else with THAT COAT. Since we weren't going to buy the coat, we couldn't keep it. That would have been stealing. But what to do next? Put it back? Since my son had squealed, "Holy cow, mom, there's a DOLLAR IN THIS COAT!" I knew there was a good chance that someone else would steal it. Thankfully, I was also on the phone with my buddy Jessica. She mentioned that since people probably gave monetary donations to Goodwill, we should treat it as such and give it to the store manager. I asked Alan if he wanted me to turn it in for him. To my surprise, he told me he would like to do it. He wasn't excited about it, but he knew it was the honest thing to do.

I would love to say that my son bore the brunt of temptation that day, but I dealt with some issues of my own. While I wouldn't have allowed him to keep the dollar, I was tempted to just spend the seven dollars for a coat he would never wear. "Seven dollars isn't much for a coat," I rationalized in my head, "He could wear it just around the house!" That would make perfect sense, except for the fact that he already had 2 coats, 3 jackets and 3 sweatshirts at home. This was NOT a child who "needed" a coat, especially a ripped one. I knew that it would be a waste of the resources God had blessed our family with, but I really didn't want to put a downer on our shopping trip. (Is anyone else having a hard time remembering which one of us is the parent and which one of us is the CHILD, here?) Teaching my son not to steal was pretty much a no-brainer, but teaching my son about stewardship was a fuzzier issue for sure. I was so thankful for Jessica, my little "virtual voice of reason."

I'd love to tell you that turning away from temptation always feels good, but the truth is that sometimes it's a bummer! Let's face it, there are times when doing the right thing can be downright painful. The temptation to give up, give in or take a short-cut will always be there for that very reason. As human beings, we're not too gung-ho on the whole "personal growth through turmoil and suffering" route! I would feel entirely hopeless if the inevitability of temptation at every turn was the only message in 1 Corinthians 10:13, but praise God, there's more! While he does allow us to be "tested" by Satan's tempting, He always provides us a WAY OUT! I believe those who portray our Heavenly Father as a vengeful God who is "out to get us" miss this verse. His desire is for us to be victorious over temptation!

As another week begins, I know my temptations will be many. I'm just glad to know that every test I face is "open book!" :)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Empathizing with Chicken Nuggets

for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.
Hebrews 4:10

I LOVE grocery shopping! I love admiring beautiful produce, talking to baggers and produce managers, looking at beautiful cakes in the bakery (yes, even though I can't eat most of them) the empowering savings (and lack of wasteful packaging) from the bulk bins, the rush of watching my totals decrease as the checker scans my coupons ... it's all so wonderful! However, I greatly dislike shopping alone. Let me rephrase that-- I dislike shopping without the company of adults! One of my favorite shopping companions is my best pal Jillian. Like a lot of busy moms, we do most of our shopping dates via cell phone. We always have obscure and enjoyable conversations; today was no exception! :)

As I pushed my cart through the gluten-free section of Fred Meyer, Jillian and I were chatting about chicken nuggets and how our kiddos loved them. I told her about a successful recipe that even pleased Wyatt, who is extremely picky about meat. while mentioning the use of ground turkey, we agreed that it worked because it was most like "mechanically separated chicken." While my bestie and I don't agree on everything (food or otherwise), we are both royally skeeved out by those words. Jillian said it so well: "They take a chicken and pull it six ways from Sunday. It's so disturbing!"

Some days I feel like a mechanically separated mommy. I'm pulled so many directions and try to get so much accomplished at once, my life often ends up in a way that isn't healthy or even a remotely "natural" existence. I know my Father wants me to bless my family and friends, but He also wants me to rest in Him. That means accepting sometimes that yes, this IS all I'm going to get done today. I am going to bed! It means giving him my worries that tumble through my noggin when I should be counting sheep. It means taking a break from researching how to make cheese from almonds and just cuddling with my kids. It means taking a break from activities that are "good," but might be taking over my life in a way that isn't good for me. It means taking the time to stop, listen to His voice, read His Word and just bask in His presence. *sigh* I feel less like a jumbled, fried patty just typing that. :)

I'm going to close today with the recipe I made yesterday. I hope you are able to enjoy them- and not RESEMBLE them in your daily life! ;)

In Lenten Love and Friendship,


Gluten-Free Nameless Nuggets (Sorry Y'all, I'm tired. I'll name them later. :) )

1 lb ground chicken, turkey or whatever makes you happy
3 C rice chex crushed to breadcrumb-size (or bread crumbs)
1/4 C tapioca Starch (cornstarch or arrowroot works too)
1T kosher salt
1T paprika
1T parsley
1 t oregano
ground pepper (to taste)
1 egg (or egg replacer), beaten with 2T water
3-4T cooking oil of your choice

mix together cereal crumbs, starch of your choice and spices, set aside in a bowl

Beat eggs with water, set in another bowl.

Shape 4 patties at a time, then prepare for breading, wash your little piggies and repeat until they're all ready to fry.

*Breading tip* Take patties and dip them in egg with one hand, and use the other to coat them with crumbs. Place on a baking sheet. (This helps prevent breading your fingers as well!)

Over med heat, cook for 3-5 minutes on each side in oil until golden brown and lovely. Check a larger nugget in the middle to make sure they are fully cooked. Keep warm in oven until all are finished, serve to your hungry crew on paper plates with a side dish they will eat without giving you grief and an easy fruit or veggie. Toss paper plates in the garbage (or compost, if you're cool like that), let 2 bowls and pan soak in the sink for a while and enjoy your family!

Friday, March 11, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress. Therefore, though you set out the finest plants and plant imported vines,though on the day you set them out, you make them grow, and on the morning when you plant them, you bring them to bud, yet the harvest will be as nothing in the day of disease and incurable pain.
Isaiah 17:10,11

I struggled to find a suitable (and royalty-free) blog header. I knew I wanted a Bible and coffee, so it would be like having coffee with Jesus. :) Of course, I simply could not stop there- I had to make it look super-snazzy! After all, this was an Amy Allen-designed blog, I had to give her some material worthy of her endless creativity! I also thought about the other parts of my life and how I needed to capture them. After all, my inspiration comes from my life, right? How would I manage that? It seemed impossible! That, of course, is where my favorite web designer and her HTML genius comes in handy. :) She found the answer to my dilemma, a collage layout! With only my list of possible picture ideas, she finished my header faster than I can order a latte at Cutters Point. It was beautiful. It was appropriate. It was (I thought) complete.

After two days of blogging, I was awakened in the night with a rather embarrassing realization. Something very important was missing! I had the tongue-in-cheek fifties housewife and hubby graphic, the boys, the pets, laundry, a loaf of gluten-free bread, and (of course), coffee. What did I forget in my devotional blog about Jesus? A Bible! I smacked my forehead in embarrassment. Really? Did I include a picture of a chicken and forget to put a Bible in there? I emailed Amy first thing in the morning to fix my big oopsie. We talked about how that is so typical of us to do in our daily lives, and I mentioned it would make a good blog entry some time. I had no idea how appropriate it would be for the day about to unfold before me!

My morning began in a rather startling fashion; a tsunami watch on the coast. With my parents living five minutes from the ocean, I was naturally concerned. Even though it was a "watch" and not a "warning," I called my parents and made sure they knew what was going on. Naturally, my parents were already dressed and had bottles of water in the car, just in case. I urged them to head inland at the slightest hint of conditions growing worse. They agreed and urged me to go back to bed. After watching the news for another 30 minutes, I drifted back to sleep, completely forgetting to do something useful. While I worried about my parents, warned my parents and yes, even told people who had changed my diapers what to do, I never prayed for them. A vital piece of that picture was missing.

When I was just beginning to start my day, I was reminded of a meeting that I had completely forgotten about. It was today, and it was at MY HOUSE! Since the boys didn't have school, we were planning on having a relaxing pajama day. Well, the pajama part was right. Relaxing? Not so much. The boys already had a plethora of toys all over the floor, the dogs are in the middle of blowing out their winter coats and I'd washed, dried and neglected 4 loads of laundry over the course of this busy week. I also planned on having Wyatt's buddy over that afternoon. I did not completely lose my mind and attempt to get the house spotless, but we most certainly were going to find the floor beneath the Legos and dog hair! I then began to fret about dinner. On a day with so much unexpected excitement, I refused to change my plans to try (and alter) a brand new recipe, which of course, I had to do prep work for. I also wanted to make sure to have the dishes from said prep work clean as a whistle before she arrived, all while doing other project and caring for two little boys who did not have school. Was this destined to add complications? You betcha. Did I check in with God to ask His opinion of all this? I'm afraid not.

After a two hour meeting (which took place in the middle of Wyatt's play date and my husband arriving home from work), I was exhausted and my brain was fried. Sadly, what was not yet fried was dinner! My hubby had hiked that afternoon, the boys were (as usual) hungry and my recipe was simply not cooperating. After over an hour of doctoring and re-vamping, dinner was finally ready. Thank goodness the masses were hungry, less picky folk probably wouldn't have eaten it! While I remembered to complain, blame, pout and go berserk on anyone who dared to breathe wrong, I didn't come to my Father for help. No wonder everything was a mess- most of all, me!

All day long, I tried to keep things going according to my plan. I had tried to maintain my vision for the day. The verse in Isaiah is most certainly true: when we forget about God, it's not a pretty picture! Things might look okay for a while, but it's eventually going to fall apart on you! A life that works without regular encounters with God is as unrealistic as Suzie Homemaker's waistline. We end up out of balance, exhausted, stressed, angry and ready to give up altogether; all because we won't ask for guidance from the One who actually has the answers we so desperately seek.

I'm glad Amy put the Bible on top of my header, that is where I need to place my time with God. I thought about Him, talked about Him, even Sang about Him as I cleaned the shower. What was missing was communing with Him. Lord, help me to stop planning and start PRAYING!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blowing on Bananas (& Other Strange Toddler Habits)

For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11

As I sit here in my quiet family room, I see evidence of my little "rental toddler" still remaining on my floor. While Kaelin (my part-time nannying gig) is a rather helpful little boy (especially for a two-year-old), I always find a few small items strewn about after he leaves. Looking at the jingle bell shaker half-hidden beneath the couch, the bouncy ball under my piano bench and the plush turtle resting on the scanner, I think of the day's adventures and smile. What fun we have, my little "K-Bug" and I!

Call me crazy, but I LOVE toddlers-- especially two-year-olds! Yes, I am fully aware of the tantrums, power struggles and food fiascoes notorious with this age. Those, I admittedly don't do cartwheels about. But putting those aside (a task which is much easier to accomplish when someone has the child for limited hours, is not pregnant with the little darling's baby brother, sleeps all night and is paid!), toddlerhood is an incredible age of discovery! They are in a constant state of wonder concerning the world around them.

You can almost see the little gears turning in those little heads, trying to figure out just how the world works: "How do I get what I need? How do I get what I want? Is there a difference? How does physics work? Does gravity apply to me? How about my green beans? The cat licks her fur constantly; is it because she tastes good? Where are my limits? Are they still there? How about now? Has my name been changed to 'No-No?"

It's interesting to watch Kaelin attempt to apply absolutes to a world that simply will not accommodate them. This morning, I was making muffins. Kaelin wanted to partake of the gloppy dough sitting in the stoneware wells. I told him it wasn't ready yet, we needed to bake the muffins. He leaned over and blew on them proudly, as if to say, "Hey, when mom tells me I have to wait for my food, she does this and suddenly, I can eat it! I bet this will work for me in any food situation ..."

Seeing that my poor little buddy was hungry, I offered him a banana at the table. He climbed into his booster seat, sat down at the table and blew on his banana! When I told him it wasn't hot, he held up his hands to sign "wait" and continued blowing his 62 degree banana.

After an eternity (or twenty-five minutes to the non-toddler), the muffins were ready to come out of the oven. Kaelin heard the oven door creak open and said, "Mmmmmmmmm! *chomping sound, gulping sound* Mmmmmmm!" I told him to stay back, that the muffins were VERY HOT. Keeping him at arm's length, I attempted to avoid dropping the oven-fresh goodies on my foot while laughing. With all his might, Kaelin was blowing in the general direction of the muffins! Even from three feet away, Kaelin was determined to get those muffins into his mouth ASAP!

Oh, how I wish I could say I've matured past this stage in my walk with God. There are times when I can begin to see wonderful blessings approaching my horizon. It is ridiculously hard for me to wait on God's timing! I want to bring it about faster! I need it (or I want it-- I'm still confusing those two, it seems) now! Delusional in how the universe works, my actions proclaim: "Here God, I'll fix it. I saw you do it this way one time, so I'm sure that will work here, too! I can do it just like you, see?" Yep, I probably look as cosmically aware as a toddler blowing on muffin dough.

Ever the compassionate and loving Father, He often brings unexpected blessings to help me through those painful waiting periods. While there are times when I eagerly accept these gifts, but I am also known to hop right into toddler mode once more.

The God of the universe has all but written in the sky, "Here-- this is to help you wait. I love you, and I know you don't understand my plans." He all but plops some of them into my lap, and I sit there asking for a sign, clarification or the knowledge of His will. My snack is room temperature, but I'm just a blowin' away ...

The other action I tend to take (and I'm really not proud of this) is just a full-on tantrum. "I didn't want this, Lord! You seem to be pointing me in this wonderful direction, and now I'm stuck with THIS?" Yup, I minus well kick, scream and throw something on the floor in defiance.

Why do I second-guess God so much (considering His track record) and put faith in my plans (considering my track record)? God is never wrong. I may be made in his image, but I'm certainly not anywhere close to perfect yet! He put the stars in the heavens. I forget to buy dishwasher soap. Is this really a question in my mind?

I am so blessed to serve a God who doesn't take my narrow view of life personally. I'm not going to say that He's never put me in my own little "time out" for throwing a diva fit, but He knows how limited my understanding is. He looks at me with love and compassion (and, I am certain, a heavy dose of laughter), guiding me as I grow. He is constantly reassuring me that His plans have my very best interest at heart. Even when I doubt His goodness, God has unfathomable mercy upon me.

I have no doubt in my mind that He takes great joy in watching me partake in the great blessings which, in my foolishness, I was certain would never arrive. I hope I give God the kind of gratitude Kaelin gave me when he was able to eat his highly anticipated muffin (which, of course, he insisted on eating with a fork)!

In Lenten Love and Friendship,