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.