Reflection, re-visit

A weekend rich with family kept me away from my laptop, as it should have. When everyone had left, I scrolled through pictures of the weekend and reflected on how lovely it had been to have so many that are precious to us together in one place. Instead of coming right to the keys, I basked in the moments for a bit. So, this morning, I bring you a piece from August 2016, dusted off on this October day in 2019. What a blessing it is to reflect.

After long absences from my blog, I never know what is going to come out of my fingers when I finally make the time to sit down. Will I start writing about why I haven’t written sooner?  what we have been doing with our time? what kind of students I am working with? How my health is (or is not) progressing? Or how I am looking forward to what’s coming up in the next few weeks?

I don’t know. Today I don’t feel a drive to write about any of the above, but I do feel compelled to get back to my blog. I love the discipline of writing every day, and I love how it causes me to reflect on how I am living my life. Writing causes me to pause and take stock of what is happening and what I think and feel about it.

Last weekend, I visited our two daughters who live in Boston. We did some sightseeing, yes, but we also had chunks of time when we were just together. We rode in the car from the city center to where we were staying. We visited coffee houses. We sat together on the couch and watched the Olympics and reality TV.  I found myself, in those moments of sitting with my adult daughters, reflecting on how my husband and I parented our children. From time to time my musings became audible.

“I wish I wouldn’t have freaked out over the little things so much.”

“I wish I would’ve taken more time to show you kids how to do more things.”

“I wish I would have stepped into some situations more thoughtfully.”

My girls were very gracious.  Mom, you had three babies in three years!  We were a lot to take care of!  You did your best! Mom, we turned out pretty good.

They’re right. We did have three babies in three years and we were very busy for many consecutive minutes.hours.days.weeks.months.years.  And, our kids are pretty great. We are blessed.

But, you know, twenty-five years flew by pretty darn quickly. And sometimes I even wished that the moments would speed by. Parenting is hard work. It is exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. And, in true Kristin fashion, I muscled through.

At one moment last weekend,  in the proximity of my girls, I heard myself say out loud, “You know what I wish the most? I wish I would’ve taken more time to reflect. I wish I would’ve been still long enough to say to myself, ‘How is this working out?'”

They were silent, so I said, “If I could give you one piece of advice right now it would be that: take time to be still and reflect.”

It took me a chronic illness and a six-month vacation from work to realize the power of stillness and reflection. My writing, which began as a crutch to help me hobble through the uncharted territory of unemployment, turned into a vehicle that helped me explore my thoughts and feelings about my current reality.  In exploring those thoughts and feelings, I have also explored my past and its impact on my life and the lives of those that I love. These explorations have, I believe, contributed to my healing — if not my actual physical healing, then certainly my mental and emotional healing.

Over the past eighteen months, I have gradually transitioned from not working at all to working about 20-25 hours a week. This was part of the goal all along.  I love teaching, and God has provided so many opportunities for me to work with students that don’t require me to have a full-time position. However, in transitioning back to more regular work, I don’t want to flush the lessons I learned during the stillness.

This is a challenge of real life, isn’t it? How do I find balance?  How do I get the fulfillment that comes from work while also taking the time to care for myself? How do I care for myself through exercise, healthy eating, and time for reflection, without overlooking the needs of the people closest to me?  How do I attend to the needs of my family while still finding time to connect with friends?  How do I make time to connect with friends and still have regular time to connect with God?

I sure don’t have a simple answer.  However, what I have learned is that, for me, one way to take the pulse on how I am doing with finding that balance, is to take some moments to reflect through writing. So, here I am, returning and reflecting so that I can continue to heal and continue to grow.

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Psalm 116:7

You can learn a lot from a toddler

You can learn a lot from a toddler.

We spent last weekend with our sweet grand daughter.  As many grandparents will attest, there is nothing quite like the love one feels for a grandchild.  People had been telling me this for years, but it took gazing upon our own grandchild to give me the full picture.  In the fifteen or so months since she was born, I have spent a lot of time just observing her. I’m starting to compile a list of lessons that this wee one is teaching me.

  • Play is important.  And it’s fun!  I’ve spent so many hours of my life being serious; I have sometimes forgotten to play.  Not this little girl!  She makes everything into play — eating blueberries, getting her diaper changed, taking a bath, riding in the car, and waiting in line at a restaurant.  If she has a spare second, she’s playing peek-a-boo, chase-me,  let’s-knock-it-down, splash your Oma, or anything that will make her, and me, laugh.
  • Fun is contagious.  Every time this little one giggles, I giggle.  If she makes a silly face, I make a silly face.  I can’t hep myself.  She draws me in.  She walks right up to me, hands me a book, leans toward me with a smile, and I’ve just gotta smile back.  I don’t think I was serious for a single second all weekend, unless you count that moment when she face-planted at the mall.  At that moment she taught me another lesson.
  • If you’re hurting, you just gotta cry. In my almost fifty years of life, I have stuffed a lot of emotions.  I have concealed fear, subdued laughter, and swallowed pain.  Not my little girl; nope. When she feels something, she shows it.  When she face-planted, she cried loud and hard — the kind of crying that loses its breath and gets silent.  It was legitimate.  She bruised the very fleshy part over her cheek bone.  She hit hard. When she cried, no one tried to silence her; we let her cry.  We had seen the injury.  We felt her pain.  And she taught us another lesson.
  • When you’re really hurting, Dad is the safest place to turn.  Opa swooped her off the floor and rushed her right to her daddy who engulfed her in his extra-strong arms so that she could bury her face in his extra-large shoulder and wail.  He just held her and held her while she cried.  He kept her safe and secure while Mom checked out the injury, Opa found us a place to sit down, and Oma got some ice.  When the pain ebbed a bit, and Dad placed her in a booster seat at a table, her tear-filled eyes watched him as she drank her drink and ate her fries.  When he stood to get some ketchup, her eyes followed him to the restaurant counter and back.  She checked that we were all still sitting near her, but she didn’t smile until he was headed back toward her. It wasn’t long before she regained her composure and reminded us of another lesson.
  • When you fall down, you gotta get back up.  After the spill and the fries, our girl cautiously entered the children’s area, observed what the big kids were doing, and then tried out some of the toys herself.  Mom showed her how to push the buttons that lit up.  She ran from one end of the play area to the other. She looked up at the towering climbing apparatus and then showed us another important lesson.
  • You’ve gotta know your limitations.  She was clearly impressed by the kids who were climbing higher than their parents’ heads, but she recognized that she didn’t have the means, or perhaps the courage, to go where they were going.  She walked under the looming structure, but when she realized that none of her people had gone with her, she turned around and walked back out.  No one had told her she couldn’t go in there, she just knew that if we weren’t going with her, she wasn’t going to do it alone.  In fact, at that point, she’d had enough of the play area and was ready to go walking for a bit.
  • Exploring is interesting.  Our girl was happy to ride in the stroller as long as we were moving and changing her scenery.  We walked through the crowded mall and she had plenty to look at, but when we went into a store and the stroller stopped moving, she voiced her protest.  And there’s our next lesson.
  • Let your concerns be known.  This little girl does not shy away from communicating.  When she is ready to move, she makes some noise.  When she’s hungry, she goes to the kitchen cupboard where her snacks are stored.  When she wants up, she reaches; when she wants down, she leans.  When she’s happy, she talks and laughs. When she’s sad, she cries.  But my favorite of all is her way of communicating when she’s just tuckered out.  She goes to her Daddy, the keeper of all things safe, and gives the signal.
  • Because when you need a recharge, you go to Daddy.  She stands near him.  She rubs her eyes.  She might try to climb up in his lap.  Since he’s her dad, he recognizes the signals.  He lifts her up and holds her close.  She puts her head on his shoulder and just submits to his embrace.  She doesn’t necessarily sleep; often she just soaks up his love for five or ten minutes.   He holds her, enjoying this mutual love fest.  If she falls asleep, he lets her. If a brief charge is all that’s needed, he smiles, kisses her head, and lets her back down to go play and explore some more.

I probably don’t have to spell it out for you.  You’re smarter than that. You can see what I saw, can’t you?  You can learn from a toddler, too.

    and a little child will lead them.

Isaiah 11:6

still learning, re-visit

after writing about what some of my students are learning on Monday, I re-discovered this post, first written almost three years ago, about the lessons I have learned from my children and my students. re-examined on February 28, 2019

Parenting and teaching have changed me. At one time I was quick to pass judgment on apparent ‘misbehavior’, I often fell prey to either/or reasoning, and I saw most arguments as very black and white. However, through more than two decades of parenting and almost that many years of interacting with students, my firm — almost rigid — beliefs about almost everything have been challenged and re-shaped.

One of the lessons that my kids and students taught me is that there is always more to a situation than first meets the eyes. Let’s say a student walks into my class late, unprepared, and seemingly unengaged. It would be easy to assume that this student is apathetic about my class specifically, and perhaps education in general. However, a closer look might reveal that the student was doing everything he could to get to my class on time, but his parents had their own timetable — they made him take care of a younger sibling all night, they got home from work late in the morning, and then made my student wait while they showered before they brought him to school. My student wanted to complete the homework, but his sibling was demanding. He wanted to be on time, but he had no alternate way to get to class.

Or, let’s say one of my children is snarky, disrespectful, and seemingly bent on opposing every direction I give. I might assume that my role is to demand respect, give firmer demands, and heap on consequences, but a closer look, and some long hours of listening, may uncover some deep pain that the child is afraid, even ashamed, to share with me. Acting out is not the problem; it’s a symptom.

Another lesson I’ve learned from my kids and my students is that there is always a third option. “Mrs. Rathje, should I study education or medicine?”  “Mom, should I run track or play soccer?” “Would it be better if I took this job or if I didn’t work at all?” My answer — “Is there a third option?”  Why not consider a career as a nurse educator? Is there any other sport or activity that seems interesting to you? Is there a different job you could consider? more schooling? service learning?

Too often I have found myself trapped in either/or thinking:

  • Do I want to be a vegetarian or eat meat?
  • Am I a night person or a morning person?
  • Do I like contemporary or traditional worship?
  • Am I conservative or liberal?
  • Should I teach or write?
  • Am I a Spartan or a Wolverine.

Don’t be ridiculous, that last one was just to see if you were still paying attention.

In my earlier life, I found it safest to ‘choose a side’. I was forming my identity, after all. I wanted to find my place. It felt too risky to remain fluid. I wanted the security of saying that I was Lutheran or Republican. I wanted a box to check. I was anti-Disney, pro-Life, for the environment, and against dying my hair.

Here’s the thing: putting myself in those boxes positioned me against those who put themselves in other boxes. If I liked only wheat bread, I might judge someone who only bought white bread. If I only shopped at Kroger, I might look down on someone who only shopped at Wal-Mart. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to listen to why they preferred white bread or Wal-Mart. I knew I was right. No discussion was needed.

My attitude limited me. I unwittingly cut myself off from all kinds of people and experiences.  

Enter my children. And my students. Early on they were willing to listen to whatever I had to say. They were pliable. They wanted to please me. But over time, as they developed minds of their own, they began to question my positions. They began to challenge my opinions.

How dare they? I did not like this at all!! After all, I had been being right for so long. If I allowed myself to think differently, I was admitting that I had been — gasp — wrong!

But not really. That was some more either/or thinking. Here is what I have come to believe: once upon a time I held certain opinions based on what I knew at the time. Over the years, I have had many experiences that have caused me to re-think those positions. Based on what I know now, some of my opinions have changed. That, my friends is called human growth and development.

And here is the most important thing that I have learned. Life is complex. We can hold conflicting truths. I can, for instance, like the story line of The Lion King and still hate the over- commercialization of Disney and its portrayal of female characters. These opinions can co-exist. I can understand the health benefits of whole grains and still appreciate a nice loaf of French white bread. I can appreciate Wal-Mart’s low prices and still object to the business practices of the Waltons. I can eat both meat and vegetables, just vegetables, or choose a third option — vegetarianism on the weekdays and carnivorism on the weekends.

The amazing human mind is capable of far more complexity than we give it credit for. We limit its capacity to grow when we compartmentalize ideology into false dichotomies.

You might think I feel afraid now that I’ve moved outside of my previously confining boxes. Not at all. I find more room to breathe out here.

I’m telling you — a mother can learn a lot from her kids, and a teacher often learns from her students.

It is not only the old who are wise,
    not only the aged who understand what is right.

Job 32:9

Red-letter Day

Yesterday was what I like to call a red-letter day.  In fact, if I still kept a paper calendar I would get out a red sharpie and circle July 23, 2015 so that I would not forget it.

It started first thing in the morning.  I worked with my first student, who is autistic.  Just a few weeks ago it was difficult for him to describe any object beyond its color — usually black or blue — and its shape — typically a circle or a square.  Yesterday we looked at a small picture of a pile of nails.  I took the picture away and asked him what he had seen.  He said, “nails”,  of course. When I asked him what they looked like,  he said they had a circle on the top.  “Yes, good!” I said.  “What else?”  “They are sharp on the bottom.”  “Yes!”  Now, this may not seem like a big deal to you, but for my little guy, it’s a pretty big deal.  He used a complete sentence and he moved beyond his generic descriptors to something more specific.  That, my friends, is worth marking on the calendar.

It didn’t stop there.  My second student has been known to be quite noncompliant — to the point of refusing to work, day after day after day.  Yesterday appeared, at first, to be another one of those days, but for some reason, we started our session with some talk about her toys and she began to work with me.  We were moving forward slowly in our lesson when one of the supervisors joined us to do some ‘pacing’ — this happens quite often.  The more senior members of the team come and interact with the students to push them a bit and determine how to best tweak their lessons for the most impact.  The supervisor asked me to do a task with the student.  I wasn’t quite sure of the method, so I invited her to show me her ‘special way’ of using the materials.  I was so glad that I did this — she made several changes in the setting and the climate of that lesson.  She worked with the student for about fifteen minutes.  I watched, took notes, and learned a whole lot about how to work with this difficult little peanut.

I had two more students before I left for the afternoon.  Walking to my car, I checked my phone for messages and emails.  We had been exchanging information with the financial aid office at our daughter’s university.  They wanted to verify some information we had submitted, so we had sent documents back and forth over the last few weeks.  It was exhausting and tedious, but we kept at it. When I saw an email from the officer we had been working with, I opened it to find that the school had decided to give her another huge chunk of grant money — so much, in fact, that she will not have to take one of the loans that she had been approved for!

Then, I received a text from another daughter who said that an employer had contacted her out of the blue and wanted to interview her over the phone — that day!  The position is almost a perfect fit for this particular daughter, her skill set, and her interests, and she hadn’t even applied for the position!

And the news kept coming!  It was like it was my birthday and people kept arriving with gifts that I wasn’t expecting — healing for this person, encouragement for that one, resolved conflict here, restored relationships there…

Late in the afternoon, my husband arrived home from work with the day’s mail.  He was carrying a package from my mother — I had mentioned that my rubbermaid containers kept disappearing, so she sent me a whole new set!

I am telling you, it was a red letter day!

So, I grabbed my dog and my phone and headed out for a walk.  I called my mom to thank her for the gift and I started telling her about all the good things that had happened yesterday.  I kept saying, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it!”  She said, “I know it’s hard to believe, but just think of all the time you have spent praying for these things.  God says, if you ask for it, He will answer. I know you weren’t expecting Him to answer all in one day, but He answers whenever He wants to!”

Yes, He does!  Sometimes the answers trickle in so subtly that we might not even realize that they are answers to prayer.  They can slip by me unnoticed, and I take them for granted.  But, when He overwhelms me with answers all in one day, I can hardly ignore His work.  It took my breath away.

This morning, I did my devotion which I always follow with writing in my prayer journal.  I follow a pattern called PRAISE — Praise, Repentance,  Acknowledgement, Intercession, Supplication, and Equipping.  When I got to the Supplication section I recalled all the prayers I had written for ‘my people’ over the past several months.  My mother wasn’t wrong — they have been many.  I never doubted that God was hearing them; I never doubted that He had my people in the palm of His hand.  But it sure was wonderful to sit in amazement and watch so many answers all in one day.

Matthew 7:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Seeing The Gift

My Bible reading this morning was about Abraham and Isaac.  You know the one, they are walking together — father and son — with sticks and flame and knife toward Mount Moriah to make a sacrifice.  Isaac, though young, is pretty sharp.  “Hey, Dad, I noticed we don’t have an animal with us for the sacrifice.”  Abraham assures him that God will provide what is needed, knowing full-well that God has told him to sacrifice Isaac.

Can you imagine?  I don’t think we can.  Here we sit in the United States of America — the land of the free, the home of the brave, the place where parents give their children everything. Everything. I am not exempt from this.  I remember my mother telling me when I was younger, “If I had the money, I would buy you everything.”  And I knew she would.  Still one of her greatest joys is giving to her children and her grandchildren. Like mother, like daughter.  I love to give my children what they need and what they want.  I sometimes go overboard.  I sometimes lose track of what they need and what they want, and buy them things that I think they need or want, and even things that no one needs or wants.

So, can I imagine depriving them of something? Or, gasp, agreeing to sacrifice them? No.  Not at all.

But Abraham had heard from God, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and…offer him there as a burnt offering…”

Abraham “rose up early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac.”

Say what? 

Abraham had waited for this kid.  He and Sarah had Isaac in their old age.  They had longed for him.  Prayed for him.  And, finally, they had welcomed him.  And now Abraham was supposed to lay him on an altar, put a knife into him, and then burn him? 

Hebrews 11 says ” By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he … was in the act of offering up his only son…” when God said “Do not lay your hand on the boy…now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22).

He didn’t make him go through with it! He Himself provided a ram for Abraham,… and a Lamb for us.

If we picture ourselves placing our own children on an altar and raising the knife, we can see our eyes squeezed shut, the sweat beads forming on our brow, the sheer anguish, praying that God will provide.  What relief Abraham must have felt!  God had provided.  His only son didn’t have to become a sacrifice.

But His Only Son did.

And how do we celebrate this?  How do we mark the relief, the thankfulness that we feel when we realize that we have been rescued?

It’s hard to do this with integrity in a culture that hauls out Santa in October, pipes holiday muzak from every speaker, and pressures us to have the perfect gift for everyone on our list.  We are so bombarded by a consumer culture that we can’t even fathom giving up having a Christmas tree, let alone giving up a child.

That is, after all,  what Christmas celebrates.  The Child.  The Sacrifice.  The Gift.

I forget about that.  I am so consumed with finding the perfect gift for my kids, my spouse, my parents, that I forget about The Perfect Gift.  I online shop and run from store to store in order to find that special item, and I overlook The Special Item. Sure, I squeeze in Advent worship and Christmas Eve worship.  I sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Joy to the World” but if I am going to be honest (and you know I am) I put my focus on the gifts instead of The Gift. 

But things are shifting over here in the little house by the river.  As I continue on the Minimalist Challenge, and trim out the unnecessary, I am finding it easier to see the things that really matter.  I am unwilling to forfeit my Bible, my journals, my laptop, or my family photos.  I am willing instead to get rid of old puzzles, dusty books, unworn clothing, an extra crockpot, an electric roaster, and a yoga mat that I never use anyway.  I am hoping that as I send more clutter out the door, I will be less distracted and more able to see all the blessings that The Gift has provided for me — not the things that I can pick up on clearance at Target, but the priceless gifts of family, health, love, faith, friendship…

I am learning a lot in this next chapter, guys.  I’ll add learning to my list of priceless gifts.

Titus 2:11-12

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

 It teaches us to say “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions,

and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age.


Today is the day we celebrate the birth of our oldest son; he was born twenty-nine years ago. I don’t know anything about his birth, other than he was over nine pounds! I can’t tell his pregnancy or birth story, because I wasn’t there.

I call him “my love-child” because I got him when I fell in love.

I don’t know if it was bleached blonde hair or his raspy little voice, but this little man had me at ‘hello’.  He was full of energy when I met him; he was just two years old. He would bounce his whole torso against the seat of the car for an entire forty-five minute trip. He could run up and down a block repeatedly. Yet he was also such a tender little man. He liked to snuggle in close as I read him story after story.  And he tried to remain strong if I beat him in Memory or Candyland.

He stood at the front of the church when I walked down the aisle.  He winked at me as he held the satin pillow in his hands.  During the long, long service he counted all the candles on the altar.  That little four-year old stood patiently through an almost hour-long wedding.

Although he didn’t ever live with me, he visited often.  I treasured those visits — time for more stories, adventures at the park, and sitting together in church.  As he got older, he started beating me in Memory and Candyland and basketball and Battleship and everything else.  The little blond who had once sat on my lap and snuggled in close became an adolescent who towered over me, a gentle giant.

I walked him into his first day of kindergarten, then watched him graduate from fifth grade, from eighth grade, from high school, from college, and just this year, from his Master’s program. I got to watch his football games, band concerts, and basketball games.

My love-child became an excellent big brother to six younger siblings — three at our house, and three at his other parents’.  He read them stories and beat them in games and hugged them tight.  He shared his vacations crammed in the back of an eight-passenger van playing with children much younger than him. He drove miles and miles for them and for us. And they (and we) love him.

In less than a month, my love-child is going to be a daddy — an excellent daddy.  He’s going to love his little girl, bounce with her when she’s fussy, run with her when she has energy, read to her when she’s sleepy, and beat her (most of the time) in Memory and Candyland until she can legitimately beat him.  He’s going to walk her into her first day of kindergarten, go to all her events whether she dances or tumbles or dives or runs, and he’s going to love her like crazy.

I hope she’s a blond with a raspy voice, but she’s already got us, and she hasn’t even said ‘hello’.  My love-child’s love-child.

Psalm 127:3

Children are a heritage of the Lord, offspring a reward from him.

Princess Pearl

On December 8, 1995, a little girl was born to us.  We loved her instantly, dressed her in snuggly soft clothing, and gave her a name that means Princess Pearl.

Let’s talk about pearls.   They are gems, but unlike other gems that need to be cut and polished to be beautiful, pearls are ‘born’ with, according to American Pearl, “a shimmering iridescence,  lustre, and soft inner glow unlike any other gem on earth.” That’s our pearl, she stands out — she is unlike anyone else I have ever met.  She is strong; she is beautiful; she is treasured.

Her strength is seen in her passionate devotion to justice.  This girl can cut to the truth and articulate it so quickly that she leaves the opposition standing with mouth gaping.  She stands up to inequity and prejudice with indignation; she calls it out.  I remember when she was in the fourth grade she went to the principal and advocated for change in the holiday program that seemed a bit biased toward the Jewish population of the school while minimizing the voice of the Christian population of the school.  Yes, our little girl marched into the principal’s office and articulated her complaint. Guys, she got the change she advocated for.  In the fourth grade.

Her beauty is not only physical, though she is breathtakingly stunning, but it is also in her love, especially for her friends.  In the presence of ‘her people’ this girl radiates.  She beams onto her friends like a spotlight.  She pulls them into conversation, she encourages them, she infuses life into them.  Wherever she goes folks run to greet her, to hug her, to laugh with her, and to have some crazy personalized exchange that no one else seems to understand. She knows her people deeply.

This girl is treasured — by us, yes, but by so many others!  She has her family, yes, but she has grafted so many others into her family tree!  The branches spread from Los Angeles to Portland to Boston to St. Louis to Chicago to who knows where else!

She’s a pearl — a strong, beautiful, treasured jewel.

Is she a princess?  Princesses, by definition, are daughters or granddaughters of kings.  It’s their identity.  They are born into the family and its position. It’s not a reflection of character, but a statement of belonging. Our girl is a child of the King.  And as His princess, has unlimited access to the King, and his Kingdom.  She can go directly to Him and ask for anything she wants. She can’t ‘un-princess’ herself. She is a daughter of the King — forever.  Many princesses choose to use this position as a free ticket to a life of privilege and power, sitting in the castle eating bonbons. Not our pearl.  She eschews her privilege to journey out into the villages, befriending the people, spotting injustice, and using her voice to call attention to it — to change it.

She’s my kind of princess, my kind of pearl– His strong, beautiful, one-of-a-kind, treasured jewel — forever.

Children are a heritage of the Lord

Twenty-two years ago today I gave birth for the first time.  She was a healthy baby girl.  I remember gazing at her sleeping in her little bassinet next to my hospital bed.  I was suddenly overwhelmed with the gravity of the situation.  My husband and I had chosen to have a baby.  We had done all the prenatal care, childbirth classes, and reading we were supposed to do, but suddenly it was real.

To be fair, my husband brought a delightful young boy to our marriage.  He had been through this experience before.  It was not new to him.  And, for over two years, I had been sharing the responsibility for our son’s life, but this was different.  This was flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone.

What if I messed up?

Well any parent out there who is alive and breathing knows that in twenty-two years I have indeed ‘messed up’.  Parenting isn’t pretty.  It has beautiful moments, true, but as a whole, it’s a series of decisions, hugs, tears, guesses, steps, missteps, apologies, kisses, and prayers. And somehow, miraculously, we are blessed with human beings that in some ways resemble us, in other ways surpass us.  They make us proud, worried, amazed, confused, and humble.

The one we are celebrating today has a very tender heart.  Her name, which we gave her, means ‘full of grace, mercy, and prayer’.  She has the kind of grace that loves people.  She especially loves those who have been overlooked, especially children who have been overlooked.  She has mercy on them.  She sits down with them, looks them in the eyes, and listens to them.  She prays for them. She prays with them.

She’s not perfect.  She’s kind of loud, she’s pretty goofy, and she’s clumsy. She’s pretty hard on herself.

So today I pray for her that she will see the One who loves her, even when she feels overlooked.  I pray that she will sense Him sitting down with her, looking her in the eyes, and listening to her.  I pray that she will know that I am praying for her and with her.

She’s not perfect, but she’s perfectly His, and amazingly ours.

Psalm 127:3

Children are a heritage of the Lord,

offspring a reward from him.

Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time.  Ahhhh, gotta love it.

I remember when the kids were little, daylight savings time just made me angry.  My kids woke up at the same time as every other day; they didn’t get the memo.  They always woke up around 6:00am, so DST just meant 5:00am.  I once packed all the little ones in the car first thing in the morning, drove to Target, and bought alarm clocks.  These clocks were not to wake them up in the morning.  No, these clocks were to be set at 6:30am — the time when they were allowed to get out of bed.  Until the alarm went off, they were to stay put.

We stayed up a little later last night watching the final moments of a football game, so, in the absence of little ones, we enjoyed the luxury of sleeping that extra hour this morning.  I knew we had pushed it a little too far when I felt a wet nose pressing into my face.  Oh, yeah, we still have Chester.  He hung in there like a champ, but his bladder would hold no longer!

I’ve noticed that in Michigan darkness lasts a little longer than it does in Missouri.  The sun comes up a little later and goes down a little earlier.  I am sure someone could explain the science of this to me, but really I just see it as an invitation to sleep longer.  If the good Lord wanted me out of bed, he would turn on the lights, right?

Now, don’t worry.  I don’t actually sleep the whole time it is dark outside.  Even I can’t sleep that long! And what do we need to save the daylight for anyway?  Doesn’t everyone have electricity?

When I finally crawled out of bed this morning, I was greeted by a beautiful fall day.  It’s chilly, to be sure, but absolutely beautiful. The daylight, knowing that it has just been rescued, is beaming down casting shadows on our lawn.  The leaves are mostly off the trees, so from my perch here in the office, I can actually see the river, not just imagine it.  A pudgy little squirrel is outside my window eating every last acorn he can find. He’s taking advantage of the daylight.  Maybe he knows what is coming.

But I don’t want to talk about that.  Nope.  I am going to blissfully enjoy the beautiful fall day! I am full on that extra hour of sleep and headed out to an hour or more of worship.

Ahh….gotta love Daylight Savings Time.

Psalm 118:24

This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Not quite full…

Even though my house is full, I am very aware of those who are missing…my sons.  Thankfully, we were able to see our oldest son and his wife over the weekend, but our younger son serves in the military and we haven’t seen or talked to him in a while.  He let us know on Sunday that he is fine and that we’ll hear more in a couple of days, but having seen the other 3/4 of our kids this week, I am feeling his absence.  

Each one of our children is unique, aren’t they?  Even if they are close in age, and raised under very similar circumstances, each one has his or her unique DNA, unique expression of that DNA, unique self.  And when all of that uniqueness combines, it is magical.  I often say that dinner with our whole family is not for the faint of heart.  It is a fast-paced, laughter-filled, exchange of information that few can track for any length of time.  You kind of have to grow into it.  

Spending time with any one of our children, or any particular combination of two or three or more is a blessing.  And each combination is different — the oldest alone, the older two together, the youngest alone, the younger two together, the middles together, the boys together, the girls together — and fabulous in its own way.  Each solo or combination is like a favorite song — I love to hear it and want to play it over and over. 

But of all my favorite songs, my favorite-favorite is the song of all of my kids together under one roof, making all their particular sounds together.  

I imagine that is what heaven will be like for God.  He will have us all together — all ages, genders, races, ethnicities, socio-economic statuses — and he will rejoice to hear us all together.  

And just like I am thinking about the one I am missing, even while the others are with me, God pursues those who are missing, and desires them to come home and be under His roof, joining in his favorite-favorite song.  

For this reasons, He is likely to ‘leave the ninety-nine, and go in search of the one.’ He loves each one.  I am one.  You are one.