24/7

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Photo courtesy : twentyfoursevenmusic.wordpress.com

My son has always had a fascination with firemen, fire trucks, fire stations…anything related to fighting fires and keeping people safe. We are fortunate to live down the road from a small fire station, the ‘retirement station’ they call it, as it rarely gets calls. Due to such local access, my little guy likes to stop in and chat with the heroes therein.

He has recently been introduced to the phrase ’24/7′, though he’s still struggling with the exact meaning. He thinks it means starting work at seven in the morning and working a full twenty-four hour day, as the guys down the street do. I have tried my mother’s best to explain to him what it really means, but at his age, he’s more determined to be right than correct.

Those numbers took on a new meaning to us this week. The evening of July 24th, (7/24) as we snuggled in bed at story time, my little theologian asked, ‘How do you ask God to come into your heart?’. I smiled a little smile, not wanting to imply teasing but happiness. ‘Well, you just ask him…really. It’s kinda that simple.’ He pondered, not certain I was right about such a monumental event. So, I went on a little further.

‘Do you remember that Bible school song that said ‘A…admit to God that you’re a sinner and you need him…B…believe that Jesus is God’s own son…C…confess that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord…’?’ Still pondering and not making eye contact, he nodded.

‘Do you know that you sin and do bad things sometimes?’

‘Oh yes!’ He nodded and released a wry smile, probably remembering some events of that very day.

‘Do you understand that Jesus died on the cross to clean away your sin, so that you can be with God?’ Nodding…we’d had a thorough discussion about this ever since Easter this year…

‘And you know that Jesus is God’s son…You just kinda talk to him about all those things. Tell him that you know you do bad stuff and that you realize he loves you enough to forgive you and he wants to be with you.’

He still wasn’t really making eye contact with me, and admittedly, I couldn’t read him at that moment. I gave him a few moments to process what I’d said. The way his active mind works, he might have been finished with the whole topic and ready to discuss where firemen store their breathing apparatuses. I didn’t want to push my spiritual excitement on him, but after a minute or two I quietly asked, ‘Do you want to talk to God about it all?’ He said he did, but he didn’t want to do it out loud.

He put his hands over his face and curled up in a little ball and was silent for about a minute and a half. I put my hand on his shoulder and prayed my own little prayer, that he would truly know what God’s forgiveness meant… And then he opened his eyes, looked right at me and smiled. ‘I did it.’

It doesn’t matter to me that he will argue about the daily work schedules of the firemen down the street. What matters is that on that night, 7/24, I knew that he understood the forgiving faithfulness of God. Yes, he’s young, but he’s old enough to know that he needs forgiveness because he sins…and that God not only provides forgiveness, he does it with open arms. And he’s old enough to know that God wants us to care for others and share his loving ways with others. Isn’t that the gist of it all? Forgive and love on.

 No matter what he does during the twenty-four hours of his seven days a week, God will be by his side.  Dawn, dusk, noon, midnight, afternoon, evening, midmorning, midday…no matter the time, God is with him, forgiving and loving him and directing him to others who need the same.

Thank you, Father.

John 8:34-36 (www.biblegateway.com)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Top Ten: Ways you know it’s Bible School week

It’s been Vacation Bible School week at our church, as my past two posts have indicated. We’ve had an amazing week, with very nearly 100 kids in attendance, approximately 50 volunteers, $500 collected for Heifer International, and youth and leaders who have grown and shown the love of God.

After waking up at 3:38 this morning in an absolute panic because I totally forgot to sew 40 teddy bear forms for the youngest kids to stuff during our mission craft time, I realized that this week’s top ten list would be most appropriately themed around Bible school.

Top Ten: Ways you know it’s Bible School week

10. You have stacks of magazines, cloth, coffee filters, pipe cleaners, and/or construction paper in various, yet strategically placed, parts of your house…and every one knows NOT TO TOUCH THEM!

9. You find foam shapes sticking to random parts of your body or clothing…while you’re at the grocery store.

8. Heading to the pool for an afternoon of fun with lots of neighborhood kids AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN THIS WEEK.

7. Figuring out a discipline plan that will work for 20 minutes of classroom time, for 5 days this week…not too strict like a school room, but structured enough to get stuff done.

6. Singing cutesy, memorable Jesus songs…24 hours a day.

5.‘THAT’S PERMANENT MARKER!!!’

4. 3:38am panic attacks about what today’s craft project is supposed to be…and if we have everything we need for it.

3. 6:51am text messages about where the Easter egg box is located at church (subsequent to #4)

2. An afternoon with your own (small) family is suddenly solace.

1. 2,000 toilet paper rolls

Props to Group Publishing’s VBS curriculum ‘Weird Animals’. The KidVid component with short video clips about how God has worked in the lives of real (vastly different) kids was an excellent resource to communicate the message of God’s love. The catchy songs and the dog tag Bible verses make the lessons from this week long-lasting in the lives of our kiddos. We loved this kit!

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Holy water is antibacterial

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As Pastor Jason began washing the feet of the second grade Vacation Bible School kids, following the story of Jesus’ washing his disciples feet, he offered, ‘If you don’t want me to wash your feet, I can wash your hands.’

It was a kind gesture, cautious for those who may not want to remove their shoes out of personal preference. But, I (leader of these impressionable young children), in my snarky sarcastic, not quite spiritual enough temperament, said, ‘With the same water you’re washing their feet??’

Jason, knowing and loving me, gave me that ‘you’re ruining this moment’ glare, and said, ‘Yes…’

But it was Anne, a veteran teacher, mentor, and spiritual leader who replied, just as casually and sassily as I had begun, ‘Holy water is antibacterial’.

Touché, my friend, touché! I admired her quick wit, so well-matched with mine, and then, I went back to attending to the kids who were removing and then replacing their shoes after being holy washed.

It was later that I processed the depth of what Anne had said in her moment of quick repartee. We rely on antibacterial soaps and gels to remove the unwanted filth of the world around us…the germs from the gas pump handle, the residue from the public bathroom door, the grime of any surface at the Y. We want the yuckiness of the world to disappear…and be replaced with cleanliness.

Just as Jesus showed his followers to replace the bad with good, the sorrow with joy, the weary with comfort, so must we go about the work of wiping away the filthy residue of the world and leave behind the sparkling newness of God.

Let’s approach the world that way, and wash it with the antibacterial properties of holiness.

Want the rest of the story, try here John 13.

Holy water

The Bible verse for today’s Vacation Bible School lesson was ‘Do to others as you would like them to do to you.’ Most kids in the class knew it as ‘The Golden Rule’ because they’d heard it from their families or teachers as such. We discussed what it meant in daily life…sharing, showing kindness, using polite words…And then we went to hear Pastor Jason tell the Bible story for today, and the verse took on a new meaning.

Pastor Jason had a basin (plastic dishpan) and a pitcher of sink water (but it came from the church bathroom, so that made it ‘holy’ to the kids). As he prepared his object lesson, he told the story of what occurred in the upper room, the night Jesus was arrested. He poured the ‘holy water’ into the ‘basin’ and explained that Jesus had offered to wash the tired, weary, dirty feet of his disciples that last night that they were together. The disciples had followed him throughout his three year ministry, laboring through their doubts and waiting for the lingering ones to be resolved. They needed a respite in their travels, a moment of pampering before the real journey began.

As Pastor Jason told this story to the second graders, they were a bit grossed out…’He washed their feet! Gross!’ ‘They took their shoes off and showed him their feet! That’s disgusting!’ Then, his materials prepared, Jason offered to do the same for these children. These sweaty, rowdy, earth-covered children. And they obliged. Some reluctantly, some eagerly…this was quite a treat.

When he finished, he explained that the kindness he has showed them should be shared with others…perhaps, yes, through washing the tired feet of working parents or carrying out the dirty trash or cooperating with the nasty sibling. Doing to others…sharing Christ’s example. For who knows what is ahead in someone’s journey…and just how much they need a hand right now.

 

Root beer floats

Women are such saps. Hallmark commercials, Lifetime movies… We quote movie lines like, ‘You had me at hello’ and ‘Some people are worth melting for…’ Thanks, Jerry and Olaf, for adding that extra emotional sigh to our already sappy lives.

We also fall for those witty pick up lines. ‘Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?’ ‘You should come with a warning sign that says ‘Dangerous Curves Ahead!’ ‘You must be tired…you’ve been running through my mind all day.’ Oh, ladies, you know we’re goofs for that stuff. It may not get us now, but it got us back then…when the guy was trying to make us smile in that ‘oh, you’ve got me’ kind of way.

For me, it was a line about root beer floats. We both had the idea about a root beer float, and then he added, ‘With two straws.’ (*Sigh*) Insert eye roll and dreamy smile here and mental wedding checklist here.  Oh, I was a goner…

But that root beer float never happened. The two straws weren’t for us. They were for him and someone else somewhere else. And so I banned root beer floats. I refused to have one until the right guy came along. Only then would I allow that float-loving-two-straw-sharing-maudlin weak spot in my heart to be vulnerable again.

Well, little did I know who I would share my next root beer float with…or how long it would be.

My nearly-seven-year-old son overcame a big hurdle in his little life recently. He has been afraid of a particular thing, and  when he finally conquered that fear,  there was reason to celebrate. We had had ice cream the day before, so I considered something different. The same little ice cream stand also advertised the elusive root beer float. And I realized if he, with his brave little internal strength, could celebrate overcoming a fear as big as he was, then it was time to overcome my distant disappointment and celebrate with him.

I asked him if we could share the treat, and he said, ‘With two straws…or maybe in two cups.’

Oh, that very statement that made my heart melt two decades prior…that statement that I thought meant we were M.F.E.O. (‘Made For Each Other’, Sleepless in Seattle). Oh, those wistful haunting words…with a twist that brought me reeling back to the present. The twist that made it belong to my slightly germophobic boy…this boy, my boy.

I looked down at his precious doe eyes and realized that I was still a sucker for that line. Only, the one I would truly share the float with was the one who deserved it most of all. I would melt for his sappy lines for as long as he would dish them out to me.IMG_2764

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Top Ten: Things Marriage Has Taught Me

This week marks our tenth anniversary. 3,650 days and nights(give a few for leap years), 520 weekends, 10 of each holiday…and innumerable lessons. Here are the top ten.

10. Always check pockets before washing clothes.  Flash drives, tax deductible receipts, and folded checks don’t jingle like coins…and yet they’re so much more valuable…

9. Food is important to men. I eat to live…a few crackers here, some fruit there. But he lives to eat…a meat-every-day kind of guy.  The importance of food has actually been a valuable learning experience for me. I’ve realized that taking the time to prepare food (not leaving him to fend for himself) is a way to show the big guy that I know what he likes. AND, it’s fostered communication between us about what he likes and dislikes (no cheddar cheese or yogurt…ever…ever). (If you’re engaged to be married, talk about food…it might be more important to your future spouse than you realize.)

8. ‘Organized’ is relative. I like neat and tidy. He likes to see it all…in front of him…at all times. I appreciate having a place for everything, and having everything in its place. He appreciates having everything in its place…in front of him. I can’t organize for him because it just confuses him. But we have established ‘areas’ for items that we jointly use…the office supply ‘area’, the tool ‘area’, the dirty clothes ‘area’.

7. Romantic comedies and country music are lies from the devil. Those men don’t exist in those forms. Women can’t change men to become those men. Movies and music are made for financial gain, not life guidance.

6. Men are sensitive. They may seem aloof and unaware sometimes, but they are not ‘stupid’. Sometimes they just don’t know how to respond in particular situations. They have emotions just as women do, they just display them differently. (Research actually shows that it takes men hours to process emotions that women only need seconds to process…they just need time.) Sentimentality exists beneath that tough exterior. They want to be the soldier heading into the daily battle for their damsel, but under their armor, they do have hearts. Again, communication is crucial to learning these areas about each individual man.

5.  Space is a vital frontier. Girl’s Nights are fun, but men need their Testosterone Nights, too. Be it in the man cave at home or the local pub down the street, they need time with their boyeeezzzz. When I have arranged time for the big guy to see a movie or go out for a drink with his peeps, he appreciates it greatly, even if he doesn’t say it. (see #6) It’s my way of telling him that I love him and I know his needs.

4. Get used to silence. While my mind is constantly racing with thoughts of the kids, the calendar, the jobs, the man, the relationship, his is just cruising along on its one track, usually focused on work. Silence does not equal dissatisfaction (the way it often does with females). He told me once (unfortunately recently), ‘I’ve only been mad at you once in the last six months. I’m usually just preoccupied with work.’ That was a strangely comforting statement. I could rest more assured that he wasn’t brooding about something I’d done wrong; he was brooding about work instead.

3. He has untapped potential. Marriage is a long time to be with someone. A lot of changes occur over the years. His job may change, his occupational focus may totally change. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…and sometimes fish jump out of the water and birds dip into the water. He may want to try something new, and he needs support to do it. My guy has started a side business and even bought out another one for expansion. He didn’t need my frowning disapproval or critique. He needed me as a sounding board and cheering squad.

2. A little talk never hurt, but a lot of talk did. Early on, when we had arguments, I would follow him from room to room, seeking resolution. But in a bizarre turn of events, the argument grew as we traversed through the house. After a shameful number of years of pursuing an end to arguments, he told me, ‘Sometimes I just need to process what we’ve said. I can’t give you an answer immediately’. As much as I wanted to avoid ‘not letting the sun go down on our anger’, I learned that the more useful solution was to just shut up. (See #s 4, 5, and 6).

1. ‘I love you’ isn’t always three words. The best thing this guy ever said to me was that I was ‘multi-faceted’. That was even before we were married, but he still believes it and sees it in me. I tell him, ‘You da man!’ when he accomplishes things. When he asks how the day has been when he knows the kids were off the wall, I know he’s being sympathetic and sensitive. I used to think that we needed to say those three special words at the end of every phone call, at the door every morning, at bedtime every night in order to have a healthy relationship. But now I know that hearing ‘Thanks for fixing dinner’ is really the same thing.

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For more great love tips, read 1 Corinthians 13 here.

Top Ten: Summer Solstice Activities

Unlike previous top ten lists, this one is not in ranked order. Our family ignores the pagan origins of Summer Solstice, and we celebrate the beginning of summer just as that…the beginning of summer!!!!!!!!!!! We hang out with friends and let our kids stay up until the sun goes down, which is so far past their bedtime, it’s practically the next morning to them!!! Here are some of our ideas… do any or all of them to celebrate the beginning of summer! Share some of your own as well!

Top Ten: Summer Solstice Activities

10. Sunny Sun Cookies — Make a batch of these happy sunshines…and share some with neighbors! http://lets-explore.net/blog/2011/06/welcoming-summer/sun_cookies

9. Sharing the Shine — Another gift to share…a whole cookie mix! Spend the extra sunny hours mixing up these tasty concoctions to give away throughout the summer when someone needs a ray of sunshine! http://eatatallies.com/2011/06/cookie-mix-in-jar/

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8. Tie Dying Summer Shirts  — Got friends? Wear shirts? What a fun way to spend this sunny evening together…making bright shirts to wear the rest of the summer! http://spoonful.com/crafts/tie-dyed-t-shirts

rainbow-tees-craft-photo-420-FF0603DYEA11 (Photo from Family Fun magazine via spoonful.com)

7. Bike Ride through the neighborhood– Enjoy the late evening sunshine and you may make some new friends who will share summer fun with you! Make up silly bike races or relays…ride through obstacle courses or yard mazes. Find a new way to enjoy the ol’ familiar bike…you’ll have lots of summer time to enjoy it!

6. A new summer drink– Sangria for you, seltzer and juice for the kids…mix up a little refreshing beverage fun. Set out ice, fruit juices, fresh fruit, seltzer, mint leaves, and some little umbrellas for the kids to create their own summer blend. Give it a special name and it may become a family tradition! Peruse Pinterest for scores of yummy summer treats for mom and dad’s sipping pleasures!

5. Save some sun for a gray day– Take the kids outside and let them splatter paint some blank paper/notecards. Save this ‘stationary’ for notes to someone another day! http://angelaandersonart.blogspot.com/2011/11/fun-splatter-floral-paintings-kids-art.htmlsplatter paint

4. Just add water!!– Most places are in the thick of summer heat by the time summer even begins. Water activities are always a winner for summer fun! Sprinklers, squirters, wading pools…the ol’ standards. But what about water balloon tee ball, water balloon pinatas, sponge balls…and the scores of ideas found on (again!) Pinterest?? So many new ideas, you’ll be set for the whole summer!

3. Scavenger Hunt– choose a theme: summer fun, colors, beat the heat, numbers…and then choose your objects within that theme. Plan it ahead of time…or tell the kids to count to 20 and throw the items randomly around. Then, turn ‘em loose to find them. This activity can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be…

2.  Dance in the Street!!–the neighborhood may rejoice at the ice-cream truck’s jingle, but you can keep on dancing with your own playlist. Let the sun shine and the music play on this long sunny day! Here’s a sample playlist, with some kid-friendly songs…http://thoughtcatalog.com/stephanie-georgopulos/2012/06/a-150-song-summer-playlist/

1. Plant Sunflowers– Start the summer by starting a sunflower patch. Pick a place with lots of sun and room for these tall soldiers of the season to stand. Start a tradition of enjoying nature on this night and you’ll see it’s beauty throughout summer! http://www.almanac.com/plant/sunflowers

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Rainbow Unicorn Bread

This week, my kids and I got the awesome chance to hang out with one of my college pals, Lezah, and her three kids. As sweet as it was to reconnect, it was honestly a bit of a surreal experience. Like here for a few hours a portal from fifteen years past was open and who we were then was swirling around in the room with who we are now. A myriad of personalities and moments, mingling past and present…

We went over to the house of Lezah’s former roommate and let all 7 of our collective kids romp and play while we adults caught up. We realized we were approaching nearly twenty years with these friendships. And these particular years were probably the most life-changing ones…with the exception of the first years of life.

Over these fifteen plus years, we’ve finished college, experimented with various careers, dated and married, bought houses, changed jobs, bought other houses, changed jobs again…and had a passel of kids. When our younger selves used to hang out, eating at the roomies’ house, with mom-cooked food, we thought we had life mastered. Homework projects…done, football games…there, bizarre dating schemes…schemed. It was all so ‘hard’ but we were so ‘strong’ because we’d figured it all out. We’d picked our perfect courses which would lead to our perfect careers, which would undoubtedly lead to perfect husbands and perfect lives.

Little did we know then that those perfect courses would not train us for the jobs we ended up acquiring. And some of those acquired jobs were not the ones we ended up loving.  And our husbands would not be found in our workplaces…or would not be found easily…or would not be perfect. We didn’t know which of us would stay in our college town, move back home to move away again…but closer to us in the college town. We didn’t know if we would have marital troubles or postpartum depression or miscarriages or illness. We didn’t know who would marry into a family business and go to work for her husband or stay home with the kids or be a workaholic. Our perfect college plans didn’t involve health issues, child-rearing worries, and responsibilities of aging parents. Our idyllic plans were merely dreams that we hoped would come true…like finding a unicorn with a rainbow mane.

But last night, as we set out a healthy, perfect meal of hotdogs, chips, and store-bought potato salad for our perfect kids, I realized that we had inadvertently reached our perfect lives. We had food for our children, who were healthy and happily wreaking havoc in the next room. We had friendship, lasting over the years with the plan of continuing onward. We had our faith in our God who had brought us together fifteen years ago and again last night… our God who brought us around the bends of life to become the people we are now. Each of us had all we needed to be perfectly happy.

And later in the evening, while our perfect children drew perfect pictures and made up new lyrics to every ‘Frozen’ song, Lezah and I made perfectly delicious zucchini bread. And when none of the perfect children would eat, we renamed it Rainbow Unicorn bread…and they ate it all up. Perfect.

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We have the promise that God knows where our rainbow-hued lives will take us, even when we don’t. Jeremiah 29:11-14 says,

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

(www.biblegateway.com)

Top Ten: Things that are more magical than Magic Kingdom

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Today I am writing from sunny/stormy Orlando, where we are visiting Disney World. The kids hadn’t been before, and the grands wanted to take them for Grandpa’s 75th birthday.

Being around these bazillions of people in the ‘happiest place on earth’ and observing the varying levels of happiness, I’ve created this week’s top ten list.

Ten Things that are more magical than Magic Kingdom

10. Seasons-oh my, the humidity of Florida! It makes me thankful that we live in the mid-Atlantic where we can experience the ‘magic’ of all four seasons in relative moderation. Warm spring, hot summer, cool fall, and cold winter…Variety is welcome.

9. Authentic outside play-pool time, tag, running for no reason. I love the sun’s effect on my children’s hair and skin and attitude. I love their enjoyment of the ‘magic’ of a natural setting over the necessity of the theme park entertainment.

8. Naptime-sweet heaven! Naptime is pure magic in the way it transforms beasts into beauties.

7. Patience-The acquisition and usage of patience can ‘magically’ turn a nightmare situation into a humorous wait. Long lines abound everywhere here. We are learning how to cope and these lessons will leave with us, I hope.

6. Good judgement- This week, I’ve watched my kids take turns, make toy choices, make activity choices, and share, and I’m so proud of them for enacting the lessons that we’ve strived so hard to teach them. Good judgement isn’t instant magic, though; it’s one of those long-awaited, multi-step life-altering tricks.

5. Love of family-The look my daughter gets on her face when her daddy comes home from work far surpasses the look she has given any princess or over-sized mouse. I love that she (and my son) love their family, and that the feeling is magically mutual.

4. Imaginations-I spent 45 minutes watching an magical light show…in my darkened bedroom. Sponsored by Target’s $1 tube of glow sticks and two rain-trapped children. Walt Disney’s corporation wouldn’t have made it’s jabillions of dollars were it not for imaginations. I hope and pray my children’s imaginations will take them far and wide…and back home again…in their lives.

3. Value of people-My son has been collecting the autographs of random workers around this place. Not the over-sized mice, chipmunks, dogs, or whatever Goofy is. Not princes or princesses, but the John Hancocks of the Common Joes. Monorail pilots, security guards, map distributors…’the people who really make this place work’, he said. The people who make the magic work.

2. Understanding of God-‘This place is hunormous…but God is bigger’, observed my four year old daughter. ‘Nuf said.

1. God’s love-This mortal life is not always magical and definitely not always ‘happily ever after’. But one seemingly magical thing is the unconditional, unmistakeable, unchanging love of God. May my children carry the true tale of forever love with them long past the memory of this vacation…and always want to see God’s face in firework displays.