Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I didn’t realize that it would be the last time I saw my father-in-law, Forest. Each year, our family trekked to Washington State to visit both Tony’s and my side of the family. My two daughters, Alix and Maddie, and I were eating lunch with Forest as I commented on how good he looked. Months before, his health was precarious, and we had anticipated hearing bad news any day. However, surprisingly, he had bounced back after changing his diet and losing some weight. I knew he was feeling healthy when he resumed golfing again. Life seemed to be looking up.

What a shock it was when Tony received a phone call just three months later that his stepdad had passed away hours after returning home from playing golf! I was shocked. How could this be? When I saw Forest last July, he was in the best health I’d ever seen him. The whole situation felt surreal. It seemed like I should’ve have somehow had some foreknowledge that this was coming. A chance to say goodbye would’ve made me feel better about this whole thing.

Events like this over the past several months have caused me to ponder this idea of “last moments”. Would I have treasured the time I had with Forest more had I known he would leave this world just a few months later? Would I have savored and enjoyed my visit more with both my in-laws? I have to confess that I had managed to endure these yearly visits rather than look forward to them.

Fast forward to this past March and imagine my amazement when Tony’s mom was admitted to the hospital and one month later was promoted to heaven. I was able to converse with her briefly while she was in the hospital even though she could barely communicate back. How inconceivable to me that this once energetic, vibrant personality was lying semi-comatose in a hospital bed. I wondered how one could enter the hospital for a surgery that was quite successful, yet take such a turn for worse…and never recover.

Even more than that, why didn’t I value the time I had with her during our visits? Yes, she could be difficult; yes, she was insecure; yes, she could tell the same stories over and over again. Yet, never in my wild imagination did it occur to me that the possibility of interacting with my mother-in-law, of hearing her stories for the umpteenth time, of exposing my children to the resilience and persistence of this godly woman would come to an end so soon.

Tony’s mom, Darlene, had not only lived through the depression, but had also endured marriage to an abusive alcoholic and subsequent divorce. She persisted in her Christian walk during devastating circumstances. Darlene met Tony’s dad, experienced a wonderful marriage and raised 4 children with not a lot of means. She then survived her husband’s death from pancreatic cancer and was able to experience marriage again to a friend from high school. Darlene was a survivor, a fighter! While I knew all this and admired her character, I tended to focus on her flaws…as if I have any room to talk!

Thus, I have been ruminating since Darlene’s death in April, “Do I cherish the time I spend with my loved ones? Do I make the most of that time as if it could be the last?” It’s not that I am now a doomsayer and think the worst might happen; it’s simply that I want to enjoy the moments while I am with the ones I love…even if they are difficult people. I want to live with no regrets!

Earlier this summer my family and I traveled to California to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday. The last time I visited with my namesake, she had just turned 85, and truthfully, I’m not sure I pondered as I did this time that it might be the last time I see her. She’s a healthy, vibrant woman with a mind that is still sharp as a tack. A kind, gentle woman, who most likely handed down to me my “blonde” brain, she is proud of her legacy. She stood in awe and said, “I can’t believe I did all this”, speaking of her 3 children, 10 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren. Lois is not in denial, however. She related that the doctor gave her a clean bill of health, but she said, “I could die tomorrow.” That kind of talk makes me want to stick my fingers in my ears and say, “La, la, la, la, la, I’m not listening.” And, yet, I know it’s true. There are no guarantees in this life…even if all the tests come back great.

The point is this: savor the time you have with those you love. I wanted to soak up every minute with my grandma. I desired my kids to know the kind of person she is, hear her life stories and experience her kindness and unconditional acceptance. Someday the opportunity to communicate with her will be taken from me, and just like the unexpected deaths of my in-laws, I won’t be prepared. Yet, I can learn a valuable lesson from the past events of this year. Don’t take the people in your lives or the time you have with them for granted. No matter how challenging the relationship might be, value, love and accept the time God has given you with those you love.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Precious Moments

My just turned 8-year-old, Maddie, climbed into bed with me yesterday to snuggle. Because it was a day off school, I had told her the night before that if she happened to wake up early, she was welcome to warm up next to me. We both fell back to sleep until later when I heard her climb out of bed and quietly exit my bedroom. I arose a few minutes after she did and padded into the kitchen. There she was, sitting in the "quiet time" chair in the living room, reading her devotion for that day. What a beautiful sight! It was one of those moments in which I was ecstatic to have her mimic my own behavior in the early mornings.

Of course, when I was spending some time reading Scripture, she was "done" and began to talk incessantly until I finally gently reminded her that I was still needing some quiet for my own devotional time. She replied, "I know...I just can't stop talking!" My sweet, precious, little chatterbox who is learning to spend time with her Savior...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Unexpected Gift

I love surprises! The other day, I trudged up the stairs after my elliptical exercise with Fox and Friends and noticed a large box sitting at the top. I deduced that Maddie intercepted the mysterious box from the delivery man while I was preoccupied with my heavy breathing on the machine downstairs. I was puzzled because I knew that I hadn't ordered anything...lately! Noticing my parent's return address on the label, I concluded that mother was sending Maddie's birthday gift early...at least 3 weeks early. Strange!

Then, I opened the box and discovered this: a beautiful birdhouse masterpiece!

I immediately burst into tears. You see, it was a gift from my daddy! Out of the blue. No reason. Simply love. A few months ago, he revealed that he was working on some birdhouses for the Christian school auction. I commented in passing that I would love to have one of his birdhouses. It never occurred to me that I would receive a gift in the mail. My daddy loves me. He thought of me. He gave me...not a birthday gift or a Christmas gift...but a love gift. Thank you, daddy! I can't wait to see the birds that will use this beautiful home to build their nests.

If my earthly father gives me such sweet and precious gifts, how much more does my heavenly Father give me? I pray that my eyes will be opened to all of them...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Not Your Average New Year's Resolution

Over the years, I have made more than my fair share of New Year's resolutions...and broken them within a matter of weeks. I've promised to eat healthy, exercise regularly, spend quiet time each morning with God, be more patient, loving and kind. This year, I've turned over a new leaf and instead of making a list of goals, I'm praying a couple of verses from Psalms.

As I was finishing out the year reading my One Year Bible, Psalm 143 leaped off the page. These verses, which I have now memorized, have become my prayer for 2009:

"Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing." Psalm 143:8,10

'Let me hear' inspires me to be in God's word each morning, so I can receive his words for me. 'I am trusting' and 'I give myself' requires action on my part now and continuously. As I trust and give, he will 'show me' and 'teach me'. He is personal; he is 'my God'. And, he will 'lead me forward', not backward...on 'firm footing', not shifting sand.

What will be your prayer this year? Whatever comes across my path this year, amid trouble or blessings, my desire is to be found faithful and trusting in my huge God who is able to absolutely blow my mind. May I say as the people said in Mark 2:12 when the paralytic was forgiven and healed, "We have never seen anything like this!"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I have taken a long hiatus from blogging. Call it pre-occupied with life's busyness, burnout or any number of other excuses. I simply haven't taken the time!

Recently, however, after looking at a friend's newly redesigned page, I've been re-energized to begin again. So, for all of my vast numbers of readers, you can get look forward to seeing more frequent posts. Keep your eyes pealed...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Our Tooth Fairy Must Be Blonde

I'm very concerned about our Tooth Fairy. I don't know if you've ever experienced this problem before, but I have multiple times now. To be more accurate, our kids have. It's heart-breaking to watch these kids of mine arise in the morning, excited to see what the Tooth Fairy has left in exchange for their itty bitty teeth, and then...wails and sobs break out because they have received absolutely NOTHING! That dirty, rotten, scoundrel Tooth Fairy. How dare she (or he) forget my children.

It's incredible to observe how creative this Loser Tooth Fairy has become over the years. On one occasion money magically appeared underneath the pillow after the child had awakened and left the bedroom. How did the Tooth Fairy manage to do that so sneakily, and how could the child be so naive to think that he missed seeing the money in the first place? Another time, that savvy Tooth Fairy placed that dollar inside the pillow case and forgot to take the tooth. We simply explained to our daughter that the TF probably wanted her to keep her tooth for posterity. She bought it, hook, line and sinker.

And the latest episode of the TF with Alzheimer's occurred a few days ago. A groggy, distraught Maddie plodded into my bathroom in the morning upset because once again the TF forgot to leave money. "I checked everywhere, even in the pillow case!" Picking up my daughter, I stepped into the kitchen speaking loudly to hubby, "Can you believe that the Tooth Fairy forgot to leave money AGAIN?" Wink, wink. He's getting the picture clearly, and as I hand him my wallet, he sneaks out to the rugrat's bedroom. A few minutes later, he appears saying that he thinks the Tooth Fairy did visit during the night, but left the money in a different place this time. The Tooth Fairy loves a good scavenger hunt! Walking into her bedroom, Maddie begins checking under all the pillows, looks behind the bed and doesn't find anything until daddy says, "You didn't check underneath your baby's pillow!" Wow, he's so smart. How'd he think of that? Well, there lay four quarters ready to be handled by her grubby, little hands. "But, she always leaves a dollar!" Maddie cried.

Forget the Tooth Fairy, we need to work on this girl's math! All's well that ends well. Sigh.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Guilt-free Living

Here's my article from the latest edition of our women's newsletter entitled DivineLines:

One Trip You Don’t Need to Take!

Many of us take vacations each summer to take a break from our normal routines, enjoy undivided family time and indulge in much-needed relaxation. Unfortunately, those trips don’t seem to last long enough, a week or two at the most. On the contrary, as a woman, I have found myself taking the same trip over and over the past…hmmm…30 plus years. You know the one I’m talking about. The infamous Guilt Trip. Yep, I seem to repeat this trip often, sometimes against my will and better judgment. Why do I do this? Why do I beat myself up for what I do or don’t do, should or shouldn’t do?

One of the areas I’ve felt guilty over during the last few months is not accomplishing enough at home. After all, I am a stay-at-home mom, so my house should be spotless, right? Why do I feel the need to explain my productiveness to my husband who has been at work all day? I certainly wouldn’t want him to consider me a slacker, so I must spout off, “I have done 2.5 loads of laundry, put the dishes in the dishwasher, swept the kitchen floor (well, maybe ½ of it, but I feel the need to stretch things a bit), and folded the towels that have been laying on the couch for three days.” Why do I need to make myself feel better by relating all I have accomplished for the day, and why do I feel guilty about telling him that I shared lunch with friends or spent much needed time reading a book? Why do I put so much emphasis on what I am doing (the outward) and spend little time just being (the inward)?

Another guilt-ridden area has to do with raising my children. You know, my parenting just isn’t adequate enough; I should be doing a better job. Why is it that often times when I hear about a great idea that is working in a friend’s family, guilt emerges? Ever been around someone who mentions that they are having family devotions weekly and a meaningful prayer time as well? I’m not knocking those who are doing this; frankly, I’m just jealous. Oh, I’ve started this family devotion thing at various seasons throughout my parenting career and each time it’s been a habit for about a week. The older kids appear disinterested and uncommunicative while baby-of-the-family, life-of-the-party Maddie climbs all over the couch, expelling bodily function noises and causing the older kids to perk up and laugh at her antics. End of devotions. End of meaningful prayer time. My guilt level rises because family devotions aren’t working. In addition, guilt plagues me with thoughts that I should be playing more with my kids; I shouldn’t let them watch so much television; I should be driving them to school, not making them take the bus; I should make crafts with my kids. I seem to easily forget about the things I am doing to raise my children well, such as playing games with them, reading to them, having meaningful conversations in the car as I drive them to various sports activities.
The list of guilt is endless, isn’t it? I don’t contact my mother-in-law enough; I shouldn’t eat that piece (or bag) of chocolate; I should volunteer more at my child’s school; I should call my friends more often; I’m not doing enough at church or for my small group; I shouldn’t eat out so much; I should eat more healthy; I should exercise more; I should be a better wife, mother, daughter, employee. My guilt and perhaps even yours transcends into the spiritual realm. I should read my Bible more; I should pray more; I shouldn’t have gossiped about that person; I should forgive her; I’m not loving enough; I’m not patient enough. I could find areas of my life to feel guilt over ad infinitum. How do I assuage this guilt?
I’m still in process, but some things I’m learning are:
Give myself permission to do things for me, such as reading, exercising or spending time with friends. Recently, I talked with a friend who has a goal to read 40 books in the next year in order to challenge her mind to continue to grow. My goal is to read meaningful material an hour a day. I’m learning that it is okay to take time to refresh my soul and body; in fact, to be a better woman, wife and mom, it’s vital.
Give myself permission to say ‘no’ in order to say ‘yes’ to the more important. So many times, I’ve said ‘yes’ to wonderful service opportunities out of guilt only to be very sorry later. About two years ago, I was severely overcommitted, leading several small groups and not doing any of them well. Since that time, I’ve learned that just because someone considers me qualified to do something, doesn’t mean I’m the person to do it. I learned the hard way that it’s all right to say ‘no’ to a greater ‘yes’. I prayed about what I should be involved in, how to best utilize my gifts, and where I was most passionate. When you know the place to which God has called you and where He has not, you can avoid the guilt trip.
Give myself and my family the freedom to be different from other families. While I was growing up, I would constantly spout this phrase to my mom, “Linda’s family lets her do _________” to which she would reply, “Well, we aren’t Linda’s family.” Hmmm, seems as if we could put this into practice. Each of us is uniquely and wonderfully created. Not one of us is the same, so that means that the inner workings of our families will be different. I don’t need to feel guilty because I’m not a Barbie-playing, Play-doh-loving mom. It’s unfair to compare myself to my friend who is, because on the flip side, I may do things in my family that cause her to take the guilt trip.

Just in the last week, I’ve heard the word “guilt” more times than I can count. We feel guilty about everything, don’t we? While I don’t want to downplay the role guilt plays in bringing us to our knees before God when we have sinned and need to make things right, so much of our guilt stems from our comparison to what others are doing in their lives. We do need to feel conviction and confess when we have slandered another’s name, harbored unforgiveness, or said harsh words to family members. When God forgives us, He sets us free from the guilt that may linger over our sin. However, we need to be free of guilt in areas that cause us to compare our lives with others and thereby cause us to believe that we are not measuring up or that we are somehow failing. When we are tempted to take that guilt trip, we need to choose to decline that vacation for even a day. Give yourself permission to be different from others and give yourself a much-needed break from that particular trip!