Tag Archives: family life

The Grumble Box

When our children were in elementary school, they began to drag down to breakfast with sour faces, complained aOctober 2015 015t scrambled instead of fried eggs, and whined they didn’t get the biggest cookie in their lunches.

They wanted striped shirts, not plain ones, and plain socks, not striped ones. They didn’t want to take the dog outside (the one they’d begged for and promised to take care of), and the toys were much too big a mess to clean up.

I prayed about what to do.

When the rescued people of Israel complained in the desert about manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, and manna for dinner, God was angry and sent them poultry to eat–so much poultry it piled up and spoiled, causing people to sicken and die.

If God considered complaining so serious an offense, I neeAugust 2015 111ded to take notice and teach my kids to be thankful for what they had and to do their work without complaint.

Then I came across Psalm 142:1-2,  which says: “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before Him my complaint; before Him I tell my trouble.”

So then, there were at least two kinds of complaint to consider—the legitimate need to share feelings and the self-centered whine. I had been working hard on the first–practicing the art of looking in my childrens’ faces and really listening to them.

It was the second that concerned me. That’s when I instituted the Grumble Box. October 2015 014

A Grumble Box can be made from anything. It can be a cardboard box with a colorful design and a slot cut in the top, or a decorated spice can. I wrote a little ditty for ours and taped it to the top of the box. It read like this:

When gratitude doth tumble and resulteth in a grumble, please deposit thou a coin, thy mouth for to humble.

“What’s this?” the kids asked when they came in the kitchen.

“This is the Grumble Box,” I said. “We all need to be more thankful and complain less. WAugust 2015 008hen you whine about doing chores or taking care of the dog or whatever, you’ll have to put a coin in the box.”

“What kind of coin?”

“It might be a penny, a nickel, a dime, or a quarter depending on the whine.”

“What about you?”

This took me aback.  “Um,” I said, “yes, of course–me too. If I grumble I’ve got to pay.”

The kids were suddenly more interested. “What will you do with all that money, Mom?”August 2015 090

“We’ll give it to kids who need it. We’ll put it in the globe bank for Children of the Nations.”

Children of the Nations is a non-profit that provides food, homes, schools and medical care to children  whose lives have been ravaged by war, poverty, disease, and death in the Dominican Republic and several African countries. For more info see www.cotni.org

For a while, the Grumble Box filled up quickly. When the kids tumbled down to breakfast, I’d ask if they’d all made their beds.August 2015 100

“But Mom,” one argued, “we’re just going to sleep in them again tonight!”

“Oh dear,” I’d say. “Grab a penny for the Grumble Box.”

“What? ” they’d holler. “All I said was…”

“Oh my—I guess you’d better make it a nickel.”

“Mo-om!”

“You drive a hard bargain–how about a quarter?”

One time I informed the kids we’d be cleaning the garage on Saturday.  “Okay,” said one of the boys, shoulders slumped, “I guess you’d better give me my allowance in small change.”IMG_2367

The Grumble Box proved to be the reminder we all needed to complain less. It became a light-hearted way to remember to think before we spoke, retrain our mouths, and practice self-control.

We also learned to be more thankful for what we had.

Every time we emptied the box into the bank and took the bank to Children of the Nations, we looked outside ourselves to see some hungry child get a full belly, or go to school for the first time, or find a place to belong in one of the small family-style orphanages.

And that was the best lesson of all.

 

 

 

 

And the Cattle on a Thousand Hills

What I know is I’m not good at waiting. What I know is when the cookies are baking, or the inning retires, or the little one sleeps, or the beans soak, I’m looking up houses online.

What I know is I’ve developed a sudden interest in geography—in streets I’ve never been down, in areas I pass when I drop off or pick up for school. And for each possibility I sit on the street or pull into the driveway if no one’s home and I say, Lord, is this the one?Aug 2015 EOS 027

Lord, is this the house that represents our fourth move in eight years, and do You think we can stay here longer this time?

In my mind I walk inside and say, Is this where we’ll sit on the couch during another Madeline movie and eat popcorn, or cuddle in the morning when the kids first wake up and don’t want to talk—just be wrapped in the sheep blanket with little woolies running over the brown hills?

I imagine which room might display the puppet jars, and paper shelves, anIMG_2195d the  Quartermaster’s Cabinet from WWI with all the drawers. Lord, is this where we’ll sit with the cousins, crayons, and cotton rag paper for a day of coloring and paint spills and fruit snacks?

Will we play on this lawn, Father God, and have squirt-gun fights, pick raspberries, and make ice-cream from heaven? Will we put chicken, onions, peaches, and beans in foil and throw it in the coals for a night of campfire stew?

Is this where Tim will make wine again, running up and down the basement stairs or into the garage with his little notebook to record specific gravity or add water to the mix?

IMG_2367Is this where we’ll drink wine, watch the sunset, open the blinds to the moonlight, and touch our bare feet together under the sheets?

Father God, I would love to have room for enough couches for Care Group to meet—the trill of guitar hymns sounding through the house and out the windows near the table or island or counter where the cookies, coffee, and tea are laid out.

Lord, do you think I could have chickens again?

And out of all the clamor and questions and changes of my mind, comes God’s still, small voice. It’s so gentle and patient, like a brush of His hand on my cheek, a lifting of my chin, a whisper to me to look in His eyes.IMG_2146

He reminds me that He is enough, that He knows all my needs and wants, that wherever He is, is home, whether or not it has couches, cupboards, raspberry bushes, or longevity, that He has far better gifts for me than I can imagine, that His grace is sufficient for me, even for waiting.

He reminds me that the foxes have holes but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, and He didn’t spend a moment worrying about where to cuddle a little one to watch Madeline.

He reminds me that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, as well as the moonlight and AuOldCompBackup 3015rora Borealis that shine on them. He reminds me He owns all whom I love, and that He is mine and I am His, forever and ever and always.

Then I remember all He has promised me is also His desire for refugees fleeing homelands today with nothing but the clothes on their backs, waiting for boats or trains that never come, getting turned away from port after port, and having their children wash up dead on the waves.

And maybe my eyes need to see and my heart needs to grow.

He reminds me He is the One who gives His children peace that passes understanding, sleep without fear, and a future that is guaranteed.Sept. 2015 003

All we need to do is REST IN HIM.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls, for My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28).

 

 

Everyday French Toast Moments

Ever had a day when the hurt of the world feels so big it makes you wonder if your little life, your small everyday moments, really matter–when your to-do list feels like a cop-out and your heart screams at you to stand up and make a difference in some grand, visible way?August 2015 027

Intellectually, I know what God has called me to, but today it feels like piffle. At the same time I find myself staring at the vase of black-eyed Susans, dahlias and hydrangeas on the kitchen table because it’s the only tidy place in the whole room.

How can my chores compare to the battles of firefighters?

The moon rose red Saturday from all the smoke, rose above the firs over the coffee pavilion where we listenedAugust 2015 065 to Steve McDonald play Celtic music while forest fires burned out of control on both sides of the Cascade range.

Thirteen firefighters lost their lives so that other people’s families, homes, lands, and forest might survive and flourish. One man with decades of safe firefighting lost his firefighting son last week and wishes it was himself.

We haven’t seen the neighbors for weeks. Both are rangers and firefighters. Lord, have mercy on them. Please protect them. Please, send rain.

While our daughter, son-in-law, and four kids played in the sprinkler and pool with us, banged croquet balls across dry grass, or waded in theAugust 2015 094 low creek, other people buried their sons and daughters who died fighting fires.

I can’t get my heart around that pain. Lord, please comfort those families who have lost loved ones. I don’t want them to think we’re playing at our little mountain cabin heedless of their sacrifices.

I don’t want them to think we take our green-treed butte for granted. Every good thing is a gift every day. Even coughing from the ash reminds that clean air is precious and not guaranteed, that men and women fight to preserve it for us.

Our eldest granddaughter called me on the mountain to say she’d entered Chocolate-Chip Cookies in the County Fair. This meant, since she spends most days with me, I’d have two hours when I got home to bake an entry also, so I’d have a pass to take her to the Fair.

I whisked my Cinnamon-Raisin bars out of thAugust 2015 038e oven with 45 minutes to cool, frost, and deliver. I set up a complicated cooling arrangement in the car using frozen gel packs on a rack over the cookie bars in front of air conditioning vents turned on HIGH. I started the engine.

The cup of confectioner’s glaze dumped over in the car. I saved enough for four bars–the required entry. The hot bars collapsed into indistinct lumps when I cut them.

I know what bothered me. I didn’t merely want to enter. I wanted to WIN. All the way to the Fairgrounds I prayed–Please get me there on time. I thought about whether or not this was a worthy prayer. Was it for my glory or God’s?

August 2015 032Then I remembered all the love funneled into this moment. I remembered teaching my granddaughter how to crack eggs when she was ten months old, how she graduated to French toast and surprised us with breakfast one morning.

Love is what He’s about. Love is what matters. The firefighter who lost his son isn’t crying because his son can’t fight fires anymore, but because they will never again share the small, everyday French toast moments of love that make life worth getting up for.

They’ve sacrificed those for you and for me.

I hope my granddaughter wins a blue ribbon. As for me, by God’s grace, I entered the Fair with four minutes to spare. Then I went home, hosed confectioner’s glaze off the car rug, did the laundry, washed dishes, went grocery-shopping and made dinner–honorable work, holy ground–building blocks for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I’ll take the girls to see farm animals, carnival rides, and Chocolate-Chip Cookie awards. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll share countless, small, everyday moments purchaJan 2014-Aug 2015 173sed with sacrifices and love I can’t begin to fathom, both Divine and human.

Please pray for firefighters and the families of those
who are lost. Write a note of gratitude to a firefighter or policeman. Then give thanks for all those small moments of love that aren’t so small, after all—
the ones so valuable that, at this very moment, people who don’t know us believe they’re worth risking their lives and even dying for.

When the Leaf Comes Out of the Table

The table is tidy with a turquoise windowpane tablecloth, a bouquet of flowers from Farmer Larry up the road, and chickadee salt-and-peppers perched on the edge of a vintage red-and-white quilt square. Overhead swings the Celebration Branch.August 2015 422 (2)

This one is simply a bare fir branch (no needles) wrapped with burlap and ribbon and currently decorated for summer with crayon resist flowers, frogs, and butterflies, mostly made by the grandkids. It’s all very pretty, but I ache over what’s missing.

What’s missing is the leaf in our kitchen table. What’s missing are our daughter, son-in-law, and four children, who left this morning for their home and ministry to the Ojibwa in Ontario’s far north. Our family table has shrunk. The house echoes.  My heart echoes.

What do I do with the sadness?

For two splendid weeks our home has been abuzz with six grandchildren, sprinklers, water squirters, arms outspread in soaked clothing, giggles, foil packets of campfire stew around the bonfire, tea with sugar cubes, Kung-Fu Panda, backgammon, and popcorn.August 2015 131

For two wondrous weeks I’ve listened to my earnest daughter instruct her children with the teachings of kindness on her tongue, my patient son-in-law lead bedtime prayer and songs, and the kids jockey to pick and eat garden blueberries, cucumbers, tomatoes, and beans.

For two humbling weeks I’ve been enfolded in the holy ground of hubbub--gooey fingers, cranky naps, and bright mornings. I’ve slowed down, sped up, whirled dizzily, and sat in a heap to soak it all in, confess my selfishness, hear God’s voice, and see His face in the faces of others.

I’ve slowly unclenched the fists of my normal two-grandchild daycare routine and settled into the rolling back seat of a speeding satellite sent to unlock the secrets of love and forgiveness in the eyes of six tumbling, grubby, priceless children. My heart is full.

Which was why today, carefully orchestrated as it was, was hard. Very hard.

August 2015 008The adults decided to sweeten the bitterness with a trip to the bakery this morning. It didn’t fool the kids.  All the children in my car said they didn’t want to go to the bakery (and that’s a first) because they knew the goodbyes would follow.

Goodbye for a year–maybe longer. I’m with them.

My heart aches at going back to ceramic plates instead of paper–paper having been faster to clean up so all of us could squeeze in rides on the Green Machines, wading in the creek, and making crayon resists on the kitchen table.

I know goodbyes are necessary. My children have a God-breathed calling and so do I. For them, it’s clinging to Jesus while balancing family and friends as well as running a Christian school, church, and Bible study in a remote town to which there are no roads–only twin-engine planes or trucks when the lake freezes.

For me, it’s clinging to Jesus while balancing home, family, friends, daAugust 2015 212ycare, school activities, church activities, critique group, art, and writing.

All holy ground. So what to do with the weight of good-bye?

I remember the happy faces, shared activities, and time spent wrestling with and resting in, God. With each memory,  I feel the restoration of the visit, the touch of my daughter’s skin, the sound of her hymnal voice, the strum of her donated guitar. I remember.

Family visits are like that–for helloes and I love yous and renewal and strengthening of bonds, for making memories last until the next time God grants us leave to see each other again.

How about you? How do you make memories? How do you make them last?

In the next few weeks, I’ll share fun activities that made this family visit so wonderful. WAugust 2015 409atch for these upcoming posts: How to Make Custom Packets of Campfire Stew the Kids Will Love, How to Make a Celebration Branch, and How to Do Crayon Resist.

For now, I sit at the kitchen table and gaze at the Celebration Branch. I watch the crayon-resist flowers, butterflies, and frogs twirl in the breeze. I’m so happy for the time we spent making them. I guess that’s why, amidst the tears,

I have a big smile on my face.

Calisthenics 2–In the Locker Room

Feb-Mar 2015 018 (2)I’m still wrestling with the whole idea of spiritual exercise. I guess I’m expecting some sort of radiance–you know–like the glow of healthy skin during physical exercise.

So far it’s not radiance but dog poop on one child’s feet, another tattling, two melting down, and me trying to create a quick meal everyone will like when we’re out of cheese, non-grainy bread, and juice.  Which makes me wonder if I’m on the wrong track?

Why does my life seem so small, so tunnel-visionly, so mundane, so “Martha?”July-Aug 2015 059

After I wrote Calisthenics 1, I looked for glorious ways to exercise my faith (the Holy Olympics? The Heavenly Oscars?) Instead, I found myself in what feels like the locker room of life–in the sweat and athlete’s foot and mopping after other people’s showers.

As if that’s somehow less…

I faced a grinning baby with a stinky diaper and his solemn older brother who also had a loaded one. To my shame, I told my daughter about her kids with the diaper needs–my girl who’s a missionary and currently battling an excruciating carpal tunnel.

But when I looked in her face, I saw her pain and exhaustion and longing. That’s when I saw You, too, Lord, hanging on the cross for me and for her. That’s when I thought about “…whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

I argued with You, I’m sorry to say. I argued I had dishes to do, and toy pick-up, and a child crying, and I wanted to ice my sore foot. I had a schedule to keep and isn’t orderliness Your way, too? What about margin and balance? July-Aug 2015 060 And You said,

Was it “margin” to go to the Cross?   

When I saw Your pain in my daughter’s eyes, I saw the connection between body and spirit. “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Body+living sacrifice=spiritual act of worship.

I saw Your cross planted like a fence post in holy ground, with the failures of all Your loved ones nailing Your body to it, soaked in Your sweat and blood, people weeping around You, some fighting over your clothes, and You thirsty, with only vinegar to drink.

Your words cut through the layers to pierce my flabby heart. “I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought…” (Romans 12:3). Ouch.

When living sacrifices change stinky diapers they worship on holy ground before the One who made children and daughters and bodily functions and weakness and strength.

I realize again it is always and ever about You–about seeing You in the face of my precious daughter, in the grin of her stinky one-year-old,  and in the slightly worried look of her equally stinky and larger three-year-old.July-Aug 2015 001 (2)

It is seeing You in the beautiful mundane, in the calling to which You’ve called me today (and who has any day but today)? It is seeing that when I offer my body as a living sacrifice (not a complaining or half-hearted one) I’m standing on holy ground.

Holy Ground.

It’s not mist, or a pillar of fire, or a golden glow emanating from my path. It’s sweat, tears, and praying in the kitchen. It’s stifling the impatient answer to my husband and speaking kindly. It’s being mindful of the connection between bodily action and spiritual worship.

So today when I delayed a chore to push a fussy baby on a trike, when clock-watching furrowed my brow and planted a plastic smile on my face, I remembered Holy Ground. And I looked around and thought, This–this is it.

Then I whispered Holy Ground to the little guy and he looked at me with his big eyes and quick smile, like Baby Jesus in my arms saying, “There you go. You’re getting it now.”1526329_10152095290999214_2084605039_n

He giggled at the ride and suddenly I couldn’t get over the overwhelming feeling of Your Presence–like my chest could explode right there on the back deck. And the radiance I was looking for?

The radiance is You.

 

In a Manner Worthy

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called…” (Eph. 4:1).

I tenderly stacked the soft clay “blessing bowls” the morning campers had made in the crafts room at foster kid camp. I loaded them in the car, then  headed home to let the dogs out, unpack the kiln, load more pots, and return to camp by afternoon craft time. On the way, I stopped for a burger.June 2015 067

That’s when I saw her.

A young woman sat on a rock, weeping. Her boyfriend hadn’t arrived to take her to her second job. She said she lived only 5-10 minutes away. Here was a soul crying out in front of me–there was my responsibility to campers. I prayed for God’s calling: Whatsoever you do for the least of these... Whatsoever.

She climbed into my car.

Her parents loved her but had kicked her out of the house because of her boyfriend. She said, “I wanted to be a grown-up, and now I have to work.”

In the 25-minute ride, we covered a lot of ground.

I drove and drove. She apologized. I said, “God runs my day and He chose to place you in it.”

I told her she is important to the One who created her. She sounded uncertain about her recent decisions. I encouraged her to “…speak the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15)–first to herself and then to others.

I was happy God allowed me to be a Good Samaritan, but worried about being late for camp. Mentally, I revved my to-do list to breakneck speed, despite the fact I stink at hurryJune 2015 057

Hurry  can turn my love on its ear like the flick of a lamp. Off.

“…with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love…”  (Eph. 4:2).

If only I’d applied God runs my day to the next precious person whom He gave me to serve.

At home, my husband was boiling a plastic tub of bean dip in a pan on the stove. He’d hoped it was homemade chili. Frustrated at this new delay, I marched to the garage and yanked chili from the freezer.

I had trusted God when He’d dropped a crying stranger in my path. But now, I grumbled about my husband coming for lunch–to his home, to his castle.

I slammed chili into a casserole dish to thaw, dirtying three pans to find the right size. I heard God calling, but I stormed past Him. I forgot to see Him in my husband’s face. I checked the tJune 2015 064ime–there wasn’t enough to prepare the chili before Tim returned to work.

I shoved it back in the freezer.

Flinging the pantry door open I gave him (or was it Him?) canned chili to cook for himself (Himself). I darted around–fussing, annoyed, and anxious.

But, back at camp–an hour late–no one had missed me. 

The other two helpers chatted. The campers swam in the lake (as it turned out) another hour-and-a-half. I heard His soft voice, “See, daughter? Do you understand now?”

My heart ached over my sin. I had to speak truth to myself–I hadn’t trusted God’s timing for camp or for Tim. I had failed the real test. I hadn’t walked in a manner worthy of the calling. I hadn’t been humble, gentle, patient, forbearing in love, or anything near a Good Samaritan.June 2015 054

I had been a robber.

I confessed it all to God. When I got home, my sweet husband apologized for “messing everything up,” which stabbed me to the core. I asked his forgiveness.

I dusted off my spiritual knees to try again.

How about you? Is it easier to walk “worthy” with strangers, friends, or family?

For me, family relationships are the most humbling litmus test of who I really am and a continual reminder of why I need a Savior.

In Ephesians, Paul called himself “a prisoner of the Lord” and determined to “walk in a manner worthy” of that calling.

I want that perspective with every one of my callings. I know I’ll fail again and again unJune 2015 048til heaven. I know I’ll need the Holy Spirit for every step of worthy walking. But whether wiping noses, pulling a lamb into this world, making a handmade card or even–as God calls– being a prisoner for His sake, I want to be intentional about what it looks like to walk in a manner worthy.

What are your callings? How do you remember to be intentional about walking worthy when the day zooms in and out of different callings?