Category Archives: Kid stuff

Oh, how I love these three beautiful children that God has given me. They teach me so much.

Photo Op

This summer my family and I had the dubious honor of being at Disney World one week before they banned the use of selfie sticks. It was a good move by Disney. There were times in the parks that we couldn’t move because of all the selfie action. People were standing in two hour long lines to get a selfie with some of the characters. To be fair, I admit that I did take a fair number of pictures. But I was struck more than once by the idea that people were so intent on documenting their amazing adventure that they were actually missing out on experiencing it.

Fast forward a couple weeks into the summer. We are back from Florida; it is hot; I am bored and would like to do something productive with my summer, and I think about the pictures I took. Well, then I start thinking about the pictures I took in 2009- on my family’s FIRST trip to Disney. I had bought a scrapbook, cute Disney stickers, awesome crafty Disney stuff to make the perfect scrapbook of our perfect trip to Disney. Then a bunch of stuff happened and I never got that scrapbook made (does that sound familiar to anyone?).

xmas1So how could I possibly tackle our 2015 Disney trip photos if the 2009 photos weren’t done properly? I had frequently wanted to take them all out and make an awesome scrapbook, but you know what held me back? I knew if I took out all the stuff to make the scrapbook, my kids would be all up in my business wanting to help. And let’s face it, their pages would not be precious like my pages would! How could I possibly deal with their imperfect handling of my perfect Disney trip!?

Then I remembered the selfie stick ban. I remembered thinking that people were working too hard at getting the perfect shot and completely losing sight of enjoying the moment itself. Our 2009 trip to Disney wasn’t perfect, anyway. My kids were 2, 5, and 6. Naps were missed. There was crying. One of them “un”-potty trained herself because those self-flushing toilets scared her so bad. We didn’t get to ride any of the big rides because the trip was about our little family, not our big family. And yet despite all this imperfection, the trip was glorious. We met Minnie Mouse. And Lilo and Stitch. We witnessed magic and wonder and laughter and fun, and we did it together as a family. The trip was glorious because it wasn’t my trip- it was OUR trip.

image1 (1)With that thought in mind, I took out all the photos and craft papers and stickers and laid it all on the kitchen table one morning. The kids and I spent all day making pages, laughing, and remembering. The pages are cute, but not perfect. But those pages are OURS, and represent the togetherness that it took to make the memories. And now we also have the memory of the day we made that book- together.

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On the Hunt

spring10 027

I know this sounds silly, but one thing I hated when I was a kid was Easter Egg Hunts. To be competitive on the Easter egg hunting grounds, you have to be fast and you have to be competitive. Any Easter egg hunter worth anything knows that the hunt is pretty much over in the first few minutes. You can see it in the eyes of all the kids, standing behind the start line, waiting for some adult to yell “GO!” already.  The look in the hunters’ eyes says “You better NOT touch my eggs.”

The best hunters don’t pick up eggs immediately.  When they hear “GO!” they put their elbows up and out, leap over the two-year-olds in the way, and sprint out to the middle of the battleground, um, I mean field.  There they start collecting there where there is less competition. While the crowd is fighting over the eggs near the starting line, these skilled egg collectors have easy pickings on the other end of the field. In less than a minute or two though, the crowd of hunters will see that they need to spread out, and the field will be covered with kids pushing and shoving to get their treasures.

As a kid, I was slow (still am). I was mild mannered. I never had enough of a killer instinct to succeed at the Easter Egg Hunt. I usually didn’t get any eggs at all. I had to rely on the charity of my friends who, seeing my pitifully empty basket, would hand me an egg or two. Good thing I had fast friends.

The thing about the Easter Egg Hunt is that there is a limited number of eggs.  There is only so much to go around, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. That’s it. That’s why you have to run as fast as you can, beat those who are around you, and grab eggs out of others reach. Otherwise, you might not get any.

What if God’s love was like that?  What if God made His love hidden, hard to find, and limited to who was fast enough to get it first? What if God only gave His love out to the fastest, the best, the most competitive, the cleverest? Would you get an egg? Would I? Would it make you compete all the harder to get it, or would it make you decide that it was too hard to earn God’s love and give up?

God’s love is not like that though. First of all, it is not limited. Ephesians 3:18 talks about how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.  Secondly, God’s love is not given to you because of how hard you worked or “hunted” for it. It says so in Romans 5:8: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And thirdly, God’s love for us is available to all who seek it, not just the fastest, or cleverest, or best. Like is says in John 3:16 For God so loved THE WORLD that He give His one and only Son so that whoever believed in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

Here is a similarity to the Easter Egg Hunt, though. Remember when I said that the only eggs I got were the ones my friends would give me out of pity? God’s love is something that you can share as well. Do you have a basket full of it? Awesome! Can you share with a friend that hasn’t got any yet? Even better.

 

Originally posted for PCCStudentMin, April 6, 2012.

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April 5, 2015 · 4:32 pm

We are your teachers

Tuesday morning, I sat with six thousand other Round Rock ISD educators in Round Rock’s Dell Diamond baseball stadium, participating in the school district’s annual convocation. This is an event at the beginning of the teacher prep week before the start of school where a school district brings together all of its teachers in one place at one time to officially welcome them, inspire them, and kickoff the school year. It was an event kind of like a big pep rally, with each school dressed in its colors, lots of cheering and high energy, speeches and well-wishes.

About halfway through, the Canyon Vista Middle School choir came out to sing for us. I can only imagine how intimidating it must have been for this group of twenty or so thirteen year olds, standing about where the catcher and umpire would be on this minor league field, facing backward into the crowd. As you might guess, they started out a little timid and subdued. I have spoken to a crowd of a couple hundred before, and it is nerve-wracking for a seasoned speaker like me. But six thousand people? Even I would have been shaking.

They didn’t need to be worried, though. It wasn’t just a crowd of six thousand people. This was a crowd of six thousand teachers. This was a crowd of six thousand whose job and calling was to encourage and cheer on students. The choir’s lack of confidence quickly stirred something amongst our ranks. Slowly, one by one, the teachers from Canyon Vista began to rise and clap along with their campus’ students. Then, across the stadium, a few at a time, teachers stood to clap along and sway with their beat. Before long, the entire stadium full of people was on their feet clapping along.

As this was happening, the choir was transformed. With the crowd encouragement and involvement, they became louder, more confident and more animated. Smiles and emotion appeared on their faces as they poured themselves into the performance. They finished triumphantly, to loud, long applause.

Even as it happened, I realized that I was witnessing a metaphor for teaching. This is what good teachers do. Sure, we impart knowledge, we teach skills, but in reality, a teacher is only successful if we are able to connect with our students. We support, we cajole, we encourage, we scold, we lecture, we push, we persuade, we prompt, we coax, we drag, we stand on our heads– in short we do anything we can to motivate our students to believe that they are capable. And then, when they bravely commit to trying something that they have never done before- be it fractions, performing in a play, or a spelling test- we stand and cheer and let them know how absolutely delighted we are by their success, no matter how small, because students need this beyond any academic knowledge that we might impart to them. Students need to know that we believe in them, we are proud of them, and that we knew they could do it all along.

And so to the students, welcome to the school year! We are your teachers, and we are already on our feet cheering for you! Have a fantastic year!

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When I’m 64

It was a night when I just didn’t have any more to give. I had been giving all day long, answering a thousand questions as a mom then as a high school teacher, then home to answer more as a mom. It made my temper short and my mood sour as I got dinner ready to put on the table. Despite how much I loved my family, all I wanted that night was quiet. Instead, the dinner table was loud and chatty and squabbly. There was a constant stream of chatter and questions and laughter and silliness that I couldn’t seem to tolerate. The table wasn’t different than any other night; I was different.

I did what I usually do in these moments- I internally reminded myself that I was really going to miss this someday. I reminded myself that I would regret it if I disengaged and let this moment pass without being present. I knew that in twenty years, I would want to have this night, in all its loud, raucous glory, back again to savor.

Suddenly amused, I thought about that idea. What if I could go forward in time and invite 64-year-old me backward in time to sit at this table? What a gift that would be! I imagine that 64-year-old me would jump at the chance. What would it be like?

Now I listened to the table banter with fresh ears. 64-year-old me would love to hear the oldest, the little professor, over explain and analyze everything. She would remember what a young scientist he is, how funny he could be, how curious. She would make him stand up so she could remember what it was like to have a son that came just above her nose.

She would remember that her daughter’s cheeks were the softest things she ever felt, and that her blond hair was as fine as corn silk. She would remember how she had the slightest of lisps and that she clamored the hardest for her mother’s attention. What year will my daughter stop doing that? 64-year-old me would know.

And the little one. 64-year-old me would be overwhelmed by the grin that lacked those two front teeth. What a brief window that grin existed in! 64-year-old me would be so delighted to be able to see it again, and hear this littlest one tell her tales of first grade life. 64-year-old me would love the recollection that this one- the little one- was the true comedian in a family of funny people.

Their chatter would be music, their laughter would thrill, even their squabbles would be precious. 64-year-old me would want that dinner to go on and on and on. But it would end soon enough. Dishes would be cleared, cookies would be eaten, and they would troop upstairs to get ready for bed. It would be over, 64-year-old me would return reluctantly to the quiet of 2034.

What a gift that would be to give 64-year-old me! Then suddenly I was thunderstruck by this realization: a gift had been given, but not for 64-year-old me, but from her. She had come back in time to give me her eyes, her ears, and her perspective on a life that I was too tired for that night. The gift was given to 44-year-old me. Watching my family- her family- through eyes twenty years past this season of life made the mundane precious. It was a gift a 44-year-old needed that night, one I will keep close in my heart.

 

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Gone Fishin’

At a New Year’s Eve party about two or three years ago, Katie, my littlest child, pulled me into the bathroom with her and excitedly whispered, “Mama! You know that man who plays the guitar and sings at our church? HE’S HERE!” It turns out that our worship pastor Stevie (as his fans know him) is my little Katie’s personal Justin Beiber. We went out, and I took her over to talk to him, and though he was very kind, all she could do is smile shyly and not utter a sound. We did manage to get a picture of them together though.

Katie continued to smile at him from her vantage point on the second row at church each Sunday. Then this spring, I began tutoring Stevie’s son Gabe in PreCalculus several times a week. Katie would accompany me, drawing, watching the Disney channel, or sneaking upstairs to play Gabe’s drums while he and I did our math.

Their home backs up to the San Gabriel River, and one day Stevie took Katie and me on a tour down steep metal stairs on the face of a cliff to a ledge overlooking the quiet river. Stevie told us about swimming there with the family and showed us his favorite place to sit and fish. Katie took it all in quietly and with big eyes. Stevie asked her, “Next time you come over, would you like to go fishing with me?” Katie smile was huge. “Yes!”

All the way home, Katie talked about going fishing. All the next day, she talked about fishing. She had a million questions about fish and catching them and letting them go. She asked me a million times about when she was going fishing with Stevie. Then the next day on the way to their house, she again talked about fishing non-stop.

Once we got there though, it was a different story. Stevie had gotten chairs and gear and live worms. He had even found a little Mickey Mouse fishing pole for Katie. Katie had brought cold feet. Once the reality of going down to the river with a very nice, but essentially unknown man set in, Katie wasn’t so sure she wanted to go. We talked, we cajoled, we encouraged, but she was afraid. Finally Stevie told her “That’s okay, Katie. I’ll tell you what. I will go down and set up a spot to fish. If you change your mind, have your mom bring you down when you are ready. I will wait for you.”

Stevie headed out, Gabe and I went to work on his math, and Katie sat down to draw. After fifteen minutes or so, I said “Katie, let’s go see if Stevie caught any fish yet.” “Okay,” was her shaky reply.

Down the steep stairs we went to the river’s edge. Stevie had set up the chairs and was all ready for her. “Ready to fish?” he said. She was. He showed her the rod and the bobber and the hook and the worm, setting it all up for her. He helped her cast, and we sat down to wait. She kept peering over the edge trying to see her hook. Below, we could see the shadowy shapes of fish and the nose of a turtle.

The hook was only in the water for about five minutes before the bobber popped under the water. She had a bite! Stevie helped her reel, and as she squealed with delight, a big fat perch came up on her line. Together she and Stevie marveled at its smooth sides, blue stripes, and sharp spines. She politely declined to touch it, but she giggled and talked about it nonstop. Stevie clasped the prized catch carefully and removed the hook. “Goodbye, fish,” called Katie as Stevie tossed him back in the water. The fish wasn’t the only thing hooked- so was Katie. She wanted her line back in the water. Stevie set her up again, and I excused myself to go back to Gabe and his PreCal. As I climbed the steps, Kate was jabbering away at a laughing Stevie as they both tried to find more turtles.

About an hour later they came up the path, gear in hand, both grinning from ear to ear. Katie was full of stories about what she had seen and done, excited about heading home to tell her brother and sister all about it. Later, Stevie would share his favorite part of the trip: Katie had said to him “Let’s just put down our poles and talk…” and so they did. Katie has a fan, too.

As August turns into September and the school starts again, I have often thought that this time of year is more like New Year’s than January. This is the time of year for new. New teachers, new friends, new schools, new opportunities, new adventures. For me this year, it is the newness of having all three of my kids in school, and wondering just what the year will bring. For my Katie, it is the newness of starting kindergarten. All this newness is exciting, but can also be intimidating. It can be so tempting to feel like Katie did when it finally came time to fish. She wanted to fish with Stevie. She was excited to fish with him. But when it came down to letting go of her mama and following him down to the fishing hole, things got a little shaky.

There is a fear of the unknown that newness carries. As Katie understood, even in an adventure that is eagerly sought, that first frighteningly unknown step must be taken. We will know it each tomorrow as we step into new places, new beginnings, new adventures. There will always be the lingering thought that it might be better to evade this newness- that it might be better not to take the risk. Stifle that thought. Get your pole and go fishing.

~And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk that it took to blossom.~ Anais Nin

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Who’s in Charge?

This summer I got to participate in a lot of ministry. But if I only ‘did’ ministry and didn’t listen and learn, then I would be doing it wrong. In this series, ‘Summer School’ I present some of the lessons God taught me.

Summer School Lesson 2: Who’s in Charge?

When I volunteered to be the director for my church’s VBS (Vacation Bible School) this summer, my motives were selfish. I wanted my three kids to go to VBS at our church. The fact that 50+ other kids also got to do it, too? That was just gravy.

I am not equipped to do VBS, and I didn’t know exactly how the whole thing was going to play out. If I was really in charge of VBS, here’s how it would have gone: for crafts, kids, let’s do a coloring sheet. With Sharpies. Your moms will love that. For bible time, you kids can listen to me make jokes that are over your head and read from the book of Deuteronomy. Recreation? Well, just try not to hit each other too hard. Snack time…. Um, here’s a saltine and some water, now watch this Veggie Tales and be quiet for 20 minutes. Drama, well, isn’t there enough drama in our lives? Let’s skip that part. Music… um, where it the cd player?

Because God knew I was not equipped to be in charge of VBS, He just let me think I was and instead He took over the details. He had the Body do it. You know… The Body of Christ- the Church. Like it says in scripture: Now the body is not made up of one part but of many…..  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

  • He sent the most creative ladies in church for the craft room with a budget of under $30 to boot!
  • He sent patient, fun bible study teachers who not only taught, but transformed their classroom into a desert oasis complete with tent and fountain.
  • For recreation, He sent two amazing servants out in the Texas heat who managed to make everyday Water Day, and the kids never complained!
  • Snack and a video? No thanks, said God’s snack team. Let’s have them build their own snacks as a craft that reinforces the bible lesson.
  • Skip drama? Instead, God had His plan fulfilled by one of His saints to pull out all the costumes, all the props, cast all the extras to make the gospel come to life for these kids.
  • Music? Let’s not just sing, whispers God in the ear of the music leader. Let’s worship and praise.
  • And to lead the groups? God sent about 20 youth eager to love on and play with the little ones of this church.
  • Now, says God, I will also give you an administrator, preschool director, sound team that all have one goal in mind- serving Jesus.

My motives for VBS were selfish. I wanted my kids to have a week with their friends to build relationships. I wanted them to have a week with the teenage helpers to see that big, cool kids could love Jesus, too. And I wanted them to have a week with the adult leaders because there was a lot of knowledge and love being poured out from these folks. And I wanted my three children to benefit from it. They, along with 50ish new and old friends, got to do just that. All around, lessons were learned about Jesus and His great love. My lesson?  Who’s in charge. Hint: it isn’t me.

Looking for Summer School Lesson 1: Two are Better than One?

Looking for Lesson 3: What about when He Hit You?

Looking for Lesson 4: Are You Happy to Wake Up in the Morning?

Looking for Lesson 5: That My Joy May Be In You?

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Foundations

For our first anniversary together, Rusty and I were still in the warm, cheesy part of our love. So it actually meant something that the first anniversary was the “paper” anniversary, and we observed it. Evidently we got over that, because we have since had our 3rd anniversary which was the “spend two hours away from the newborn then rush back because you miss him” anniversary and the 9th “new water heater” anniversary, and our most recent 12th “head out of town to care for your mother-in-law who had surgery” anniversary. This is because along the way real life overtakes romanticized life, and we realized  that the good life was the real life, and that romanticized life was just setting us up for disappointment anyway.

Anyhow, back to our “paper” anniversary. We decided for that first anniversary to get a piece of artwork, since we figured, hey, art is done on paper! (What can I say, we are  a couple of scientists, that is about as creative as we could get.) We looked and looked, browsing shops, trying to find something that was perfect. Finally we settled on this piece which hangs in our living room:

It is based on something that Jesus taught in Matthew 7 about building on a foundation of solid rock instead of sifting sand:  “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” One thing we already had been taught about marriage was that the rain and storms are inevitable (real life… remember?), so we had better be building on a firm foundation.

Fast forward eleven and a half years, as well as three kids. I have learned that the idea of building on a solid foundation goes beyond our marriage and beyond parenting. It is foundational to my very being. So last month, when we were ready to replace the nasty, old, toddler-stained carpet in our living room in favor of wood flooring, I knew what I wanted my family to do. There was a two week period between the ‘ripping up’ stage and the ‘putting down stage’ when our floor was the bare concrete slab. We were walking on the foundation of our house, quite literally the support upon which our entire house rested.

So I did what any fun mom would do. I pulled out all my Sharpies and let the kids write all over the slab. But first, we talked about where we were writing- on the foundation of our family home. I asked them to draw and write what represented our family and our home to them (and not a skull and crossbones, thank you very much, Caleb) This is what that looked like.

On the foundation of our house we put pictures of our family, our favorite words from the bible, and images that reminded us of home and love. Then we built our new floor on it.

What we did on the foundation of our house, we try to also do to the foundation of our home, whether it be this physical structure that we live in now or somewhere else that God takes our family. We build our family- our home– on God’s word and on love. It is the solid, unmovable foundation on which we build the rest of our lives. What are you building on?

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