Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wise Man

It was Christmas Eve and our little brick house in Iowa was warm with holiday cheer. A fire blazed. Sweet honey ham baked in the oven. The table was a bountiful sight – salads and breads and desserts with chocolaty swirls. Warm cider bubbled on the stovetop and the music was just right.

I’d been working all day.

Logan and Grant were small boys back then, and they pressed little hands against the living room window while they looked up the snowy lane and waited for my parents to arrive. When Nana and Papa finally pulled into the drive, the boys charged to the door. Mom and Dad came in on a hefty December gust, and they bent to hug each boy.

As I carried their coats to the closet, I glanced at the table. The place settings sparkled red and gold. Candles flickered in a welcoming way. A fresh Christmas centerpiece offered a lovely, deep green. We were in for a special evening.

But it didn’t go as I had planned.

“Logan, why are you so full of energy? Please settle down. We can’t hear the music.” In the next breath, “Grant, this isn’t the time for dancing. Still, quiet bodies.” The boys had gone wild with excitement and the evening seemed to roll out of control. “Lonny, please settle the children. It’s time for dinner.”

Lonny tried his best, but his efforts were without fruit. It wasn’t that the boys were disobedient. It was more like they just couldn’t put a cap on the excitement that bubbled in their souls. As I pulled the ham from the oven, they burst into a scene from their Sunday School Christmas program. When I called them to the table, they rushed toward their chairs in a rush of loud song.

My breaking point was when I found GI Joe on my chair, a slice of very nice cheese tethered to his back. I left the table and started to cry.

Dad found me in the kitchen. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me in. For a few minutes it was quiet. Then, in a tender, fatherly way, my dad spoke. “Shawnie, dinner is going to be lovely. I can see you’ve worked so hard. We all appreciate what you’ve done.”

I wiped a tear and smiled.

Dad continued. “Would it be okay,” he asked. “If I share something I’ve learned?”

I nodded.

“Darlin, sometimes the best memories happen when we don’t try so hard to create them” Dad squeezed me tight and whispered the last part in my ear.” Sometimes, if possible, we need to sit back, enjoy, and let God create the blessing.” Then he paused. After a moment he added, “and He will.”

I’ll never forget that evening. That moment in the kitchen with my Dad. And this year, when I plan and prepare and make things lovely (I just can’t find the off switch – it’s the way I am), I’ll remember to relax, enjoy, and let the Lord take the pressure off.

I’m sure He’ll bring the blessing. A wise man told me so.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Listening Heart

Lord, I’m frustrated. I teach and train and days like this make me stark raving mad. Help! Brotherly love? Out the window. First time obedience? Nowhere in sight. Our Scripture for the day was Romans 3:10 (there is none righteous, no, not one). The boys were downright surly and I was fast on my way.

We were driving home from my parents’ house (where we were the cause of a few grey hairs). The three little boys bickered in their seats.

“I want my marker,” said Zay.

“Well then give me the tablet,” said Gabe.

“I had it first!”

I jumped in, to troubleshoot, for the eight hundredth time that day.

After my speech about others-centered hearts, Gabe crossed his arms across his chest. “Well, I still just want my tablet.”

That summed it up. Day in a nutshell. The morning had begun with teenage trauma and the afternoon was winding down to a brotherly brawl over a red Mead spiral.

When we pulled into the drive, I tried to keep the agitation from my voice. “Now when we get inside, everyone find a quiet place. Alone. You’ll need to sit until we’re ready to be together again.”

The boys shot through the backdoor and dispersed. I tugged out of my coat and hung it on the oak rack.

That’s when I saw the surprise gift - a sampler, sitting beside my Bible, on Gabriel’s old-fashioned school desk. It was tea-stained muslin, in a black wooden frame, and the words in dark brown stitches hit me in the right place.

“What’s planted in the heart takes root in the soul.”

I was immediately uplifted. And I knew where the gift had come from. I’d recently shared my struggles with a friend. She had understood. And now God had used her to speak encouragement to my heart.

Of course the words were true. As moms, we plant and sow. Sometimes the sowing is tough because the fruit isn’t as evident as we’d like. But our efforts aren’t in vain. We turn our children over to the Lord and trust that His truth will become a deep, anchoring, life-nourishing root.

I was blessed, that day, to be encouraged in parenting. I was also blessed that God had heard my prayer. And isn’t it cool? The way that He intervened?

He used the listening heart of a friend.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pillow Talk

The note was simple. To the point. I found it under my pillow, first thing in the morning. It was written on lined paper, torn from a tablet, top edge feathered and frayed.

Dear Mom,

I am not feeling loved. No one has talked with me. For a long time.

Your Son, Samuel

P.S. Please do something about this.

Really? I blinked to clear my eyes. Then I read that note again.

I didn’t understand. We’d taken a family bike ride the day before. Up the river. Down the river. And we’d spent the evening in the pool floating on round, rubber tubes. How could Samuel feel neglected? We’d been hanging out all summer.

Later in the day, Sam was playing in the side yard. He had a short ladder propped against the tree. I walked over just as his hands were closing around the rungs.

“Hey, Sam,” I said. “Going for a climb?”

“Yep, Mom.”

“Can we talk? About the note?”


“Sam, we’re together all the time. But you feel that no one talks with you. Can you help me understand?”

Sam’s arms dropped to his sides. He stepped back, into a glint of summer sun. “It’s just, Mom, that I mean, just me. Just you. Talking.”

Oh. It began to make sense. Sam needed some one-on-one. To be pulled from the pack. But I worried about how to squeeze one more thing in. How to cover one more need. It’s tough, sometimes, with a big family.

“What would make you feel loved, Samuel? What can we do?”

“Um. We could, maybe take a walk?”

Sam and I did take that walk, after dinner, along the river. The air was heavy and still but conversation was lively and light. Sam was still young enough to take my hand. The time blessed us both.

And later that night, when the kids were settled in bed and Lonny slept quietly beside me, it was time for more one-on-one. This time, just God and me.
Lord, help me to meet the needs of all these boys. Give me the time and heart to listen. And please fill me with your Spirit, so I can take care of them.

And in the quiet of the night, I was peaceful. I knew He’d meet my needs. Because my pillow talk had been heard, too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Wonderfully Made

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

My eighteen-year-old son, Logan, has a favorite T-shirt. It’s fire engine red with a huge Sesame Street Elmo face. The shirt isn’t flattering. Or trendy. Elmo’s eyes, nearly the size of dinner plates, are cracked from frequent washings. But Logan loves the shirt. It was a gift from his little brother.

One afternoon, Logan and I stood in his bedroom and packed his clothing into grey, plastic totes. He was going to college. There were two stacks of T-shirts on his bed. The stay-at-home pile. And the go-to-school pile. I’d placed Elmo on the stay-home pile. His big eyes peeped up at us.

“You sure I shouldn’t take the Elmo shirt, Mom?” Logan asked.

“I’m sure,” I said over my shoulder as I plucked socks from his bureau drawer. “It’s time to spruce your wardrobe. You have nicer things to wear.” I wanted Logan to fit in. To be like everyone else. But then I stood to look at my son. My nearly-grown guy looked very young. And uncertain. “Pack the shirt,” I said.

Logan smiled.

A week later, my husband and I sat on a bench outside Logan’s dorm. It was Parent Orientation Weekend. We were waiting for Logan to return from breakfast following his first night on campus. After a moment, my cell phone rang. “I’m on the way,” Logan said. “Be there in a minute.”

I peered up the block. Through a mass of kids moving down the sidewalk, I saw the eyes. Huge, round Elmo eyes. Peeking out from the crowd. Making their way toward us.

I laughed out loud. Day one. Elmo shirt unveiled. That was just like my son. He knows what he likes and it’s okay if it’s different from everyone else.

“Looks like our boy’s on the way,” Lonny said.

“Yes,” I said. I watched Elmo and Logan come closer. I couldn’t keep from smiling. “I think he is.”

Thanks, Father, for hand-crafting our children. Help each of our sons to be comfortable with who you made him to be.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stories Passed Down

My dad clasped Gabriel’s hand in his. “This was the meadow where I used to play. And back there? A winding creek. My brothers and I once made a raft from an old door and a tire.”

Autumn had produced a fine day. Blue skies. Rich, gold color. Warm breeze. My boys and I were with my parents. We were at a new community park that had been built behind my dad’s childhood home.

“Can we go back there, Papa? Where you used to play?” Gabe asked. Then he turned to me. “Can we, Mama?”

“Sure,” I said.

Gabe grinned.

“Okay,” Dad said. “Let’s go.”

The two of them walked, hand-in-hand, down the sidewalk that encircled the swings and slides and climbing equipment. It wasn’t long before Zay and Samuel were at their heels. They knew that Dad would be full of boyhood stories, and they wanted to see and hear, too.

Logan, Mom, Grant, and I stayed back. We sat on a bench and began to talk about school and basketball practice and food from the college cafeteria. But I was distracted. I couldn’t help but watch Dad and the boys as they made their way across the field.

There was something precious in the moment. Something strong in the simple. Gabe walking. Dad talking.

Logan nudged me on the shoulder and smiled. “Are you listening, Mom?” he asked.

“Oh,” I said. I zipped my sweatshirt. The sun had dipped under a big, white could. “No. Sorry. What did you say?”

Logan filled me in on the conversation, but I’m not sure I heard. I wondered about the story being shared between Dad and my little boys. Was he telling them about the raft? Or the old stone fireplace that once stood in the field, long after the home that held it was gone? I couldn’t be sure.

But Dad was sharing. And the boys were listening. And when they all disappeared into a deep, green fringe of trees, they were unaware - completely unaware that in those sweet, simple moments, they were creating a story of their own.

Thanks, Lord, for my Dad. And thanks for my boys. And thanks for tender moments that will one day be sweet stories passed down.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Honest Gabe

Gabe took his place at the breakfast table. His fine, damp blond hair was neatly combed and parted. His head tipped down.

“Hi, Gabe,” I said. “You look nice.”

“Thanks, Mom,” he said, still looking at his lap.

I took my hand and raised his chin. A good-sized notch had been cut from his long fringe of bangs. I gasped.

“Gabe, did you cut your hair?”

My son went scarlet. “No, Mama.”

“Gabe,” I said. “Your hair isn't a big deal. But it’s important for a man to be honest. Now, did you cut your hair?”


“Gabriel, you know that God loves you and He told us not to lie.”

No confession.

I excused myself from the table and went to find Lonny. He assessed the situation. “We need to tell him that we know he’s lying. And there should be a consequence.”

I remembered that once, as an adult, I’d done something quite wrong, too, and I didn’t confess right away. I was ashamed. It took some time for me to respond to the Lord’s work in my heart.“ Let’s give him chance to come clean,” I said. “Please?”

Lonny agreed. But the whole day passed. Gabe was sullen. But he didn’t fess up. Every time I saw his notched-out bangs, I felt sad. Why couldn’t he confess? By evening, I was frustrated. How could he look at us and lie? Lord, let him do the right thing.

We worked through the usual routine at bedtime, and Gabe remained silent. I sat on the bed while Lonny worked with the boys on Awana verses. He prayed. The boys prayed. Then Gabe ducked his head deep under the covers and rolled to face the wall.

Lonny’s eyes locked on mine. Then he bent over Gabriel and spoke through the blanket.

“Do you want to talk, Gabe?”

“You sure?”


“A man’s word…”

“I cut my hair. With the scissors in the school room.” The words were quiet, high pitched, and muffled through thick, burgundy cotton. “And I lied, too.”

I sighed.
Thank you, Lord, for working in his little life.
“We care more about your heart,” Lonny said. “Than your hair, Gabe.”

Lonny pulled the covers from his little son’s head, brushed what was left of his bangs from his eyes, and spoke tenderly to him about sin and forgiveness and our need for Jesus. Then he met him with grace.

I’m not sure if we handled things the right way. And I wish that my little son would’ve come clean earlier than he did. But when Gabe folded his hands and thanked Jesus for covering his untruth, I was glad to see, at last, Honest Gabe.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Helper Angels

“Let’s go!” Gabriel called. He ran like a wild man - too fast down the winding, dirt trail, walking stick poked to the side just waiting to catch on some limb or bramble.

“Coming,” yelled Samuel. He, too, took off in a whir of pumping arms and legs.

Grant wasn’t far behind. I knew that soon he’d be blazing the trail. “Wahoo! Hold up, guys!”

Lonny and I picked up the pace. I prayed under my breath as the boys continued to rip through the trees. Keep them safe. Protect them from falls. No stitches or contusions.

We were taking the trails at Blackhawk State Park. The boys loved to hike there. I understood. It was beautiful. Thick foliage. A variety of trees. But there were also steep inclines. Ragged rocks. And a river lay at the bottom of the hills.

Plenty for a mama to worry about.

Plenty to spark adventure-fires in the hearts of boys.

Soon the temptation was too great for Lonny and he forged ahead, eager to join his brood. I was left behind. Just me and my thoughts. Just me and the Lord.

As I meandered the trails the boys had just torn over, I thought about a devotion we’d read from Devotions for the Children’s Hour by Kenneth Taylor. In “Who Are the Angels?” Mr. Taylor explains that angels are kind and helpful, they are God’s servants, and that every person has at least one assigned angel. These angels, at God’s command, help to keep bad things from happening to us. Of course, sometimes hurtful things do happen, and Mr. Taylor shares that during these times – in God’s mercy - we can draw closer to the Him. But many times we’re spared under the angels’ watchful care.

I rested against the trunk of an oak to think this through.

While raising my boys, I’ve found endless opportunity to cry out to the Lord for His protection. Boys are hardwired for adventure. God knows that. He made them, and He’s in control.

But as I continued to walk through the woods that autumn afternoon, knowing that my boys were dangling from limbs or climbing too high or crawling into rocky crevices, I took comfort in God’s provision: helper angels at His command - at least one for each of my sons.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11

Monday, November 15, 2010

Timeless Design

"Read to us, Mama,” Gabe said. We’d finished our lunches. Thick pbj sandwiches had become crusty “bones” and the boys wore milk mustaches.
I pulled a book from the shelf - Favorite Poems Old and New. Each day we read from the collection before clearing dishes and racing for recess.

I thumbed through the pages until a title caught my eye. The poem had been written in the 1800s. But it may as well have been written yesterday.

“Listen to this, guys,” I said. And I read a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson:


We built a ship upon the stairs
All made of back-bedroom chairs,
And filled it full of sofa pillows
To go a-sailing on the billows.
We took a saw and several nails,
And water in the nursery pails;
And Tom said, “Let us also take
An apple and a piece of cake”;
Which was enough for Tom and me
To go a-sailing on, till tea.
We sailed along for days and days,
And had the very best of plays;
But Tom fell out and hurt his knee,
So there was no one left but me.


“Mom,” Sam said. “That’s just like us. Sailing the seas.”

“Wow,” said Gabe. “We have a ship, too.”

He was right. There’s a pirate ship in the bedroom. By night it’s a bunk bed, but in the light of day it’s a mighty schooner with Hoover vacuum attachment masts and bed sheet sails. There’s booty under the bunk (marbles and plastic gold coins and pearls from a garage sale) and they usually do grab a snack in case rations run low. When they climb aboard the ship, Sam becomes Blackbeard. Gabe is Blacktooth (a fall from the bed produced a tiny gray incisor). And Zay is Oceanus Hopkins (Pilgrim babe born aboard Mayflower – wrong ship). Sometimes I’m Mama Red.

I closed the book and the boys charged upstairs.
They’d decided to trade outside recess for an afternoon sail. And as I twisted the lid on the peanut butter jar, my heart was full of praise. Thank you, God, for little boys. Thanks for the way You made them –packed with energy, craving adventure, and spilling over with imagination.I adore the timeless design.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sister Spur

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24
I saw the woman from the corner of my eye but I didn’t care. I was tired and sharp. The boys and I had been running errands all day. The chip aisle at the grocery store was our last stop.
“Can you boys grab a bag of Light Lays?” My tone was harsh.
“Sure, Mom,” Samuel said. He bent to reach a blue and yellow bag of chips from the bottom shelf.
“Not those, Sam,” I said. I poked a narrow-toed boot at another bag, careful to not drop the items crammed into my arms. “Those,” I said. “The ones I always buy.” I sighed loudly.
“I’ll help,” Gabe said. He crouched low and half-disappeared into the chips. “I see some in back.”
“You don’t have to crawl back there. There’s a bag right here. Geesh. I’ll get them myself.” I started to bend down and my heartbeat hammered in my head.
“I’ll get it, Mama,” Zay said. He picked up the right chips. But then he dropped them, tripped, and crushed the chips with his knees.
Gabe emerged from the bottom shelf. “Got a bag.”
“Well put it back,” I snapped. “Because now I have to buy the crushed chips. Get up, Zay. Let’s go.”
I was still muttering about broken chips when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to find a sweet-faced lady. Her brown eyes were kind and soft and reflected her kind spirit.
“I just want to tell you,” she said. “That you have good boys.”
I felt heat in my cheeks.
“I saw them a moment ago. They stepped out in front of an elderly lady. They excused themselves and apologized. All three.”
“Oh,” I said. I looked at my sons. Sweet little boys. Kind little boys. Three little boys scampering around, falling over themselves and each other while I ranted about crushed chips instead of caring about crushed hearts.
“It says something about who they are,” she said. “It says something about who you are.”
I took a moment to look into the eyes of this lady. I knew, in my spirit, that she was a Christian. Her expression held no judgment. Or condemnation. Only encouragement. And gentle accountability.
I felt Isaiah’s arm twine around my leg, and I brushed the top of his head with my fingers. The tears came. “Thank you,” I said. “Thanks for the kind words about my boys. And thanks for encouraging me to do better. For reminding me of who I am.”
The gentle lady smiled. Then she left.
I bent and apologized to my boys. I accepted their foregivenee and I accepted God's grace. Then I left the store and took the boys home. I was still tired but was somehow renewed. And I was grateful for the woman who was loving enough to spur me as a sister.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tending Trees

“Thanks, Logan,” I said. I hugged my oldest son. It was his first visit home from college and he’d brought me a gift – Andrew Peterson’s new release CD - Counting Stars.
I held the smooth case in my hands. The gift was precious to me. Logan had grown up listening to Andrew’s older stuff. He knew that I loved the sweet, mellow sounds. He also knew that I enjoy the content – Peterson’s folk music is always rich in story and life lessons and God’s word.
“Maybe later I can watch the kids,” Logan said. “To give you time to listen.”
That didn’t happen – the weekend was full. But after he left, when the house was still, I pushed the CD into our player and made a cup of tea.
Andrew didn’t let me down. As always, the music was thoughtful and beautiful. My favorite song is called “Planting Trees.” Andrew begins by singing about planting maples. He shares about choosing the spot, laying the seeds in the ground, and praying that in the spring, the roots would grow deep. But it was third verse that pulled my heart:
She rises up as morning breaks/She moves among these rooms alone/Before we wake/And her heart is so full; it overflows/ She waters us with love and the children grow.
Then the chorus:
So many years from now/long after we have gone/ These trees will spread their branches out/And bless the dawn/These trees will spread their branches our/And bless someone
Andrew’s song captured what Lonny and I want to accomplish in raising our sons: to give them deep roots, to tend them with love, to one day have them stand as tall, strong trees ready to stretch their branches out – to bless someone.
Thank you, Logan, for the thoughtful gift.
Thank you, Andrew, for the reminder and the blessing.
Thank you, God, for the opportunity to raise strong trees. For you.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jack-o-lanterns for Jesus

I was in the laundry room sorting a mountain of socks. Lonny was in the nearby bathroom helping the little boys brush their teeth. I heard their conversation over the rush of running water.
“What did you learn today, guys?” Lonny asked.
“I learned about Z,” Gabe said. “Like zebra. And zoo.” More water. Clack of a cup on the porcelain sink.
Isaiah must’ve had a mouthful of toothpaste because he was silent.
But Samuel had something to share. “We learned about jack-o-lanterns. Mom read a story about how we’re like Halloween pumpkins. It was cool.”
I remembered the tract I’d found in the bottom of Zay’s orange plastic pumpkin bucket . It had been buried under Tootsie Rolls and Snicker bars. I’d read Christin Ditchfield’s sweet story, “A Pumpkin Tale”, over lunch.
“Jack-o-lanterns? “” Lonny asked. “ Tell me how we’re like jack-o-lanterns.” There was a shuffling sound as another boy climbed to the sink.
“Well,” Sam said. “God picks us out of the patch.  He calls us His own. Then he scoops out the gunk from our hearts like we scoop out the gunk from the pumpkins. After the scooping is done, God puts a smile on our faces because He loves us. Then our lights shine for Jesus.”
“That’s cool,” Lonny said. “A neat way to think about what God’s done for us.”
“Uh huh.” Water. Spit. Water.
A moment later all three little guys rushed to the laundry room. There was a chorus of “ love you”, hugs, and a number of sweet, minty kisses. Then they ran, in a boy- herd, toward the stairs. I waited for Sam to come back. It was his routine – one more hug.
When he rounded the corner again, I opened my arms. I pulled him close and whispered in his ear. “I’m glad you remembered the pumpkin story. I hope your light always shines for Jesus.”
Sam pecked me on the cheek and ran off.
A moment later he returned again. “You, too, Mom,” he said. His smile was sweet.
“Me, too, what?”
“Your light. I hope it always shines for Jesus, too.”
Then Samuel was gone
What a great reminder.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Things

“What should I be for Halloween?” Samuel asked.
We were driving down River Road. I winced and glanced in the rearview mirror to see if Gabe and Zay were sleeping. They weren’t.
“Ya, Mom, what can I be?” asked Gabriel.
“Me, too,” said Isaiah. “What can I be, too?”
I guessed it was time to start my October ritual. I’d begin by scratching my head – wondering what kind of costumes I could whip up with a glue gun. By mid-month I’d be pulling my hair out – trying to outfit three guys in something clever and affordable and not too itchy.
I drove a mile or two when a suggestion came to mind. “Why don’t you guys throw me some ideas?” I asked. “You tell me what you’d like to be and I’ll tell you if we can make it work.”
“A mummy,” said Gabe. “Wrapped in toilet paper.”
“Bitey Man,” said Zay.
“Captain Hook,” said Sam. “I can use your Kitchen Aide mixer thing.”
I smiled. “Mummy, no. Spider Man, yes. Kitchen Aide mixer thing, no.”
The van was silent for a moment. Then Sam piped up again. “The Cat in the Hat?” he asked. “No wait – the Things.  Cat’s sidekicks! I’ll be Thing I. Gabe can be Thing II.”
“Never mind Bitey Man,” Zay said. “I wanna beThing II, too.”
I thought about Samuel’s idea. A walk to the T-shirt shop. Blue hair spray. White face paint. Manageable stuff. No trauma. No drama. “Sold,” I said.
The boys were thrilled with their idea. Soon a familiar song filled my van. “Let’s go, go, go on an adventure, the Thingamajigger is up and away...” My guys’ little-boy voices grew louder and louder, and the enthusiasm was contagious.
I joined the chorus.  And it wasn’t long before I wanted to go on the adventure, too.
Thank you Lord for my Things and for the way that they remind me to have fun.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Plea and a Promise

I poured my coffee and shuffled to the school room. My worn Bible lay on Gabe’s desk. I tucked it under my arm. The morning was October-brisk, so I cocooned in a soft brown blanket and settled into our reading chair.
“God,” I began, “raising teenagers is tough. I just don’t know what to do. Lonny and I set boundaries, make decisions, pray like mad, and I still mess up. I second guess our choices. Appear wishy-washy. Lose my unified front with Lonny. Use angry words with my son. Hold a grudge. I feel inept.”
It was too early to be overwhelmed. But yesterday’s insecurities crept into today, and even the light of morn didn’t chase them off. There’d been a barrage of petitions. Where our teen could go. What he could do. And he wasn’t pleased with the decisions his dad and I made. He felt caged by the boundaries that we thought were fair, and there’d been an unsettling exchange. I’d exasperated our son.
I pulled the bookmark from my Bible and opened to Psalms. God speaks to me through the life of David. This man- after-God’s- own- heart sure had his stuff. But David’s honesty with God draws me.
My reading for the day was Psalm 25. I was hooked right away. David asked God for mercy. He’d messed up, was in a tough spot, and needed the Lord to rescue him.
Verses 4-5 are a plea: Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me. That plea resonated in my own heart. Guide me Lord, teach me. I don’t have the answers and I need you to show me your truth.
In verses 8-15 David indentified himself with the humble – someone in need of God’s grace. Then he expressed confidence in God’s covenant favors – God’s mercy and guidance and faithfulness.
Verse 9 says: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. Lord, I’ve made mistakes, but you are a personal God. You’ve promised to teach me your way.
I sat for awhile and thought about God’s goodness. Like David, I’d made mistakes. But thanks to Jesus, I could claim the same mercy and grace. And it was okay that I didn’t have all the answers. The Lord had taken a plea and exchanged it for a promise.
 I set my cup down, walked to the window and pushed the curtains back to welcome the new day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Father's Son

The floorboards creaked. I opened my eyes. Light from the hall spilled into our room, and I saw Isaiah pad across the bedroom in footie pajamas. The green digitals of the alarm clock displayed the time. 4:05.
“I’m scared, Mama,” Zay said. He traveled to my side of the bed and raised his arms. Mine-O-Mine, his well-loved blanket, draped his shoulder.
I pushed the covers back to welcome Isaiah. Then I hoisted him up. “It’s okay, Zay,” I said. “Let’s snuggle.” I rearranged the covers and curved around my tiny, fleece-clad boy. He settled in, and Lonny curled around both of us. Then I closed my eyes against the light.
I was just about asleep when I heard a tender whisper.
“I love you, Isaiah. I’m glad that you’re my son,” Lonny said.
I listened to the rhythm of Isaiah’s soft, even breath and felt his chest rise and fall under my arm. “Lonny, I don’t think he can hear you,” I said.
“It’s okay,” Lonny said.
Then we all fell asleep.
The next day I sat beside Isaiah while he worked on a coloring page. His little tongue poked from of the corner of his mouth as he tried his hardest to stay in the lines. He was lost in concentration, so I was surprised when I heard another soft whisper.
“I am my daddy’s son,” Isaiah said. He head was still tipped down.
“Isaiah, what did you say?”          
My youngest guy lifted his head. He was radiant. Peace, pride, comfort, and joy were evident in his smile. With a strong, firm voice he repeated what he’d whispered -what he’d heard the night before.
“I am my daddy’s son.”
Lord, thank you for letting me raise these boys. And thank you for their daddy. I ask that all five boys would find their identity in You, that one day they’ll stand as men and with this same peace, pride, comfort and joy. Let them confess with their mouths and their lives - I AM MY FATHER’S SON.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Family World

“Do you think home will feel different to Logan? Do you think things will seem odd? ” I asked Lonny. Our oldest son was due home from college. My parents had driven to Wheaton to pick him up. He’d been away for weeks.
“Oh, it’ll feel strange at first. But he’ll be glad to be home.” Lonny smiled and pushed Isaiah on the swing. 
I sat on a crunch of autumn leaves and wondered. Many prayers had been lifted on Logan’s behalf. And praise God – he was adjusting very, very well. His world had grown.
A moment later, my parents’ blue minivan pulled into the drive. The side door flew open and our firstborn appeared. He stood tall and dropped his backpack to the pavement. Isaiah slid from the swing and pumped his legs hard, running to greet his brother. Gabriel popped from the sandbox and followed. Grant and Samuel emerged from the house.
Lonny and I joined the scramble. We all came together in a circle of affection.
“Logan, I missed you,” Isaiah said. He lifted his arms.
“Me, too! How was college?” asked Gabe.
Logan bent so both boys could jump into his arms. He spoke into their little ears and they twisted their arms around his neck.
Then we all moved, in one big herd, to the patio. My parents. Five boys. Lonny and me. Conversation was lively. Sweet stories spilled. There was plenty of laughter. Hugs galore. And nothing seemed to faze Logan. Not that the three little boys sprayed their hair into stiff mohawks. Or that it was October and Gabe still wore frayed Levis without a shirt. Or that a brown cardboard box dangled from a rope on the back deck because the brothers wanted to trap a cat.
It was all normal. It was all good.
I didn’t bother with the questions. Logan would’ve answered, but I didn’t ask. If things seemed different it didn’t matter anyway.
Our son had come home. We’d missed him a lot. And in God’s grace, according to God’s plan, Logan’s world had grown.
But he still fit into ours.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Emerald Green Shells

“Look, Mom!” Gabriel threw the back door open. “See what I found in the garage!” He held an old cigarette box. The kind that opens like a wallet. He tenderly pulled the top back to expose a folded handkerchief. Then, with small fingers, he pulled cloth aside to reveal two emerald green seashells. “Dad said they belonged to Grandpa Reas.”
Gabe had been in the garage with Lonny. They were cleaning. My husband’s parents are moving into a condo, and they’d gifted us with a plethora of stuff from their own garage. The small box had been in the bottom of a big cardboard box – buried under wrenches and drill bits and rolls of electrical tape. Lonny had seen the shells before. He told Gabe that his own grandfather, Reas Anneberg, had found them on the shores of the Philippine Islands when he served as an U.S. Army medical doctor -  World War II.
The treasure wasn’t lost on Gabe. He wanted to see a map. He polished the shells with an old cloth. He carefully returned them to the box and placed the box in his own treasure chest. “I just can’t believe it. I really can’t,” he said over and over.
I’m so glad they found that box – a small treasure lost in a mighty jumble. It will be a keepsake for Gabe. But it meant something to me, too. It was a reminder.
Life is full. There’s soccer and homework and appointments and more. It’s easy for the small stuff to get lost in the jumble. Small stuff like a little boy’s kiss. Or a tiny hand in mine. Or the feel of the morning when the house is still and three little boys slip into our bed.
Such things are a treasure. Like a small, sixty-year-old box holding emerald green shells.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Better Things

“Mom, I’m hungry,” Isaiah said. We were in the checkout lane at Wal-Mart. He pushed to the toes of his blue sneaks and reached for a cardboard cylinder with an image of a smiling bear. “Can I have teddy bear crackers?”
“No, Zay,” I said. “It’s too close to dinner. We’ll be home soon.”
“But I’m hungry.”
“I know,” I said as I flipped boxes of tissues to the conveyor belt. “We’ll be home in fifteen minutes. Then we’ll have dinner.”
“But I want the crackers.”
I stopped unloading the cart and bent to his level. “I know, Zay. But the crackers will spoil your dinner. You had a snack before we left home and I promise you’ll be fine.”
Isaiah’s lip curled down. His eyes watered.
I hugged him tight and went back to the cart business. Then I heard it. The sob. It wasn’t a muffled sob. Or an I’m-tryin-to-hold-it-together sob. It was an all-out, broken hearted, I’ve-just-lost-it-and-I-can’t-pull-it-back-in sort of thing. Isaiah’s face crumpled and went red and tears ran in torrents down his cheeks.
Poor kid. He was exhausted. Fit throwing wasn’t his usual style. I scooped him up and kissed the top of his head. “Isaiah, I love you but you don’t need the crackers right now. They’re not the best thing for you.”
Isaiah wept into my shoulder while I scrambled to write a check. Then I set him in the cart, next to white billows of Wally-World bags, and boogied to the van.
By the time we hit Highway 84, Zay’s sobs had subsided to sniffs and gulps.
My heart hurt for Isaiah. I wanted to give him the crackers. I wanted to make him happy and fill the void in his little tummy. But I thought of the ham and potatoes bubbling in the crock, the green salad and homemade rolls. There was nothing wrong with the crackers, but I had better things to offer. There were better things in store.
As I drove the rest of the way home, I thought about my relationship with God. How often do I go before the Lord, filled with needs and desires? Asking for good things. Maybe it’s a story I’d like to see published. Or a relationship I’d like to have. And often He gives me these good things. But sometimes God, in his infinite and parental wisdom, says no.
Maybe He’s chosen another blessing. Or maybe He just wants to draw me close. Whatever the reason, I can be sure of one thing.
He wants to bless me with better things.
Lord, thank you for loving me. Thank you for knowing what’s best.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Buildin' Up My House

“Where ya going, guys”? I asked. “And what’s with the sheets?”
My three youngest sons were about to bolt out the back door. They carried booty from the linen closet under their still-tan arms.
“We’re heading for the play set,” said eight-year-old Samuel. “To build a fort.”
“Yup,” said five-year-old Gabriel. He brushed blond bangs from his eyes. “We’re buildin’ up our house.”
“What about you, Zay?” I asked toddler Isaiah.
“Me too, Mom. Buildin’ up our house.”
I studied my young men. Their eyes were hopeful. “Okay, but just two sheets. And grab some clothespins from the garage.”
A slur of gratitude preceded the bang of the porch door.
I watched my boys from the window for a few minutes. They’d hustled to their wooden play set. But I was curious and wanted a better peek. So I took up residence on the a-frame swing that sits under our maple.
The boys planned to drape the sheets around the open-slat boards that comprise the top tier of their play structure. They wanted to enclose the square to create a private place. A secret place. They’d secured a rope and bucket for hoisting pirate treasure or animal crackers or juice boxes.
But they were enticed by adventure.
They couldn’t get the fort built.
“Hold this sheet while I clip,” Samuel said.
Gabe held the sheet for two seconds. “I’m taking the binoculars,” he said. “Someone needs to watch for enemies.” He whooshed down the yellow slide and began a combat-crawl through the grass.
“I’ll hold it,” said Isaiah. He grasped the edges with little fists.
But he held the sheet for only a minute when Samuel decided that they’d better gather wood for smoke signals. “Let’s go, Isaiah,” he said. “We’ll pick up sticks.”
After Gabe scoured the lawn for enemy boot prints, he returned to pull the flapping billows of sheet through the wooden slats. But he gave up and decided to swing.
At the end of the afternoon, the boys had some pretty good adventures, but the sheet lay in a twist in the grass and the house hadn’t been built. It was okay. They are boys and they’re full of fun and energy and imagination.
But a thought started rolling in my mind and by the time I’d pulled my sweater tight and walked from the backyard to the side porch, I had some strong convictions.
It’s my heart’s desire to build up a strong house. I want to raise men who love Jesus. Who choose the high path. Who will one day lead their own families and honor their wives and make a difference in their churches and communities and work places.
In my role as mom-to-men, it’s my job to build up my house. To make a home that’s fertile ground for learning. A home where God is central and His word guides our living. Where grace and love and truth trump culture and busy and things.
This takes time. And focus.
The challenge in my life is that there are so many good things. It’s easy to become distracted. My lures aren’t forging for firewood or tracking enemy soldiers – but they’re there. And today, as I’ve watched my boys, I recognize the need to pray for discernment. Where to put my time. Where to put my talents. Where to serve others and live in community and enjoy a sweet abundance of good things while still having the time, energy, and focus to do what God has called me to do first.
Buildin’ up my house.