Monday, February 28, 2011

Smokin' Beef and Brotherly Love

“We’re gonna smoke ‘em,” Sam said. “Smoke ‘em like beef.”

“What?” I said, hand on the doorknob.

“The other team. We’ll smoke them like beef.”

“Oh.” I pulled the door shut. We were on the way to Upwards, the Christ-centered basketball league my boys have played in for years. “I’m not sure that’s the idea,” I said. “To smoke the other team like beef.”

“Sure it is, Mom. It’s a game.”

He was right. Basketball is a game. Someone wins. Someone loses. Everyone tries his best. It can be aggressive. I get that. But beef smoking? Sounded rough. And tough. For a league that passes out stars for Christ-likeness and good sportsmanship.

“Well, let’s just do our personal best, honor God, and have a fun game,” I said.

“Sure,” he said. “And then we’ll smoke ‘em. Smoke ‘em good.”

An hour later I was at church, sitting in one of the plastic chairs that frame the basketball court. Sam’s team was behind. The other team was taller. More skilled. Better. And the score reflected the difference.

“Pass the ball,” Sam’s coach yelled. “Pass it in.”

Samuel’s teammate passed the ball. That player dribbled and passed the ball again. To another player. A boy who’d been trying all season to make a shot.

I watched this, over and over, throughout the game. The boys on Sam’s team had opportunities to make baskets. Score points. But they passed the ball. To their teammate. To their friend.

And when that little guy, at long last, made a two-point swoosh, the whole team cheered.

Sam’s team lost that day, but they didn’t mind too much. I think they felt like winners, and they were.

As for smokin’ beef, I’ve decided that’s okay, too. At the right time. In the right place.

So long as it’s wrapped in brotherly love.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In His Hands

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Matthew 14:19

I tossed and turned. Turned and tossed. Cranked the electric blanket up. Turned it back down. It was unusual for me – to struggle to sleep. But my mind was in turbo and the off-switch was gone.

“Lonny, are you awake?”

“No,” came the reply.

Oh. Guess it was just me. And God. With all of my thoughts. My one million thoughts.

“Okay, God,” I whispered in the dark. “I’m worried about Gabe. His temper is two-inches long.”
Place Him in my hands.
“What about Sam? The middle child stuff?”

Place him in my hands.
“Logan’s friends are all sick. What if he gets sick, too?”

My hands. Remember my hands?
“Grant’s middle school angst. What about that?”

Just put it in my hands.“Zay’s tonsils, Lord. They’re red. They’re huge.”

My hands, Daughter. My hands.
I sat up in bed, reached for my Bible, and switched the table lamp on. “Okay, God. But show me how. I need to see Your hands.”

The answer came in a familiar place. Jesus teaching. The sun sinking. And five thousand hungry men. I’d read the story many times, but never quite this way.

The disciples wanted to send the people away to find food, because the crowd could produce only a few fish and some bread. But Jesus took that bread into his hands, held it, raised it to heaven, and prayed.

Rewind. He held the bread. In His hands.

In Jesus’ hands, there was enough. Enough food. Enough provision. Enough care.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Conversation Hearts - God's Whisper

I missed Logan. For our crew, Valentine’s Day was full of fun stuff. The boys hand cut cards. Pink milk in the morning. Dinner at night. We had heart-shaped ornaments and a red foil sign that stretched across the dining room arch. Logan is big on tradition, and that’s probably why I missed him so.

When he was a little guy, Logan started buying conversation hearts. One box each -for his brothers, Lonny, grandparents, and me. I think he used his tooth fairy money, way back then. But he held the tradition as he grew, and every year, the little guys waited for their boxes. But this year Logan was away at school. No treats from Big Brother. It made my mama-heart hurt.

Lord, I miss him. It’s tough, I prayed. But the longing continued.

The boys and I went about our stuff, making preparations, enjoying the day. But my thoughts wandered back to Logan. I wondered what he was doing. What his evening would look like. I hoped that in between our busy and his class and work schedule, there would be a sliver of a moment to make a call.

In the afternoon, the boys and I decided to take a walk along the river while the spaghetti sauce simmered. As we passed the mailbox, Zay noticed that the yellow flag was poked high – the “inbox”. He stood on toes, pulled the box open, and plunged his hand inside.

He withdrew a manila envelope. Logan’s handwriting. Addressed to his family. But the sweetest part? The envelope made noise. Rattling. Rumbling.

Conversation hearts.

“He remembered,” Zay shouted. “It’s from Logan! It’s the hearts!

My own joy rivaled Isaiah's. And for just a minute, beside the mailbox watching my sons delight over the package, I felt like Hagar when she understood that God had seen her. A stretch in circumstances, for sure. Hagar in the desert, alone, distressed, visited by an angel, pregnant with  a son, and me standing in the snow, missing mine. But the same God had looked down – deep into a mother's heart.

Zay couldn’t wait to tear into the package of candy with sweet messages …Hugs, Love, Kisses, Be Mine.

But for me, the package whispered something different. Something from God.

I saw. I heard. I listened.

And I love you.

Prayer: Precious, intimate Father, I love your name! El Roi, the God who see me.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A Saucy Affair

Once a year we go wild. Pull out the stops. It’s called Valentine’s Dinner, and it’s a saucy affair.

We borrowed the idea, years ago, from a dear friend. Now it’s our tradition. The boys and I spend the day elbow-deep in meatballs. We make our own sauce. We toss a heaping salad and bake a from-scratch red velvet cake. Then we serve spaghetti, in one long noodly strip, down the center of our dining table (we always have a bright red throw-away table cover). One rule: there are no plates. Okay, two. Forks are a must. But everyone gets a pasta claw and we eat from the table. The grandparents come and it’s quite the deal. Wild. Crazy. Saucy. Ours.

“Do you remember, Shawnie, the first year we did this?” Mom asked during dinner.

“Sure, “ I said, recalling how small my big guys must’ve been.

“Well, it’s interesting,” she said.


“You were tense that night. Like you were trying to have fun. It’s different now,” she said.

“How’s that?”

“You roll with it. The fun. The mess,” she said. “I’m glad.”

I suppose she’s right. I have learned to relax. Enjoy. Have fun. Sit back. But it’s not because I know that everyone will pitch in for the clean up or that we won’t have to get funky again for twelve months. It’s not even, really, because I know that the boys treasure these memories more than the booty they’ve hidden under their beds. It’s because I’ve learned to see God in the whole affair.

When the table is surrounded, every chair (and piano bench) is full, I see the Lord. When the grandparents laugh at something the boys have said and I’m blessed that they are here, I see God. When Gabe gobbles his salad and Lonny’s mom passes the warm bread and Zay’s little face will be stained velvet red for two days, I know God is near.

And at that time, in the most unromantic place, in a wild whir of sauce and noise, I feel His love.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love, Friendship, and Pumpkin Spice

By this you men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35

Sarah and I have been friends for a long time. We lived in the same small, Iowa town for years, when our now-teens were small. Then she and her family moved to Virginia. I’ve never stopped missing her. Neither have my sons. She had a way of making us feel loved and celebrated. Now Sarah and her family stop by to visit, once a year, on their way to spend time with relatives.

When we were neighbors, Sarah loved to drop by with homemade treats. Most often, she brought spicy pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. My sons whooped for joy when they saw Miss Sarah coming, mini-muffins in tow.

“Mom! Miss Sarah’s here,” Logan would holler in his little-boy voice.

“I wonder if she brought muffins?” Grant would ask.

Then they’d run to greet her with hugs. She’d hand me the coveted tray and crouch down to receive my boys.

When Sarah moved, she shared her special recipe with me, but my muffins aren’t the same. The chocolate chips sink. The tops don’t mound. Plus, my boys don’t get as excited. They miss my friend’s warm smile.

A couple of summers ago, Sarah and her children came to visit. They’d been traveling for two days. She pulled in our driveway and stepped from her van. My five boys charged to greet her. The older boys are bigger now, taller than Sarah. And there are a few new smaller ones.

Sarah reached up to hug the big boys. Then she crouched to embrace the small. She took the time to greet, hug, and speak to each one. “I have something for you,” she said when my boys loosened their grip.

She reached into her van and pulled a Tupperware container from under the seat. I didn’t have to wonder what was inside – pumpkin chocolate chip.

We visited with Sarah all day long, and when evening colored the sky, my boys and I watched her drive away. The lights from her van disappeared and we walked toward the house.

“Let’s eat the last of the muffins before bed,” Logan said. His voice was manly and deep. “No one bakes them quite like Miss Sarah.”

“Yah,” Grant said. “There’s nothing like Miss Sarah’s muffins,” he paused. “And there’s no one like Miss Sarah.”

We gathered around the table that night and enjoyed soft, spicy muffins and tall glasses of cold milk.

“To Miss Sarah,” I said. Five boys and I clinked our glasses together in honor of our dear, dear friend.

Lord, thank you for precious friends, Sarah and others, who have loved my boys through the years and across the miles.

Valentine Book Giveaway -
Thank you, friends, for sharing from deep places about how God showered you with LOVE this week. Precious! It was amazing to hear of His intimate, personal care. Oh, how He loves us!
SHARON DRACH MANGAS, Gabe pulled your name from his ski cap. Hoorah! We’ll send your copy of Cup of Comfort for Christian Women this week.
Again, thanks to all. God bless and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thursday, February 10, 2011



I'd like to cyber-celebrate Valentine's Day by sharing a copy of Cup of Comfort for Christian Women (release date Feb. 18). "Personal Hannah", my story of launching Logan, is included.

Here's the deal. Just leave a comment below - Your name and a one-liner about how GOD'S LOVE has touched you this week. Then, in our high-tech way (Gabe pulling a scrap of paper from his hat), we'll randomly choose a winner.

Thanks for your love and support.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Nine O'Clock Rule

It was 9:15. The boys were still foaming at the mouth.

“You should be in bed, guys,” Lonny said. “Brush well. But brush fast.”

There was a frantic frenzy of minty toothpaste. Brushing and spitting and rinsing and more. Then the nightly march to bed. Prayers and kisses. Kisses and prayers. All good things, but as we made our way down the old, curved stairwell, the clock struck 9:45.

“I have an early morning meeting ,” Lonny said. “I have to get to bed.”

“I’m tired, too,” I said. “Maybe we can share some time tomorrow.”

But the next day was the same. Busy –jam-packed-full. Not much for our marriage at the end of it all.

“We have to make some changes,” Lonny said. “We need to share some time - every day.”

I agreed.

“Let’s make a Nine O’clock Rule. We’ll tuck the kids in early, and at 9:00 our bedroom door shuts. We can read. Or talk. But the door is closed.”

Sounded good to me. Wise. Possible. But that first night, at 9:01, there was a knock at the door.

“I can’t sleep. My legs are moving. They won’t stop.” Samuel.

“Well walk them right up the stairs,” Lonny said. “We love you. Goodnight.”

9:05 brought another visitor. A hearty tap on the heavy old door. “Dad, can you help me with math?” Grant.

“ In the morning. Mark the problem. Keep working,” Lonny said.

By 9:15 it was evident that this was going to be tough. Re-directing children. Mathematical formulas whispered through the keyhole.

“This is a lot of work,” I said.

“It’ll be worth it in the end,” Lonny said.

We somehow got through that first night. And the next. I can’t say that it worked perfectly. But it did get better.

As a form of encouragement, I stuck a piece of construction paper to the back of our bedroom door. Two adages adhered with 3M tape. Handwritten in wide, black Sharpie.

Good things come to those who wait.


Some things are worth fighting for.

Then I added a third sentence. More of a quote, really.

“God Bless the Nine O’clock Rule. “

Rock On.


Dear Lord: Thank you for the blessing of marriage. Help us to have a Christ-centered home, not a child-centered one. Help us to place our relationship in its proper place, to benefit our marriage, set an example for our children, and to bring you glory.

Dear Friends: Accountability is good. Ask how we’re doing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mustard Seeds

It was that sort of day. The kind when kids are enough to make a mom pluck every single hair from her head. One. By. One. Not pretty words. Or a pretty visual. But that’s what it was. Bare bones truth.

Zay was getting sick and he started whining at daybreak. Samuel corrected Gabe’s grammar every time I turned around. Gabe’s short-fuse temper kicked in and soon there was a tumble of children on the floor – a swarming, aggressive twist of arms and legs completely void of self control.


“Help me, Lord. I’m losing my mind,” I said. A hundred times. Over and over. “Grace and mercy, today, please. Because I think I’ve gone insane.”

God’s answer? The phrase that came to my heart? Mustard seeds.
“Mustard seeds? Mustard seeds? What do I do with mustard seeds?”

No reply.

Then I remembered that Jesus, in the book of Mark, talked about mustard seeds. He compared them to the kingdom of heaven. A mustard seed was the teeniest, tiniest seed one could plant. But with time, under the Lord’s care, those seeds produced a tall, strong plant that would host and provide for many things. God’s kingdom would grow like that.

Could it be the same with growing little boys? I’m not comparing men with the God’s heavenly kingdom – but I’m thinking about the process. If there is a goodness, a godliness, a small truth in the heart of a little boy, it must be possible, that under God’s care, that little boy can grow into a strong, righteous, godly man. The sort of man who will provide and protect. Who will love the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Who will branch out and reach far into the lives of others for God’s glory.

Possible? Indeed.

So for today, I’ll look ahead to those trees. And I’ll claim what’s here to hold.

My little men. And mustard seeds.

Thank you Lord, for growing my boys. Give me patience and peace when I’m too close to see the growth.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A February Prayer

February. The heart month. Chocolate hearts. Conversation hearts. Paper hearts. Crimson hearts. Hearts on cards and windows.

I came across this “heart” in Proverbs and want to claim it for each of my sons.

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. Proverbs 27:19


Thank you for each of my sons. Thank you for loving them. Thank you for sending Jesus to save them. Thank you for pursuing each one and for holding them in the palm of your hand.

I pray that my boys would have hearts of strong character, and that that character would flow outward from their relationship with you. I pray that you would define their ideas, their goals, their aspirations, their hopes, time, talents, and dreams.

Let them have hearts to love you first. To help others. To have passion for your saving grace. To be providers and protectors and lovers of what is right and good. Let them be strong enough to love you out loud, with their voices and their lives.

Allow them the strength to choose the higher path and the wisdom to walk in your grace. Let them know that they are fully loved and fully pleasing – because of the cross and resurrection of Jesus.

I pray that you would be alive and present in their lives.

And that as water reflects a man’s face, my boys’ hearts would be a reflection of you.