Monthly Archives: March 2012

Where are my Minions? Oh yeah, they’re in school

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My kids find it astonishing and a little hard to believe that there were no remote controls when I was a child.  My sister and I WERE the remote controls.  We were stationed on the floor close to the television set.  When my Dad wanted to watch a different station all he had to do was bark an order and we hopped to it!  We TURNED the big ol’ dial until we found another station without static.  Then we had to stand up and adjust the bunny ear antenna until the picture was as clear as possible.  Sometimes my Dad would order us to adjust the vertical hold or the color dials.  He had high standards that technology just couldn’t satisfy at this point in time.  Years later we got a TV with a remote control.  I could finally sit on the couch and watch TV.  Watching TV would never be the same again.

Kids watching the microwave... not my kids or my picture.

Kids watching the microwave... not my kids or my picture.

I remember our first microwave oven.  It cost a small fortune and was the size of a Buick sitting on the kitchen counter.  We all huddled around the little window to watch a cup of water boil.  My mom turned the dial and it began to tick.  We thought we were probably all destined to get cancer from the dangerous waves emitting from the futuristic box, but we didn’t care.  We cheered and clapped at the miracle of boiling water in under 5 minutes!  Dinner would never be the same again.

I remember when a video store came to our street.  My dad thought the neighborhood was going to pot.  I didn’t know what a video store was, I thought he meant an arcade was being put in.  I thought it was cool to have an arcade right across the street from our elementary school.  I had no idea what a video was.  The family that owned the store had a daughter in my class.  She invited all the girls over to watch a movie on this huge, top-loading, Beta eating machine attached to the TV set.  We could rent a video player at the store.  Very soon after it open, my Dad was one of the first customers to plunk down a deposit on a rental machine.  That night we discovered the pleasure of watching a movie in our own house.  Entertainment would never be the same again.

My Grandpa was the only one in the family who owned a home video recorder.  It was reminescent of a Russian satellite.  He would give the machine to me and my sister, telling us to go make something creative.  We would dress up and lip sync to 80’s music to make our own music videos.  We spent hours giggling as we interviewed each other like Barbara Walters-wanna-bes.  Of course we had all the classic video camera tricks like recording ourselves in a mirror and sneaking up on people to record them when they were unaware.  The whole family still lined up and posed for pictures with the video camera.  It was like we couldn’t comprehend that we didn’t have to hold a smile anymore.  Taking pictures and documenting family history would never be the same again.

My daughter watching a movie on my laptop

My daughter watching a movie on my laptop

My kids know very little about buying film or flash cubes, computers that can’t be carried around, phones attached to the wall, sending mail via the post office, pay phones, or life before credit cards and the Internet.  As far as my kids are concerned, I grew up on a different planet.  They just can’t comprehend life without technology.  They think I’m being an ogre when I ground them from technology.  It makes me wish the power would go out more often so we can light some candles and play board games as a family, just for fun.

Now I’m interested in your stories.  Tell me about what you DIDN’T have as a child.  Do you miss those days or are you happy with your smart phone?

Letting go of Mommy Guilt

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One of my favorite scripture verses is Isaiah 40:11 “He tends his flock like a shepherd: he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

For me, this verse speaks about seasons of life.  As a mom it’s really easy to pile guilt on myself because I’m not spiritual enough, or I’m not having my devotions on a consistent basis.  But frankly, the last time I was in the bathroom alone was probably last Tuesday, so I’m pretty sure that God understands that there’s not much time to myself in my day.  He sees that I crave quite time with him simply because the word “quiet” is in the phrase.  But quiet is not part of my reality at this phase in my life.  And he knows that.

So here’s what that verse says to me.  I am the sheep with young lambs.  God, being the Good Shepherd that his is, knows that he has to slow his pace to accommodate us Mommas who move only as fast as our youngest child.  He knows and he is tender and gentle with me.  He’s not demanding that I keep up a strenuous pace with the rest of the flock.  It’s OK if I lag behind with my toddler.  He’s walking with me… at my pace.

And he loves my little lambs too!  He holds them in his arms and hugs them close to his heart.  See that?  My little lambs are not a liability, not a hinderance, not a burden… my little lambs are close to His heart!!  So you see, God is the Good Shepherd.  He knows what we need at each phase in our life, and he’s not making demands that I can’t deliver.  He’s not putting a heavy burden on me, and he’s not guilting me for being in this phase of life.  He knows what’s going on with me, and he’s here to walk slowly with me as I care for my young.  He is the Good Shepherd.

Reaching the World from a Rocking Chair

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When I got married, I made a deal with God.  I told him, I’ll take as many babies as you want to give to me until I’m 30, then I want to be done having kids.  He didn’t directly agree to this, but at least he knew my preferences.  “You can be God for 10 years, then I’m taking over.”  Well, you know God just had to show me who’s the boss.  We had two children in 10 years and there were years of tears in between them.

Josh and I talked about my plan, but when I hit 30 he started hedging.  “Did you mean the beginning of 30 or the end of 30?” he quized.  I knew to just drop the subject at that point.  Josh wasn’t one to make hasty decisions.  Plus our life was pretty crazy at the time.  We had just landed in Costa Rica for language school and our lives were turned inside out and upside down.  Now was not the time to be thinking about having more children or closing the genetic door.

While we were in language school our youngest child, Emma, started Kindergarten.  For the last 10 years I had been a stay-home mom who home schooled during the day and held various part time evening jobs in addition to helping my husband with the youth ministry at our church.  So the idea of having both of  my children in school was really exciting to me.  I started envisioning myself with more free time in the near future.  I started making plans to be more involved in ministry on my own terms.  I started breathing again.  The future was looking bright and rosy.  Then a cloud rolled over my sunshine.

In August, I started feeling sick.  I thought I probably had a parasite.  After a few weeks, another thought occurred to me.  What… if… I’m pregnant?  There were 5 years between my two children and the youngest had just turned 5 last month.  Oh NOOOOOOO!  I didn’t want to think about being pregnant again.  I didn’t want to image morning sickness, weight gain, labor and delivery, midnight feedings, sleepless nights, groggy days, diapers, car seats, baby gear, losing the weight, and all the other hard things that make the first few years a blur in every parent’s memory.  I knew what was ahead of me (I thought) and I was terrified.  We were expecting a “bonus baby”.

I slipped quickly into a deep, deep depression.  I couldn’t bring myself to actually tell anyone that I was pregnant.  My husband, on the other hand, was elated!  He told all our relatives and friends.  He even told total strangers!  I couldn’t even smile about it.  I was going to be once again chained to a rocking chair just when I was on the brink of experiencing freedom for the first time in 10 years.  My bright future now looked gloomy and depressing.

One day I was lamenting to a missionary friend of mine that I was anticipating the bondage of a new baby instead of reveling in the freedom to be involved in ministry again.  My friend shared a story with me of a time when she too felt chained to life when she wanted to be free to work along side her husband in missions.  At a time of prayer after a church service, she poured her frustrations out to God and he answered her.  He said, “The Apostle Paul wanted to be a missionary too, but I chained him to a Roman guard so he would write the majority of the New Testament.  If it was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for you.”  That’s when it occurred to me that God is not interested in my busyness.  He’s not impressed with what I can DO for him.  God had just given me another blessing- a child to care for and to raise and to love.  He was putting me back in the rocking chair not to punish me, but because he loves me and wanted to give me something good.  With these thoughts renewing my mind, I decided that it might be possible after all to Reach the World from a Rocking Chair.  Who knows what this child will become, and it is my privilege to be Lucy’s Mommy.

When my kids are fighting I remind them of this…

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I know for a fact that children hear more clearly from God than adults do.  We had been trying to have a second child for around 3 years with no luck.  Taylor, our 4 year-old son, knew that we were praying for a baby.  He had his heart set on having a baby sister, and he wanted her to be named “Emmie”.  He wanted a baby sister so badly that he played with an imaginary sister named Emmie… though sometimes Emmie was also an imaginary cat.  But he was so certain that he would have a sister named Emmie that I would have to forewarn all his new Sunday School teachers that I was not pregnant, no matter how much Taylor insisted that his baby sister was going to use his old crib or car seat.

One day my sister and I were taking Taylor to the zoo.  Suddenly from the back seat of the car we heard Taylor’s little voice pipe up with excitement, “Oh NOW I know what Jesus wants!”  He announced.  We looked at each other and asked Taylor what does Jesus want.  “Jesus wants us to pray for my baby sister NOW!”  Fully believing him, we pulled the car over to the side of the road and right there in Como Park on Lexington Avenue we prayed for Taylor’s baby sister Emmie to come.  When we were done praying he announced confidently, “She’ll be her by my birthday.”  When his next birthday rolled around I was about to pop being nearly 9 months pregnant with our little girl.  Of course we named her Emma.

We remind our children that we prayed for them and that God heard our prayers.  We remind them of this story when they are fighting (haha)!  And we remind them when we are trying to make them feel special and loved.  God knew the desires of our hearts, in fact, God GAVE us those desires in the first place and then he delighted to fulfill them using the prayers and faith of our 4 year-old.

My Three Little Monkeys

Disturb Us Lord.

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I have read this poem/prayer before and wondered how a “pirate” like Sir Francis Drake could have written something so deeply spiritual and so appropriate for the modern Christian.  It’s natural to long for a comfortable life.  But isn’t the Christian life supposed to be something UN-natural, SUPER-natural?  Our spirit is essentially at war with our human nature.  Who can pray this prayer with sincerity and not fear that their prayers would indeed be answered?

“Disturb us, Lord, when

We are too well pleased with ourselves,

When our dreams have come true

Because we have dreamed too little,

When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore

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Disturb us, Lord, when

With the abundance of things we possess

We have lost our thirst

For the waters of life;

Having fallen in love with life,

We have ceased to dream of eternity

And in our efforts to build a new earth,

We have allowed our vision

Of the new Heaven to dim.

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Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,

To venture on wilder seas

Where storms will show Your mastery;

Where losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.

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We ask You to push back

The horizons of our hopes;

And to push back the future

In strength, courage, hope, and love.

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This we ask in the name of our Captain,

Who is Jesus Christ

~Sir Francis Drake

Linda Vista, San Jose, Costa Rica

She has a way with words.

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I like words.

When Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes fame died, they called him a “curmudgeon”, a bad-tempered or surly person.  Ever since then, I’ve been trying to use curmudgeon in a conversation.  I haven’t found a good way to casually slip it in.  But I will someday.

I like when words roll right off your tongue.  Words like “onomatopoeia” and “lackadaisical” are slippery fish to handle.  I feel so smart when I can toss one of these babies into a sentence like it was nothing.

I like words, but I suck at spelling.  I am of the first generation to use computers.  I was raised with Spell Check for words and calculators for math, so I’m a moron in both subjects. Now that I’m an English teacher I realize that it’s not entirely my fault.  I blame the “schwa”.  If you don’t know what a schwa is then you likely were never taught phonetics in Elementary reading class.  Because of schwa, no one can tell the difference between any of the vowels in an unstressed syllable.  If you can’t hear the difference, how can you spell it?  So I’m sure that “Hooked on Phonics” is a scam.

There are some words that I misspell regularly.  Words like tongue, tomorrow, vacuum, dilemma, definitely, furniture, curriculum, congratulations, and jealous are forever underlined red when I click my trusty Spell Check.  When I was a Freshman in college I worked in a bakery.  Every time I needed to write “Congratulations” in frosting on a cake I would write in on a piece of scrap paper first so I wouldn’t mess up someone’s sheet cake.  I understand Winnie the Pooh when he says that his spelling is a little “wobbly”.  Mine is too.

It’s true, I like words, but I’m seriously thankful that I’m not learning English as a second language.  I think I might give up.  Whenever I go through a fast food drive-thru and hear a foreign accent over the speaker I think two things:  First of all, who was the cruel manager that scheduled that poor person to work the hardest job in the world for a non-native speaker; and second of all, I want to applaud that dear soul for making such a herculean effort to understand English spoken through a crappy intercom system.  I doubt I could do that in Spanish without sprinkling my speech with expletives every now and then.  That would most definitely turn me into a curmudgeon.

The difference between Dad’s Way and Mom’s Way: or How my husband won a trip to Europe.

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This morning I left the house at 6am and arrived back home at 5:30pm.  The kids were in Dad’s care all day long.  Walking in the house I thought possibly a Midwestern tornado had struck us.  Josh and the two girls were cuddled on the couch watching an old episode of Wipe Out and the boy was no where to be found (he’s a teenager, he hides in his room a lot.).  Not only was the house a disaster, but the water had been turned off all day long because the city was doing some work on a main line.  This left all the toilets full of WWII carnage.  I gagged when I walked in.

“So, what did you guys do all day while I was gone?”  They informed me that they watched a few movies.  I looked around surveying the wreckage of movie watching.  The dinning room table was lost under papers and clothes from the girls’ room, the dog dishes were empty, there were crumbs over every surface of the living room.  Pillows and blankets were strewn in the ruins of a fort.  The dishes were piled high (which can’t be blamed since there was no water.).  The mountain of shoes behind the door had grown feet and walked into the living room.  Upstairs the load of laundry I had dropped on the bedroom floor at 5:45am was untouched and the bed was unmade.  Children’s books and blankies cluttered our bedroom.  I walked back to the kitchen, ignoring the mess, and started making dinner.

**Sigh**.  Welcome home Mom.  We missed you, now get back to work.

Mom’s way is different than Dad’s way.  When I’m home with the kids, the house ends up clean again by the end of the day because I can multitask.  Chores get done and the kids are cared for at the same time.  When Dad watched the kids, I’m just thankful that everyone is still present and accounted for at the end of the day.  Dad’s Way is just different.

Daddy and the girls eating popcorn and watching TV

This reminds me of the time that my husband won a trip to Europe.

For Christmas one year, Josh surprised me with a plane ticket to Prague, Czech Republic.  I had always wanted to go there and that year a friend of mine was teaching English in that city.  Josh had secretly made plans with my friend to surprise me with a trip to visit her.  I was totally thrilled on one hand, and a bit confused on the other hand.  Why didn’t he buy a ticket for himself too?  If it was because we didn’t have the money for two tickets, I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.  If it was because he wanted to spend a week of quality time with our two young children, I didn’t want to take that from him.  But I really would have preferred to travel with my husband.  So I bided my time until I could discern the reason why he only bought one ticket.  And I worried.

Secretly I worried about leaving Josh alone with a 1-year old and a 6-year old for an entire week, and for good reason.

A few nights later I spent the evening bathing the children and getting them ready for bed while Josh sat on the couch like a lump and watched Monday Night Football.  I wanted to take a relaxing bath myself.  So I handed the wet, towel-swaddled toddler to Josh while he sat on the couch barely conscious.  I handed him a diaper and PJs and said, “I’m going to relax in the bath, don’t interrupt me unless someone is bleeding.”  No response from Dad.

A few seconds into my bath I hear a sickening thud followed by intense screaming from our toddler.  She had fallen off a bed and knocked her head on the wooden floor… but no blood, so I didn’t come out of the bathroom.  “I’ll let Dad handle this,” I decided.  A half an hour later I exited the bathroom and was greeted by a naked baby with a sucker in her mouth and red sticky stuff all round her face.

I scooped up the child and carried her to her father.  “What is this?  Why is she eating candy right before bed?  Look, she’s all sticky!  I just bathed her!  And why is she still naked?”  The only response I received to my inquisition was, “She brought it to me, so I opened it.”  Obviously.

Another sigh.  I again scooped up the naked, sticky child and headed towards her darkened bedroom.  With my hands full, I did not turn on the light.  Big mistake.  Suddenly I slipped on something tube shaped, warm and squishy.  “What on Earth?  Did he give her a banana too?”  I thought.  I quickly turned on the lights and to my utter horror I saw my bare footprint in a pile of poo on the bedroom floor!  I gagged.  Dad had let the baby run around naked after her bath and she had pooped on the floor while he sat catatonic in front of the football game.  I was furious!!  There was a very minimal reaction from Dad.  “She didn’t smell poopy.”  No, it looks like it was a clean drop!

Later that night, I carefully brought up the subject of Prague.  Without directly saying, “I fear for my kids’ lives if I leave them with you for a week.”  I asked Josh what he thought about me asking my mom to watch the kids so he could come to Prague with me.  He was absolutely elated… I secretly think the whole “inept at diapering the child” thing was just a ploy to get to come with me to Europe.  Well it worked. And my children are all still alive, thanks to my Mom.  She knows the Mom Way too.

Kick my Crutches out from under Me

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I’ve heard many times that when a person loses one of their senses the other senses become more sensitive and acute in order to compensate for the loss.

I have been speaking Spanish for 6 years now.  I have “Good Spanish Days” where things flow smoothly and “Bad Spanish Days” where my words are clunky and awkward.  I have days when I can’t understand anything anyone is saying to me.  I have days when I want to hide in my house and not speak Spanish to anyone.  I have days when I dread, I mean dread, going to a meeting or get-together because it’s all going to be in Spanish.  I used to loathe going to church and sitting through a 5 hour Spanish service with my 20 minute attention span.  (Those were the days I would end with a migraine from concentrating so hard.)  When I get nervous or angry, I sound like an babbling idiot.

When we first started learning Spanish I wanted to tell everyone I spoke with, “I know I sound like a 2 year old, but I’m really quiet intelligent in English.”  I was usually a sentence or two behind in any given conversation, and even when I wanted to participate by the time I formulated a reply, the moment of opportunity had long passed.  Having my language abilities drastically limited was like receiving a devastating wound, like losing a limb or losing one of my senses.  I felt handicapped, marginalized, ignored, depressed and frustrated.  It changed me in ways I will never be able to fully explain.

Before we left for the mission field I was a pretty shy person, very private and not inclined to talk much with people I didn’t know.  After 3 years of being immersed in Spanish every day we returned to Minnesota for our first furlough.  I noticed the change in my personality right away.  I couldn’t stop talking to people- total strangers- everywhere I went!  It was like I had 3 years worth of English words bottled up inside of me and someone shook the bottle and popped the top!  I just gleefully exploded on the people in the grocery store line behind me, the kid working the McDonald’s drive thru window, anyone in a coffee shop… And the weird thing was that I knew I was  acting like a lunatic, but I couldn’t stop!  It was like having an out of body experience where I saw myself freaking out all these quiet, Minnesota Scandinavians and inside my head I was telling myself, “Shut up!  These people don’t care that you’ve just moved back from Mexico.”  But it was just so EASY to speak now because it was in English.  I had changed.

Another thing that I noticed about myself was more spiritual.  Because my natural crutch of English had been kicked out from under me I found myself relying more on my spiritual sensitivity, especially in churches and in God-related settings.  When I didn’t understand the words of the song, couldn’t understand what the pastor is saying, didn’t have the Bible verses memorized in this new language I actually could FEEL the Holy Spirit much more quickly and more intensely than in the past.  It was like being blinded, yet suddenly seeing with my heart.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but because I had lost something so vital to me, something that helps me relate to those around me, my spirit was cleared of lots of clutter.  I couldn’t excuse my non-participation by saying “Oh, I don’t like that song” or “This guy is boring to listen to”.  My language crutch was gone and I had to stand alone- and that’s when I noticed God standing beside me and supporting me.  It was a painful and sweet experience.

I still have bad Spanish days.  I’m getting better, but I’m probably the least fluent missionary on my field.  But I would rather feel God close to me than to not.  I’d rather stand with the support of God than to stand on my own and ignore my crutches.  Please God, Kick my crutches out from under me and help me to stand with you.