Friday, February 21, 2014


I am so thankful for the sunshine today. It's amazing how bright light and blue skies elevate my mood and my energy level. I just feel so much better.

I once read somewhere that the person with little faith is just as "saved" as the person with great faith - the person with weak faith just doesn't feel as saved. Salvation is a work of God, not of our faith. In God's hands, His children are eternally secure, regardless of the strength or weakness of our faith.

The circumstances of my life have not radically altered since last week's frigid temperatures and overcast skies. I still feel like I'm running at an all-out gallop, trying to check off items on an endless to-do list. I still have gnarly personal issues that I'm wrestling with. I still feel like I repeatedly drop the ball, disappoint people around me. Plus, we've been battling a particularly nasty plague at our house this week - blech!

If anything, life this week has been hairier than last week. But emotionally, it feels like this week has been much better. Because of the light.

Sometimes, I wonder what amazing things I could accomplish in this life if I could only begin each day by baking in warm morning sunshine a couple of hours before my feet hit the floor. I'd probably have to change my name to Tawanda!

Savoring today's sunshine, I am reminded again that in Scripture Jesus is often referred to as "light" and as "glory" and as "radiance." When my faith is small, and I feel insecure, it's like living in the cold gray shadows of a wintry day. When my faith is strong, it's like living in the warm glow of spring sunshine.

And yet God - and His faithfulness - never changes. I am as secure and as loved and as much an object of God's favor on a cloudy "small faith" day as I am on a sunny "big faith" day.

Today, I am thankful for the sunshine and the blue sky. And I am thankful for the reminder that, even on cloudy days, the sun is still shining, imparting warmth and life through the clouds that block my view.

Monday, February 17, 2014


We were bombed by one clever skunk this past Friday evening. He didn't spray one of the cars. Or the cat. Or the shed in the back yard. Nope.

He sprayed the heat pump, right there at the air intake. One strategically released scent bomb, and he fumigated the entire downstairs so badly that it made us cough and gag and burned our eyes. Three days later, you still get smacked with a wall of stink when you walk in the front door.

Minimum investment, maximum impact.

I'm thinking there is some important lesson I need to learn from this skunk, but my mind is so muddled by the fumes that I can't figure out what that lesson might be. Suggestions?

Friday, February 14, 2014


When I was a child, I would occasionally have those blah days when I would complain, "I'm bored!" Or, "I'm tired!" Or, sometimes I would have days when I was just in a generally crabby mood. No particular reason, but I felt "off" somehow. Blegh.

My Dad had a pretty standard response to those situations. When my complaining or moping or sighing began to grate on his nerves, Dad would say, "You need to go run around the house!" Sometimes, he would even make me do just that:  "You go run around the house three times, and then come back inside and we'll talk."

I don't recall that I ever particularly appreciated that advice. And I don't know that I ever followed that advice except when Dad actually made me. I hated running around the house.

Funny thing was, though, as stupid as the suggestion sounded, running around the house usually helped me feel better.

I did not start the day very well yesterday. I didn't sleep great the night before, so I wasn't rested when I stumbled out of the bed to silence the nagging alarm clock. Then, I somehow lost track of time and felt rushed to get breakfast ready for the commuters before they hit the road. Then, someone said something that hurt my feelings, left me feeling down-in-the-mouth over yet another thing that I wasn't doing right. Blegh.

Yesterday, it was yoga day at the little fitness center in Troy - my favorite workout of the week. But by the time 7:15 rolled around, when it was time for me to hop in the van and head to the studio, I was in such a lousy mood that I decided to sit down with another cup of coffee and sulk instead. Blegh.

Caroline asked me this morning where I was yesterday. "We missed you," she said.

I told her how my Thursday morning had gone, and that since I was in a bad mood, I decided to skip class.

"So, how'd that work for you?" Caroline asked.

"Not very well," I admitted. "I was still in a pretty lousy mood at lunchtime."

Caroline just stood there a second, looking at me with her lips pressed firmly together. I knew what she was thinking. "Okay, so what did we learn yesterday?"

I didn't answer.

"You know, if you had gone ahead and come in and worked out anyway, in spite of your bad mood, you'd have left feeling a lot better."

I knew Caroline was right. "Yeah, I know," I admitted reluctantly.

"So next time you start your day in a lousy mood....?" She looked at me with raised eyebrows.

"...get in the van and come anyway," I completed her sentence.


"Getting out and exercising really will make me feel better."

Caroline smiled and gave me a hug. "You have a great day today," she encouraged.

I know she's right. I know because my Daddy taught me the same thing, a bazillion years ago when I was a child. I don't know why, but moving around enough to elevate your heart rate and increase your rate of respiration truly does improve your mood. Clears your mind. Lifts the fog.

How's your Friday going? Are you fighting a lousy mood? I bet you'd feel better if you'd go run around the house.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


In this year's "read through the Bible," I am currently in Leviticus. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus...this is about the point that so many folks throw in the towel. It can be very difficult to come back day after day and read description after description of how to kill this goat and where to kill that bull and what to do with the blood from those two pigeons and...

Last Friday, I was feeling weary and discouraged. As I sat down to begin my morning reading, I prayed, "Really, God? Do you really have anything to teach me today from Leviticus? From all these Old Testament laws about burnt offerings and grain offerings and peace offerings and sin offerings? How on earth can I possibly glean any nourishment or encouragement from all these rules and regulations?!"

You know what? God did meet me in the early chapters of Leviticus, and He encouraged me. As I was reading through verse after verse of tedious details about sacrifices, it occurred to me:  God cares very much about seemingly insignificant things. He notices and cares about every single little detail.

The same God who spelled out all the precise details of how to make a sin offering - that same God is aware of and attentive to even the teeniest details of my life and faith and struggles and needs. That realization encouraged me very greatly indeed!

This morning, further along in Leviticus, I was reading in chapter 21 about holiness and the priests. God was giving very specific instructions about what the priests could and could not do. An interesting phrase is repeated over and over in this section of Leviticus, as God commands his people to live holy, set apart lives: "I am the LORD who sanctifies you."

Now, it might be tempting to think Scripture is teaching us that if the priests did just what God told them, that was what would make them holy. But that's not what we see in this passage. No, quite the contrary. God makes his people holy - He sets them apart. And He sanctifies them. And because they are set apart, and because God sanctifies them, they are called to live lives characterized by righteousness, purity, and faithfulness to God. God - not the priests (nor us, his "royal priesthood" today) - God himself does something amazing that works in us to produce changed lives. Again, here in the tedious book of Leviticus, I found great encouragement!

In chapter 23, I read this morning about the feast days that God instituted for his people. Again, something strange kept popping up. As God lays out the rules for each particular holy day, over and over He says: "You shall not do any work....You shall do no ordinary work....You shall not do any work." Odd, isn't it, that when we want to enter into the presence of God, to stand before his holiness, we want to work. To do something. And yet God commands us:  DO NOT WORK! He is so serious about this that He declares He will destroy anyone who violates this command. Against all my desires to work in order to earn an audience with God, He commands me to do quite the opposite:  He commands me to REST.

So, if you, like me, are chugging slowly through Leviticus - all those tedious passages about skin diseases, and body fluids, and how many goats to sacrifice on which day and exactly where they are to be killed - be encouraged. Be GREATLY encouraged. God is all about the details. God saves and sanctifies his people. God commands his people to rest.

This tedious book of Leviticus? Turns out, it's not tedious after all!

Monday, February 10, 2014


Local county schools missed an entire week of classes last week due to ice and snow. According to Facebook posts by the parents...

Day 1 was fun.

Day 2 was blue.

Day 3:  the situation was no longer fun or funny or anything like amusing.

Day 4:  the parents were asking for drugs.

Day 5:  many of them were babbling on-line incoherently.

I'm sure everyone is very happy that school is finally back in session today. I thought I could hear the exhale of a thousand-thousand sighs of relief when I stepped out on the front porch this morning.

I'm sure the stress and frustration and exhaustion these parents felt last week was not because they don't like their kids. I'm sure that, in most families, it wasn't because the kids were absolute hellions the entire time they were home from school.

I suspect the frazzled nerves, tense neck muscles, dark circles under the eyes, and incoherent babbling were caused mostly by the the radical change in the normal daily routine. These parents were having to use muscles they didn't know they had.

(I attended a pilates class last week for the first time ever. I loved it! But that workout absolutely kicked my patootie. I walked around for three days feeling like I'd been kicked in the stomach, wincing every time I bent over, stood up, or sat down. Ouch! My muscles had been called upon to put out in a way they were completely unaccustomed to, and, yes, it was a little stressful.)

Which got me to thinking.....


Why in the name of Sam Houston do our public schools control and define nearly everything about our lives and how we operate as families?

Why do they determine how much time is "normal" for parents to, well, to parent? An hour in the morning, a couple of hours in the evening (maybe, if there isn't a mountain of homework or ball practice). Any more than that and, parents, you'd better look out - you are not going to be able to handle it. The stress is going to get you. The school calendar is making us moms and dads into a bunch of weenies!

Why does the school system tell us when we can go on vacation, or go visit Grandma in another state? Sorry, folks, we have to make up snow days. You're not going to be able to make it to Cousin Susie's wedding. You'll just have to adjust your plans...

Why does it tell us how to spend our weekends? Cheer competition, band fund-raiser, football practice...aren't weekends supposed to be free time? A break from the demands of school?

Why does school tell us when and how we can worship? Not during the playoffs. Not when we have a meet out-of-town. Not when a college scholarship is on the line. Like ANY of those things can hold a candle to God Almighty. (Read Al Mohler's thoughts about The New American Religion HERE.)

I suppose this rant may seem strange coming from a mom who has lived pretty much 24-7 with seven children (and only 11 years difference between the oldest and youngest) for more years than she can count. A mom who doesn't cancel school when the weather is bad, although we do miss school occasionally when the weather is beautiful - Mom can't resist the urge to get out in the sunshine.

What I'm trying to say is...have you and your kids been rolling along in the family Conestoga, and then suddenly, you look up, and it's not Dad and Mom driving the wagon anymore but some entity known as "school"? Parents, are you - like me - wondering:  "What in the heck is going on here?!" Does it not strike you as odd that so many moms and dads were freaking out on Facebook last week because they were suddenly aware, in a somewhat painful way, of the amazing reality that they had kids and the kids were their own to feed and discipline and occupy in some productive way?

I'm not writing this to bash parents who choose public school over homeschooling - homeschooling is definitely NOT for everyone! No, what I really want to do is to encourage all parents to jump in with both feet and parent with vigor. Engage you mind and your muscles. Strengthen your parenting abs. Don't let a few snow days take you down!

Remember, YOU are the mom. YOU are the dad. YOU are the one responsible for driving the family Conestoga. Jump up there, grab those reins, and get ready for an exciting ride!

Friday, February 7, 2014


As we were driving to get groceries in the magically beautiful, ice-encrusted world a couple of days ago, Helen asked me, "What's your favorite thing about this weather?"

I thought a second. "My favorite thing about this kind of weather is that it reminds me how much I love summer."

Steve suggested once that we should move to Southern California. Or Florida. Or anywhere that we can reasonably expect that the temperature when we wake up in the morning will NOT be eight degrees. Or lower.

"Oh, no!" I protested. "We need the winter to make spring and summer so wonderful."

I do like winter. I do not like being cold.

With my kids growing up and out of the house more, I am learning new skills. I started a very nice fire in the fireplace this morning, all by myself. With no oversight from Fireman Ben. With ice-coated (translation:  "wet") wood. That I busted loose from the wood pile with a sledge hammer. And successfully hauled up the treacherous back steps. BAM!

To celebrate this noteworthy accomplishment, I am sharing my favorite hot cocoa recipe. (Chocolate is always an appropriate way to celebrate, right?) If, like me, you are looking out the window at the sparkling winter wonderland and thinking, "Only six weeks until spring!" - and if, like me, you are hovering close to the fire today - then a mug full of delicious hot chocolate will give you one more reason to say, "Winter is wonderful!"

1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
dash salt
1/3 c. hot water
4 c. milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt in a saucepan; stir in water. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Boil and stir 2 minutes. Stir in milk and heat. DO NOT BOIL. Remove from heat; add vanilla.

(We serve this topped with whipped cream. If you're feeling fancy, you can add a sprinkle of cinnamon.)

Monday, February 3, 2014


Today, I want to take a minute to say how very much I love my sisters at Grace Presbyterian Church.

Yesterday was a very full day, from start to finish. It came on the heels of another very full day. Which followed closely upon a very full day the day before. I feel like I have been running at an all-out gallop since the day I hung my new 2014 calendar on the wall. In the craziness of the past month, there has been much to celebrate, much that has been so very good and brought tremendous joy. And there has been fatigue and sorrow and pain and stress and grief.

Yesterday began with prayer with my sisters in the church basement. Some things, we have been praying about for months, with no evident answer to encourage us. But once again, we gathered and prayed. It is so hard when you're tired and discouraged to persevere in praying for people and situations that you've been praying over for months or years. It is such a tremendous blessing to have others around you who encourage you to press on, to be faithful in praying when you feel like giving up.

Then, the women's ministry leadership team got busy in the church kitchen, cooking pancakes while others were gathered in their Sunday school classes. I mentioned that I had recently discovered and fallen in love with the electronic-mix music of Swedish artist Avicii (you should definitely go check out Hey Brother). One of the women then shared her current favorite single:  Worn, by the group Tenth Avenue North. I came unglued - the song so very accurately described the way I was feeling yesterday morning, the way I feel so much of the time lately. I, too, desperately long to "see redemption win."

So while we were flipping pancakes, we went from dancing and laughing, to crying and hugging, and then, of course, back to dancing and laughing. The class that was meeting in the Fellowship Hall, if they heard or saw us in the kitchen, probably thought we'd lost our marbles. It is wonderful to be in the company of others who can celebrate your joys and share your sorrows with equal grace and abandon. Thank you, Ginny, Laura, and Kerri, for being such sweet sisters.

God has beautiful daughters.