Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Tender Heart

So last night I was grading the boys' tests and going over some papers. I always expect a few things to slip through the cracks, especially since I'm working and my husband and I trade off working with the boys on their schooling. But when I graded Joel's math test, I realized more than a few things had slipped through. He barely passed, and some things that I knew should be easy for him, those he struggled with. So I went back through his math booklet and started checking some things. It seems that Joel didn't bother to correct anything that was wrong in his exercises. They're supposed to do the work, check their answers, and then correct anything that's wrong. Joel wasn't bothering to check any answers. Then I started reviewing his other subjects. He checked his answers there, but he never corrected anything. It was a long and unpleasant evening last night, culminating in appropriate discipline and tears. Then, since it was late, I sent him on upstairs to get ready for bed. After he got his pajamas on, he came downstairs to get a drink of water and then paused on his way back up to bed.
I looked up where he stood on the stairs.
"Will you pray for me that I'll remember do it right from now on?"
I smiled and pulled him toward me. "It's not a matter of remembering, is it?" I asked. "It's a matter of determining to do right."
He nodded and then we prayed together. Joel's voice cracked as he told the Lord he was sorry for doing wrong. Then he told God how much he loved Him.
His tender heart spoke to mine. He may have done wrong, but he was truly repentant. And he wanted very much to do right.
Will he mess up again? Absolutely. But as long as his heart is tender before the Lord, we can deal with wrong choices and things done improperly. It's all washed away and he gets a fresh start this morning. Of course, his fresh start includes fixing all the answers he got wrong in all his subjects. Wrong choices have consequences. But again, the heart attitude makes it much easier to bear.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Different Perspective

We had a funeral this past Saturday. And it was a glorious one. The lady who passed away was eighty-two, and a member of our church. She had been bedridden for the past four years, so I had never met her, even though my husband visited her fairly often. Mrs. Marshall went home to be with the Lord on Sunday morning, March 22nd. Family and friends gathered from as far south as Jamaica, and as far north as New York. The family had a caterer prepare a meal and told us they expected around one hundred people to show up. So we cleaned and prepared and set up seating for 110 people in the fellowship hall. That took all our table and most of our folding chairs.
The funeral was to begin at 11:00. I got to the church shortly after 10:30, and the auditorium was already standing room only. All pews were full. Chairs set up down the aisles were full. People stood across the back of the auditorium and up the stairs at the back to the little storage room there. The foyer was shoulder-to-shoulder. People stood outside, hoping for some glimpse into the service. People crammed into the nursery, where they could hear the service on the speakers in there. There were almost 300 people at that funeral.
I was one of the people standing on the steps at the back of the auditorium, so I had a good view of the crowd. As I looked over this vast sea of people, it hit me. What an impact Mrs. Marshall had on the world. She was born again, and her life and testimony bore that out. She reached people. She touched their lives.
Then the thought came, who would come to my funeral? It was not a selfish thought, although it sounds like one. But I wasn't worried about who would remember me or memorialize me after I'm gone. Instead the thought turned to how many people will I touch while I'm alive? Who do I impact? And how do I influence them? Do people see Jesus in my life?
I was deeply challenged that morning, as we celebrated Mrs. Marshall's home-going. I'm sure to her husband and family, it seems like life passed so quickly. Eighty-two years is not a long time in the scheme of things. If I want to touch people's lives for Christ, I don't have any time to waste.
Another thought that occurred to me was this: the ending will be the same for all of us. Sometimes we live our lives as though we expect them to go on forever. We make decisions without a thought as to how they affect our future. We live for self or determine that "I really deserve this". But eventually, we will all be standing face-to-face with Jesus. How trivial some of those decisions and choices will be at that moment!
When I see my Saviour, I don't want to have a long list of things I accumulated or moments of fun or personal recognition. I want to have a long list of people that I impacted for Him. I'd better get started. There's no time to waste.

Friday, March 27, 2009

About My Book

I've had some questions lately from people about my book, so I thought I'd take today to give you a little idea of what it is about. I write Christian Suspense Fiction, and the title of my novel is What Time I Am Afraid. I should note that's the working title. When a publishing house finally offers me a contract, the book could go through several title changes before it actually hits the shelves in a bookstore.
My story starts out with a woman, Jennifer Hamilton, who is on the mission field in Uganda. Just before the story opens, Jennifer's husband is killed in an auto accident, and Jennifer and her three children are stranded in the Ugandan town where they've lived for the last three years. There is a lot of political unrest in the area, and rebels attack the town while Jennifer and her children are in the marketplace. An American man in the marketplace rescues the family and then helps them escape. In the process of trying to get back to the States, Jennifer discovers that her husband was actually an intelligence agent and the missionary life was his cover. Once back in the States, Jennifer not only has to come to terms with the fact of her husband's deception, but she also finds out that the enemy thinks her husband might have passed crucial information on to her before he died. The only way to protect herself and her children is to find the information before they do. A task that might be a lot easier if she had any idea of what she was looking for. And if she knew who to trust with the information once she finds it.
I should mention that this is totally a work of fiction. I set the story in Uganda, obviously, because that's an area of the world with which I am familiar. But it is not based on our lives. My husband is still alive and he is not a member of the international intelligence community. At least, not that he will tell me. : ) On the other hand, we were chased out of Uganda by terrorists, so my experience has helped me with the emotions necessary for some of the scenes I had to write.
One of the reasons for talking about my book is because I want you to be interested enough to read it when it is published. Word of mouth is probably still one of the best forms of marketing out there. In addition, one of the things you can do to help me is to recommend my blog to people you know. I started this blog to get to know people and so that they could get to know me. The idea being that, if they liked what they learned about me here, that would be more incentive for them to want my books.
I'm also thinking about putting the first chapter here on my blog. I'm not sure how many posts that would take. The chapter is six 8-1/2 x 11 pages, double spaced, so I don't think it would be too long. If I did this, it would probably be not this coming week, but the next week, starting April 6th. If you think you'd be interested in reading the first chapter on my blog, let me know. And if you know someone else that would be interested, tell them to tune in as well. I can always use the feedback. What do you say? Sound interesting to you?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Appropriate Memorials

Okay, I should probably start out with a disclaimer. Today is a rant. I will probably offend someone with this. I did not mean to. But I have a pet peeve that has been gnawing at me for some time now and I thought I should just deal with it. If this offends you, ignore today's post and come back tomorrow. I don't promise to be in a better mood, but I will attempt to be less offensive.
And with that lead-in, I'll bet no one is drifting to another webpage yet, are you?

Have you ever seen those vehicles that have a decal on the back that says, "In loving memory of ..." and then they give a name and a birth and death date? Yeah, I hate those. If you have one, I'm sorry. I hate them for me. Before you write hateful stuff back, let me explain my reasoning.

It seems odd to me to put a memorial on a car. Flowers, and an altar or a pew in a church ... okay I get it. But usually when you put a plaque or decal that says "in loving memory" of someone, that means you gave that particular item as a memorial in honor of the person that died. How can a car be a memorial?

The only thing I can figure out is this--a vehicle that has that sticker on it was purchased with the life insurance money or inherited money upon the death of the deceased. In other words, what it says to me is, "I bought this nifty truck with the life insurance money I received when Billy Bob Monohan passed away. I put the decal here to dress it up some because it seemed a little tacky to use the money to buy a new truck."

Truthfully, I don't think it's tacky to use life insurance money in that way. I've already told my husband that I don't care what he does with the life insurance money after I'm gone. Just don't put my name on the vehicle. I believe that people that use that decal actually do want to memorialize a loved one. Maybe it helps with their pain or is a way of keeping them close. That's fine with me. But to an outsider looking at it, the decal says, "I lost my husband, but I got a new vehicle out of the deal." It just doesn't come across well.

Yesterday I saw a car with two of those decals in the back window. For two different people. Translation? "It took life insurance from two different deaths for me to be able to afford this car." It was really kind of sad because the car wasn't that great to begin with. Had it been a Hummer, I probably could have seen needing two decals.

Maybe I'm the only that looks at this in a weird way. If it's a gesture that brings someone comfort, I have no desire to take away from that. And it could be that in most people's minds it's completely acceptable. That's okay. Do what you want with this.

But if I ever see my name on a vehicle like that, I'm going to come back and haunt it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tagged: 7 Things About Me

I've been tagged by Dani Joy and I am supposed to share seven things about me that no one knows. I have agonized over this in the past when I've had to share a certain number of things about me. Basically because there are some things better left secret. Some things about me no one needs to know. But let me see what I can come up with.

1. When I was younger, we celebrated Halloween. (We know better now.) One year I went as Miss America. I had a silver dress and high heeled shoes that were way too big for me. I even wore a Miss America Banner and a little tiara. The problem was, the Halloween party was at Awana. Great costume, but I didn't do too well in the games that night.

2. At the age of six, I had my four front teeth pulled on the advice of a dentist. He said the baby teeth had been in there way too long and needed to come out, so he pulled them, even though two weren't even loose. I went for the next two years without front teeth.

3. I enjoy public speaking.

4. It has been my lifelong dream to visit Israel someday.

5. Most of the time if I burn something that I'm cooking, it's because I was trying to read while I was cooking. (Not the cookbook.)

6. I've lost eleven pounds.

7. I have waaaaaaaaay more to lose before I reach my goal.

What have we learned from this? I don't always have good judgment. And I've never had an easy time with dentists. Hope you enjoyed this. I certainly found it edifying. Or depressing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Facing My Giants

There are certain situations that intimidate me. Areas where I know I'm weak or ineffective. I work on those areas and try to make them stronger, but some of it just does not come naturally to me. Once in a while an occasion will come up that showcases these weaknesses, and I dread it when that happens. I know no one can be good at everything. (Although I also know people that come uncomfortably close to being good at everything.) There are some areas where I really shine. I am (I think) an above-average writer. I thrive on public speaking. (I know, that makes me weird.) Put me in front of a group and I will soon be in my element. One-on-one I'm not as good at, but I'm working on it.
So what areas intimidate me? Are you ready for my deep dark little secrets?
Creative get-togethers. I've been invited to two scrapbooking parties in my life. I enjoy the concept of scrapbooking, but I'm not very good at it. I just don't get really great ideas about how to display things on a page. My efforts always look amateurish and silly. At one scrapbook party I spent the entire time writing. "Journaling" they called it, but it was writing. I can do all sorts of things with words if someone gives me a blank page. Pictures and decorations? Not so much.
The other party was actually a tag decorating party. My immediate thought was, they make tags already. Why do we have to decorate them? A friend who is aware of my limitations bought me a tag decorating set so I could hold my head above water. Mine still looked kindergarten ready.
I was also once invited to a baby shower. The mother-to-be was in another city, so everyone brought their gifts and wrapped them at the shower. I've wrapped hundreds of gifts--no problem there--and I wasn't worried until I got to the party. There were all sorts of ribbons and stickers and fun things to decorate your presents AND design cards. I bribed someone else to wrap my present for me and I spent my time writing funny stuff in my homemade card. Which had no decorations on it.
There's not getting around it. I didn't get the craft gene.
The other area of intimidation? Are you ready for this? Pot luck suppers. Church fellowships. That sort of thing. And we go to a church that fellowships at least once a month. Sometimes twice a month. And they have themes. You can't just bring the one dish that you perfect for these occasions. One night it might be chicken night. Another night we all do soup and chili. Another fellowship might have a tex-mex theme. I'm really out of my element here. But I'm the pastor's wife. There's no getting around this one. I've got to bring stuff.
So I've pushed myself out of my comfort zone. But I still have a few rules to make things easier on myself.
1. I never try new things. If I haven't made it several times I don't bring it to a fellowship.
2. I don't aim for the best on the table. I don't care if no one ever asks me for my recipe. I just don't want to have my dish still full when everyone else's is scraped clean on the buffet table. I definitely aim for middle of the road here. I just want something good enough to blend in.
3. I keep quiet about what I brought. There's no sense in making a big deal out of mediocrity. I don't mind not standing out for greatness as long as I don't stand out for the worst dish ever.
So there you have it. Some of my weaknesses. Areas where I long to measure up, but I'm afraid I never will. What about you? Where's the end of your comfort zone? And what do you do about it?

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Do I Look Like?

Do other people see you the same way you see yourself? I've wondered this for a long time. What do people see when they look at me? What word (or words) come to mind?
I know what I'd like people to think. Words like gorgeous, wise, funny, friendly, beautiful ... but hey, this isn't about what I dream, this is about what I look like. I've gotten lots of different comments on people's perceptions of me, but there are three that keep coming back.
The first comment is, "You don't look old enough to have that many children." A better variation is, "You don't look old enough to have children that old." I've gotten those two comments several times. I like those comments. : ) I can live with them.
The next comment, "You look like a teacher." Variations usually come when people ask if I am a teacher or tell me they assumed that I was a teacher. I did teach High School English for most of last year, but that's about it. And I'm a homeschool mom--I think that has a separate look though. : ) I don't know how teachers are supposed to look and I don't know what about me gives me that look. But I hear it a lot. Hmmm. Maybe because I usually seem to be telling people what to do? Nah!
The third comment? "You look familiar." I hear that an awful lot. I'd like to think that my features are unique and that people have actually met me but they don't remember where. But I'm afraid it's more likely that I have a common "look". Again, I don't know what that might be. I've never seen anyone that looks like me. Well, except for me. : )
So I have two questions for you today. What do I look like? A lot of you have never met me in person, so your opinion would be based on what I look like electronically. : ) I'm not asking for compliments here. And obviously fake flattery is an insult to the receiver, so don't go there. : ) Tell me why I'm familiar or why I look like a teacher. I've wondered that for a long time.
If you don't want to comment on that, then tell me how people perceive you. What kind of comments do you get?
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Addendum to Making Things Fair

Almost forgot! I have one other suggestion for dealing with bullies and such. Have lots of kids. Teach them that family comes first and instill a fierce loyalty to family in them. Eventually they become a gang of their own and people will learn not to mess with them. Matt once dealt pretty strongly with a guy who picked on Luke. Matt's response was NOT proportional, and he got into trouble for it. On the other hand, the guy never picked on Luke again.
At another time, Matt was in a confrontation. The argument stuck with words, not fists. But later on Stephanie told me that she was on the edge of her seat, ready to fly into the fight as soon as the first fist was thrown.
Teach your kids to stick up for each other and protect each other. If they know that they have a strong home that loves and supports them, they can face all the bullies in the world.

Making Things Fair

On my last post, I talked about Luke's disappointment and the fact that we can't make everything right for our children. In the comment section, Dani Joy wrote, "Actually, lately they have been getting ridiculed in Karate and in the park. My hubby has great advise for them but as a mommy I want to just go and take care of it all. What advise would you give?"
I can give advice here, but I have to warn you that I'm not an expert. I have the experience of a mother of twenty years (I can't believe I"m actually admitting that!) and I have six children. My mothering skills are sometimes suspect--although so are my cooking skills. And I haven't killed anybody yet (with either skills) so that has to count for something. Right? But before I give the advice, I do need to make the following disclaimer:

The advice presented here in no way is a replacement for professional advice. Some advice from me has been known to cause dizziness, headaches, tears and the occasional upset stomach. If these symptoms persist or are intense, discontinue my advice and seek a doctor's help immediately. Or simply don't seek my advice again.

Okay, now that we've got that out of the way, on to the ridiculing. I mean the advice about ridiculing. I mean the advice about dealing with the ridiculing. (I'm not an expert at this; did I mention that?) When someone teases or ridicules my children, as a mother I want to pin that person up against the wall with their feet dangling and make sure they understand the results of their ill choices in life. However, a mom that attacks a ten-year-old--no matter how big a bully he is--tends to be frowned on by the authorities. And by the ten-year-old's mother. And by society in general. So I've never done that. That's just my first instinct. Just wanted you to know that was a normal feeling, but don't act on it.

All kidding aside, I have found in the majority of times, a parent's involvement in a problem between children only makes it worse. I would never tolerate abuse of my children. But on the other hand, there are bullies and mockers in the adult world too. And if I deal with everyone that picks on my child, he will never learn to stand up for himself. When my children have complained about someone making fun of them, I usually do several things. For what they're worth, here they are:

1. I chat back and forth with my child and casually ask a few questions. Once in a great while, my child has done something to bring this on themselves. The important thing is to get the whole story, but also to let your child know that you hear them. You're listening.

2. Depending on the situation, I might tell my child to ignore it and it will go away. Or I might give my child a few quips to toss back (I don't aim for insulting--just funny). I might also remind my child of all the friends he has that don't make fun. (Kind of refocus him, if you will.)

3. I pray with my child. I don't ask God to make the problem go away. I ask God to give my child wisdom to deal with it.

4. I remind my child to remember what this feels like if they ever get tempted to make fun of or bully someone else.

5. I reassure my child of how much they're loved.

6. After my child has gone on their way, I pray that God will give me the wisdom I need. And that's usually when I do ask Him to make the bully go away. : )

Some things I don't do:

1. I don't usually have a talk with the bully or the "maker-funner" person.

2. I don't tell my child bad things about the bully. Ex: "He's bigger than everyone else because it took him three years to get through second grade."

3. I don't shadow my child like a personal bodyguard, standing on the sidelines and glowering menacingly at the bully. (Although I may show up once or twice, unannounced, just to gauge the situation for myself.)

4. I don't "make it up to my child" by giving him extra privileges, special treats, etc. (My reasons here would make an entire post on their own.)

5. I don't pull my child out of the situation (remove him from the class, take him to another playground, etc.) unless the situation gets extreme.

These are just some basic, general guidelines. I should also say that these are strictly for bullying or unkind mocking situations. These are not rules we live by in the general raising of our kids. For instance, we do give them special treats sometimes. Just not to make up for wrong that someone else has done. Generally speaking.

Okay, have I issued enough disclaimers to keep myself out of trouble? Probably not. Go ahead with comments, questions, disagreements. I can take it. And I promise not to stand here and glower menacingly at my computer while I read them either. As for pinning you up against a wall with your feet dangling, well ...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Poochie Lip Disease

As a mom, I am opposed to pouting for pouting's sake. I don't believe in pouting in order to get your way. After all, it never worked for me, so why should I allow it to work for my kids?
But in spite of that, there is something about the "poochie lip disease" that can really tug at your heart. Remember when your kids were just a couple of weeks old? You might be staring at them, studying their perfect little features. And just that quickly, the lower lip trembles and pooches out. Suddenly, they've gone into full-blown wailing, complete with waving fists and squirming bodies. And their problem might be as simple as being hungry, or being too tired.
When they're older, they may no longer burst into frequent tears and wails, but you get to where you can see the signs that something is wrong. You get to where you can read them a little bit. The two-year-old that's cranky or whiny. The energetic six-year-old that acts listless and tired when they're getting sick. You read the signs and you help take care of the problem.
When the kids get older than that, it's not so easy. My fifteen-year-old is a pretty happy guy. He mostly takes things as they come and is pretty agreeable in most cases. On Saturday Terry took our three oldest boys to a neighboring church that had a big Game Feast. They use it as a means of outreach every year and have had many saved during this event. They also have wild game at the dinner and archery and BB shooting contests. Last year Luke won the archery tournament and received a couple of arrows mounted on plaques. They hang on his wall now. For months he's been looking forward to this event and the opportunity to win something once again.
Saturday night they got home and I asked him how it went. He gave me an overly bright smile and said it was great. But there was pain radiating from his eyes.
Come to find out things were set up differently this year. He was in a different age bracket in the competition. There was a much longer process to actually qualify to compete in the contest.
And he hadn't won anything.
I told him I was sorry things hadn't worked out. He said it was okay, gave me another false smile and went to take a shower.
I hurt for him. I wanted to make it better. I wanted to give him some sort of a prize anyway. He'd looked forward to this for so long and he was so disappointed. It didn't help when his younger brother walked in with a ribbon for winning in the younger age division. Paul also had a really cool metallic rainbow pocket knife that he won. I enthused with Paul for winning, but I also wanted to make it up to Luke.
But I couldn't.
Unfortunately, Luke had to learn one of life's lessons last Saturday night. You don't always win. No one wins every time. He was a good sport about it, but the disappointment was still there. Sometimes life has disappointments.
I desperately want to always make things better for my children. But if I shield them from all pain now, if I "make things better" to the point that my children never know disappointment or pain, how are they going to survive when they become adults? I truly believe that many parents are crippling their children by trying to always "make things fair". Life is not fair. How much better to teach them to deal with disappointments than to try to convince them disappointments don't exist?
It was a lot easier when they were smaller. I could make it all better by feeding them, changing them, or just cuddling them for a time. But when they get bigger, thermometers and bandaids don't always make everything all right.
Luke survived Saturday night's disappointment. He had a good attitude about it, he hasn't brooded over it. He's looking forward to the next event in life. And next year he'll be at the Game Feast again. Next year he'll compete. But whether he wins or not, he'll be a stronger, more mature person because of this year's experience.
Growing up is painful sometimes. And I think sometimes it truly is harder for the parents than for the children.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Announcing Great Hair Days

I just thought I'd let ya'll know that I will be having great hair days for the next three days. (I know you were all wondering about that!) : )How do I know? Simple. I made an appointment to get my hair cut.
See, it's like this. I always wait way too long to get my hair cut. I hate having it done, so I keep putting it off. The end result is, when I call for a hair appointment, it's because my hair has lost all sense of any type of style at all. In short, when I call for a haircut, it's because I need one desperately.
By some strange coincidence, when that happens I can't get an appointment for a week or more. I called last Thursday, and my appointment is for this coming Wednesday. A whole week! So Thursday, Friday and Saturday my hair looked as horrible as always. (My hair will never give me a full week of great hair, no matter when my appointment is.) But by tonight, I started having great hair syndrome. See, once my hair knows I have an appointment, it starts behaving. In fact, it does more than behave. It acts better than hair on luxurious shampoo commercials. It's trying to psych me out. In the past I've fallen for it. I've decided my hair looked so good I didn't need a haircut. I canceled my appointment. As soon as I got off the phone, my hair went back to its usual completely-out-of-style look. So this time I've got it fixed. No matter how great I look, I'm going to keep that hair appointment. I figure, that gives me three days of great hair.
Of course, if my hair figures that out, then I'll have horrible hair for the next three days anyway. Somehow I'm not sure I'm going to win this one.
On the other hand, I'm fighting a battle with hair. Maybe I just need to get a life!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Say That Again?

Have you ever said something that sounded so different in your head than it did when it came out your mouth? I supposed that happens to all of us from time to time. (Please tell me I'm not the only one!) My problem is, lately I've been hearing things coming out of other people's mouths that I really wished sounded better. For instance ...

After hearing about some of the events in my rollercoaster life lately, I had one acquaintance tell me that hearing about my life made her life easier to handle.

I hope that sounded better in her head!

We're going as a family to spend a week with our daughter up at college. She said she wanted pizza while we were together. I said okay, any homecooked meals she had a longing for?


She hasn't been home in a year. Are my meals that forget-able?

This week at work they decided to put me in charge of quality control. "I think you're the right person for the job," my boss enthused. "You can polish up our reports because you've taught English. You've graded papers half your life. And you have a critical eye."

He might want to be careful. I have a critical tongue too.

The more I think about it, the more I realize there are three possibilities.

1. I'm being overly sensitive.

2. This sort of thing happens all the time, and it's just a coincidence that I noticed them happening so closely to each other.

3. Something about myself or my life just kind of invites this sort of thing.

There are also three solutions:

1. If I'm being overly sensitive, I can go eat chocolate.

2. If it's a coincidence, I can ignore it and go eat chocolate.

3. If I invite these comments, I can stuff cotton in my ears and go eat chocolate.

Which route do you think I should take?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Matt!

My oldest son turned twenty today. I'm having trouble even wrapping my head around that thought! How come he is twenty when I haven't gotten any older? Here's a picture of him from a couple of years ago. My husband is in the middle and Matt's to the right. They put this picture on a billboard in Madison, Alabama, to advertise my husband's painting business.

I don't know how much business we got from the billboard, but Matt got a lot of feedback from it!

This picture was taken after we moved to Florida. He hates this picture, but I happen to think he's a pretty good looking guy. Not that I'm prejudiced or anything!

So in honor of Matt's birthday today, I thought I'd give you a visual and a verbal peek at him.
Matt's creative. He's the one I go to when I want to brainstorm and spin plot ideas around. He's written (and published) several poems, and he's also pretty good as a painter. His ideas and hard work resulted in a terrific first VBS for us last year. Since then he's been working on ideas for this year's VBS. I don't think we could do it without him.
Matt's also a tough guy. He likes to lift weights and workout. He likes hunting and snorkeling and boating. He's had enough training that he's better with a gun than most average police officers.
Matt sings tenor and bass (but not at the same time.) He runs our junior church and preaches in there most Sundays. He's finished his freshman year of college and is sitting out this year to pay off debts and earn the money to go back. This has been a difficult year for him, and he struggles with being impatient to get back to school.
Matt's got a great sense of humor too. The other day my husband asked me if I wanted to go out to dinner. It was the same week we found out how much damage I did to my car, and after he left the room I wondered out loud to Matt why he would take me to dinner. Matt summed it up with typical male practicality. "Maybe he's hungry for Olive Garden and you're a convenient excuse to go."
Matt works nights as a security guard. He's supposed to stagger his shift so that some nights he goes in at five and some at seven and some at nine. This makes it very hard for him to catch up on sleep. Sometimes if his dad or I wake up during the middle of the night, we'll call him to see how he's doing. He also has standing orders to call us when he's on his way home and he's having trouble staying awake. We've told him we don't mind waking up and talking to him to keep him awake until he gets home.
Being a considerate guy, Matt doesn't usually take advantage of that. One night he was so tired he knew he wouldn't make it. So he pulled over into a mall parking lot, parked and set his phone alarm for thirty minutes. He figured that would give him enough rest to make it the rest of the way home. (He's got quite a drive.) The thing is, Matt left his car running and his headlights on. He drew the attention of some police officers who came knocking on his window. The problem is, Matt sleeps like a hibernating bear. Almost nothing wakes him up. And even after he sits up and looks around, he's not capable of functioning fully. He told us later that he flailed around in his car like a drunk, trying to find the controls to let the windows down so he could talk to the cops. He told the cops what he was doing, they ran a check on him, and then told him to shut off his car and his lights and go back to sleep. Then they parked not far from him. Matt didn't want to disobey, but the surge of adrenalin had him wide awake. He waited until they finally left and then headed home.
Another night Matt made it home, but then fell asleep in his car in the driveway. He's also made it in the house and fell asleep in the living room floor.
Matt and I have a running argument. My labor with him was long (he was 10-1/2 pounds, 22 inches long), but I never could remember exactly how long it was. I said 36 hours, he said I told him 32 hours. Last night I was on the phone with him, wishing him a happy birthday a couple of minutes after midnight. He brought up the argument so I finally did the math and agreed it actually was only 32 hours of labor. it was a great birthday present for him. He was thrilled to have finally won the argument. I say once you get past 30 hours of labor, who cares how long it was? He still owes me!
Happy birthday, Matt! I'm so glad you're a part of our family!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Okay, since no one wanted to share anything yesterday (thanks a lot, people! Way to leave me hanging there!) I thought I'd continue in the same vein today. Because after all, there's nothing like rubbing it in. Just kidding.
But yesterday's post did get me thinking about actual experts. I know several that I turn to for different needs. I thought I'd share my experts with you. And if you don't want to leave me hanging for a second day in a row, you could share some too. Just a little shout out of thank you to those whose expertise makes my life easier.
First of course is my husband. He's an expert in two fields. I go to him with Bible questions and firearm questions. He's well-trained in both. NOTE**For those of you wondering, I have firearm questions occasionally because of the fiction I'm writing. Get a grip!
For organizational and logistical questions, I go to Tammy Williams. I can't begin to tell you how many times she's helped me organize a room, pack a suitcase, or generally get something in my life more organized.
For mothering advice I go to Jan Allison. She has a great track record (anyone met Kari and Kathy?) and she always has good practical, Scriptural advice about mothering. She has great advice about a lot of other things too, but I'll stick to this one for now.
Fashion critiquing and advice? Cindy Nicholson.
When I have homeschooling questions or educational questions in general, I call Susie Rawle. She practically wrote the book on this stuff.
For plot problems I go to Matt. He's always ready to brainstorm new story ideas and plot twists. Can't imagine where he got that imagination!
Vacation Bible School? Wally Bryant and Larry Nicholson. No one's better.
When I need uplifting and encouragement? Well, God's given me so many people it's hard to list them all. I could pick out just about any lady in our church. At one time or another they've all hugged me and told me they're praying for me. They're a fantastic bunch of people!
For a dash of humor, a twist of wisdom and general good feelings, I turn to you. Thanks Pilar, Ingrid, Freda, Nina, Theresa, Tracy ... Your comments, your blogs--your presence ... thanks for being there.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Self-Proclaimed Experts

We've all seen them, right? People who feel they are experts in one or another area of life. The man who is always on the cutting edge of technology. The kid who knows everything there is to know about programming computers. The lady that always nails it with fashion. They're the experts. We may even have a few areas in our own lives where we consider ourselves to be experts. Not that we would brag about it, certainly, but it's obvious we have more than just a working knowledge.
But what about the people who think they're experts when they're not? The confident soloist--who really shouldn't be singing. The expert in the kitchen--only her dish is always the last to be touched at the church potluck. The style guru who really thinks no one sees the three to four inches of dark hair at her part.
For this reason, I tend to keep some opinions to myself. Not on my blog, of course. This is my blog and I'll give any opinion I want here. But I'm always afraid of being proved wrong--or finding someone in the crowd that actually knows more about it than I do. So I try not to come across as an expert in most things.
I also have some areas where I know good and well I come up short. I sing alto, and I've done some singing in groups at church. I have an adequate four-note range. : ) If I practice enough I can hit the notes decently and blend with someone. But I do not have a voice that people clamor to hear all the time. I'm aware of that.
I play piano and organ--adequately. That is to say, the song service won't actually grind to a halt while I'm playing. I have no false illusions about being the best.
I can be a decent cook when I want to be. I have my share of flops, but I can turn out some fairly appetizing things as well.

I'm a bad driver.

I never thought I was really good at it. I mean, I'm not one of those people that assumes no one will ever get carsick when I'm driving. Shoot, I've made myself carsick when I'm driving. I guess I never really thought that it took talent to drive well. Learn the rules of the road, get behind the wheel and go. But it doesn't come naturally to me. If I want to be a good, smooth driver, I have to focus and concentrate on what I'm doing. Except I don't.

I'm usually listening to talk radio or a music CD. I may be talking to anyone of the half dozen kids in my vehicle. I've been known to put on makeup while driving. (It doesn't improve the look, trust me.) Who doesn't talk on the phone while driving? I've even dictated parts of books into a tape recorder while behind the wheel.
I think I've had two accidents in the twenty-two years that I've been driving. They were both minor (one didn't even cause any damage) and both were the result of someone hitting me. But I tend to treat my vehicles roughly, all the same. I think I view them as if they were a tank. Except they're not.
One of our vehicles is a 12 passenger diesel van. It's quite the beast, but it's not invincible. Especially the tires. We've had to replace a couple. And I think mostly it was because I ran over something. I blogged last year about having to replace a tire and a rim. Probably because I hit a curb.
A couple of months ago we had to replace a tire on my car. I ran over something in the road.
And then of course, just a few weeks ago, I cracked the wheel on my car. I was driving about 45 mph at the time and I was digging in my purse. The road swerved, but the car didn't and I ended up hitting the curb on the median. Last week I went to get the tire and wheel replaced. My husband also scheduled a front-end alignment for me, which seemed prudent at the time. But once they got under the car, they discovered that I also bent the strut. (Don't ask--I have no idea what a strut is.) Apparently that's a bad thing. They have to order a part and they can't do an alignment (the car needs both a front and rear alignment) until the strut is replaced. The wheel and tire cost almost $300. The strut and the alignment is going to be another $400.

I now pay attention when I drive. I don't dig in my purse. The only makeup I put on is lipstick. And I tell the kids to shut up more often. (Just kidding.)

I doubt I'll ever be an excellent driver. But I've just had a very important lesson in being a decent driver. I don't think I'm going to forget anytime soon.

Anyone want to confess something of their own? It'll make me feel better ...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Hello, Again

Sorry to leave you all hanging there last week. I was trying to catch up on everything left undone during Super Conference. By the time I got to my blog, I was so brain dead I couldn't function. So here's the wrap up from the last night of Super Conference.
First up, Evangelist Bill Abbott preached from Exodus 40, where Moses was preparing Aaron and his sons for the priesthood. Before they "came to the door of the tabernacle", they were cleansed. Bro. Abbott challenged us to make sure that, not only were we right with God, but that we were also right with man. He said that's where most Christians lose it, and that if you weren't right with man, you weren't right with God either. Then Aaron and his sons were consecrated. They wore special clothing made specifically for this purpose. They were anointed with oil. They were set aside for the Lord's work. They were also committed. They did not turn back, but followed through on serving God. As we believe in the priesthood of all believers, I think this was an important sermon in its applications to us as we "go boldly before the throne of grace".
Bro. John Reynolds finished out the week by preaching on the story in the Gospels about Blind Bartemaeus. After reading the passage he pointed out the view of the crowd. They referred to Jesus as "Jesus of Nazareth". They saw Him as a carpenter. A fix-it guy. He's the One you call if something's broken. He also applied this to how many people view God today. They call on Him when they're in trouble--that's what He's there for. He then went on to point out the vision of the blind man. Bartemaeus referred to Jesus as "Jesus, Son of David". This blind man saw that Jesus was the King. He was someone to salute, bow to and obey. Bro. Reynolds closed with asking us how we view Jesus--is He your Carpenter, or is He your King?
Very challenging messages. The altar was full Friday night, and God really moved.
So next year, ya'll come!
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