Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Privilege Is All Mine

Today I was blessed to
  • make pancakes and scramble eggs for growling tummies.
  • watch Brian play with Maddie and Owen in swirling snow.
  • snuggle a feverish Benjamin, whose body is usually too busy to be still.
  • read more books than I have fingers to count.
  • hear Gavin's detailed instructions on how to build a Lego ship.
  • wash mounds of snow-soaked sweaters and mittens.
  • stir chocolate into milk for a rare afternoon treat.
  • peel the backs off of numerous stickers to help Owen make a birthday card.
  • tuck blankets around sleeping bodies and kiss sleeping brows.
  • watch a movie with Brian-- and only Brian.
  • embrace life as a wife and mother.
Yes, the privilege is all mine.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Aroma of Christ

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2:15

“I want to be like you, Mama.” She says this as I loop her apron strings into a bow around her waist. She fingers my apron and beams. “Now we look alike.” She turns to look up at me with the clear blue eyes like her Daddy’s. Minus her rounded nose and flowing hair, she looks far more like her Daddy than me, but our matching red apple aprons and this rare time alone in the kitchen is enough for her.

Sometimes I think I should be more like her, she whose every move is exacted slowly, carefully. Carefully, she chooses a dress from her closet. Carefully, she folds her nightgown and returns it to its place. Carefully, she brushes each tooth. Carefully, she glides her pencil across the page of her alphabet book. Carefully, she folds the napkins into triangles for meals. She is never in hurry, but she never hesitates to stand up for truth! Me? I scurry through my days but freeze amidst confrontation...

To continue reading, please click here to join me at Internet Cafe Devotions.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Children's Book Monday

I'm thinking back to how I first became acquainted with Children's Book Monday.  I believe it happened this way...

My mom introduced me to Elise.  Mom said, "Have you ever read this book?"  and she handed me Henry Hikes to Fitchburg.  "I found this on a blog," she said.  "She recommends a children's book every Monday."  Those were the days when Owen (now three) was an infant and the search for quality literature for the other two children was necessary yet time-consuming.  But alas, we didn't own a computer so Children's Book Monday settled in the valleys of my very overwhelmed mama mind. 

Time continued its steady tick.   When I was expecting Benjamin, we bought a laptop and the world of blogs opened to me.  Just as I am selective about what my children have read to them, I am selective about what blogs I chose to begin reading so I asked my mom for suggestions.   "I think I know a blog you would like.  She is about your age.  She has two boys and a girl and is expecting another-- just like you.  I'll send you the link."  When I opened the link I was happy...surprised...intrigued to find it was the author of Children's Book Monday!

Now Elise and her blog mean more to me than a weekly column.  I continued to get to know Elise as our new baby boys were born two weeks apart and as we exchanged e-mails and swapped book suggestions and discovered that we were kindreds.   

"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world."   (Anne of Green Gables)

Elise will be away this week and she has asked me to cover Children's Book Monday for her. I am honored to introduce to you a reading treasure...


Stagecoach Sal
written by Deborah Hopkinson
illustated by Carson Ellis

Oh, we found this book quite by accident.  We ventured to the library one frigid morning after Christmas.  Between colds, we needed a day of renewing--  a day of gentle refreshing.  And refreshed we were since the library's heating system was broken that morning.  There is nothing like searching for books with your coat on!  The children cuddled together in an oversized chair and read to each other and to Benjamin so I confined my search to the shelves in the chair's general vicinity.  So rare is the day that Benjamin is not eager to explore the library aisles on his own with me following on his heels (or that I don't have to scan stacks clutching him to my hip) that I was content with my limited search radius. 

The H author names were in my scope and on first perusal, I admit I was drawn by the rustic look and feel of the very un-glossy pages of this book.  And the words Inspired by a True Tale.   Who doesn't love a true story?  After most every book we read, one of my children is sure to ask, "Did that really happen?"  and it is such a joy to say, "Yes, it did." 

When we returned from our chilly morning outing, we ate lunch and I settled the littlest in for his nap, so it was a couple of hours before we were ready to read.  Whether she was drawn by the horse on the cover or the watercolor of a little girl in dress and braids, I don't know, but Stagecoach Sal was Maddie's first selection. 

"I was knee-high to a grasshopper when Pa first lifted me up to the shotgun seat."  Sal lives with her parents in California  and loves to ride along with her Pa as he carries passengers and mail by stagecoach across open country.  Sal is an outside girl.  She can holler and shoot a gun and took first prize in ropin', trick ridin', and singing, too.  (My boys especially enjoyed hearing my poor renditions of Sal's knee-slapping riding songs.)

And then one day, Pa falls into a hornet's nest and is too swollen to drive so Sal has to take the reins alone.  Mama frets about her driving at night with Poetic Pete, "the most polite bandit in all of California" roaming the countryside.  But with no one else to deliver the mail, Sal leaves on her journey and on "the lonliest bend in the road,"  she does indeed meet Poetic Pete.  But Sal doesn't hold first prize in her many skills for nothing.  She uses her quick mind and level thinking to...well, you'll have to read to find out. 

When we turned over the last page, I thrilled to read on about the real Stagecoach Sal, actually named Delia Haskett Rawson who was the first woman to carry the mail by stagecoach in California.  Poetic Pete?  He is the true-life Black Bart, a bandit remembered for his good manners. 

And, oh, I have not mentioned the illustrations.  Not limited to tops of pages or opposite pages, these pictures are tucked between paragraphs and swirl around groups of words.  With even some of the text printed artistically, the pages meld into one visual masterpiece.

As Elise would say...Happy Reading!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Whisper of Spring

The perpetual winter cold seeped under the door the day before Christmas.  Oh, yes, the whistle of wind through trees provided steady background noise and several inches of snow contributed to the puddle of melting ice and salt and soggy mittens that took up residence on the welcome mat.  But they had arrived weeks prior and managed to keep the chill on the other side of the door. 

No, this cold was different.  It was of the dripping nose and aching body and warm forehead variety.  It was the kind of cold that lives inside under fleece blankets, with soup and tissues at the ready.  This cold prefers to cycle through each one individually and then settle again on little noses just as they are beginning to breathe again.   (Can we not find the gift in this, too?)

And so it was in the midst of this endless circle of days that a bit of spring flew in with the mail--spring in the form of a flowery, frilly, girly dress.  Even (especially?) girls of five can be cheered by a bit of beauty.   Her nightgown shed, she pulled the dress over her head.  Mama suggested adding leggings and a shirt underneath, of course, because thought the climate changed inside, it is still winter afterall!  And with sunlight streaming onto golden hair, she danced around the room, bowed for her brothers, and curtsied with grace.  Funny, how colors and patterns have a way of stirring hearts dragged down with gloom.

And funny how feminine tendencies reside deep in the heart.  Did someone teach her to prefer dresses to pants?  Maybe her aunt-friend had an influence.  But maybe not.  It sure is fun, though, to find an inexpensive source of girly apparel.  A handmade dress for $19?  What a deal!  After much Etsy perusing, I stumbled on Puddin' Pies late one evening and was intrigued by the fabric and color combinations and overall beauty of Cynthia's products.  I have been pondering lately how simple beauty-- a flower in a vase, a bow in the hair, a heart on a notecard-- has power to lift the spirit.  I am also drawn to the feminine pants Cynthia creates.  If Mama insists you wear something to keep your legs warm on the coldest of days, it certainly softens the blow if the pants have ruffles.

And though it doesn't usually affect the quality of the work, I like to know what kind of person I am supporting when purchasing handmade items.  Cynthia's bio resonated with me:

I am a stay-at-home mom of two sweet little girls...I am a Christ-follower and want to do what He has planned for me!

Seems as though His plan for us is to get well soon.  The aches are begining to ease.  Noses are drying up and energy and appetites have returned.  As we venture out to run errands or for an outing to a friend's house, the wind reminds us that winter will hover for awhile.  As we await  first bloom and bud, we must find beauty inside.  (Another lesson to be learned perhaps?  While we embrace what He has given on the outside, we choose to fill our insides with beauty.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment... instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.)

The flowering dress is a promise that the season of singing will come

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

There All the Time

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?

Psalm 139: 2-3, 7

I stood close to Gavin’s chair in the cramped exam room. His lip quivered while fighting tears. The weekend’s toothache and fever had necessitated our Monday morning trip to the dentist. His jaw resembling a hoarding squirrel’s, he had tried to joke before they called us back for our turn. “Mama, I don’t know why you are bringing me here since my tooth is all better.”

But the preceding sleepless night had assured me it was far from better so I kept the conversation light as we passed the nervous minutes.

Gavin’s breathing quickened as a hygienist entered the room and placed a lead blanket over my boy’s heaving chest. “Ma’am, can you step out while I take an x-ray?” Heart tugging, I weaved my way around medical equipment and took my place directly outside the open door. I heard a whimper as I left his side...

Click here to continue my story at Mel's World.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Day for Girls

"Mama and Maddie are going out for a bit," I told Benjamin.  "And you are staying home for a boy day."  He whimpered.  The enticement of grilled cheese sandwiches and an "I Spy" card game with Daddy at home did nothing to quell his fear of the two nurturing females leaving home at the same time. 

We slipped on shoes and I buttoned my coat and zipped Maddie's.  I peeled Benjamin Barnacle off my legs and with a kiss to his head, we were off.  This promised day had been anticipated for weeks, a rare time for just us girls.  Days with boys are full of life and noise and Lego building and I forget how calming a quiet lunch and conversation can be. 

We did a bit of birthday shopping for Brian whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow.  We walked aisles and made choices at a pace I am not accustomed to.  My girl is a slow, deliberate one, and I seem to always be rushing from one activity to another.  But not today. 

Lunch was more of the same.  No rush, no hurry.    Deliberate nibbling of sandwiches and giggling in tall chairs by the window.  Ordering cookies larger than our hands and eating every crumb.  And then (because we just couldn't bear the thought of going home yet) stopping by our favorite store to window shop. 

But soon, we began to miss the clamor and the silliness.  We missed the crumbs on faces and the scattered toys.  Soon home called because home is our favorite place to be.

Amidst the chatter over dinner (with over-sized bites and regular-sized chairs), I realized we had been having such a lovely day, I hadn't taken any pictures.  Memories last longer anyway.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sweep Me Clean

Company was coming. I flung wide the doors to welcome some fresh air and sunshine. I sorted and put away stacks of mail. I cleaned out the magazine basket, the one that fills all too quickly with catalogs and papers. I wiped the Daddy-is-home!-nose-prints off the windows and the dust off the sills. “Our house is going to be so clean,” five-year-old Maddie declared getting into the spirit of things. “I’m going to sweep the kitchen floor.” Delighted to have her willing help, I smiled at her flouncing skirt as she galloped on her broom-horse into the adjoining room.

I checked her progress on my way to the laundry room to toss in a pile of dirty socks. The kitchen floor shone. Sunlight streaming through the window illuminated a sparkling surface. But something was amiss. Where were the grains of rice, scattered after the math lesson? Where were the bread crumbs, remnants of yesterday’s lunch? Where was the sand tracked in from the backyard? There was no pile of gathered debris in sight. Swish, swish, swish, went the broom, in all directions, as dust and grit was whisked away to congregate in the far-flung corners of the room. Out of sight to the casual observer, but still there nonetheless!

To continue reading, click here to join me this month at Sanctified Together, a new e-mail and online publication.

Friday, January 8, 2010

visions of snowy days

And though I am not a cold weather girl, I can find the beauty in days like these...from inside!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Covered With His Feathers

My Owen is a sensitive boy. He cowers on sighting the flamingoes at the zoo.  If I peel an orange, he ducks his head and covers his nose.   He won't eat anything with bright color (be it a red tomato or rainbow sherbet).  He turns wrong-side out until I cut a tag from the neck of his shirt.  It can be frustrating to tiptoe amongst his growing list of needs and the temptation is oh-so-strong to push him to overcome these seemingly irrational fears. 

As a baby, Owen was terrified to exist in any arms but mine.  Even when Brian would cuddle and soothe, he would arch his back and reach for me with his arms and legs while crying hysterically.   My arms brought him comfort and peace, long after I thought he should be content to play at my feet.  So vacuuming with one arm and baking with him on my lap at the dining room table became part of the routine of  life.  I purposed to wait patiently (most of the time), believing that while he may always be shy, he would not be trapped in his fears forever.

I cringe to think how my actions mirror Owen...and on a more serious scale.  I know “God did not give us a spirit of timidity” but I have fears that have no basis in truth.    I sometimes stick to myself because I am afraid to go out of my way to show someone God’s love.  I stick to what I know because the way God is showing me would draw me out of my familiar box.

By His grace, God has chosen to be patient with me, too. Psalm 91:4-5 paints a gloriously comforting picture:

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.

He doesn’t leave me to fend for myself or even push me to overcome my fears, but he protects me and shields me. I can feel the warmth of His wing as He hides me and soothes my fears away.  Knowing He is with me, I can confidently say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me!” (Psalm 23: 4)  But I, too, often need time to put my fears aside and stand confident knowing my Guardian won’t place me in harm’s way. He is patient.  He is long-suffering. 

And while I'm resting in HIS wings, I’m going to wrap Owen in a loving cocoon of protection as my Father holds me.

This idea, which I originally published here, has been re-worked and updated.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Revisit this classic...

Curious George by H. A. Rey

...and learn the story behind it.

The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey
by Louise Borden

For other Duet suggestions, click here!
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