Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Prayer Power

A couple of snippets from my kids' prayer time each night:

My daughter, in her sweet 8-year-old voice:  

Dear Jesus, please guide me to the right man for me when I grow up.  That he is kind and gentle and sweet.

Every night, this is her prayer (among other things).  Her father and I pray for this also (and we add that he loves Jesus as well!), and I am so thankful she is choosing to sincerely pray for her future husband too.

My son:

Every night for well, years now, he has been praying for those people in his life who might not know Jesus.  His prayer goes something like this:  

Dear Jesus, please help anyone who might need their faith strengthened. ..please help great-uncle____, ______'s uncle, and _____ and ______ (our neighbors).  (Names omitted to protect privacy!).   

These friends and have family members have been prayed for faithfully for months upon months upon months!  And God hears our prayers! 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Find my Family!

If you read my blog, you might recall that my eldest child has her driver's license, and my second child has his learner's permit.  All this driving means more travel, more freedom, and more of the unknown.  My kids know to text every time they are about to leave a location, and then text when they arrive as well.  My daughter has been really good about this, understanding I am just concerned about her safety and her relative inexperience in the driver's seat.

A couple weeks ago, my daughter texted me at 3:08, telling me she was on her way from school.  At almost 4:00, she was not home yet.  Her school is 25 minutes away, but even with some extra wiggle room, I was definitely feeling concerned.  I was weighing my options: I could text, but if she was driving, I knew she wouldn't text or pick up her phone if I called (good girl!); I could begin driving the route I knew she took toward school and hope we passed each other quickly; or I could pray fervently.  I choose the last option, and bided my time for a bit.  In just a few more minutes, she arrived home, knowing I would be worried and was full of apologies.  She had stopped at the grocery for a muffin and Starbucks and forgot to text me to let me know.

The situation reminded me of a conversation I had had with a friend whose children are a few years older than mine.  She used the Find My Friends app on their iPhones -- they all joined and could check each other's location when there was a concern.  I brought this up to my daughter that evening, and she quickly agreed that it was a good idea to sync our locations.  Good.  Done.

The next day, when my teenage son arrived home from a friend's house, I mentioned the story to him and told him I wanted him to sync up as well.  I was met with resistance.  "Don't you trust me?", he said. I explained to him that I trusted him very much (which is true, and a gift I don't take for granted!), but it was for his safety.  After a few more minutes of conversation, he understood my point and synced up too.  (Although I had also explained to him that, whether he agreed with me or not didn't especially matter in this case.)

My husband and I don't consider ourselves helicopter parents -- we don't check their daily assignments online, I don't monitor their grades every day.  We try to let them fight their own battles, and approach teachers on their own when there is a concern.  We expect them to do their chores around the house without constant badgering, and we think kids can clean toilets!  In general, we try not to coddle them or hover.  

BUT - I felt the Find My Friends app was a different bird.  This app will give me peace of mind when my kids are driving, and could help us find them if they have trouble (one friend used this app to find her daughter when she had had a car accident!).  I don't plan to use it unless I am concerned about their travel time, and when they are away at college, I will turn it off (sniff, sniff!).  

After I synced my family to my phone, a lovely thing happened:  Each of the four of us has a little circle with our picture in it. And when all of us are home, the circles are all stacked up on one another, right on our street.  I can't tell you what happiness all those circles stacked up together at our house brings me.  

When all of us are home together, all is right with the world. ❤️

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Our Lutheran School's theme for the year is Faith Works.  For the entire year we are focusing on our Faith -- God's gift of grace that works in and through us.  As a facet of this theme, each month we are studying a virtue as a school.

Last Friday, each family received a cardstock gear that we are to write our names on and decorate.  All the gears will be added to a giant bulletin board displaying all of our gears working together.  On the gear, we are also to write which virtue our family is going to focus on for the year.  Each family is to choose a virtue from the list as a family focus and goal -- something we will make an effort to grow in intentionally.

Here are the list of virtues we will be focusing on at school:

So last night at dinner, my husband and I began the discussion -- which virtue should our family focus on for the year?  And thus began a heated debate of which virtue we needed to work on most.
"How about Justice?"  "No, we have too many people demanding justice already!"
"Honesty!", said one child, while pointing at another.  "That one needs to be more honest!"
"Gratitude? We could all work on being more grateful for what we have."
"Stewardship? We could focus on being responsible with our time and talents."
"How about Reverence?"

And Reverence is what stuck.  We are taking a broad look at the word, applying it to both our family members and our faith.  We brainstormed some goals, which I will post in the kitchen and dining room to serve as reminders when we (frequently, inevitably) stray from the focus.  Here are a few of our goals in the area of Reverence:
  • Listening to each other better
  • Communicating respectfully
  • Honoring our father and mother
  • Putting another's feelings above your own
  • Listening at family devotions and worship
  • Participating at family devotions and worship
  • No silliness or distractions during family devotions and worship
So over the next year, we are hoping to make some strides in these areas.  I told the kids I was going to write about our goals so we can hold ourselves accountable.  I hope and pray in the spring I can write again about our reverence, both to one another and to God, and say that we have improved.  With prayer and dedication to the task, I hope it will be so!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Family Dinner and Devos

The scene:  Our deck at dinner time with devotions following

The characters:  My family, sans my eldest daughter who was at work

The sitch:  A snapshot of a day-in-the-life at our dinner table

  • One boy regaling us with how he cracked up all his friends recently with a well-timed musical rendition of "Why do my nostrils whisper to me".  Don't ask.  I have no idea.  But it was apparently hilarious to the intended audience.
  • One boy lets out a massive burp (followed by a quick 'excuse me', which apparently erases the burp from existence and makes it as if it never happened).
  • During devotions, one boy bolted from the table with a some sort of oral crisis and the rest of us were left wondering what on earth was going on (we were later told there was a large amount of tooth pain that had to be dealt with immediately).
  • My husband was reading our devotion book (a great CPH book called Celebrating the Saints by William Weedon), and the saint we were hearing about was Augustine.  He has a very interesting story and I was listening intently. . .until my husband read that he lived in Hippo.  Several people couldn't control their laughter and we had to stop for a moment while he explained that Augustine did not in fact live in a hippo, but in a town named Hippo.  Carry on.
  • At the very beginning of the hymn we were closing with, Shadow puppy made his move.  He noticed our distraction with our hymnals and swept up to the table, grabbed a morsel of meat and whipped back down to the deck.  We had to stop the hymn while we all cracked up (and dad had to discipline the bad boy - who looked largely unaffected).
  • When we finally were able to sing the hymn fully, my heart sang along with our voices.  We sang "The Day You Gave Us, Lord Has Ended", an old favorite of mine from childhood.  And indeed, today was a gift from the Lord, complete with its serious and silly moments.  

1 The day you gave us, Lord, is ended,
the darkness falls at your behest;
to you our morning hymns ascended,
your praise shall sanctify our rest.

2 We thank you that your church unsleeping,
while earth rolls onward into light,
through all the world her watch is keeping,
and rests not now by day or night.

3 As to each continent and island
the dawn leads on another day,
the voice of prayer is never silent,
nor dies the strain of praise away.

4 The sun that bids us rest is waking
your church beneath the western sky,
and hour by hour fresh lips are making
your wondrous doings heard on high.

5 So be it, Lord: your throne shall never,
like earth's proud empires, pass away;
your kingdom stands, and grows for ever,
till all your creatures own your sway.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Sacred Work of Mothering in the Pew

I was recently talking with a friend about the challenges of worshiping with small children.  She was lamenting how hard it is to teach her children how to participate in the liturgy while juggling wiggly siblings and easily distracted littles.  And with every fiber of my being, I got it.

I have blogged here and here and here and probably scores of other places about how hard worshiping is with little ones.  I can't count how many times I came away from worship frustrated, exhausted, sad and even angry.  Not exactly the emotions one would hope for after worship! While we always wanted a large family, I used to joke with my husband that I couldn't even consider talking about having another child until at least Tuesday -- when the Sunday worship struggles were less vivid in my mind!

My children are older now, and while not perfect, worshiping with them is ever so much easier.  And for the most part, I hear everything and am able to actually worship.  But those days of pew struggles are still very fresh in mind.  I recall one Sunday when I was very pregnant with our third child, my husband called me up to the front of the church to use my pregnant belly as a sermon illustration.  I was unaware he was going to do that, and was not dressed for it/mentally prepared for it/psyched up for it.  And directly before he called me up (again, this was unexpected!), I was tending to my normal circus in the pew and my 2-year-old son spilled Fruit Loops all over the floor.  As I was leaning over (around my giant belly) to clean up the mess, my husband called me and the kids to the front. I was mortified as he spoke while I stood with the kids next to him -- in my un-thought-out,  rumpled maternity dress with my unruly children.  I felt like those first moments of going to the front summed up my life perfectly - messy, unprepared and a spectacle.

 Since my husband only sits with us a handful of times per year (mostly when we are on vacation), training the kids in the actual worship setting has been largely my job. It's a job that weighs heavy on me, even now.  I want my children to desire to be in worship every Sunday.  I want them to participate fully and crave God's word and sacrament.  I want them to never see going to worship as just an option -- one to be chosen only if they aren't tired or busy.  I want them, as young adults out of our nest, to first and foremost in a new environment find a church home.

But man!  Wiggly, loud, often complaining little ones don't exactly lend themselves to my lofty model! And it can be so easy to say "It's not worth it!  I'll come back to worship when they get older and can sit still!"  I felt those thoughts too - 'why am I even coming to worship?  No one is getting anything out of it!!'  But in my more lucid moments (and often those distanced a bit from the trauma of Sunday!), I knew that was Satan getting under my skin.

Even when it doesn't feel like it, little ones are getting so much out of worship!! They are watching and learning at every step.  They see you close your eyes (briefly, mammas, I know -- or someone will yank his sister's hair causing a loud wail!) when you pray.  They see you kneel and commune and share the peace.  They watch those around them do the same things.  And even if they appear to be busy torturing their siblings, coloring their children's bulletins or flinging their Fruit Loops, they are watching.  And they are learning and worshiping.  When they see you take them to church, every Sunday, without fail, they see that worship is the number one priority.  And they begin to pick up these habits themselves.  Sure, they will still poke their brothers and refuse to say/sing/pray now and then, but as they get older, your habits become theirs, and the faith that was given to them in their baptism is nurtured and grows.

And as for your own worship (or seemingly lack-there-of), mammas, my mother-in-law used to comfort me with this truth:  Even if you can't fully listen to the readings and homily and liturgy, God's word is being proclaimed, and your ears are hearing it, whether you are absorbing it all or not.   Did you catch that?? What a blessing that sentiment was to me in those early years! I might not have been able to process all that I was hearing during worship, but God's word was still pouring over me.   And even more: in communion, I was receiving Christ into my very body! Even though worshiping with children is not exactly the experience it used to be, it is valuable nonetheless -- and in some ways it can be even more meaningful!

Remember when my husband called me up to the front?  I don't recall exactly what he said, but I remember it addressed the idea of mothers giving up their bodies for their children, and likening it to Christ giving His body up for us in the Eucharist.  My mortification turned to reflection and tears as I listened to his words.  Motherhood is a sacred vocation, and through it, even in the pew -- perhaps especially in the pew, we are being made holy.  Mothering little ones is hard work, without a doubt.  And teaching little ones the faith week after week is not for the feint of heart.  But through these sacrifices each Sunday, our own faith continues to grow, and the faith of our little ones blossoms through our example.

If you're a young mother struggling in the pew, keep at it!  You have a most sacred job -- nurturing and teaching the faith to the next generation.  You are their most important teacher of Christ! No one else will be able to impact their faith like you can.

Stay strong, mammas! Your work is holy!

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Week in Pictures

A few snapshots of our last week:

Last Friday, our two older kids and my husband and I went to The Art Institute in Chicago and to see Hamilton.  It was our birthday/Christmas gift to them, and it was worth the wait.  We saw some amazing pieces of art at the Institute, including this one above, one of my long-time favorites:  A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.  It was an enormous painting, and truly amazing to see!  After a quick dinner with our brother-in-law, we saw the much-heralded (and much, much listened to in our house!) Hamilton.  It was amazing. The talent was out of this world!  We all loved it!  

For the past week, I have been working on my classroom to get ready for my little ones.  I have enjoyed cleaning, planning and painting this week in anticipation of their arrival.  I'm looking forward to getting to know all of them!  I never in a million years thought I would enjoy teaching three-year-olds so much! 

This.  This is Target's back to school wall (plus a few colors to my right you can't see - I was trying not to get the Target employee who was zoning next to me in my picture).  This wall brings me Great Joy.  The color-coded organization seriously gives me peace and happiness.  Target is not especially close to my house, but for each of my kids' back to school Mommy's nights, I have driven to Target for the sheer pleasure of having everything organized thusly.  I took KK to Walmart this week, and after about five seconds realized that it was an impossible mess and we had to go to Target.  Within seconds of arriving at this wall, my world was again set aright.

This is the pile of plates and forks I needed to set the table tonight for dinner.  Know how many are there?  Seven.  The magical, perfect number for our family.  This week I've had kids at camp, and have only needed three or four or five plates, depending on the night. But tonight, everyone is home, and I needed seven.  Pulling them all out of the cabinet and counting to the correct number made me so happy.  I am thankful for my kids' experiences, which most definitely include camp, but I can't help but sigh with happiness when everyone is back home again.  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

My Girl

My eldest daughter is a gem.  She makes me think, she makes me proud, and she makes me laugh.  Her siblings love her, and she loves them.  God has really blessed our whole family with this girl.  Here are a few recent things of note regarding this girl:

On vacation, it became very apparent how much power she wields over her youngest siblings.  She and my 10-year-old son were doing time in the "way back" of the suburban (the most undesirable seat in the vehicle), when I hear quiet discussions about eating chocolate Twinkies.  The general rule in our house (which extends to the car on vacation) is that the kids need to ask before eating something, otherwise they would eat junk 24/7.  Well on this particular car ride, I noticed that my son was eating a Twinkie without asking.  When I asked him about it, he said, "But Second Mom said I could have it!' My eldest daughter had given him permission, and he truly felt like her word was law.  I think she could have told him he could take the suburban for a spin and he would have grabbed the keys and ran.

Our Western Adventure was pretty long, and involved lots of togetherness and volume.  Our family is not quiet or diminutive, and things can get crazy fast.  My 17-year-old gal takes so much of it in stride, and often joins into all the insanity.  But other times, she theatrically flops on the floor, or curls up in her seat spewing dramatic statements such as, "I can't believe this is happening to me!" and "What did I do to deserve this?" and "I'm so done!" and "I'm sorry to inform you - all my limbs are broken!".  She cracks me up constantly, and she rarely gets truly frustrated with her family.

During our trip she composed the following list on a napkin, of

Things I No Longer Want To Hear:
Goog and all variations of the word (my eldest son's COMPULSIVE nickname for his youngest brother)
Lego Batman quotes (such as, but not limited to: "The Monkey and Dawg are friends!")
LAX is Life (constant references to Lacrosse)
Shooter gun noises from my 10-year-old's plastic gun
ANYWAY! I'm Bleb (my 15-year-old son's catchphrase for her, said in a ridiculous voice)
Fighting brothers

She got her driver's license right before we left on vacation and this morning did her first long solo drive.  My heart was in my throat as I prayed for her (and her brother) while they were gone.  But she did just fine and gained some new confidence.  It's just yet another step in her growing up.  I see great things on the horizon for this girl.  I can't wait to see her continue to mature, and someday, mother her own children.  I've generously provided with her lots of opportunities to practice parenting!