Just Wanna Say Thanks…That’s All

Writing use to be a pretty big part of my life but for years I set it aside to more fully devote myself to finish raising and homeschooling a bunch of kids. It wasn’t hard to set aside because it wasn’t my idea to do anyway. Plus, I still got to be involved in writing through grading and editing my kid’s papers. Then they went to college and I loved each time someone handed me a paper with that “can you take a look?” facial expression. My youngest is now in Comp I so it’s back to reminders about not starting sentences with conjunctions and not over-using commas. I love it!

Of course anyone who frequents my little blog knows I sometimes start sentences with conjunctions because I want my posts to be conversational. One editor told me years ago that there are pros and cons to writing like you talk. I’m glad that blogging encourages the pros and minimizes the cons. Smile. ‘Cuz anyone who knows me knows I definitely write like I talk.

The point of this shorter than normal post is simple: I just want to say thanks.

  • Thanks to those of you who have so warmly welcomed me back to writing — even in the little (in my case) world of blogging.
  • Thanks for your encouraging words about ways certain posts have blessed or comforted you…or made you laugh.
  • Thanks for sharing some of the posts with your Facebook friends.
  • Thanks to fellow bloggers who have liked or shared posts on your own blogs.

Writing is only fruitful if people read what you write. I started this blog primarily to chronicle experiences, memories and thoughts to publish in one of those pretty little bound books that WordPress and others make money publishing for their bloggers. There’s something in me that wants Benny’s and my grandchildren and maybe great-grandchildren to know there was someone praying for them to continue a legacy of godliness in their generation and beyond. And I wanted them to know the aunts, great-uncles and third cousins twice removed that were real, hilarious, flawed and godly people who experienced strength and grace to persevere through the same kinds of struggles they are.

But then you started reading. I admit it; knowing others are out there smiling or becoming teary-eyed or being strengthened by the road I have walked and am walking is meaningful.

So thank you for reading what I write. It’s meaningful.

I have received some requests for topics to open up on this blog — I love that! If you have any topics rolling around in your heart or mind that you would like to hear about please let me know. I know many of my readers are quite a bit younger than I and I would enjoy knowing how this older lady could continue to come alongside you as you establish your own legacy for others to follow.

Many blessings to you and yours today!

A Unusual Party Invitation

I’m sure it’s happened to you. Through text, email or in person someone says, “I need to talk to you about something. When can we chat?”

Does your heart sink a little like mine does? Do you assume this means you’re in trouble for something you don’t realize you did?

Yesterday I talked about how our anxious responses to things are sometimes rooted in past experiences that bring back “that feeling” we had. Due to a series of events that happened in our family some years ago, whenever someone initiated a conversation with us, it was typically because we had messed up. This led to me reacting inwardly to anyone even suggesting that we needed to “talk.” The fact was, we were about to learn something else we had done wrong.

The crazy thing is that those involved in that difficult season of our lives have each asked our forgiveness for the ways things were handled, yet my inward response remains.

I’m having to ask myself if others are tempted to have this same response when I ask to chat with them. Have we gotten to a place as Christians where we’re intentional about talking with others only when there is an “issue” or something we “need” to discuss? Am I one of those people who only reaches out to share my thoughts when there’s a problem?

Imagine what would happen if we started regularly asking to get with people and then showed up with a list of things for which we wanted to thank or encourage them? Or how our relationships would be affected if 9 out of 10 of our comments to or about others were positive?

It reminds me of a party Benny and I threw decades ago. As a young church in the early 80’s, we were attempting to take seriously our biblical mandate to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) to one another.  It was refreshing to enjoy the kind of relationships where we could openly pass along areas of needed growth in our lives. I personally benefitted, for example, from hearing what my disrespect of Benny looked like or how harsh tones with my kids affected people.

Along the way we realized, though, that we had been neglecting another biblical command to encourage one another….daily (Hebrews 3:13)! So we had an “Encouragement Party.” Each person was asked to come prepared with prayerfully considered thoughts about what they respected or appreciated about other party-ers. The party went on for hours with people sharing special memories, thanking others in the room for being there for them during rough times or drawing attention to specific areas of growth in their lives. In the midst of laughs and tears, we all left that night more aware of the ways God was changing us than of remaining areas of needed growth.

Last weekend I had an angry reaction at some of my kids for which I had to ask forgiveness. It was one of those situations where past experiences influenced me and before I knew it my prideful heart resulted in angry words. I quickly experienced the gift of conviction and shared my regret with Benny in the car.

In characteristic grace, Benny seized the opportunity to remind me what real “speaking the truth in love” is. (More on that tomorrow.)

“Honey, you’re right,” he began. “You reacted angrily and that invited others to get angry, too. But you don’t typically respond that way. You also quickly recovered and tried to defuse a very tense situation by calmly communicating the need to talk about things later. God helped you and you did a great job there at the end.”

Ahhhhh the joy of timely, specific encouragement. Someone noticed. And he didn’t just notice but he spoke up. He could have added to my conviction and regret by bringing up times I’ve been angry with him or trying to help me see a pattern of angry reactions born out of bitterness or resentment in his heart toward me. He didn’t trivialize my sinful anger, but also drew attention to God’s grace.

I have an idea. Let’s have an Encouragement Party. Can you think of a few people you can take initiative to encourage? We could even make it really fun and say, “I’ve got some things I’d like to share with you. When can we chat? And I want you to know I think you’ll be really blessed by what is on my heart.” If email or Facebook is your preferred way of communicating, imagine how fun it will be for people to open your messages!

If you decide to do this it would be so fun for us to hear how it goes. (You can share your thoughts in the comment section.) I’m gonna give some thought to who I want to reach out to right now!

My Retirement Snuck Up on Me

The Class of 2012
(Mostly Home Schooled)

I’m interrupting my series on homemaking to share some personal thoughts about my weekend. Last Saturday I moved the final tassel from right to left at a child’s graduation from high school.

Graduation day is a memorable one for all moms. Whatever your schooling choice, moms sacrifice in various ways to see that day come: helping with homework, spending countless hours carpooling to school and sports activities, shopping for clothes and supplies, reminding about assignments, worrying about test scores…the list goes on.

As a home schooler, though, last weekend was especially meaningful because it brought nearly 30 years of teaching my children at home to an end. Every parent is a home educator. We all teach our kids to walk, talk, be respectful, clean their rooms and not talk with food in their mouths. We impart to them our values, train them not to cross the street without looking both ways, sit up late with them while they study, and warn them about the dangers of choosing the wrong friends. So if you’re not homeschooling, please don’t read this (and other) posts I write about my experiences teaching my kids at home as a suggestion that you’re not teaching yours, too.  You are!

A themed “Hollywood” party started off their fun weekend.

The thing I’ve been able to do is have more time with my kids than if they were in school elsewhere all day.

The fact that my adult children are smart and have good jobs after getting post-high school educations without debt makes me smile.

Because in some ways, I really wasn’t a great homeschooler. I only built one baking soda volcano and it didn’t work. While my fun homeschooling friends were forming letters by strategically placing pillows on the floor to teach their toddlers the alphabet, I got colorful refrigerator magnet letters that ended up…well…I don’t know where. So my kids learned their letters with boring ‘ol pencil and paper.   And the only math game I remember having was the box of timetable flashcards Lady got ahold of when she was a puppy.

As last Saturday was approaching, I grew increasingly sentimental. A part of me certainly shared the relief of friends who celebrated when years of the daily grind of homeschooling came to an end. However, my retirement from home schooling snuck up on me and most of me isn’t glad it’s over.

My memories have been going to places like:

  • Having morning devotions that ended with watching my kids pray for each other…or with them having to ask forgiveness for irritating or being unkind to one another. Smile. Either was a meaningful end to our time with the Lord together.

    Our baby girl is now a beautiful young woman…inside and out.

  • Re-enacting a Civil War battle after lunch in the woods near Bull Run using bananas as weapons.
  • Listening to Jaime teaching little Jake to read from the other room while I went over a math lesson with Jesse.
  • Inviting a bunch of the kid’s friends for sleepovers when a snowstorm was approaching so tomorrow’s math could be learning fractions while measuring out cookie dough ingredients and doing P.E. by sledding down the hill on Shiplett Boulevard.
  • Rejoicing over Janelle sounding out her very first sentence all herself.
  • Seeing Benny’s eyes glisten when the kids recited chunks of scripture as their gift to him one Father’s Day.
  • Discovering tall, teenaged Josh asleep with baby Julia on his chest when he was supposed to be writing a English paper.
  • Using “The Peacemaker for Kids” to help the kids avoid the “slippery slope” of insisting on their own way, faking peace instead of making peace, and refusing to forgive me and each other from the heart.
  • Interrupting school to surprise them with a packed cooler in the van just waiting for us to have lunch and shoot baskets at Van Dyke Park.

And then came Julia.

When we brought her home from the hospital when Benny and I were 40, we drove  home amazed at such a gift — and laughing about how we would “be almost 60 years old before she graduates high school!!”  But that was so far away back then!  Benny joked that a big reason why I wanted to adopt this little sweetheart was to extend my home schooling years. The wife he begged to do this “just for one year” in 1983 had turned into a homeschool-loving, American history-teaching, field trip-planning mom-turned-teacher who got ridiculously excited when UPS showed up with next fall’s books.

I can still almost smell them.

Having a blast with my new photography hobby! Love this pic…and this girl.

Oh, I had my bad days. My kids can tell you about them. I’m sure a part of each of them was glad when their “no more pencils, no more books, no more Mom’s dirty looks” graduation day came!

But my memories of home schooling are full of laughs and tender moments and the joy of folding laundry while overhearing Jesse and Joey arguing about how many points Josh scored in his last game or Jake reciting the order of Old Testament books (Job, Psalms, Problems!).

So thank you, Julia. There are many reasons for which I’m grateful God brought you into our family. But, yeah, one of them is because I got to home school for five more years than I would have otherwise.

Good News About Aging

This week two of my sons have birthdays.  Jesse (on the left below) turned 29 on Sunday and Josh (on the right further down) will be 34 on Thursday. It’s strange that I typed that sentence. One of the signs of true aging (verses the 20 or 30-somethings that just think they’re old) is that you say things like, “I can’t believe how fast time flies” or “How in the world did my kids get that old?”

But the fact is at nearly 58 I will be officially in my late 50’s when I have my birthday in August. That qualifies me to talk like an old person.

Today I’m thinking about the things I love about aging. Our culture doesn’t value aging, and I’m one of the baby boomers who has been sold the lie that aging is a bad thing that should be disguised as much as possible. I even tell people how old I am to do just a little thing to demonstrate I’m not ashamed of my age.  But I do cover my gray so there’s a part of me that still doesn’t want to look it.

One of the things I cherish about aging is watching my children become adults. My adorable little tow heads who used to have air bands to Lion King songs in the basement and did “Mediocre Magicians” shows using our first huge video camera, are grown men with families of their own. They work hard (actually, Josh is Jesse’s boss); seek to provide godly leadership for their wives and children; and are lovingly devoted to our large extended family.

Yet the thing I am most grateful for this week is their passion for the Lord and His church. You see, last Sunday was the official launch for Redeemer Church. For the first time, Jesse and his family joined our months-old church. Mom/Granma was thrilled because, amazingly, God moved each of our children’s hearts to be a part of this.  Josh and Jesse (and their wonderful wives) have sacrificed greatly to be a part of Redeemer.

When they were young, their dad was working hard to build another church up in Northern Virginia. Josh, and later Jesse, drove early with Daddy to help unload equipment or set up the book/tape tables. Before long, Josh was working in the sound booth and Jesse proudly served as an usher. Before we knew it, Josh was leading worship for the youth ministry and Jesse ended up serving as a pastor-in-training here in Florida.

When they decided to leave the church they love and join a small group of people to start Redeemer Church, both couples said one of the main reasons for this was that they wanted their children to grow up serving on a church plant. For the past several months 7-year-old JJ has been joining Josh early to help unload sound equipment. This week, Jesse’s three toddlers were mingling with the other children before the meeting for their first Sunday there. It’s only a matter of time before they join Daddy doing things that makes little boys feel strong.

Benny and I prayed our children would love the church. God heard our prayers and has answered them in a big way.

If you have young children, don’t stop praying. Don’t stop praying when it seems He’s not listening. Don’t stop praying when your children go through seasons of spiritual apathy or rebellion. And if you do stop praying, don’t feel guilty about that and neglect to start praying again. Can you tell I’m speaking from experience? I am.

Pray for your children or future children. And remember, there are little people to come that will benefit from the grace of God as He answers your prayers.

In a big way.

Happy birthday, Josh and Jesse. Because of God’s faithfulness in your lives, Mom is finding aging to be not so bad.

The Beauty of Brokenness

Yesterday I was talking about not apologizing for God’s will. A friend commented on the post, saying, “…although there are trying circumstances weighing on me, the good far outweighs the bad. I can speak like the Israelites who said in Psalm 126:1, ‘When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.'”

I’m asking myself if I am one of “those who dream.”

I think part of what I’ve been walking through recently is the disappointment of some of my dreams not coming true. Here’s an example…

When I was younger (umm, much younger) I dreamed that Benny and I would serve at the same church for forever and ever. We started a church at age 25 and then spent two decades growing and serving and sinning and making memories together. Many of the people who helped get the church off the ground persevered through the hard work, challenges and leadership changes — and are still there three decades later. In those early years we talked about being buried in the woods behind the building we all sacrificed to see happen…and mused about replacing the little ones we held in our arms during worship with our future grandchildren someday.

Two churches and lots of gray hairs later, I now hold my grandchildren hundreds of miles away from that place. Sometimes I still battle sadness over forever and ever not happening there.  With them. I see pictures of their grown-up children on facebook and remember holding them in my lap, then wonder, “Do those kids even know who I am?”

Then I think about the people I wouldn’t otherwise know. The tears and prayers and fellowship and laugh-till-I-cried moments that wouldn’t have happened with friends I wouldn’t have gained. The trials and suffering that awaited me here in Florida that I needed to get to so I could experience God’s help in delightful, sanctifying ways.

Broken dreams are hard to handle. Until I think of Eden. I think about how God’s perfect and beautiful plan for His image-bearers was broken by sin. Yet even before the garden was created, God devised a plan. From the brokenness came a glorious plan of redemption that put God’s wisdom and love on display when our sinless Savior paid the ultimate price.

When I was dreaming about forever and ever, God knew my dreams wouldn’t be fulfilled my way. But how can I not praise Him for the experiences and people that wouldn’t have otherwise happened if there was really a place for me to be buried out in those woods?

It’s like seeing a lovely mirror crashed and broken on the floor.  Now, rather than one piece of reflective beauty, there are many. My broken dream has resulted in numerous unsolicited yet precious gifts — including a brand new church to which God knew my broken dream would lead.

My friend reminded me of dreaming. I hope her reminder blesses you today.

Dream on.

No Apologies Needed

Are you ever hesitant to rejoice in God’s will — especially when you don’t know how other people feel about it? Find it easier to admit when you’re struggling than to share openly when good things are happening?

I was talking to a friend recently who moved from her longtime home in one place to a city out of state. Although she misses her friends and family, she was excitedly telling me about how God was meeting her in the new situation: new area, new friends, new church and cool places to visit with her family.

At the end of our brief chat she mentioned how nice it was to talk to someone who was glad she was happy. While she has felt very supported by her friends, there’s a part of her that doesn’t want them to know how much she likes it there because they could feel she’s “glad” to be gone.

Are you in a season where God has blessed you? Has your financial situation improved during this down time in the economy?  Has God blessed you with a nicer home, newer car, or a prayed-for relationship? Is your marriage growing? Are you in a sweet season with your children where everyone seems to be getting along? Are your friendships thriving in fresh ways?

A pastor friend once warned me not to apologize for God’s will. During times of trials or suffering we can be quicker to talk about God’s sovereignty than during seasons of blessing! It’s almost as if we are ok with “defending” God’s will when times are tough, but remain silent when times are good.

While we want to be compassionate and sensitive to those who are hurting due to challenging circumstances in how we boast in the Lord’s goodness, let’s not rob God of His glory when He surprises us or those we love with answered prayers or gracious blessings. Gushing about His goodness and provision is not only fun, it’s also a way to point to His love.

A parent who gives a gift to his or her child loves to see their eyes light up as they run to show the gift to others.

Our Father is probably that way, too.

Is there someone you can boast to about God? See if you’re like me and find it harder to  do this than to speak of your challenges.

Remember, we’re not boasting in ourselves..but in Another.