September 22, 2016
I titled my last post "Summer Wrap Up: Part 1" in high hopes of having a few more posts about lessons I learned over the summer. That post was all about being careful when assigning names to things, especially ourselves, because names stick. I’m going to go back and read it again because apparently I kinda didn’t learn my lesson. Because you see, when you type up a blog post and hit that publish button, the title (or name) is stuck. And when something is named “Part 1” there needs to be a “Part 2.” Except in my case, parts 2 and 3 were only in my head, not yet on the computer. And before I knew it, time had passed and I was left staring at the calendar labeled with the words, “First Day of Autumn.” And the summer wrap ups, well, weren’t wrapped up.
So here goes a brief and hurried wrap up of summer (on the first day of fall.)
Lesson number two focused on a fact that has been real to me for some time: Life’s simple things are often the sweetest.
We paid a quick visit to the farmer’s market on most summer Saturday mornings. At one stand, I picked up a recipe card for grilled peaches. So easy and so delicious.
Try it sometime. Cut peaches in half and remove pit. Drizzle each half with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Grill for about three minutes on each side.
Simple and sweet.
My final lesson wasn’t simple and it wasn’t sweet. It was downright stressful.
On the drive home from a week-long vacation, it hit me. I had left my tablet….the one with all of my writing and blog info in the vacation cabin. Of course, I realized this three hours into the drive home. Too far to go back and retrieve it. I spent several hours on the phone with housekeeping, management, and FedEx. Beyond stressful.
It wasn’t so much the tablet itself, it was the writing. That was something that I couldn’t replace. But the kicker was really that we are checkers.
You know what I mean? We check hotels, cabins, wherever we stay overnight to ensure we don’t leave anything. We check the drawers and closets. We check under the beds and on top of the fridge. We’ve even taught our kids to be checkers. And we missed it. We all did.
We had hidden the tablet under a nightstand. I don’t know why exactly. But that’s where we hid it and that’s where we left it. Hidden treasure.
Let me skip ahead. I got the tablet back. Several weeks later. Plenty of worrying involved. Sent to the wrong post office. But I got it back.
But the line that kept coming to mind was “Don’t hide your treasure.”
I’m not advocating leaving your doors unlocked or being all rebellious and disobeying those parking garage signs telling you to remove valuables from sight.
I’m talking about real treasure. The stuff that matters. Time well spent. Loving others. Serving the Lord.
Those things get so easily hidden. Tucked down under the nightstands while we put a light and emphasis on the temporal and fleeting events and pressures of the day. What gifts and talents have we stuck in the crevices of our schedules so we can check off another to-do list of busyness? How many relationships die out while we struggle to keep up with the Joneses?
I have a lot of checking to do. My time. My attitude. My heart. I don’t want to miss the treasures.
"But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven..." Matthew 6:20
September 12, 2016
It doesn’t matter if the calendar agrees or the thermometer obliges, when you have to wake your kids up at a time that begins with a six, summer is over.
When they leave the house with organized backpacks and filled lunchboxes by seven in the morning, the deal is sealed. Kiss the summer goodbye.
Several weeks into a great start to another school year, I’m still not ready. Not ready to embrace the early mornings, the schedule, or the busyness of it all.
I know. I was the one who was begging to stay put where we were last school year and not even move into summer. (Maybe change isn’t my favorite.) But we did summer. A low-key, relaxing summer with minimal accomplishments.
Through some overly simplistic summer stories, lessons emerged.
First, the cat. Maddie Lou, short for Madelyn Lucille, showed up in early summer. We took it for shots and have now bought more than one bag of cat food, so we officially have a pet. The first few weeks of June were filled with talk about “Maddie this, Maddie that.”
A little discovery changed the conversation about our girl cat to our boy cat who all of a sudden needed a new name.
We tried. We really did. But calling him Spike or Max didn’t work.
Maddie had already stuck.
Names do that. They stick. (Raise your hand if you’re still called by a family nickname from 30 years ago. See?)
After much deliberation and effort, Maddie became Matty (short for Matthias).
So the cat issue got resolved. But it got me thinking. What names do we give ourselves that stick? Ones that don’t exactly fit.
Messy? Clumsy? Out of shape? The one who can’t get it together? Unattractive? Underachiever? Outcast? Hopeless? Forgotten? Shamed?
That is not your name.
And no, I’m not talking about some sort of let’s build our self-esteem, positive reinforcement chatter. I’m talking about who we are, not the things we do or don’t do.
There are times when last night’s dinner dishes fill the sink and dust covers most surfaces of my house. Messy? Yes. Am I currently excited about my lack of exercise and my love of ice cream? (Have y’all tried some of those new Blue Bell flavors? Seriously.) No, I’m not. Do I beat myself up about the mere minutes I’ve opened my Bible recently? Yes.
Call it what you may, but those personality traits, character flaws, times of struggle….they are real. But they are not who I am. They are not who you are. Let’s not attach a label to our flaws and declare them to be our names.
Try another name. Forgiven. Redeemed. Worthy. Child of the King.
“But now, this is what the LORD says – He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’" Isaiah 43:1-2
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
Check back soon for Summer Wrap Up: Part 2!
July 27, 2016
Mix the headlines, hashtags, and hurts with the heat of the summer and recently it seems that all of it might just boil over. I’ve listened and watched and scrolled and wondered if the whole world might be crashing down.
Take the current events and mix them with typical mom thoughts about kids and schedules and miss-the-mark dinners and that’s where you would have found me the other night. Standing at the kitchen sink rinsing off plates with leftover mashed potatoes and scraping off the remnants of my latest crab cake attempt.
Then it happened.
The sound of 20 bowling balls. Pop. Crack. Whoosh. Crash.
I screamed as I watched a massive branch hit the ground right in front of my kitchen window.
Thoughts blurred, I looked for my husband who had only been inside for a few minutes. Moments before, he had been working right outside. The boys came running and as any rational mom would do, I yelled at them to stop yelling and stay calm as I frantically scrambled for shoes.
The five of us trekked outside to assess the damage. Yep, it was a big branch. Yep, it went right through the newly constructed fence. Yep, it was a mess.
We all kind of quietly gasped when we turned to the right and saw the pool. Covered with leaves and sticks and limbs large enough to cause physical damage to us. The pool where we all had been a few hours earlier. My thinking shifted from the mess we were facing to the disaster that might have been.
One of the boys began verbalizing the “what if” questions. “What if we would have been out here?” “What if the branch had landed on the house?” “What if the rest of the tree falls?”
Interrupting his line of questions, I attempted to guide him away from the maybes to the facts. I could hear my own doubts reflected in his. How many questions had I offered up recently about all of those headlines I was reading. All of those hurts happening around the globe and in our own circle.
“What if a vote goes this way or that?”
“How many more lives will be reduced to a tweet?”
"What does today's breaking news mean for the world my boys will live in tomorrow?”
Somehow in attempting to calm some fears about a tree branch, I received comfort about my own worries.
Yes, the backyard was a complete mess. Yes, the fence needed to be repaired. Yes, the pool’s usual covering of floats and balls had been replaced with leaves and sticks.
But we hadn’t been in the pool. God’s timing.
The fence and the pool only had minimal damage. God’s kindness.
The branch hadn’t hit with full force. We noticed that its weight had been slowed by another branch. God’s mercy.
The house wasn’t touched. God’s Hand. The kid with all of the questions noticed the next day that the branch hadn’t fallen in the correct position. Somehow it didn’t fall where it logically should have. It looked as if someone had turned it to fall away from the house. God’s protection.
In summary, God’s faithfulness.
The broken branch was a big one. And it caused quite a mess. But the lesson we'll take away is a much bigger deal. Because there are going to be times when you feel just one more gust of wind may be the breaking point. Or one more soundbite may crack your faith. When the questions seem to outnumber the answers.
God is still kind. He is merciful. He protects. And He is oh, so faithful.
Even when the world outside the window seems to be crashing down.
June 30, 2016
After 17 years of marriage, we’ve learned that we don’t always need fancy dinners or extravagant gifts to celebrate. So over the weekend, as Chris and I celebrated our anniversary, we marked the occasion with some of our traditions, homemade cards and flowers. When Chris brought home several bouquets, I did what I typically do. I stuck them in as many vases and jars as I could in an effort to spread them throughout the house. Walking into a room with fresh flowers is one of my absolute favorite things.
Flowers are just one of those gifts that don’t lose their appeal. (Chocolate and jewelry are also timeless treasures, right?) I’m hoping that our next 17 will be filled with some more of the same.
I remember back to our early years of marriage, finding and then holding onto some recipes that became traditions. When we entertained or brought something to a meal, I seemed to return to some of the same recipes or dishes. Entrées often involved some type of canned crescent roll. Apple pie and lemon bars topped the go-to list when it came to desserts. I also remember coming across a potato salad recipe with some non-traditional ingredients. It became a summertime staple.
It’s still a classic and a perfect potluck pairing or cookout accompaniment.
Take it along to your July 4th celebration. It may become one of your new traditions.
Ranch Potato Salad
*I’m not including specific amounts for the ingredients. Make a small batch for a few or go ahead and use five pounds of potatoes if you’re preparing for a crew. Adjust bacon and ranch to suit the amount of potatoes used.
Red Potatoes (peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces)
*I always leave about half the skin on the potatoes for color and flavor.
Bacon, cooked and chopped
Ranch Dressing (Make your own or use bottled ranch as a timesaver.)
Fresh Parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add diced potatoes. Cook until fork tender.
Drain potatoes and cool.
Stir in ranch dressing until potatoes are covered. Mix in bacon and pepper generously.
Garnish with parsley.
**To save yourself some flipping and grease-splattering, try cooking the bacon in the oven. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. If you’re short on time, use pre-cooked bacon.
**Green onions add another level of flavor to the potato salad. I used to include them rather than the parsley. The boys aren’t crazy about onions so I swapped them out for the milder taste of parsley.
Whether you’re celebrating marriage, freedom, or everyday life, remember some of the best traditions are simple when made with love.
June 8, 2016
Okay moms, raise your hand if you go into the summer with plans and organizers to conquer the season. You know what I mean. You’ve mapped out your daily tasks and assigned each kid a list of chores to keep the house tidy and ready them to be responsible adults. You have pinterest boards dedicated to summer boredom busters and an equal number of ideas to keeping those kids’ math and reading skills sharp. A few summers ago, we had a chart for a weekly memory verse, recipe, and outing. We made it about 2 and a half weeks. And then there was last summer with my “Fruits of the Spirit” lesson plans that never came to be.
Honestly, I’m facing this summer with no ideas. No plans. No organization. Insane, I know. But we are three days deep into summer break and the boys and I are knocking this thing out of the park with our achievements and level of productivity.
To begin with, no one, I mean no one has gone to bed at an appropriate time. The whole family wins a prize for staying up too late. Hubby’s statement of, “Well, it is summer,” has been met with my reply of “I’m into my 15th hour today of summerness with these people.” At least one child understands the whole concept of sleeping in.
Next, the food situation. They all are expecting at least three meals a day, occasional snacks, and to top it off, some sort of dessert. All of this eating has pushed my creativity to new limits because we’re out of nearly everything. Going to the grocery store with three kids? Um, no thanks. Let the eat-what’s-been-hiding-at-the-back-of-the-freezer challenge continue. I even inadvertently baked my first soufflé the other night. Eggs, cream, the last of the cheese, 350 degrees, and you have dinner. Culinary success.
The boys have even been helping in the kitchen. They have managed to turn almost all of the liquids from the fridge into a popsicle or an ice cube. Lemonade ice cube for your tea? Yep, we have those. Giant freezy pop made from cranberry ginger ale? Sure, got those too. Never mind the trail of stickiness that winds from the fridge to the counter to the sink. We are refreshed.
While they aren’t busy freezing things, they are planning and goal-setting. For example, the other night, they all browsed the internet to choose which kind of Lamborghini they are going to buy. Goals, people, goals. They’ve developed charts and graphs to monitor the NBA finals. They’ve conducted contests, such as who can push everyone else off their bean bags.
As if all of these activities weren’t enough to keep us on our toes, we may have acquired a pet. A cat has decided to take up residence in the back yard. And my I-don’t-touch-animals, pick-me-up-immediately-if-one-comes-into-my-presence child has fallen in love! So now, “The Cat” tops our to-do list. And we are checking off lots of productivity boxes with her. First thing in the morning, we must find the cat. Is she in the barn? Is she in the tree? Is she on the playground? Next, we have to feed the cat. Pour her milk. Scramble some eggs. Get the leftover fish from the fridge. Shake the cat food bag. And then there’s the comforting and entertaining. Make the cat a bed. Gather materials to design a toy. But mostly, there’s the watching. “Mommy, come outside while I play with Maddie.” (Yes, we named the cat.)
So I sit and watch them watch her.
And the laughs happen. And the talks commence. And the memories form.
No planning or organizing needed.
Yes, I raise my right hand and do promise to read to my kids this summer. We will practice math problems and other educational stuff. Our emphasis on spiritual growth goes beyond my uttered prayers of “Lord, help me with these children.” We may even open a page or two from other summer’s plans and get organized about some things.
But in the meantime, we may just be out in the back yard watching Maddie and eating our homemade popsicles. This feels a lot like freedom. A lot like childhood.
After all, it is summer.
What's ahead for your summer? Any exciting plans? Share with the rest of us....we could all use a little inspiration!