An Official Frenzy

Scurry, scurry…frantic fury. The past month has flown by in a blur ! Despite continued attempts to keep our schedule manageable, there are still seasons of busyness because some invisible law dictates that once in a while, everything our children want to do and every event involving extended family or friends must all occur within the same limited time frame – and often at the exact same time. Ever been there? Thankfully we are nearing the end of a six week frenzy.

I regret that for me this year, Christmas seemed but a stepping stone on my quest to reach the end of the harried period. Since one major event is still looming on the horizon this week, it overshadowed in my mind what should have been a glorious celebration of Christ’s birth. I am grateful for the Lord’s mercy, even as the Martha in me continues to anxiously cook and clean in preparation for the big day.

No, I’m not talking about a fabulous New Year’s party ( though someday, I’d like to do that too), but rather a celebration in honor of my oldest son. Many other cultures have a wonderful ceremony affirming the growth of their children into young men, and my husband and I are trying to create a similar ceremony for our children. We believe in part that these markers help dispel some of the typical teenage angst, as these young people are affirmed as the maturing adults they are becoming. Our hope is that we can call our son to a higher path in life by surrounding him with adults who see him as he is, affirm who he is becoming, and challenge him to strive for greater things.

Our younger son asked if this was an “official” celebration and when I asked him to clarify, he replied, “Well, you know, a birthday party isn’t official because you have it at home; is this going to be at home or somewhere else?” In case you’re wondering, this will be an “official” celebration!

His next question was “Why are we cleaning and working so hard if the party is somewhere else?” Apparently, he was oblivious to the fact that even though the official celebration is being held elsewhere, Mom is still the official caterer, party director, and bed and breakfast hostess for out of town guests.

I am officially crossing things off of my to do list each day, recognizing my limits and dealing with the fact that I won’t get the bathroom repainted before my company comes nor will the expanse of thick wet leaves disappear from my backyard anytime soon. The constant rain over the last few weeks has seen to that.

But we will have a wonderful time with family and friends, our son will know he is loved well – and I will finally be officially off-duty for a while!

No More Handmade Toys

I have a beautiful handcarved rattle that is a treasured memento from the days of diapers and midnight feedings. I have quilts lovingly pieced by family and friends before the birth of my first child.  These handmade gifts are valued far above the most expensive of store- bought ones. However, moms and their children may soon be denied the pleasure of owning quality, handcrafted toys when the Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act goes into law in February. In an overkill effort to respond to the problems with some mass-produced items coming from other countries, a law was drafted requiring that all toys designed for children under the age of 12 be subjected to expensive third party testing and certification.

While the intent, to prevent toys containing lead and phthalates from reaching small children, is good, the effect is to put all small toy-making business owners out of business.  These people cannot afford the expense of third party testing and still sell a product others could afford to buy.The last thing our economy needs right now is a law that will force more hard -working folks out of a job. This type of law is well-suited for large manufacturers, but there needs to be an exception for small, privately-owned businesses.  How many Etsy stores, craft fair booths, and handmade toy websites will shut down if this law goes into effect as written?

If you value the choice of buying handcrafted toys, you can make your voice heard.  Just click on the cute picture of the handmade bear for a list of people to contact and groups involved in this fight. Or visit The Handmade Toy Alliance here.

Save Handmade Toys

A Father’s Devotion

Hiking in the mountains in the snow – those who know me know this is not my idea of a good time. However, my Eagle Scout husband and newly inducted Scout son see it as a grand adventure.  And so the preparations began in earnest, as the tab for all the needed equipment escalated more rapidly than the National debt.

By Friday evening, all was in readiness for the pre-dawn Saturday morning departure. My husband went to help our daughter straighten her bed on its frame, but she soon came downstairs, saying “Dad needs you. It’s his back.” With my heart in my stomach, I went upstairs to find my husband lying flat on his back, unable to move. Not exactly where you want to be the night before a hiking trip with a bunch of Boy Scouts.

After a long soak in a hot bath and some pain medication, it was only minimally better.  By morning, he stiffly got ready and couldn’t even lean over to tie his shoes. I couldn’t imagine how he could hike six miles with a pack on his back, but he was determined since it was our son’s first big outing and the troop was counting on him. Another Scout mom lightheartedly remarked to me, “If they do have to tote him down the mountain on a stretcher, it will count toward their First Aid Merit Badge and will probably count as practice for the next camporee!!”  Small comfort, but I appreciated the humor.

This fierce determination to push himself is not his typical character, but then I realized what had happened.  Our roles have changed.  When our children were babies, I would be up multiple times in the night, rocking them and soothing away the pain and fear. Even when I didn’t “feel like it”, it was what I did because they needed me. Now they’ve been sleeping through the night for years, and most of the time would choose to hang out with Dad rather than spend time with me. I have seen my role shifting, but did not realize that I was trading places with my husband.  Now I am the one in the background, keeping the pieces together while he is in the forefront, providing the needed security.  He went, not because he wanted to, but because he knew he had to.  That I understand.

They returned this afternoon, tired and smelly and happier for the experience. And his back didn’t even hurt (much) while he was gone.

I Had a Dream

Last night, I had one of those long, too-real dreams where you wake up in the morning and have to pause for a minute or two and think – did that really happen, or was it just a dream? As a new student of journaling, I got up and wrote down everything I could remember about the dream; somehow it seemed important though I didn’t understand why. In a nutshell, I dreamed that my house and most of the others in my neighborhood were being torn down to make room for a fire station and a restaurant to be built, my children wanted to move to a farm (truevyne‘s influence, no doubt), and I was concerned about preserving some old log cabins down the street.

Once I had the details on paper, I visited, my favorite dream dictionary. This site  offers amazing insight into the most seemingly insignificant details of your dreams, and time and again, I have found a relevant explanation for what has been going on in my life at the time. As I pondered the meanings of the different words in this particular dream, I found that it did in fact confirm the decisions I have made and the  changes that have been happening around here. It never ceases to amaze me what our subconscious mind can tell us. Also, what a wonderful confirmation to see that my inner self seems to be at peace with my outward decisions. There are big changes on the horizon, and God was gracious enough to confirm my tentative steps through my dream.

I will close by sharing yesterday’s entry from my favorite devotional book, Celtic Daily Prayer :

The thoughts of the son ran thus: ‘My hopes painted beautiful pictures, but they are fading one by one.’

His Father said, ‘ Destroy all those pictures. To watch them slowly fading is weakening to the soul. Dare then to destroy them.  You can if you will. I will give you other pictures instead of those your hopes painted.’

Amy Carmichael

God doesn’t see me the way I do either; I look all the time into a distorted mirror that exaggerates some features and makes others disappear.  God sees a true picture of me with all my faults and limitations, but more than this He sees a picture of all the possibilities and potential I hold.

‘Just let me get my hands on this one,’ He thinks,  ‘and then just wait and see what the finished picture will be.’

Sometimes God gives us a glimpse of that picture to encourage us and spur us on. For me, it is a long process, but in the end it is all about becoming God’s picture of me.

The beautiful stained glass picture was created by Steve Van Ronk at

Journaling my Thoughts

Did you have a diary as a child? One of those little hardback books with a lock and key to hide your secret dreams? Yeah, me too, but I never got much further than “today we learned our times tables” and other not so useful information. I was never one to pour out my thoughts and dreams on paper. After all, someone else might read them, you know!

I did keep a travel journal in college when I spent a semester in London. I could write my own tour book of London from the diary I kept, but you’ll never figure out what was going on inside my head. I guess I’ve always thought of journaling my thoughts as an invasion of my private space and not the enjoyable, relaxing activity that many people find it to be.

And then I began reading The Creative Call, a book that takes you on an 8 week journey to discover your creative side by – you guessed it- journaling every day! Now, I have loved most of the author’s suggestions, but I bristled at the thought of a daily writing assignment. Finally, though, her gentle pleas to “just give it a try” got to me. I reluctantly followed the instructions to get up 20 minutes earlier than usual and go write before talking to anyone or doing anything else. Let me just tell you, I was amazed!

The pen took on a life of its own and wrote almost faster than I could think! The second morning, I got up more readily, began writing, and actually had to bite my tongue so I wouldn’t snap at my husband when he dared to walk by and speak to me. It was as if speaking somehow destroyed the flow of creative energy.

I’m now in the fourth week of the experiment, and while I cannot say that I have gotten up early every morning, I have done it often enough to see a huge difference. In those early morning times, my thoughts flow more freely and my brain makes connections between ideas almost subconsciously.

So, whether you’re a regular journaler or you’ve never written a word, I encourage you to give it a try this week. Perhaps you, too, will be pleasantly surprised at what you discover.

If you would like more information about the benefits of journaling, check out this article:

Car Travel Fun

For the first time since 2002, says AAA, travel during the Thanksgiving weekend will decrease from the previous year. Glad to know that we’re not contributing to that part of the economic slump! Oh, no -we have a jolly 10 hour trip planned today to see cousins and grandparents. Fortunately, my kids are past the age where every minute in the car seat is pure torture.

In fact, we’re even past car seats, as of last year. It’s a whole new phase of freedom! The kids can change seats at will partway through the trip without having to reconfigure every piece of carefully packed luggage and without two adults leaning on the car seats to make sure they are tightly buckled into the car. Nope – it’s each man for himself, or each child for him or herself now. Ah, the simple joys in life!

We still, I reluctantly admit, rely a little too heavily on the DVD player. After all, the alphabet game only lasts so long – and it’s a LONG trip! One thing I enjoy to build a little family time into the car ride is listening to an audiobook together. I try to pick a book to suit all tastes (that’s always fun!) that will last several hours, and we break it up into short segments. Listen for a while, play for a while, watch a movie for a while. Even the kid who gripes about having to listen usually ends up enjoying it, and we have a common reference for discussion later, too. Often an inside family joke will develop over something we’ve heard, and the joke may last long after the story is forgotten. But the memories were created, the family bonds were strengthened, and we made it to Grandma’s with our sanity intact.

My overly-ambitious list for this trip includes:

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith

The Girl Who Married a Lion ( a collection of African folktales) by Alexander McCall Smith

I’ll give you the critics’ results when we return.

For all of you who will be joining me on the road this holiday weekend, may you have safe travels and may the visits be worth the effort to get there. For those of you staying home, I wish you an enjoyable and restful weekend. And here’s a Thanksgiving wish for everyone:

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Free Rice

Have you stocked up on the turkey, dressing, and pumpkin pie? Are you doing your stomach-stretching exercises in preparation for The Big Meal on Thursday? Or perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who gets to spread the eating fest across two or more households in one day.

As you are lying on the couch, dazed from your l-tryptophan overload and too full to think of exercising, try spending a few minutes exercising your brain and giving some hungry kids a bit to eat as well. Engage the family in some friendly competition to see who has the best vocabulary and who can donate the most free rice. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, visit This website has a very addicting vocabulary challenge game, and with each level you beat, the sponsors will donate rice through the UN World Food Program to help end world hunger. In just a little over a year, players have donated over 51 billion grains of rice, and improved their vocabulary in the process. – It’s fun, it’s free, it’s for a great cause -and you don’t even have to get up off of the couch!

Hineni, or Here I am, Lord

I learned a great Hebrew word in my quiet time recently- Hineni.

Hineni means “I’m ready, Lord; I’ll go if you send me; I’m listening, Lord, tell me what you would have me to know.” It is the word Abraham used when God called to him and asked him to sacrifice Isaac; it is the word Moses used as he stood before the burning bush, and it is the word that young Samuel used in the temple when he heard a voice calling to him in the night.

It’s a powerful word. A word that brought life- changing events for each of the people who spoke it. And I bet not one of them would take it back. Not one of them regrets grappling with the fear, but giving in to the will of the God who is Good, who has plans to prosper and not to harm us.

The hard part comes for those of us who are a little more seasoned in life and have seen that God’s ways are not our ways, and that our lives are not always going the way we think He should have them mapped out. His plans to prosper us and not harm us may be in the next life, and not right now. So, to conquer our fears we need an eternal perspective, a reminder that this life is but a blip on the screen of time. God sees it all, and He has a great call and plan for each of us, both in this life and the next.

Since we are but temporal creatures, our job is to be willing, just for today. We are not called to know what God has in store for us in the next life, or even next year or next week. We are called to take one step at a time to seek God’s plan and to follow it with conviction.

Wrestle with the fear, and beat it down if you must. But, if you truly seek God’s call on your life, then offer to Him these words:

“Hineni, Adonai. Here I am.”

What Happened to Thanksgiving?

Whatever happened to the all-American holiday of Thanksgiving? You remember – handprint turkeys, Pilgrims and Indians, and waiting impatiently until you were old enough to graduate from the kids’ table to the adult table.

Looking at retailers today, you would think that the calendar went straight from October 31 to December. We faced an onslaught of ghoulish looking creatures in October, replaced abruptly with singing Santas and elves the day after Halloween. The Christmas buying campaign was in full swing, in some cases, before the pumpkins and spiderwebs disappeared. Thanksgiving, one of the few truly American historical holidays seems to have been lost in the dust. I walked into one of the large national craft stores in early November and found row upon row of every Christmas craft and decoration imaginable. Fall decorations were long gone, and after some searching, I found one shelf with a few turkeys and Pilgrims.

You would think that a holiday created in memory of the people who fought incredible odds to survive their first year in this land would be worthy of continued recognition. That promoting thankfulness would be encouraged as a positive “family value”. But alas, too much thankfulness is bad for business. After all, why buy new toys for Christmas when you are so thankful for your old ones? We can’t encourage contentment with what we have or sales of the latest flat screen tv’s will drop.

I wonder what the current economic crisis would look like if more greedy mortgage brokers had contemplated Thankfulness every year instead of dollar signs? If more potential homeowners had been thankful for the home they could pay for instead of reaching for the big one they knew they couldn’t really afford?

So I propose that we fight the big retailers and refuse to ignore Thanksgiving. Pause during the month of November to reflect on all the blessings in your life and celebrate Thanksgiving with family or friends. Spend the day next Thursday being thankful for whom and what you have. And if you’re tempted to grumble as you fight the crowds on Black Friday, be thankful that you have the money to spend.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Choice

The last few weeks have been spent, amidst the necessary busyness of life, in contemplation of my future and my calling. I feel like a college kid trying to figure out my major, without the benefits of a carefree life and limitless energy. I read a quote yesterday which sums up my dilemma and offers not the solutions that I seek but the wisdom that I need.

I have not lost my way- it is just that so many ways open before me that sometimes I hardly know which way to choose. To decide for one is to decide against another. I never imagined it would be this hard.

Now you know. The higher a person’s call and vision, the more choices are given them. This is our work in creation: to decide. And what we decide is woven into the thread of time and being forever. Choose wisely, then, but you must choose.

Stephen Lawhead, Merlin

What an awesome responsibility! I want to choose wisely, but fear that I don’t know enough to make the best choice. We’re not talking wall paint colors or dinner menus here; we’re talking about life choices that impact my entire family one way or another; choices that, no matter which way I choose, will have a ripple effect on those I love and care about the most. And yet, they leave the decision up to me.

They know, deep down, that no one can make these choices but me, but it somehow seems unfair to them for me to decide and make them live with the consequences of the decision. Maybe I just don’t really want to choose. Maybe I’d prefer to go back to a simpler stage of life when the tough decisions were things like which brand of baby food was best and how to start potty training. Granted, it was a time filled with so much sleep deprivation that rational life choices would have been nearly impossible, but it was also a time when the effects of my choices were contained within the walls of my house.

But that time is over and we are here, at the crossroads. None of the paths is clearly marked and no guide awaits to whisk me along. So I sit. And contemplate. And pray. And one day soon, I will make the choice.