Monday, May 31, 2010


One of the offspring asked what grilling has to do with Memorial Day. Mmmm. Ummm. Well. "I don't know, but many American holiday celebrations do seem to center around lighting things on fire." Really. There are gobs of examples to back up this off-the-cuff answer. Hanukkah and Christmas involve candlelight in a menorah, on a tree, or at a church service. The ubiquitous candle lit table signifies Valentine's Day or Anniversary dinners. Weddings have the Bride and Groom coming together to light a Unity Candle. Birthdays are celebrated by tempting the smoke alarms with flaming cakes. Fourth of July and New Year's Eve are both marked by celebratory fire works. Halloween has a gourd afire on the doorstep or in the window. Memorial Day and Labor Day are usually spent gathered around a grill somewhere. Yes. I think this answer may be spot on... It totally explains why our insurance agent gave us a fire extinguisher as a housewarming gift. How else would one celebrate a new home?!

Friday, May 28, 2010


"The sea began to be stirred up because the wind was blowing. 19 Then when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened." John 6:18 (NASB)

My sea is stirred up. Again. Stormy seas are common enough circumstances around here that a sign has been posted in the kitchen that reads, "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." This pretty well describes a best-case-scenario attitude, and it came to mind as I was reading these verses. The Sea of Galilee was a lake located just right to have winds stir up some pretty impressive waves. Being tossed around was to be expected there; yet, it still gave the disciples cause for fear. Jesus cropping up miles from land in the midst of the storm probably had some pretty good heart-attack potential, too.
I am identifying with the disciples being tossed around in the boat today as waves of fear wash in only to retreat in the face of faith. The back and forth brings a feeling makes for some unsettling sea-sickness. Today, I wonder if it is better to stay in the boat green with nausea and holding on for dear life. Or to simply ride out the motion much as a laboring mother endures contractions until she eventually gives birth. Or if there's a surf board out there with my name on it if I'll just take a leap over the side. Whatever response is chosen, I am grateful to know that my boat is in no more danger than that of the disciples rocking along on the Sea of Galilee. And that Jesus is always right alongside.


Middle Child's Science teacher sent home an unusual assignment. It is not an official assignment per se, but it is an opportunity. The students have been given the chance to write a letter of encouragement and gratitude to the Science teacher's cousin who is currently stationed with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Their lowest daily grade will be replaced with a "100". This is a rare extra credit offer, but it gets better. Each student may receive a second replacement daily grade of 100 if their parent writes a letter, too.
Typically, I am not a fan of extra credit assignments. The expectation in our household is that assignments will be done to the best of one's ability. If an "A" is within one's capability, then an "A" is expected. If a "C" requires hard work and every effort, then we celebrate a "C". Whatever the end result, work is to be done on time, and well.
In this instance, it was a pleasure to see Katie hunched over the desk in the kitchen working on her letter to Ryan-in-Afghanistan. This morning, I wrote out my own letter. The page ran out before my words. Katie's overall grade is fine, and she may not need the extra credit. We both needed the chance to stop and be thankful for the men and women fulfilling their assignments and commitments as servants in the U.S. military.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Level 4

This morning I have been playing a lovely little game. The stated goal of the game is to get dressed, get offspring out the door for school (where they are doing nothing since standardized testing is over), and possibly knock out a couple of loads of laundry. One levels up by adding degrees of difficulty like carrying an overly full cup of hot coffee without spilling or successfully navigating obstacles. Today saw a previously unknown level. Call it Level 4.
Level 4 begins with the player hopping up and down on one foot to pull on shorts standing on the landing of the stairs while trying not to get in Little Bit's way as she slowly takes the stairs two at a time without bending her knees. Player is holding the next load of laundry for the wash in the arm not struggling with the shorts. (Perhaps Player wins extra arms, hours, or hired help at later levels? Or maybe that's a bonus that comes with finding the lost cup of coffee?) The fourth circle of Hell level really gets exciting when 150 pounds of Labrador retrievers go snarling, barking, drooling insane and bash themselves against the front door indicating a potential witness to the impending fall visitor. Shorts almost on, laundry trailing, child still playing her own little game (as if nothing else is happening), Player reaches the front door through the sea of angry fur by banishing dogs to their crate only to trip over the cats who are moving into the space recently vacated by their canine counterparts. Stopping to catch a composing breath after the obstacle course, and to be very sure the shorts are actually fastened while still holding the load of laundry that Player suddenly realizes is almost all underwear. Dropping the underwear/laundry onto the floor to be hidden by the opening door, Player finds the prize behind door No. 1: a flyer advertising a local Chinese restaurant and the rapidly retreating back of the guy who hung said flyer on the door handle. Oh. But. No.
Game over.
Laundry stays in a pile where one of the previously mentioned furballs will no doubt nest leaving behind massive quantities of hair to clog the washer and dryer. Little Bit, who has finished traversing the stairs with her odd gait, silently takes the flyer and heads to the recycle bin. Mommy goes to find the cup of coffee that is no longer too full since a third of it was earlier deposited on Mommy's shirt before the one-armed shorts wrestling match on the stairs began. Refilling the coffee cup, Mommy slides onto a stool for further caffeination to re-up Player's energy tank before pushing "restart" to take on the racing game "Carpool Line".

Monday, May 24, 2010


Walker had a book parked on her shelf by Bill Hybels. Recently, she decided to read Holy Discontent rather than keeping it solely for decorative purposes. Since she's one to gather others' perspectives, she threw open the doors to offer a discussion group for others who might be intrigued by the title's promise of, "Fueling the Fire That Ignites Personal Vision". Since Walker herself is pretty fiery and visionary, there were several takers right away.
Five of us met last week for the first time. There are two more ladies who may join us this week, and one who is missing. (Yes, L, I mean you. I read strings of words like, "firestorm of frustration," and I think of your new life.) A motley assortment of women should make for some interesting weeks whatever topics the book might offer. Last week, we introduced ourselves. One may find confirmation that she is called to precisely what she is doing now. Another is a lump of clay that has been thrown back onto the Potter's wheel, and there's no telling what shape she will take until the wheel stops spinning. A third is in a transition spanning years, and she will eventually have to choose a path. The fourth has a big heart, but is still something of an enigma. And the final woman in the room does not believe herself to have a holy discontent to bring to the table.
There are certainly moments that everything within rises up in an internal firestorm of rebellion against that which is utterly wrong. My soul shrieks. My heart deflates, threatens to explode, hurts... These moments are not tied to oppression like Martin Luther King, Jr or Mother Theresa's helping the destitute receive medical care or die with dignity as noted in chapter 2. I get the concept. I am just in what seems to be a warming tray sort of a time rather than being thrust directly into the flames. That could change next Tuesday. In a heartbeat. Or on some other random day yet to be revealed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Friday night, our small team of sojourners to Honduras over Spring Break gathered with the very best of company. All of our families were with us, and that's not all. The three volunteers who gave months of service to the children + one fiance, and Dr. Tom and his wife (who are very much a driving force behind the House of Hope) were all able to join us for dinner. After enjoying their hospitality in Puerto Lempira, it was novel to share a meal at home together.

This morning saw many of the same faces gathered at Dr. Tom's home where a semi was parked on the lawn. Pallets of goods were being loaded onto the truck and packed in as tightly as possible to be driven to Houston. The items loaded were a disparate mix of the various goods needed at the House, and a few items being transported for the Waits family in their upcoming move. Appliances, cabinets, a counter top and sink were loaded along with wheel chairs, clothing, bicycles, industrial drums of bleach, and bags of pinto beans. (I just took pictures while everyone else worked. My excuse is that all the tasks were already assigned.) The volunteers put in hours loading the truck.
Once the last boxes were stacked, and the final piece of equipment crammed into a crevice, everyone stepped back so the doors could be closed. A few cheers and much clapping broke out. The container will be met by eager recipients a month from now in Puerto Lempira. Exchanging hugs and farewells, the workers separated to go their separate ways again after having come together once more for the children of the House of Hope.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


On the way to take the almost fourth grader to school this morning we had a brief conversation. It went as follows:

Little Bit: "Mom, why do you always talk to everyone in our neighborhoods?" Mom: "Because some people don't have anyone else to talk to... and they might be lonely. If I take time to listen to someone who has no one else to talk to, how do you think they might feel about that attention?"
Little Bit: "Woo-Hoo!"

Last night, on the way home from youth group, Middle Child and I also had a conversation (Conversation with a 13 year-old is different from the give-and-take with a 9 year-old.) along these lines:

Middle Child: "Today on our field trip we were at a booth and the lady told us she was glad we were there because she had a miscarriage and they still made her come to work and she was really sad so we felt bad for her and Meredith was almost crying so we went and played a game. (pauses for breath) We won a teddy bear and Courtney, Meredith, and I wanted to give it to the lady because she was so sad and we all felt really bad for her so we did give the teddy bear to her and the lady said said we were the only people who cared for her so we were really glad we gave her the bear because we were so sorry she was so sad and that something so bad happened to her."

Last week with The Boy he showed recognition, that once would have been absent, of how his actions affected another person:

The Boy: "I sure would like to see Joe."

Mom: "Let's stick to family activities right now. Besides, Joe has had a rough year. How do you think Joe would feel if he had the opportunity to hang out with his friend, only to have something go wonky with your homecoming that left him without his friend again?"
The Boy: "He's a good friend. I know he would be hurt by that, so even though I really want to see him, it is better to protect his feelings by waiting until I won't have to leave him hanging. It must have been pretty bad for him since the last time we talked he was doing something that made him short with me on the phone. Then I was gone."

These three conversations speak directly to my mother's heart. These kids are kids, and as such, are often egocentric; yet, they choose to see the needs of those around them. One is questioning and learning, but her elder siblings are practicing. One can only imagine what growing maturity will bring to this fledgling compassion.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Good news: Yay! My gall bladder looked quite alright on the sonogram this week.
Not-so-good news: Boo. Hiss. My liver is not quite alright on the sonogram this week.

I don't know a blessed thing. It's off to the GI doctor. It's a progressive process with the poking and prodding around here. The immunologist got first dibs, but she shared with the general practitioner who in turn allowed the radiologist to live vicariously through the sonogram tech. Why not add in a GI doctor at this point? Everybody wants to poke my belly and my rib cage. It would be nice if someone could fill me in on why, though.


A friend made the statement in her Facebook status update today that, "Marriage without purpose is characterized by aimlessness, and one without hope is powerless." Interesting. My entirely uncaffeinated brain had to work to grasp the idea here. Then came the sifting of marriage memories and the application of emotion to each one before sorting those that fit into the four categories of purposeful vs aimless and hopeful vs powerless. Huh. I think she may be right as far as the mister and I go. Wondering about wider application, because that which applies to marriage frequently fits other situations and relationships, my thoughts turned to our son who was torn away from our family through the sort of awful decisions that kids can make without the least comprehension of the consequences.
Thinking of hope and powerlessness, The Boy is actually slated to return home to us a year after the shock of his removal. He currently visits on weekends, but in June he will be home. We will be a family again rather than a group of individuals recovering from the Boy's poor choices. This was our hope. It was our purpose. Sometimes the hope would slip, the tears would come, and the current of powerlessness would threaten to drag one or all of us under. Even then, the purpose would remain to keep one from paddling aimlessly. We've been over the rocks and over the falls, but perhaps there is a still quiet place ahead as the river narrows. A place where we can simply float for a time to recover our strength.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


It has been an, "Oh, Baby!" sort of month around here so far. Lisa, travel companion extraordinaire on the trip to Poland in May, 2008, gave birth to her first child. (Another couple who were among the five short-term members of that team welcomed their first child as well. Forget fertility treatments. Go pray for Poland.) Lisa and husband John's daughter is quite possibly one of the most prayed for little girls ever born. Over the weekend, another friend had her fourth daughter. The first three are wonderful, and one can only imagine this latest little one will be equally so.
All this to say, tomorrow night is barbecue chicken night around here. Yummy for us. There will also be enough to provide John and Lisa with a meal or two, and John with leftovers for his lunch Thursday. The same offer of a meal delivery has been extended to the second set of parents reaping the rewards of a pregnancy well-spent. The kitchen, and quite possibly the whole house, is going to smell like a barbecue restaurant. The fridge already looks like one with all the goodies marinating on the bottom shelf.
I? Am hoping to enjoy the dinner, too. At least part of it. Final results from yesterday's ultrasound are due today, but based on not ending up in the E.R. over the weekend (Thanks to the super yucky liquid + rice + applesauce diet of the past weekend and fasting Monday until 2:00 p.m.), my M.D. seems to think this could be the second self-resolving gall bladder attack. Not in the mood for abdominal surgery, at the moment there is willingness to acquiesce to the less stringent dietary restrictions in place.

Teensy Confession: Okay, someone might have inhaled a Three Musketeers yesterday that is definitely not on the list of okay foods, but it was likely a one time thing following the general lack of calories over the three days preceding. Rationalization is sometimes an art form.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Picture Post: New House

Oops. I seem to have forgotten in the busyness of the day-to-day to take pictures of New House beyond those snapped during our initial walk-through and the inspection. This morning, I snapped pictures of most of the rooms. I figured the Master is going to stay private because, quite frankly, it hasn't had much done to it. The laundry room, garage, and the half bath are just not that interesting in my opinion. That said, here is the grand tour...

Sunday, May 16, 2010


This evening our Life Group of five couples met. The final minutes of our discussion time brought the challenge for each participant to identify what was most admired about our individual spouses. Wanting to genuinely identify what is most appreciated in the mister, there was hurried mental sorting of descriptive terms and qualities while simultaneously trying to listen to the first couple's professions.
"Peacemaker," popped into my head. Mmmm... definitely a favorite since life brings enough struggle without a contentious marriage, but discarded because of the possibility that it implied an inability to deal with conflict. That tendency was one long since put aside in favor of simply addressing any issue in a way that was usually kind and that honored the person with whom he might have a difference of opinion, belief, or desire. Each of these thoughts brought a flood of memories flashing along with words that were not quite right, but revealed a theme. Mmmm... a-ha!
The mister's turn arrived, and he said the most extraordinary thing. The word he used was, "compassion." Eh? Say what? When we married, I believed tears to be dangerous things that betrayed weakness; yet, I cried all through our wedding. Here was this man who knows my heart recognizing that my heart breaks for what breaks others' hearts, and that he likes that seeing others' needs spurs a response to pray for them and to seek some method of assistance. Huh.
My word for him? Integrity. This man has chosen to chase after Christ rather than merely acknowledge Him with a token nod. The mister does not simply attend church, but he lives what he says he believes. He is what he presents himself to be in the setting of our marriage extending outward to the least intimate relationships.
On the way home, we talked about how very different these descriptions of one another were from those that would have fit us as a bride and groom, or in the early years of marriage when our children were small. It was striking to discover that those traits least evident in each of us in the beginning of our relationship (characterized more by my selfishness than giving and his passive aggression rather than straight-forward conflict resolution) had slowly evolved as we grew closer and remained steadfast in our commitment. It was a moment to savor the differences in us and our relationship, and to anticipate what further growth may come.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Ouch. In one of those Mom Moments that involve trying to take care of everyone else, there seems to have been a glitch in the self-care necessary to take care of the rest of the people around here. A couple of weeks ago, Little Bit very graciously shared her tummy bug. (She's a giver.) Or maybe not. A week ago, my infusion left an unpleasant bout of tummy troubles. Or perhaps not. Yesterday, I went in to the doctor with allergies + head cold = sinus infection. In the course of the chatter and exam, the doctor commented that it was a good thing I didn't have my gall bladder anymore.
Uh-oh. Gall bladder still in place. The good doctor suggested that it would be wise to visit my GP and have my gall bladder checked. The fairly obvious classic symptoms of a gall bladder under siege were entirely apparent in an on-going pain under neath my rib cage and shoulder blade. And the nausea and what followed that did not go away. Had one of my kids had the same combination of symptoms, they'd have been in a doctor's office. And not after a couple of weeks either because I know what symptoms preclude a gall bladder or an appendix going bad versus the more common gas, heartburn, or upset stomach.
So. The weekend will hopefully pass uneventfully for my belly thanks to a clear liquid diet sure to avoid any gastrointestinal distress. Monday will be a day for fasting until a sonogram in the afternoon confirms or denies the suspected badness of my gall bladder. My GP has already called and arranged for a surgical consult to follow the ultrasound in expectation that the gall bladder will need to go.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Pulling up online banking, I was a little surprised to see a $5 charge for a cookie company two days ago. Because sometimes calorie-laden purchases slip my mind entirely. (Selective amnesia = Don't have to count those calories...) There was moment lost to searching any conveniently submerged memories for cookie purchases. Um. No.
Maybe the mister satisfied his sweet tooth while on his travels? He was going to use a different method of payment for reimbursable travel expenses, but that sounded like a personal charge. Call placed. Voicemail left. Text sent. No response. Well... hmmm. Patience was exhausted after all of twelve seconds.
Contacting our bank, it was determined in a very Big Brother moment that the charge was made by a complete swipe of the card's magnetic strip without a pin number in Grapevine, Texas with the mister's card number. Yeah. Um. Again with the no unless someone made a really quick trip across multiple states for baked goods?! The mister phoned home just in time to be told that his debit card was closed out. He confirmed that he was, in fact, still in Utah and cookie-free.
Kudos to our bank for immediately shutting down the compromised card, making a provisional credit, handling the reported fraud immediately and without hassle thus far. The bank's appropriate response felt insufficient. I was overwhelmed with the urge to change every electronic password and run the shredder until it begged for mercy. Ugh. There may also have been a smidgen of overprotectiveness of our information sheets at the orthodontist's office. Good news: I refrained from crouching in a corner huddling over the 8.5X11 sheets covered with personal data and from singing loudly to cover the voice of the new receptionist verifying our insurance. Better news: The new receptionist realized that she should be making that phone call in private before she babbled out our social security numbers and dates of birth.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Thursday there is a band concert at 6:30 at the middle school. Middle Child will be playing french horn in the middle band. Also at 6:30, there is a third grade musical performance. Little Bit has a real, live, rarely given musical instrument part. Our youngest child will be proudly representing the rhythm section on cowbell. (For those unfamiliar with the rarity of elementary children being accompanied by anything other than a recorded track or upright piano, it's a BIG deal to get an "instrumental" part.) This sort of double booking happens rarely, and it would hit when the mister is in another state until 9:00 p.m. So. Another mommy will take Erin to the elementary program, and I will drive Kate to the middle school. I am going to race out of Kate's concert to scoot over to the elementary in hopes of catching a little cowbell, grab my third grader, and make another trip to the middle school.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I question the value of market research. Well, perhaps it is the quality of market research that is flawed rather than the task itself. Having willingly sold my purchasing information at several local grocers, drug stores, and an import company in return for discounts on goods and services, I have found a flaw in this method of determining my shopping habits and likely household needs. My purchases are supposed to trigger special offers according to my preferences and purchases.
Yesterday was a strange day for this phenomenon. The mister and I purchased a tube of toothpaste at the drug store. The register spewed out a coupon for a free chocolate bar. Okay. There is at least a connection there. Four messages arrived via snail- and e-mail for different products and resources: infant formula, Communion supplies (Yes, as in, "Do this in remembrance of Me..."), Fair Trade coffee special values, and Viagra. Really?! News flash for marketing professionals: the baby is nine, we receive Communion at church, and we are more likely to need something for a headache tonight than those little blue pills. (The mister is away for business. If eiter of us needs the little blue pills, he r she will also need the communion supplies... or perhaps last rites.) If we were on a game show, the coffee would be our only (ding, ding, ding!) winner.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Today I found myself glued to the computer screen watching for updates and pictures as two long-term volunteers left House of Hope in Puerto Lempira to return to the United States. Glad to be able to look forward to seeing them again at the end of May, it was not without sorrow to imagine the children they had to leave behind. This dynamic duo met every sort of emergency without appearing to flinch, and their absence will no doubt be felt keenly amongst those they have served for months. Still. As they make the journey home, they have time for important pursuits like updating their Facebook pictures.

Weeks ago, a small, frail form snuggled in my arms on the same day I met those volunteers. A too-small girl child in need of sufficient food to allow her to grow strong took captive a piece of my heart that I don't really want back. Today the squawking and, "Oooo! Look at Aron! There's Batisia and Rodrigo! Chelma and Ursula... aren't they beautiful?" went on and on as I scrolled through the images. Fortunately, my mister is an indulgent sort who willingly listened to the chorus of ooh's and ahh's over total strangers to him. Then she was there. A single image of a baby girl with a wild tuft of jet hair and large liquid eyes taking in the photographer from her grandmother's arms. A chubby-cheeked doll baby who is unlikely to ever be held in my arms again, but whose growth has been in my prayers.

Tonight I pulled up the photo again. Savoring it. Considering the absence of weight in my arms and the image of a little one who would be no lightweight now. And I cried. (The cat was afraid. Then she gave up and yowled along with me.) I cried for a child who was hungry. And for the precious unexpected gift of seeing her as she is now after having simply accepted that her future was not mine to know. And when the tears were exhausted, a smile bloomed in simple thanksgiving for having unexpectedly seen Alba Rosa again.


Ah, Mother's Day. The five of us shared breakfast together (Mommy's favorite meal), and the conversation turned to Proverbs 31. There is a tendency to focus tightly on verses 10-31 where the simultaneously daunting and challenging description of a worthy woman is found. Months ago the verses prior to this description caught my attention, and as the annual moment arrived when, as in verse 28 (!), "Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her..." there was a failure to savor the moment. (Probably because I am all too aware of how far short of the rest of the passage I fall!) Instead, a teachable moment replaced the accolades of my sweet Mister and our offspring.
It was to the verses before those cited as reflecting Mommy's Greatness (*coughing fit to cover peals of laughter*) that attention was drawn. (What kind of a mother fails to bask in the joy of a little Mother's Day praise!? Apparently, this one.) Onto the soapbox, and away Mom goes asking the family to please consider the charge before the Yay-Go-Woman verses to speak up for the mute, to step up for those of low status, and, " defend the rights of the afflicted and needy."
There are no limitations to who might be meant in these verses. The suburban mother who "has it all", but is hollow beneath her veneer is entirely needy. The little boy who has spent the past year at House of Hope in Honduras loved by a long-term volunteer who leaves today is about to be afflicted. As is the young woman who leaves him behind. Women trapped in a life of slavery in the sex industry are mute. Only their eyes may truly speak. It is not one of these individuals (representative of whole groups of people) in need, but all of "them"--- and too many more who call out for relief. The past weeks have been swallowed in a pervasive sorrow in response to prayers that God open up my eyes to that which breaks His heart. The temptation to squeeze eyes filled with tears tightly shut tamped down repeatedly.
Teaching my own children that they have the potential to speak up for those who are needy matters. To develop compassion and to have eyes that do not bounce off of poverty, hopelessness, or sorrow is preparing the next generation of Christ Followers. That they will be forces for Christ who spread the news of Him through simple care and kindness will not necessarily happen by chance. Teaching and training them to such as that is the kind of Mom I find in Proverbs 31. I just needed to back up and see what came before the woman whose value is beyond rubies to the words of a mother seeking to impart wisdom to her son for the expanded model which I hope to follow.