Friday, September 25, 2009

A Stirring of Echoes

Somewhere between my childhood and my life as an adult, there are echoes. Reflections of sounds from days gone by. I recall moments from my youth. I sit and allow memories to pass through my mind in a parade of black and white images. There are some images stamped upon my memory in colors muted by age. Others I remember and others I wonder if possibly I only recall because of pictures.
So, I close my eyes and think ... what do I remember?
Milkshakes and popcorn. My sister and me all curled up under the blankets on my parents bed. I remember watching reruns of The Honeymooners. What was it Ralph always said to Alice during one of his many temper fits? "One of these days, Alice ... straight to the moon!" But, at the end of each 30 minute show, Ralph loved Alice ... over the moon.
Vacations to Michigan, The Henry Ford Museum. The Old Car Festival in the village and my dad telling stories about the different vehicles he rode in during his childhood. Music from days gone by pumping from the street speakers. Lots of people dancing and my parents laughing. Feeding the fish from red and white striped boxes of popcorn.
My parents in gray sweatshirts. The ones with SHS Cheerleader Parent printed on the front. The two of them, sitting on bleachers in the heat, cold, rain or snow ... watching my sister and me cheer for the home football team.
Me, leaning against my mom when my first boyfriend broke my heart. Her, not saying anything, just letting me cry. Now, I'm thankful he broke my heart and she just held me not trying to fix it. I met my husband a year after that heartbreak.
Mom sitting out in front of the local McDonald's until midnight, waiting for my late shift to end and her to drive me home. It never mattered how late it was, she didn't complain. There was always a smile and "How was work tonight?"
In every memory, I can hear the people I love ... their voices and laughter. Echoes from my past. Reflections mirrored in pictures. I wonder what my boys will remember when they are all grown up and on their own. Will they hear my laughter, feel my hands on their faces and my kiss on their cheek? Will they recall the love their father and I share?
What do you remember about your childhood? Are there pictures that stir echoes in your mind?
Wherever you are today, whatever your schedule ... take time to make memories with the ones you love.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I met someone this week. I've worked with this person for about 5 years and known her for that same number of years. But, this week ... I really met her. Do have someone like that in your life? A person you meet, you enjoy their company and you think you "know" them ... until they share a part of their life with you and all of a sudden, you really know them? I've always thought she was a nice girl, pretty and all around good gal. However, while at work last week, she shared a story with me. A story that has changed my daily thought process.
She told me of her mother's death. You see, her mother was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant. At that time, she had a choice. Receive treatment for the cancer, saving her own life and sacrificing the life of her unborn child. Or, she could protect her unborn child and sacrifice her own life. She chose the latter. My friend's mother passed away only two months after giving birth to her one and only child.
After hearing this, I asked ... "How did you turn out to be such a nice person when you have experienced so much pain?" Her answer came easily. She told me this ... "I wake up each day and am thankful for that day. I live it the way I know my mother would have me to live it. I do that because I know she sacrificed her life so that I can live each day."
I hope her answer does something to your heart. It did something to mine. I sat there, thinking about her answer. I couldn't place the feeling I had deep in my stomach. At least, not right away. It took me several days to realize exactly what I was feeling ...
Guilt. Guilt because that's exactly how I should be living each day. And, I haven't. Christ came into this world to give His life for me, for each of us. He gave His life to separate us from sin. The ultimate sacrifice ... His life for ours. Christ purchased my days with the giving of His life.
Since that conversation with my co-worker, I've tried to live in gratitude. I want to live each day exactly how my Father would have me to live it. He sacrificed His life in order for me to enjoy mine.
John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends."

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Best of Me

This week started the same as many others. A race to keep up with work and home. A balancing act between pleasing my employer and enjoying my husband and children. Somehow fitting football practice for our middle boy into the already cramped evening schedule. Finishing homework in time for supper, baths and maybe a little tv time. Helping a teenager with homework that doesn't look anything like what I did in high school. The house always needs cleaning. And, all the time, I'm feeling like there is something I've forgotten to do or someone I didn't give enough attention.

Have I given each person the best of me?

I'm in a hurry ... pretty much all the time. I work a forty hour week and I have three boys. Between work and keeping up with all our schedules, there is little time in between for quiet or slow time. My husband wants me to stop and sit with him for just a little while. The boys want me to read a book before bedtime. I say no to both because there is housework to do and there are clothes to get ready for the next day.
Who is getting the best of me?
This week, I took a few days off work. This morning, I drove the boys to school. I don't get to do that very often. I'm generally at work by the time my husband pulls into the school parking lot to send the boys off for school.
First stop, the high school to drop off our oldest boy. I think he's grown a foot in the past few weeks. He knows I love him but I say it one last time before he leaves the car. I watch him until he's inside the doors. Then, I pull away for the second stop ... the elementary school for our younger boys. We were a little early, so I parked and waited for a few minutes.
That's when I found it. The best of me. The me I was looking for at the beginning of the week. I planned out my vacation days. I needed some "me time." I had been feeling spent at work and the vacation days were an effort to "fill up." I needed something to help me focus, something to let me know this crazy race is worth every step and breath.
In that moment, my youngest boy asked to move up to the front and sit on my lap. Our middle boy was in the passenger seat and for the first time ... in a long time ... I said "yes." I'm usually in too big of a hurry to stop and let them in the front. Today, what would it hurt? He crawled over the armrest, laughing. We turned up the radio and pulled down the sun visors. Country music spilled out of the speakers and we started making silly faces in the visor mirrors.
My boys ran into school ... laughing and smiling. They turned back long enough to yell ... "love you, mom!" And, in their smiles, I saw the best of me.
The best of me is ... the mommy who takes time to be silly, the wife that stops to sit and talk, the child of God who slows down long enough to enjoy the life He's given me.
Are you busy? Do you find yourself going so fast you can't keep up? That was me at the beginning of the week. Trust me, slow down. If you do, you'll find out ... the house will get clean later, the clothes will get washed and put away later, so what if the kids don't go to bed at a set time every night ...
The best of me has been there, right in front of my eyes. All I needed to do was slow down long enough to see it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My Son, the Snake Hunter

We have this small white laundry basket. Since the day we received it as a baby shower gift, it's been the "sock basket." I hate to match socks. Other than scrubbing toilets, it is my least favorite job. So, all the socks go from the dryer directly into the sock basket. If you need socks, better check the basket before your dresser drawer. With five people in our house, you can imagine how many socks are collected. There are all sizes and colors.

When my two younger boys were around the ages of four and two, they came up with an idea. We were in the living room watching National Geographic. The story for that particular evening was snakes ... snakes in a huge pit. A brave man was sliding down a rope into the mass of vipers. I made the mistake of telling my boys I hate snakes (Note to mothers of boys, do not let them know when something frightens you! They will use it against you.) So, I'm sitting there folding laundry, watching the wonderful snake pit show. I loaded all the socks into the basket and left to put away everyone's clothes. I came back to find all the socks spread out across the floor. My boys were standing on the coffee table with fly swatters in gloved hands (their grandpa's farm gloves). Each wore a devilish grin.Hissing of all types followed. There were socks on the curtain rods, ceiling fan and every piece of furniture.

Turns out my children decided to play "snake hunter." In that moment, I made an attempt to hide my amusement. I could see in their eyes the snake pit was every bit real and my living room was a thing of the past. Those boys were in some far away place, battling the snakes and saving everyone.

As I watched them play, I thought ... let this moment last. Let them stay this way forever. I never wanted them to know the hurt of this world. Never wanted them to feel disappointment or make bad choices that just might put them into a "pit of vipers" of sorts.

I realized something ... I think God feels that way about us, His children. Think about it with me for a minute. As new believers, we are completely consumed by God's love. We follow Him in a way that most likely leaves Him feeling in total awe of His creation, His children. He probably watches us learning from His book, sharing our enthusiasm with others and just loving Him. And, I wonder if He ever thinks ... stay like that. Don't ever change. Don't ever fall back into your temptations. Don't ever fall away from me and into the things of the world.

In Romans 12:2 ("And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."), His word tells us to live in this world but not to take on the characteristics of the world.

God calls us to a child like faith. I believe this means to follow Him in a carefree abandon. The kind our children have ... the way my boys play ... the way they don't care at all who's watching, they are completely lost in a world others might not understand or might not see.

I'm thinking of the poem ... "Dance Like No One is Watching" ... I have a different spin on that one ... "Dance as if Only God is Watching".

Luke 18:16 "But Jesus called the children to Him and said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these'.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Prayer of a Servant's Heart

A few days ago, I was visiting with one of my friends. We were talking about devotions, prayer and praise. Each of us had been feeling a bit ... dry. Have you ever felt that way? With all your heart, you want to praise God, commune with Him in devotions and prayer without ceasing. But, for some reason, you can't concentrate. You feel as though your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling, never reaching God's ears.

Even on days when I feel dry or empty, I still sit at my kitchen table with my bible open. Why? Because, I know just the sight of a believer in prayer or devotion drives Satan crazy.

Today was one of those days. I sat trying to read, concentrate and pray. It was no use. My mind kept wandering. My heart was heavy. I felt a sadness beyond explanation. Have you ever experienced a burden so great you feel as though you can not move?

A young woman from our church family was diagnosed with cancer ... I hate this word ... cancer. It comes like a thief in the night. It plunders a house of peace and leaves a broken spirit in its wake.

This woman is a wife, mother, daughter and sister. She is loved, cherished and adored. She is strong and couragous ... faced many battles in her young life. More than most face in their entire lives. This child of God has two beautiful daughters. Their eyes are bright and reflect their mother's love.

The scripture is very clear about prayer. We are to pray without ceasing, bear one another burdens and cry to the Lord in prayer.

2nd Chronicles 6:19 "Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You."

Galations 6:2 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

1st Thessalonians 5:17 "Pray without ceasing."

Our God's love is as vast and mighty as the ocean. There is nothing so great our God can not do.

Today, I am doing something I have never done before. I am offering my blogspot for prayers and prayer requests. If you have a burden on your heart, need a prayer warrior or feel the urgency of God's calling to prayer for a brother or sister in Christ ... please leave those in the comment section.

I give my word, I will pray for each request. God knows our every need, our every want and care. His promises are new every morning.

I ask each person reading this ... please pray for this woman. Pray for healing and peace from the Master Physician.

Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Value of a Heartbeat

My father knelt in a freshly plowed field. He sunk his fingers into the soil, a handful sifted through his grasp. Another plunge of his hand, again the soil ran through like sands in an hour glass. This is where my father went to "get his spunk back."
At 64 years of age, my father suffered a massive heart attack. I can't tell you the time, the date or even how I ended up standing in the ER. All I can remember today is my father lying in a hospital bed. Looking down at him, I felt a fear I can not put into words. I remember thinking ... "My Dad is the strongest man in the world, this kind of thing doesn't happen to him. Someone has made a mistake. In a minute, he'll get up and walk out of here." That didn't happen.
I grew up in an extremely close family. Losing either of my parents would devastate me. Going through the motions of tests, decisions and acceptance of my father's condition ... those were difficult days. After determining he would need heart bypass, my father made a decision. Regardless of the doctor's wishes, he would go home for several months. Dad wanted to wait for his surgery. There were multiple reasons but the one that sticks in mind ... Dad told me he needed his spunk to make it through the surgery.
For my father, spunk came from his land, his farm. He worked hard for every acre, each parcel was earned with a steady pace of "blood, sweet and tears." He came home from the hospital and walked into his field. The field he had plowed, planted and harvested for years. He dropped to his knees and ran his hands through the soil. It was medicine for his soul.
My father made it safely through his surgery. He spent this spring planting and harvesting a garden on his farm.
Just as the heart surgeon repaired my father's arteries, God repairs our spirit. He is like the soil
on my father's farm. God's richness, goodness fills our hearts and mends the hurt in our lives. He is the only One who can perform spiritual heart surgery.
Today, if you're hurting, feel hardened by the weight of this world ... turn to the One who can ease your pain.
Ezekiel 36:26 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Did They Win?

I was wearing an olive-green shirt, buttoned down. Fall leaves embroidered across the front. My khaki pants were two sizes smaller than the ones I wear now. I walked back from the break room carrying my decaf coffee. My stomach was a bit queasy as I was only a few weeks pregnant with our second child. I found my co-workers gathered around a computer screen ... terrorists, bombing, planes. I leaned in and felt ill, confused at the pictures. Someone said "it's not an accident, it's terrorists." Again, I was confused. Terrorists could not get into America. Those things didn't happen in our country. Two women began arguing over the possibilities. I went to my desk and pulled up the news site. No one worked much that day.

Looking at picture after picture of destruction, I became ill. Just hours after the attacks, it was clear ... my co-worker had been right, it was no accident. Terrorists had come to our homeland. I laid a hand to my middle. What kind of world waited for my child?

For days, I sat on my couch watching the news. My husband and oldest boy sat with me. We ate meals in front of that tv, stayed up late to watch more and spent weekends watching Prime Time and 20/20. The terrorists were winning a battle they most likely didn't even realize. They began to demolish my safe haven.

Water-cooler talk went from kids, school, ballgames and movies to terrorists and fear. The terrorists were winning. They stole our laughter.

Ballgames went a little longer as we played the American anthem and bowed our heads in a moment of silence. The moment of silence lasted well into game time. The terrorists were winning, they stole our cheers.

Life changed for every American on that cool September morning. Whether we lost loved ones in the towers or prayed for those who did, life changed. I did not have a loved one in the towers. I knew no one lost in those moments.

If I had lost someone dear that day, I would not want today marked by the terrorists. I would not want to see their pictures, hear their voices or their names. In my opinion, that gives them a victory and glory ... something they do not deserve. For me, I am spending today in gratitude of the lives lost and sacrificed. I will be thinking about the firefighters, police officers, volunteers and innocent victims.

To those who lost their family or friends on 9-11, I wish I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with you. I'd like to see pictures of the people you are missing today. I'd like to hear about their lives and the memories you are holding dear on this historical day.

If you have thoughts, feelings or stories to share, I ask that you leave those in the comments section. I'm offering that area of my blog for you to pay tribute to your family and friends.

The question remains, did the terrorists win? No, they did not. They showed us our brotherhood, faith and devotion to America. The moments spent in front of the television were moments devoted to those loved and lost. Water cooler talk was devoted to the memory of those held dear and perhaps some felt just as I did ... grateful no one I loved was lost that day and guilt for that same fact. The American anthem played before each ballgame and the moment of silence ... those were a reminder of our bravery and devotion.

As you watch the news today, remember the lives given by our brother and sister Americans.
Today, I am grateful to them ... because of them I spend more time enjoying my boys, I spend more time reading my bible and much time loving my country.
John 15:13 "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Have you ever been on a tilt-a-whirl? You know the ride ... you sit down, hold on tight and spin around. There is no way to guess which way it will go next or how fast. There are ups, downs and crazy spins.

I rode on this particular ride with my 7 year old over the summer. I hadn't been on one of those in years and he had only ridden once before that day. We both screamed from fear, excitement and the thrill. Anyone who knows me ... you know jumping on a tilt-a-whirl was a huge accomplishment. For some, that may seem silly. Some might enjoy the huge roller coasters. Not me, I am one hundred and ten percent scared to pieces of rides.

I've been thinking ... that ride is a lot like life. There are days filled with excitement, fear and anxiety. Lately, it seems I am having more anxious days then ones filled with excitement. I worry ... about work, home, marriage, kids, parents, family, finances ...

My husband was laid off six months ago. I find myself thinking about how we'll pay the next house payment, electric bill, groceries and the list goes on. How will we afford to heat our home this winter? My boys are growing up in a world so different from my childhood. Some of those differences are good and others are a little scary. There are drugs on the school bus ... my boys don't ride the bus anymore. I won't take the chance. My job has become incredibly stressful. I'm employed as a fraud recovery coordinator in the financial industry. It seems there is a new type of financial crime everyday. Will I be able to keep up with the quickening pace?

All of these "tilts" have made me grumpy. Today, I was sitting at work thinking of just how grumpy I am and how tough things are .... basically feeling sorry for myself, something I've become pretty good at in the past few months.

Then, I heard an update on the young man I blogged about a few weeks ago. If you didn't read that blog (I Heard the News Today), it was about a teenage boy struggling with a disease. The update ... the tumor on his young brain is growing down and wrapping around his spinal cord. He's just a boy.

I slumped back in my chair, hands in my lap. My worries, problems, grumblings ... all of it started to fade.

Tumor, mass, cancer ... I hate those words. Where does cancer come from and how does it decide one being over another? How can you prevent it, how can you survive it?
I sat in my office thinking. This boy's mother, she would gladly trade my troubles. I'm sure she would rather worry about a house payment or electric bill. She would rather sit in my office with my worries than sit in a doctor's office with the results of her son's tests.

I left work feeling heavy, sick. The drive home was filled with thoughts of this boy, this mother. When I walked in my house, I was greeted by my boys. We have this special hug ... the sandwich hug. Each of us is part of the sandwich. The cheese, pickle, bun, meat. I got one of those hugs and suddenly everything just didn't matter.

I guess what I'm saying is ... sure there are troubles right now. Sure, things are scary and you might be worrying about finances. But, look around you. Today, I am thankful for this "tilt-a-whirl". I am remembering a phrase from my childhood ... "count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done."

James 5:13 "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray."