Category Archives: Sweet stuff

What can I say- I am a sentimental softie.

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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Pre-emptive Kleenex

Photo credit: Seth Appleton

You may have been to a women’s event to hear me speak, and you might have been at the session where I have what I call the Pre-emptive Kleenex. It is a session when I share about the death of my brother Steve, a topic that is still tender years after his passing, and will likely be tender forever- or at least until we meet again.

And at the beginning of the session, I hold it up and I give everyone a warning:  ‘Ladies, this is my Pre-emptive Kleenex. I put it here so that maybe I won’t need it. But I want to warn you that I might need it because I am a crier.’ (Then I ask if there are any other criers in the room, and half the hands go up and we have a moment of laughter and solidarity for the Sisterhood of the Kleenex and that those in the Sisterhood never let a sister cry alone!) I go on to explain that I used to think that tears were a sign of weakness, and that I was a crier that grew up in a family of non-criers, and it was hard to be the weak one.

It was when I was engaged to the strongest man that I know that I changed my mind about tears. One time he was describing something about his father to me- his father who he had lost when he was just a young boy. As he spoke tears began to roll slowly down his cheeks. He apologized and wiped them away, but in that moment, I had a realization. His tears were not weak. His tears were a tribute. The memory of his father was worthy of those tears. And my tears did not make me weak, either.

I cry because I am sad, because I am happy, because I love, because I am stubborn, because I am proud of my kids, because I witness something truly beautiful, and a lot of other reasons. But I don’t cry because I am weak.  I cry because something is important enough to be worthy of my tears. I cry because something matters.

And so now when I am speaking, I hold up the Kleenex, prep everyone (mostly myself) that it may be coming, and then I don’t worry about the tears. All those tears say is that I love my brother. And I know he is worthy of those tears. I go on with the business of speaking from God’s word, which includes such beautiful nuggets as:

John 11:35 Jesus wept.

Psalm 56:8 You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book. 

Ps 126:5  Those who sow in tears
    will reap with songs of joy.

And finally, this lovely promise from Revelation 21:4- He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

You see, God understands the truth about tears, too.

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Closer Than a Brother


“Do you know what you want to say?” I asked Caleb, my 9 year old son.

“Yes,” he replied.

“And which verse?” I pressed.

“Yes!” he said.

“Then let’s write it down so you can practice.”

Caleb and his best friend Ben met in Sunday school when they were four years old. Over the last few years, they have become closer and closer, gravitating together by their mutual love of video games, Star Wars, Mario Brothers, and other fictional delights that I don’t need to understand. Get the two of them together and they immediately depart to a world all their own, full of danger, intrigue and adventure. Ben is an only child, and Caleb is the older brother to two giggly girly girls. Their shared lack of male companionship also drew them closer together.

Their antics can get them in some trouble, too, the kind of trouble that 9 year old boys get into when they must choose between behaving in church and having a good time with a friend. Caleb is used to the customary thump on his head from his dad who sits on the row behind him and his friend, and has to remind them that we are in church, not on some distant planet fighting evil minions. Caleb is also used to the regular lecture and consequences he gets when we pick him up from Sunday school and we are told, again, that Caleb had some trouble settling down and listening. There is a trade-off to having a best friend at church. He gets to have his best friend at church with him, and that makes him want to go to church all the more. He also gets into some mischief, but would I want a 9 year old who didn’t?

We got to see the upside to having his best friend at church played out last month. Caleb was asked to read a verse at his friend Ben’s baptism. He wrote down what he wanted to say and brought it to me. We practiced it over and over. I warned him sharply that the stage was not a place for playing, and that it was a very serious matter to speak in front of the entire church. I told him to only read what was on his paper, no more and no less.

The night of the baptism, Ben sat eagerly in the baptistery. Eventually he gave in to temptation and began to swim small, slow circles as his grandparents read verses and expressed their love for him. Behind him, Pastor Steve tried unsuccessfully to suppress his grin as Ben gave his “Kilroy Was Here” impression, only eyes and hands peeking over the edge of the tub at the amused congregation.

Then it was Caleb’s turn. He said “I am Caleb White. I am Ben’s BEST friend.”  The crowd laughed, warming him up. And, despite my stern warnings, he went totally off script. “I thought a lot about what verse I wanted to read for Ben…” His eyes met mine across the sanctuary.

Isn’t it a universal truth that you can still feel your mother’s displeasure even from across a room packed by over a hundred people? I gave a short jabbing point at his paper with my finger and gave him the look. You know the one.

Like the good boy he is, that was all it took. He went straight back to his paper and read:

“Ben, God made you to be a blessing to many people, including me.  That is why I picked this verse for you, my closest friend. Proverbs 18:24 says A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

“Ben,” he turned and looked at his friend, “I consider you to be my brother.”

The whole night was a great reminder of God’s love. Ben was surrounded by parents, grandparents, friends, a pastor, the church on this night when he publicly professed his allegiance to God, who pledges His allegiance back. This is the God we worship. We worship a God who loves little boys who swim in the baptistery. We worship a God who loves 9 year olds who get in trouble at Sunday school, and in life. We worship a God who understood the needs of two little guys who both needed a best friend, and put them together. This is the God we worship, and I am so blessed to see my son worship Him, too, with his best friend Ben at his side.

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Mama’s Table

I have been lazy this year about decorating for Easter. I have a table in the living room that I decorate for different seasons. On or about Katie’s birthday in late September, I pull out my tub of fall things and decorate for Halloween. I

like to pick out my decorations in threes- one for each kid. Then when I decorate, they love to point out which one is theirs and rearrange all of it to their liking. After Halloween, I swap out the jack-o-lanterns for pilgrims, and the table is all ready for Thanksgiving. That lasts until Black Friday, then it all gets replaced with the Christmas stuff. At this point, the little table cannot hold it all, and the whole house gets decorated.

And then…. January.  After the busyness, fun, excesses and loud, raucous celebration of December, I always look forward to the cold, serene, quiet discipline of January, when my table goes back to normal. Love ya Christmas, see ya next time.

It remains this way until Easter. Then out come the bunnies and chicks and eggs. Not this year, though.  I have been dragging my feet for some reason. I am not really sure why- just other things going on, and some laziness, and mixed in was a little bit of why bother.

Last night I attended a funeral. It was for a fantastic lady who was only two years older than me. Like me, she has a second grader. She has another son in seventh grade as well, so a lot of the service talked about her as a mom. There are a lot of great things for those boys to remember about their mama. There are so many ways that she showed her love for them, and made their lives fun and special. Those sweet memories will be a treasure for them for the rest of their lives. Camping trips, holidays, laughter, silliness, love.

So this morning I have pulled out my box of Easter decorations and decorated my Easter table. Why bother? Because my kids love it. And they will remember it. The time we have with our children- with all our love ones- is a gift. Thanks for the reminder about making the most out of life, Brenda Sue.

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Parenting is Rewarding


The thing about children is that they are children.  I know this sounds obvious, but I have to remind myself of it continually.  My children are children.  When they are little, of course they hit.  Of course they don’t share.  Of course they pitch fits.  They are young, immature, and must  grow into adult abilities such as compassion, empathy, and the basic capacity of seeing outside of one’s self.  These are skills that we teach as parents just the same as we teach things like toilet training and tying shoes.  We don’t expect our children to master these things before they are ready, and the same should be true with these “emotional” skills.   It is a long, continuous process to train a child to display these behaviors.

But then there are times when they surprise us with a depth of spirit that is not characteristic of a child, flashes that make the challenging times of parenting worth it a thousand times over.  We had one of these times with Caleb when he was in first grade, sister Emily in kindergarten.

Caleb and Em were scheduled to spend part of their spring break at their grandmother’s home, a five hour round trip to meet her.  Travelling to Grandma Vida’s is a huge, fun, much-anticipated adventure for our kids.  We try to get them each out there at least once a year for these trips.  However, Emily had come down with a serious bug and needed to be taken to the doctor.  Rusty and I were discussing the logistics of this at the dinner table because I could not both take Emmy to the doctor and drive Caleb to meet his grandmother (I’m good, but I’m not that good).  We went back and forth about him taking off the afternoon, and who would travel with Caleb and who would go to the doctor.  I think Caleb misunderstood and thought we could not accomplish both, because he  piped up and said “Wait a minute, you guys, wait a minute…. It’s okay.  If Emmy needs to go to the doctor…” he broke into sobs  “… then I will just stay home from Grandma Vida’s.”

Oh, my sweet boy.  We reassured him that we could do both, that mom would take Emmy and dad would take him.  These are the flickers of the man he will become that make parenting so worthwhile.  Parenting is hard.  But it is also its own reward.  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.”

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Remembering

It was an ordinary morning.  I had not been married two years yet, and was teaching Physics at Westwood High School.  I got ready like always, ate breakfast like always, gathered my bookbag like always, kissed Rusty goodbye like always.  In the car I tuned into the talk radio station, my mind going over the quiz I planning to give my students that day.  The DJ’s were talking about the Monday Night Football game from the night before.  My favorite team, the Denver Broncos, had played and lost.  The sports recap switched over to the hourly news and a strange update.  They said that there were reports out of New York that a small plane had hit the World Trade Center.  By the time I arrived at school fifteen minutes later, those reports were of a big plane, then as I pulled into the parking the unthinkable- they are reporting that the second tower was struck.  We were under attack.

I rushed inside to my classroom to turn on the television.  Seeing it live didn’t make it any more real.  I couldn’t stop watching it.  None of us could.  I pitched the quiz I was planning for the day and we just watched the TV in class.  I couldn’t concentrate enough to do a physics problem, how could I expect it of my students?  The administrators told us not too keep the TV on, but I felt that history was being made, it was all any of my students were thinking about, and so I did it anyway.  I do not regret it.  That’s what I remember about that day- watching the events unfold with my students.

Every year on September 11th, our country becomes serious, sober, quiet as we all remember.  We know where we were, what we were doing, how we felt.  The world kept turning, keeps turning, but every year, that rotation seems to slow- to perceptibly pause- on this date.  This year, the tenth anniversary, it is especially prevalent.  This pause for remembrance has been a relief to me for the last four years.  On the sixth anniversary, September 11th 2007, my brother died in Denver, completely unrelated to the attacks in 2011 except for the date.

Now, on the anniversary of my brother’s death, a day tinged with sadness and memorials, it is a comfort to walk in a world that is respectfully somber, quietly remembering.  It is a relief not to mourn and remember alone.  Like it says in the book of Romans, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”  It’s cool in the saddest possible way.

On September 12th, the world will speed back up to its proper pace, rush back into its busyness.  But for one day it is good to slow down, good to remember.  There are enough other days to rejoice in life.  I don’t enjoy 9/11 anniversaries, but it is satisfying to remember, especially since the alternative is forgetting.

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My Rusty Nail

Someone once told me that when you become a mother you cease to be the picture and instead become the frame.Wow, did that resonate with me!That is until I told my husband Rusty.He replied with “Well, at least you aren’t the nail holding up the whole thing up!That’s the dad’s job.”Well, that put things into perspective.

So here’s to you, my strong nail, thank you for supporting us all.

Thanks for giving them wings to fly,

and always being there to catch them, too.

Thanks for playing “Daddy” to my “Mama”.

Happy Father’s Day.

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