Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Teaching kids about grief

I don't know where to begin to explain my grief to my kids.  I'm traveling today to Ft. Collins, CO for my Aunt Carolyn's funeral.  Every once in a while a burst of tears will come out of nowhere.  I've heard my kids repeatedly ask, "Why's Mom crying?"  Their daddy doesn't know what to say and I'm not sure I do either.  I can hardly come to terms with my own grief, let alone explain why it hurts so bad to my small children.  The biggest pain of all is that I have no idea if my aunt was saved.  I do not know with certainty that she is in heaven.  She would let me tell her about my relationship with God and she enjoyed scriptures that I shared with her.  But I have no idea if she accepted Jesus's gift of eternal life.  She never would talk about it.  She had a still born child and I think six miscarriages.  Sure, I'd like to believe she's with her babies...but I just don't know.  And that hurts way worse than her just being gone.  

Little by little I explain things to my children about my grief.  I don't think they understand a word I share so I try to keep it brief.  One of my dearest friends shared a great quote from Billy Graham, "Our grief is not a sign of weak faith, but of great love."  That's something my kids seem to comprehend.  It's not that Jesus isn't with me or I'm not asking for his comfort-he is indeed with me and he's the only person I can always turn to.  He is our help in time of need.  He is our rock, comforter, shelter, strong tower.  He hears us when we cry.  And that's what I'm teaching my kiddos today.

Be lifted.

Psalm 34:17
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sick of the Kids?

It was an innocent question, however, for me, it was loaded with memories. During a conversation that occurred in our Bible study group at church last night, a man asked, "Hasn't every mom said she is sick of her kids?"

Some moms nodded affirmatively. But not me. I have never said those words, and I never will. I get sick of the weather. I get sick of the way my team is playing ball (although, not lately!). I get sick of various things in life. But I will never say that I am sick of my kids. You see, I made a promise over sixteen years ago--I promised myself, the child in my womb, and any children to come that I would never say those words. Here's why.

When I was pregnant with Danya, I was doing full-time office work. Most of the women I worked with had very little control over what they said, and they were very negative about their homes, husbands, and children. One young woman in particular arrived nearly every morning enthusing over how glad she was to be back at work. "I'm sick of those kids!" she would exclaim as she then detailed how awful the evening or weekend had been, taking care of two toddlers who drove her crazy. Spending time with her babies was horrible, to hear her talk. She was always glad to leave them with the sitter and come to work where no one hassled her.

One Monday morning, she didn't arrive at work. Everyone knew where she was. We had all seen it on the news over the weekend. After begging her husband to get her out of the house on Saturday night, they had left the two little ones with a sitter. The sitter, who had been watching a horror movie marathon for the past day and a half, stabbed one of the children to death.

Okay, I know this is not a normal blog post. But this is a true story that really happened, and when it did, I made a few decisions. I decided then and there that children and life and the hope I live with every day is not something to be taken lightly. I realized the truth of what the Bible teaches about how words hold the power of life and death. And I made a promise that I would never ever say that I was sick of my kids, but that I would cherish every moment I had with them, because you never know.

I certainly don't think about this story every day. In fact, I haven't thought about it for years. But perhaps God is speaking to someone today about the power of words. Maybe this post is a wake-up call for you.

Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)


Friday, July 25, 2008

Calorie Counts on Your Cell Phone?

I'll admit it. I'm not much of a cell phone user. I basically use my cell phone to say "I'm running a little late" or to have handy for roadside emergencies. But I know lots of moms who need their cell phones for everything like chatting with girlfriends, texting and taking pictures.

Well, I just read that you can use your cell phone to count calories too!

Let's say you're at a restaurant for lunch and you're wondering what you should order. How many calories are in those raviolis anyway? Now you can check on your cell phone with a new free service called Nutrition on the Go from This service has a library of 1700 restaurants and 36,000 plus menu items.

Here's what you do:

Put your phone in text message mode. Type in the restaurant name and menu item. Be as specific as possible. Send that info to DIET1 (34381). In a flash, you receive a text message with the information.

You can try it on the website before you go to lunch to see if the restaurant is listed in their database. I just punched in orange chicken from Panda Express. 500 calories. 27 g fat. 42 g carbs. 23 g protein.

Ah, yet another use for your cell phone! Happy eating!

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bee sting

Today started out like an ordinary day.  Then some extraordinary things crept in. I dropped my daughter off at church to go to overnight camp for three nights.  This is her first camp experience and we're all really excited for her to try it out.  But all of the sudden I felt horrible sending her out into the unknown.  I second-guessed my decision to send her to camp.  I asked myself, "Is she too little?"  So we drove off and I decided not to cry.  Why would I cry?  

Then I dropped my middle child off at church day camp.  Then my youngest and I went to "The Bee Movie."  Every Wednesday you can see an old movie, in the morning, for $1.  Not bad entertainment for a buck.  Unfortunately, I had my cell phone off during the movie.  My middle child got stung by a bee (kind of ironic) while we were at the movie.  He was crying, writhing in pain, waiting for Mom to come get him.  He was scared and pretty much freaking out--he got stung on the ear for crying out loud.  We got the message when the movie was over and sped away to church to pick him up.  Turns out that he found great comfort in the fact that someone had left me a message and I was on my way.  He said he knew all along we were at the movie and he knew we would  come get him right after it was over.  He wasn't scared at all once the swelling went down by 75%.  

I experienced this weird sting in my gut when I let my oldest go to camp.  My middle child got a horrible sting in his ear.  It's been sort of an emotional day.  I'm still grieving a recent loss and it continues to sting in my heart.  What's important is that our kids know we will be there for them when life (or bees) sting them.  And that our Father is there for all of us, no matter how significant or insignificant the sting.  I was reminded today that my kids truly are comforted by me.  Just one hug and kiss brought my son so much relief.  And letting my daughter leave for camp (after a hug and kiss) brought her much relief.  Sometimes we hold our kids close and sometimes we have to let them go and grow.  I am simply thankful that the Father is collectively holding us tightly, ready to provide us with comfort!

Isaiah 49:16
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.

Be  lifted!

Monday, July 21, 2008

All You Have to do is Ask

Hey Everybody,

We just returned from a great weekend in Chattanooga, TN, at the annual CSTHEA conference. Although I am there to teach, God never fails to teach me something in the process! This year, I was most affected by a young dad and his two small sons.

He was browsing the booths with both the boys in tow so their mom could have some time on her own. (What a great guy!) As he approached my table, his boys couldn't help but notice the candy on it! They began tugging on their daddy, who replied with, "All you have to do is ask."

Well, I never really thought of myself as being scary to children, LOL, but both these little guys seemed to cower at the prospect of having to ask me for the candy! Now, I have the candy out for people to freely grab some, but I'm on the dad's side, so I'm going to wait for them to ask me.

Finally, one of them got up his nerve. With an adorable smile, he asked for the candy and got some. Pretty easy, huh? But his brother, hiding behind Dad's legs, just managed to look worried and afraid. I'm sure he was shy, and that was contributing to his hesitancy, but hey, his brother had asked, received, and was now enjoying the candy! And nothing scary had happened to him!

The dad repeated, "All you have to do is ask." But the little boy wouldn't, and they trudged on down the convention hall.

I turned to my husband and said, "We have not because we ask not." And that is as simple as it is. God tells us to ask. We can come boldly, like one of the brothers did, or we can hesitate, doubt, and trudge away with nothing, like the other.

What do you need today? All you have to do is ask.

Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time. (Hebrews 4:16)


Friday, July 18, 2008

But I Don't Feel Like Going to the Gym!

I am by no means a morning person. If it was up to me, I would roll out of bed at the crack of 8 am and treasure every last minute of sleep. But last month, my husband and I joined a gym close to our home. My goal is to get there every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning before the kids wake up to exercise.

This Wednesday when the alarm rang, I wanted so badly to turn it off and say "Forget it!" and go right back to bed. Who needs to workout when one can sleep? But then I thought about how I would regret the decision. Before the workout, I never want to go. But after the workout, I always feel re-energized and ready for my day.

My husband's old boss gave me a helpful tip. When you're lying in bed, having that conversation with yourself about how you don't want to wake up, just get up and go to the bathroom. Once you're in the bathroom, you'll be more awake and more able to make that decision to wake up. So when lying in bed just think, "I just have get myself to the bathroom." Baby steps right?

Even when you don't feel like going to the gym or exercising at home, think "mind over matter." Take a baby step to start and you'll be glad you did!

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phil. 4:13-Arlene

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just watching

First, let me tell you that I am doing this at our YMCA because my internet has been down for over a day. Oh the joys of apartment living. Unfortunately, I don't have my Bible here so I'll have to add a verse later.

Yesterday we took the kids to the Y to swim. This may not sound that exciting but for my kids it's a treat and a half. We have lived way up north for quite some time. Living back in the land of sunshine and heat has been wonderful. My kids aren't turning blue from the wind and chilliness; instead they are quite content to swim for hours. We haven't been this tan for years either. It feels like we're on another planet.

My husband took the older kids to the "big" pool and the baby and I played at the "little" pool. We were in twelve inch deep water and my son was blissful. He kept begging me to swim with him. I tried to explain to him that I couldn't really swim in the shallow water. He wasn't buying it. So I kicked my feet and splashed--that placated him for a few minutes. Then he started correcting me, explaining that I wasn't swimming, I was merely pretending. Although he was right I couldn't find any words to explain my problem. A two-year-old is hard to get through to sometimes! I took a deep breath and tried another approach. I shared with him that oftentimes I enjoy just watching him and not doing anything else. He smiled like it was Christmas morning. He loved the idea that I enjoyed watching him and spending all my energy on that activity alone. I didn't have to swim after all and it was refreshing to share my heart with him. I got a kick out of watching him swim and flop and splash. He even attempted going under water for the first, second, and millionth time. And who got to witness these wonderful things? Me!

Thank God for the precious moments in which we get to just sit back and watch our kids try new things. How blessed are those fleeting moments.

Monday, July 14, 2008


My friend Jodi just gave birth to her firstborn son--exactly a month before her due date! Thank God, Baby Jack is healthy and strong, and Jodi's doing fine, too. God's timing is always perfect, after all, and I'm thankful that a month early to us is still right on time to Him.

Like Jodi, most new moms learn quickly that flexibility is foundational to parenting! Whether things don't go the way you'd like them to (or the way you expected them to) in the delivery room, during your hospital stay, or after you get home, you must learn to roll with the punches. Easy? No. Crucial? Yes.

When my friend Tammie had her baby, she confided to me that there were times she wished he was still in her womb. Despite many months of longing to hold him in her arms, Tammie had discovered that inside her womb was really the safest place for him to be! Once in the world, things quickly spiraled out of her perceived range of control. She had to leave him with a caregiver while she went to work, rather than his being with her, in her womb, all day. She had to feed him and let his own digestive system handle the processing needs, rather than those needs being taken care of in her womb. She had to listen to his cries and figure out what he needed.

Isn't it great to know that as moms we can rely on the Lord for our parenting needs? Just as surely as He saw into the depths of a dark womb and supervised the making of a human being, He will continue to be by your side, seeing into the depths of your need and giving you the strength and flexibility required for parenting! Nothing is a surprise to Him.

"And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19


Friday, July 11, 2008

New York City, Here We Come!

We recently traveled coast to coast to visit my husband's family. To our shock, our connecting flight from Newark NJ to Virginia had been cancelled. The next flight would not be until the next day. Because we needed to get to a family reunion, we decided to rent a car and drive 8 hours to our destination. It was a travel day to be remembered but not repeated!

The upside of all this was that we had the chance to spend the day in Manhattan on the way home. My husband grew up on Long Island and New York is one of his favorite cities in the world. We would have never planned a vacation to the Big Apple with 2 young kids, but we had a blast!

A funny thing happened in Chinatown. We were so tired from walking and just stumbled into a restaurant without paying much attention. We ordered sesame chicken and noodles. When the chicken arrived, it looked strange. Turns out we had chosen a VEGETARIAN restaurant and the mock chicken was really tofu! The waitress was so polite to us and when we left the restaurant, we read the big sign above the door "VEGETARIAN CHINESE RESTAURANT." I don't know how we missed it.

But here's the funny thing: we all ate the tofu, even my kids, and they even liked it! So you can get creative with your foods as you're trying to lose weight and maybe even look for a vegetarian restaurant on purpose!

"The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way." Psalm 37:23


Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Last week, my daughter asked, "Daddy, can I get my hair cut?"  His gut reaction was no and then he said he'd think about it.  He completely wanted to say, "No way!"

For my husband, long hair is a beautiful thing.  He hates it that I have short hair now.  I've tried to grow it out for him but it looks goofy and I don't like it long any more.  Some women approaching 40 look beautiful with long hair; I don't think people like me can pull it off.  My hair dresser in Minneapolis said time and time again, women who are done having children decide to grow out their hair and hold on to their youth.  I don't know if that's the case, many of you have always had long hair.  I digress...

The kids are with Grandma in Kansas City this week.  Our daughter called my husband at work yesterday and asked, "Daddy, can I get my hair cut?"  He said that was fine.  Then she called me later in the day to confirm that it was okay.  I think it's great that she's cutting it.  She's not one to take care of her hair.  Oftentimes she looks like  she doesn't have a mother, if you were judging solely on her hair.  It's always knotted and rough looking.  It's extremely thick and tangled up something awful.  So a hair chopping sounds great!  

What can you apply to our hair situation?  Some things in child rearing REALLY matter, others don't.  You and your husband have to decide what really matters and stick to your guns on those things.  It's tough for my husband to let her cut her hair but he knows it isn't an important issue.  Heart things are much more important.  Who she is and how she acts are what we care about.  Haircuts seem inconsequential when you look at it.  But if she wanted a mohawk I guess we'd have to have a family meeting...

What's important to you?  What do you want to spend your energy on, teaching your kids?   I'd like to believe that whatever is important to you will be instilled in them forever.  The good and the pressure, Mom.  But I think it's true--what we spend doing with our kids and what we teach them--it impacts who they are and who they become.  

Be lifted!

Proverbs 22:6
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.  

Monday, July 7, 2008

God's Best Work

I love light! Whether it's sunlight or artificial light, I want plenty of it during the day or even at night if I am working or reading. We open all the curtains and blinds first thing in the morning to get the day started. It's energizing! Besides that, I want to be able to see what I'm cooking or cleaning or studying. If I have to work under a dim light, I can't see what I'm doing. Inevitably, I end up with a sloppy job, whether that means that I've missed some spots on a floor I'm trying to enhance with wax or on a face I'm trying to "enhance" with makeup!

Have you noticed, however, that God seems to do his very best work without the benefit of light? For instance, babies are built within the unlit walls of their mothers' wombs. Who except God could form the spectacular structure of the human body in the dark?

Unlike a surgeon who sutures and clamps in a brightly lit operating room, surrounded by a helpful team of other medical personnel, our God works needing neither electricity nor assistants. We busy ourselves with ultrasounds and amniocentesis tests trying to figure out just what is going on in the womb. God has allowed for those medical miracles to give us a glimpse of his handiwork. But perhaps in some ways our mothers were better off -- they had to rely on their faith rather than a technician to see them through their pregnancies.

The desire for knowledge and information seems deeply ingrained in our humanness. After all, before the invention of sonograms there were plenty of tried and true methods used to determine the gender of an unborn child. It's just part of our nature as people to want to know everything about tomorrow today, whether it concerns a baby, the weather forecast or the stock market.

But there are some things that we are kept from knowing, sometimes temporarily and sometimes permanently. When I was little, we used to sing a song in church that said, "We will understand it better by and by." The song went on to explain that there are certain circumstances and situations in our lives that defy any kind of logical explanation. We won't understand until we get to heaven.

Imagine for a moment how the disciples must have felt when the Roman soldiers arrested Jesus on trumped up charges, led him away and later crucified him. They had no comprehension of what was going on. In spite of all the time that Jesus had spent with them, preparing them for the events that he knew were going to take place, they expected things to go much differently. For the disciples, those days between Christ's death and resurrection were a time of great darkness and, I'm sure, much soul-searching as well. They didn't understand that in the darkness of the tomb, God was doing his best work!

Often we find ourselves in dark places, sad and disappointed. Could it be possible that these are the times that God is doing his best work in us? I believe that, for the disciples, what three years of living with Jesus failed to accomplish, three days of living without him certainly achieved. Three days in the dark. Three days of not understanding why. Three days of fear, actually, outright terror. Three days of "what if?" It must have seemed like a lifetime.

It may be that way with you today -- an illness or tragedy, a broken relationship or an abandoned dream may be causing you to stumble along in the darkness of God's workshop. I want you to know that eventually, morning will come. And when the light of day shines on the work of God's hands, there is no blemish found. It is perfect, finished without fault. You see, whatever God does is his best work. Trust him.

Even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You. (Psalm 139:12)


2002 c Rebecca Ingram Powell. This article first appeared on Baptist Press. I hope it ministers to you today!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy July 4th Weekend!

Happy Birthday America! What a wonderful weekend to celebrate! And since it’s a birthday party, that means there will be CAKE! Well, you might not see a literal birthday cake, but chances are, you’ll be at a picnic or event where dessert will be served in grand style.

Last Sunday, we had our church picnic and it was a blast. What was on the menu? Cheeseburgers with grilled onions, baked beans, chips, and ice cream. If you’re trying to lose weight, and you find yourself at a picnic like this, here’s my advice: enjoy everything you want but in moderation. Love cheeseburgers like me? Just eat half slowly, or eat it without the bun and use lettuce instead. Have a few chips and a few bites of ice cream with your spouse instead of having a full portion of each. Make healthy substitutions when you can, and enjoy your favorite things in moderation.

At the picnic, my mom sang karaoke (which NEVER happens), my toddler ran in a relay race and my husband poured buckets of water on his friends when the water balloon fight got creative. We laughed and laughed. Get active, run around t
his week, and enjoy yourself!

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. Psalm 136:1


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Where does your security lie?

This has been a tough week for me and I cannot avoid that as I write.  I wanted so badly to come up with something cute or happy or anything fun.  But my heart is heavy and I can't fake it.  My precious Aunt Carolyn died on Sunday.  I could write about her for hours.  She was much more than an aunt to me, she was like my mother.  She was my biggest cheerleader and encourager.  No one on this planet has ever showed me love and acceptance as she did.  The world without her in it makes no sense to me whatsoever.  I loved her husband (my Uncle Yank)  and her mother (Gram) like crazy, too.  They are all gone now.  The three of them made such a great security blanket of comfort, encouragement, and love for me.  Now with Carolyn gone I don't know which end is up.  I feel sick and sad and downright horrible.  

Now don't get me wrong.  Please don't send me Scriptures explaining who God is to us in times of trouble.  I get all that.  Believe me, God's been hearing from me.  I know who he is and who I am because of him.  But let me tell you, there are people in this world that really matter.  They have an impact on who you truly are.  They are so much a part of me that I feel like part of me is gone.  And that pain is real.  No, God doesn't change.  He is our rock and comforter.  He is our strong tower, our help in time of need.  But that doesn't mean we don't cry our eyes out.  It just means we have someone who will listen!  He never disappoints.  He is an ever-present shoulder to cry on.   

Here's the good part.  Even with these wonderful people gone I still feel love and security.  Where does that come from?  Jesus of course.  I'm in excruciating pain but Jesus is still there.  Even when the world seems chaotic and your life seems upside down, Jesus doesn't go anywhere.  Are you teaching your kids that?  It's easy to read them Bible stories and have devotions, etc.  It's fun to teach kids about Jesus.  But when life is hard kids see what it is  that we turn to.  Do we turn to people?  Do we  turn to ourselves?  Do we crawl in our beds?  When stuff is really hard and you want to cry til Jesus returns, where do you turn?  Do your kids see you turn to Jesus?  Do they see you turn to chocolate or soap operas or any escape possible?  I'm asking this because I'm right in the middle of it, reflecting as I go.  

I pray as life's hard parts come that God is who you turn to.  You and your children will reap eternal benefits and much peace as a result.  Can I ask you to pray for me as I process this monumental loss?  I do know that God is the great I Am.  That's what I'm holding onto this day.  

Be lifted-


Proverbs 14:26
He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge.