Thursday, October 31, 2013

Beauty and the Beau: Halloween Edition

Elizabeth's BFF (Michaela) had a birthday party last weekend. And since her birthday is so close to Halloween, she decided to have a combination birthday/Halloween party. They had tons of fun planning, decorating, and making treats.
Since Nick is part of Elizabeth's life, Michaela invited him to the party, too. Since it was a Halloween party, they had to dress up. And since Elizabeth is still a little girl at heart, she decided they would dress up as a prince and princess. *grin*

Aren't they adorable?

The funniest part of the whole thing was that Elizabeth wanted Nick to wear some make-up. She thinks that's what princes do. And Nick, as gracious as he is, went kicking and screaming allowed her to put eyeliner and foundation on his face.
He came stomping up the stairs and declared, "If this doesn't prove to her I love her, I don't know what will!"
And there you have it. The way to know prince charming loves his princess: He wears make-up for her. (I love the sparkles by her eyes!)

And they lived happily ever after.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

When Preposterous Becomes Profound

So, last week I told you I would post about a great conversation Brian and I had on our way home from the marriage conference. Well, here it is!

We were talking about wounds and memories and started on this thing where one of us would name a time or situation and the other had to share a corresponding memory.
Brian said, "Middle school." And I responded with a memory from computer class.
I was sitting in my chair doing something on the computer and my two best friends were standing behind me playing with my hair. (I used to have long hair.) One of them pulled it up onto the top of my head and then screamed, "Oh my gosh! You have such a hairy neck!"
So began my hatred of my neck and my fear of wearing pony-tails and braids. I actually shaved the back of my neck for the next several years.

Brian and I went on from that memory to talk about the hatred of my arms I've had since elementary school. They're hairy, too. And I grew up with the frequent experience of kids reacting to the hair on my arms in a way similar to how my best friends reacted to the hair on my neck. "Your arms are so hairy!"
"Wow, you have more hair on your arms than a guy!"
"How did you get such hairy arms?"
And on, and on.
Sometimes I thought about sarcastic come-backs with which I could reply. Like, "Oh, really? Wow, I've had these arms all my life, and I've never noticed that hair before. Thanks for pointing it out to me!" But even the best-delivered come-back did nothing to heal my breaking heart. I felt out-cast and ashamed, and wanted to hide my arms in any way I could.
I hated the mockery.
And I hated my hairy arms.
In fact, it was in elementary school when I decided my wedding gown would have long sleeves. Yes, some twelve years later I was married in AUGUST - in long sleeves.

So when Brian looked at me and said, "God picked those arms specially for you, because He loves you so much," I thought, That is the most preposterous thing I've ever heard. I thought for a moment then confided in Brian my belief that I would never be able to say I like my arms. I'd simply spent too much time hating them. I couldn't imagine ever feeling otherwise.
But Brian wasn't giving up. He kept insisting that God had given me these arms out of His great love. And after a while I sensed His Spirit moving in my heart.
Like He was asking me, Karen, do you really believe what you say you believe? When you say I can take bad circumstances and work good out of them, do you really believe it? When you profess that I am sovereign and good at all times, do you mean it? Do you?
Then is it possible I chose those arms specially for you, because I love you so much?

I couldn't argue.
I told Brian he was right. God did choose these arms specially for me! And as I prayed to surrender my hatred for these arms, God replaced my contempt with joy. I'm looking at my hairy arms now, and I am remembering God's faithfulness and power to redeem bad situations. I am reminded of His goodness. And I am actually anticipating the next time someone says to me, "Wow! You have really hairy arms." I'm going to respond with, "Yeah. I know. Isn't God great?!" Karen

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dear Elizabeth

I sat down a couple nights ago and wrote to Elizabeth.

Actually, I've been writing to her for over 18 years now.
Sometimes weeks or months pass between entries, but I started a journal for her when I learned I was pregnant and it has become one of my joys.
Initially, I thought when she was a teenager I would write things like,
We had such and such conflict and this is what I did, and this is why. Hoping now that you're older you'll understand. ((hugs))

But I have found quite a different sort of thing happening.
*Sometimes I write about a struggle I've had and shared how God has been faithful.
*Other times I re-tell a conversation Elizabeth and I shared about an issue she's facing, and I try to speak more words of encouragement.
*Most recently I wrote out a prayer for her.

More and more, I am being filled with joy at the thought of God using these things I'm writing to speak Truth to Elizabeth and encourage her heart. Maybe even some day down the road when I am not here anymore.
I wonder, Will she read this one when she's struggling with motherhood? Will it give her hope to know I felt the same way? Will she be able to glimpse God's goodness through my words?

Even as I sit here and write these words, thinking and praying about how God might use them to bless my daughter, I am amazed and humbled by His gracious work in my life. I remember well the days of despair I faced years ago. I recall when I yelled, more often than I spoke. I think of wanting to resign my role as mother because I didn't think I could do it anymore. When "Surviving Motherhood" seemed like an oxymoron to me.
But God has used my darkest days and hardest moments to shape me. HE is transforming me into the woman HE created me to be. And I know - if God can do that work in me, surely He can use my feeble words to bless my daughter. Now, and in the years to come.
Yes, LORD, please make it so!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

God is not surprised. By anything.

The boss-man (that is, the owner of Edgewood) joined us for our department meeting Monday morning. He doesn't usually sit in on those meetings, and I was surprised to see him there.
But God wasn't.
He came to the meeting because he had news to tell us. "I'm selling Edgewood," he said with a peaceful sort of sadness about him. I was surprised to hear his announcement.
But God wasn't.

As the meeting continued, the boss-man explained his reasons and did everything he could to assure us Edgewood will continue to be the excellent place it is today. As I listened, God began assuring me HE was not surprised by any of the morning's revelations. And I started feeling peaceful about it, too.
The question entered my mind about whether the new owner was going to bring in an new activities director. But the boss-man said there are no plans for personnel changes. He did say we're all going to "officially" be fired, and re-hired. (Will it go on my permanent record that I've been fired? That makes me feel like such a rebel. *wink*)
For a while I wondered what was going to happen to our Bible study. Would the new owner say I couldn't do that with the residents anymore? But I have since learned enough about him to believe we will be allowed to continue.
I still have a question about whether or not the new owner will be agreeable to me taking time off for speaking events. When I was hired, I was upfront about my speaking ministry and told them I would need to take time off a couple times a month for it. And the boss-man was OK with it.
But I wonder, What if the new owner isn't?
'Cuz that'll be a deal-breaker for me.
Yet, I remain confident God won't be surprised and so I am choosing to have peace about the uncertainties, too.

Next week I'll meet the new boss-man, and the sale will be finalized. Maybe everything will carry on as it has been for the past three years. Or, maybe it won't. I don't know. But God does, and so I wait. Without worry. Because...

God is not surprised. By anything.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wounds Happen

While Brian and I were at the marriage conference last weekend, we heard a lot about wounds. The hurtful things which happened to people in their lifetime (often/mostly as children) which have stayed with them into adulthood. And which have been a source of pain and often the root of sin. Both men and women (husbands and wives) shed tears as they shared about the lies they have believed because of their wounds - and how believing those lies led to various sins, which in turn wounded their spouse.
For a time, I stopped being "wife" as I sat and listened. I became "protective mother" and could only think about how desperately I want to keep my children from being wounded. As I witnessed the pain these people had endured - as I recalled my own wounds - all of my energy was focused on the notion that, somehow, I had to find a way to protect my babies.

During the drive home, Brian and I talked more about wounds (I'll post a great story about our conversation next week...) and I told him how I had felt about wanting to protect our kids. Brian understood my desire, but we agreed it will never happen. Our children have already been wounded. WE have wounded them, though that was never our intent. And they will continue to receive wounds as long as they live in this broken world.
Wounds happen.
The realization was enough to make me feel hopeless and helpless.

But then God used Brian to show me the hope. He said, "We can't protect our children from the wounds, but we can train them to defeat the lies."
Ahhhh. Truth.
And hope!

We sat with the kids Monday night and told them about our weekend. We shared some of the stories of our own wounds, and I told them about my desire to keep them from all wounding.
Then Brian went on to explain the reality that wounds happen, and the hope we have in defeating the lies.
We talked about knowing the Truth so we are able to recognize lies when they come. We talked about the battle we have with the enemy of our souls. And we encouraged our children to be alert. Oh, how I pray the Truth will be deeply planted in their hearts and protect them from the lies of the enemy.

Because wounds happen.
But Jesus heals. And with His Truth, we can defeat the lies.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Dreamed a Dream

Brian and I spent last weekend at a marriage retreat in northern Michigan.

It was amazing.
If you live in Michigan and you're married, you really need to go. I believe they're having another retreat in March. Check out this website for details/contact information.
And don't wait long because space is limited.
You're welcome.

So, back to this past weekend. We spent some time thinking about/remembering the dreams we had when we were kids, regarding marriage and relationships. And over the course of two days, good time alone with God, and several conversations with my husband I realized just how much I dreamed of being pursued. Cherished. Wanted. Delighted in. But I was only able to "dream" about that as a teen. Because my real-life relationships (as opposed to those in my dream world) were all sabotaged by my stupid decisions. *Read that: When I gave in and became sexually active, I believed my boyfriends only wanted me for that reason.
And since I wanted to be wanted for me, I always broke up with them.
But I kept on dreaming that someone would cherish me.

As the weekend progressed, God unveiled another problem with my dream. That is, I feared people wouldn't love me if they knew about the unacceptable things I'd done. It surprised me to recall how many times I'd lied - even as a little girl about things like wetting the bed - because I didn't want people to know the truth. I didn't want to appear less desirable.
I wanted to be wanted.
And I began to understand my desire today to do things "perfectly" had grown from my belief that I could not/would not be cherished if I didn't do everything right.
Then Jesus stepped in and reminded me of the Truth:
HE knows everything about me.
The good, the bad, AND the ugly.
And HE cherishes me.
Jesus knows all my imperfections. He saw me every night when I wet my bed. He knows about each time I gave myself to one of those guys. Jesus saw me each time I lost my temper and yelled at my children. He is completely aware of everything about which I feel shame.
And still, HE cherishes me. HE delights in me. Jesus loves me!

Know what else?
None of the things which have brought me shame are news to Brian. He knows about all of them, too. And as we processed these memories together this weekend, my husband reminded me again that he cherishes me. He delights in me. He loves me.
And the sex? Well, yeah. He loves that, too! *wink*

Living my dream,


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mother/Son Bonding

My aspiring angler (For those of you who don't know, a real fisherman is known as an "angler".) has been wanting to catch salmon for such a long time. And two weekends ago, he did it! He spent several hours at the creek near our church and caught himself a few nice salmon. (Gave one away to another angler who just wanted to get one and go...)
The two he kept were full of eggs.
Josh was thrilled. Because now he could make real fishing bait for next year's salmon runs. (Apparently, salmon like to eat salmon eggs - so they make great bait. I'm trying to get over the cannibalistic image that produces in my mind. *ewww*) So, with a bowl FULL of salmon eggs, Josh did his research and we bought the necessary items to create next year's bait. (Unscented Borax, and red tulle - in case you're wondering.)
When Josh had the eggs prepared he sat down to wrap and tie individual packages, which he is certain will land him some amazing catches on future fishing expeditions. But after a short while, he realized the process was a lot more tedious than originally anticipated.
And he was looking for help.

So, I did what any other clueless-to-the-task mother would have done.
I sat down to help.
And during my brief orientation to spawn-sac-tying I learned that I needed to reach into the bag of eggs with my bare hands and retrieve 5-7 eggs. Step two was to place the eggs on the tulle, gather the corners together to form a sac and carefully twist it closed. Then I had to wrap a piece of thread around the top of the sac and wind it around tightly 8 or 9 times. All the while taking caution not to squeeze too tightly, lest I pop one of the eggs and get orange-ish slimy stuff all over my hand. By the way, I needed to "cut" the thread by pulling it - not with scissors - thereby assuring a tight closure on the sac.
And, by the way, sometimes breaking the thread by pulling it caused enough pressure to break an egg - and I often ended up with slimy stuff on my hands.

So, I sat at the table next to Josh tying spawn sacs for fishing bait and I wondered what benefit there was to this activity. Besides the obvious fish bait, of course.
Our conversation hardly existed of more than, "Make sure you're closing the sac tightly," "Try not to leave such long thread tags," "Can you make some smaller sacs now?" and "Shoot! I broke another egg!" It seemed to me I ought to be taking advantage of this one-on-one time to have some kind of deep talk with my son.
But just about the same moment I was having that thought, Josh said, "You know, not many moms would make these spawn sacs with their son. It's mother/son bonding time!"
And we smiled at each other.
In that moment, I realized Josh was happy simply to have me next to him - doing something he enjoyed. My presence and participation spoke love to him louder than any words I could have said. And, maybe, next year each time he goes fishing and uses one of those spawn sacs - he'll remember our evening together tying them up, and he'll smile at the recollection of how much his mom loves him.

How can you speak love with your actions today?


Friday, October 18, 2013

Lessons From the Edge

Some words don't mean what you think they mean. Er, they didn't used to.

Or - Old people like to share their knowledge.

I was taking J to his apartment this week (He's in a wheel chair right now and needs to be escorted everywhere.) when we got into an interesting conversation. (Read that: J started talking to me about things he finds interesting. *wink*) He began asking me if I knew what a certain phrase meant. Since I had never heard it before, I had no idea of it's meaning.
J was delighted to go into a full explanation.
And then he gave me an assignment. He asked me, "Do you know what 'manufacture' means? How about 'sinister'?" Feeling confident about my vocabulary, I told J I did - in fact - know the meaning of those two words. But he challenged me with their original meanings. Did I know those??? Based upon J's amazing knowledge of the previously mentioned phrase, I figured he must know more than me, so I claimed ignorance. And that's when I received my assignment.
"Get a dictionary," he said, "and look up those words. You'll be surprised at what they originally meant."

So I did. I dusted off our dictionary at home and looked up 'manufacture' and 'sinister'.
And I found nothing of much interest. Certainly nothing which surprised me! Which is when I decided to get serious about my research.
That's right.
I turned to Google!
And that's where I discovered a little more knowledge about the word 'sinister'. While today it means something along the lines of 'evil' or 'threatening', it's original meaning in its Latin form is "left-handed". Apparently, in some cultures the left side (and therefore, left-handedness) was deemed negative, so if you were left-handed you were considered evil. And over time, the term meaning left-handed came to mean evil. (Thanks for the concise insight, Wikipedia!)

I couldn't find anything about 'manufacture' which seemed out of the ordinary, so I guess I'll have to ask J about that when I give him my 'sinister' report.
(Which is much different than a 'sinister report'. *wink*)
And I trust he'll give me some education, because it seems old people like to share their knowledge.

If you know the secret meaning, do tell me about it in the comments - so I can impress J the next time I talk to him!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thank You, Mommy

Thank you, Mommy

That was the text I got back, and picturing my little girl almost-adult-daughter typing it out nearly made me cry.

I've written here often about Elizabeth and her rats, so I trust you are well aware of these pets. We've had lots of laughs with those critters, but not every story is a happy one.
Like today's episode.
Elizabeth "adopted" Nibbles about 10 months ago from a friend who just didn't want to take care of his rat anymore. And because her heart is so kind, Elizabeth loved Nibbles well.
I suppose it is also because her heart is so kind that Elizabeth began aching for Nibbles a few weeks ago when she seemed to be quite sick. Elizabeth was concerned about the noises she was making, and noticed changes in her physique and behavior. She was convinced Nibbles was dying. And suffering in the process.
Now, I may not be a rocket scientist, but one look at Nibbles led me to the same conclusion. And so we began our research on how to humanely put Nibbles out of her misery.

Every day which passed had Elizabeth a little more sad for her dear Nibbles. But finally the plans were in place and as Elizabeth was walking out the door to go to a bonfire at school she said, "You'll take care of Nibbles while I'm gone, right?"
She didn't want to be here when it happened.
So that evening, Brian and I put Nibbles to rest and when it was finished I texted Elizabeth saying, "Nibbles is no longer suffering. Her body is in a white box on the counter. Didn't know if you wanted to see her..."
A few minutes later I got the "Thank you, Mommy" response. And I wanted to drive up to the school to hug my girl.

It's weird that "killing" my daughter's pet made me feel such a close connection to her, but somehow - it did.
A rat doesn't have an eternal soul. It's just a short-haired rodent, for crying out loud! But Nibbles was so much more than that to Elizabeth and I could see her sweet heart breaking. So I did for my girl what she couldn't do - the thing she knew needed to happen, but simply didn't have the strength to do.
And as I've thought about it more I have realized that won't be the last time I do for her something she cannot do. (And, actually, it isn't the first.) Because that's what we moms do.
It might be praying for our children when they are facing trials; it might be caring for a sick baby; it might be comforting one who has just had a nightmare; it might be giving a pep talk to a nervous kid before their first oral book report; it might be calming the fears of a college freshman who's leaving home for the first time (while we try to hide our own tears); or it might be euthanizing a sick pet rat.
Whatever "it" is, each of us moms have been given a precious opportunity to care, to love, to nurture, and to encourage. May God give us the grace to recognize and embrace these moments.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mrs. Proverbs 31, a la 2013

Last week I spoke for the MOPS group at my home church. We talked about the Proverbs 31 woman, and our battle with perfection. (And we talked about the fact that Mrs. Proverbs 31 wasn't really "perfect" after all.)
In the midst of my talk I shared the image I have conjured up in my mind of what Mrs. P31 would look like today. And there was such a positive response (read that: lots of laughter) from the ladies, I thought I'd share it with you, too.
Soooooo, I present to you a window to my insecurities *wink* via my rendition of a modern-day Proverbs 31 woman.


She gets up while it is still dark and has her devotion and prayer time before she prepares a hot breakfast for her family. Every day. And she never complains of being tired.
She home schools her children, and will do so through college.
And if she doesn’t home school, she is a room mother for each of her children, she is president of the PTA, she is the den mother for her cub scout, and also leads her daughter’s after-school craft club.
She runs a successful business from her home and loves every minute of her work. She knows how to manage her time perfectly so she is able to care for her family while also providing discretionary income so they can go out and have fun adventures together.
And while they are on those fun adventures she takes lots of pictures which she diligently assembles into scrapbooks that would make any Creative Memories consultant jealous.
In fact, she is so crafty, so creative, and so skilled, everything she does makes Pinterest look like child’s play.
She has a hot and delicious meal on the table when her husband gets home from work. The house is always picked up, and she greets him at the door with a kiss - having just brushed her teeth and hair, and put on lipstick before he walked in. She supports her husband in all his ventures and is never too tired for, uh, intimacy. So he is a very happy man.
She does not struggle with things like irritability, impatience, anxiety, or depression. Her faith is so strong, not even PMS can touch her joyful spirit.
She always knows the right things to say, and has time to make meals for friends in need. She remembers birthdays and anniversaries. She regularly sends cards just to say she cares, and makes bouquets from the flowers in her garden to brighten her neighbor’s day.
And in the midst of it all, she also finds time to work out every day. Her muscles are toned and her belly is firm.
She is the delight of everyone who knows her.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Beauty and the Beau: Homecoming Edition

Oh, these two kids are so stinkin' cute! I love watching them together, and observing the special things they like doing for one another.
Like this: Nick called Elizabeth on the phone one day, had her turn on the computer, and guided her to this video.

Well, obviously she agreed!
And I had a house full of kids that night - eating dinner and getting ready for the dance.

Of course, all the kids were great. But these two were my favorite!


Monday, October 14, 2013