Taking Life One Step At A Time

Taking Life One Step At  A Time

Friday, November 30, 2012

Five Minute Friday: Wonder

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for the Five Minute Friday: Wonder.

Each morning I awaken much earlier than desired to the cries of my 15 month old. Lately he has taken to waking up at 4:30am and while the hour is undesireable to me, he is awake and full of excitement.

I quietly bring him downstairs and we slowly adjust our eyes to the light with heavy blinks. And then we do what he's waiting for. We turn on the Christmas tree lights.

Every time his reaction is the same. Ooooh!! Oh!!


My little guy brings such joy to our family as he points and vocalizes at the beauty of the world around him. It may even be something simple, like a shoe he hadn't noticed by the door.

Either way, his sweet little voice accompanied by the chubby arm with extended finger reminds me to stop and look. To enjoy the wonder of God's creation.

The beauty of my children. The bright green of fresh lettuce. The sound of a parakeet singing. The softness of a stuffed animal. The giggles aroused by a good old fashioned tickling. The smell of cinnamon as cookies bake. The bite of the cold winter wind.

When looking at the world through a baby's eyes you see so much more. Everything is new, everything is fresh. The world holds it's allure once again.

Stop and see. Let the wonder begin.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Teen Expectations

Linking up with the MOB (Mothers of Boys) Society today.

Earlier today I posted the following article onto my facebook page. It was mainly in response to a couple of friends who were struggling with their teens and some rebellion issues. However, if you've been on facebook for long, you've likely seen this floating around. Take a moment and read it.

I wasn't expecting to receive any responses from it - let alone the passionate remarks it stirred. And given that I have some strong thoughts on teens in our society, I figured I'd write my response here instead of in several long comments on my facebook status.

I may have young children, but I also have two boys on the cusp of being teens. In fact, I do consider my 12 and a half year old a teen because of his maturity level. Because of this, I've been giving much thought over the last year to how I should approach the teen years with my children. I don't want to settle for the status quo of backtalk, rebellion, and stupid decisions. I'm not naive - I do know some of that will occur, but I certainly hope it will not be the norm for my children.

To that end, I've had my oldest read a book entitled "Do Hard Things" by Brett and Alex Harris. It's an excellent call for teens to go beyond the low expectations of society and meet their potential. I blogged a bit about it here if you are interested. The basic premise is that around the world and throughout history, teens have been expected to do ... something. They aren't just children still living at home. They aren't yet adults. But they are adults in training who no longer want to be considered children. And their capabilities are amazing!

As parents it's our responsibility to give our children wings as they approach adulthood. You give them the opportunity to make choices, to fail or soar, to feel the consequences of their actions (good or bad) within the safety of your home and care. You guide with tough love, much grace, and unending forgiveness. And most importantly, you must model with your own life the type of adult you hope your child will become.

In almost all other societies, teens are considered productive members of society. They are expected to contribute, to add to the community and to the family. They are not permitted to live in fantasy or seek out "fun" unless the work is done. And work isn't just homework. It may be chores at home or on the farm, it may be a steady job. It may be hard and it may be inconvenient and it may be dirty. But teens are capable, strong, and smart. They can do much more than we in America give them credit for!

My problem with our society is that I see so many young twenty somethings living in their parents' basement, playing video games, and avoiding the job market. I'm not talking about honest, hardworking young adults who just need a boost to get on their feet. I'm talking about the MANY who are avoiding adulthood in favor of continuing a childhood that has stretched much too far. This isn't some nebulus group of people "out there". I've met them. They're in our town, they are people I care for.

So what to do? Is it right to just yell at kids and say "Do more. Get a job. Do chores. Read books." No, that won't do it. It falls to the parents. WE are the ones who must teach responsibility to our children. WE are the ones who must push our children to their potential while also providing a safe place to fail. WE must encourage, cheer, and reward successes.

Before writing this, I shared the article with my two oldest boys at the dinner table. I told them nothing of what I was about to read except that I wanted their opinions. I stressed that I'd be fine with them having differing opinions of each other and of the article. I read it, and I waited.

Both said they thought the article was right on. One said he felt it was a little harsh in the wording but that he agreed with the premise. I asked them to explain their thought process in agreeing - still not having voiced my opinion - and they shared that they know they are capable of much more than what is typically required of kids. They feel they can be important and productive. They want to have responsibility.

I didn't have to ask my next question, because I already knew the answer. They also want to be kids. And therein is the conundrum of teens. Part kid, part adult. They need time to play, to be silly, to hang out with friends, to get some extra sleep as they grow. But when we let that be the entirety of teen life, we're actually doing our children harm, not good. How is that preparing them for adulthood? How does silliness ready them for a job or marriage? How does expecting them to cop an attitude contribute to their well-being?

We tell our kids when they talk back to us that it's unacceptable. And we tell them why. Not only are they to respect their parents under God's laws, but under man's laws, they can be fired from a job for sassing their boss. If you are rude to those you meet, you'll soon be a lonely human being. You'll quickly burn bridges and you'll lose the respect of those around you.

It's the same when we give our children chores and responsibilities. My children have school year round. They also have chores year round. They are required to help in the garden in summer. They vacuum, clean bathrooms, do dishes, wash laundry, and help with their younger siblings. Am I stealing their childhood? I don't believe I am. I do expect a lot from my children, but I don't expect more than they can do. I would never ask a 4 year old to get out the big vacuum and clean the floors. The vacuum is as big as he is! It would be an unrealistic and frustrating expectation. Instead, I ask my 4 year old to make sure he puts two rolls of toilet paper on each toilet in the house so that we don't have issues of running out while someone is on the pot. He has the satisfaction of contributing to the household in an age appropriate way.

It's the same with our teens. I wouldn't normally ask my oldest to simply put toilet paper on the toilets because he is capable of so much more. Instead, he is the one cleaning the toilets. He is the one vacuuming. He's capable, he feels good when he has accomplished the task. And here's the kicker. When he's done with work, he's free to play. It's not an exclusive issue. Teens need the play and the responsibility. But the play should come AFTER the responsibility, not before. And that's where much of our society has it backwards. Many want their kids to have all the fun they can and if there's time left over they can help out. Because of this, we're raising lazy adults who feel entitled to an easy lifestyle and are going into massive amounts of debt to acheive that lifestyle.

All this to say: Love your kids. Love them enough to help them reach their potential - in all areas of life. Take a good look at their capabilities and give them the respect they long for by recognizing how mature they can be if given the chance. And when they fail, which they will, be there to help them back up, encourage them onward, and celebrate when they succeed the next time around.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Boring Past

Today I was washing the dishes. Thankfully that's becoming a less frequent chore for me because of the many little minions I have in the house. Let me tell you, mothers of young children, there really is a time coming where your kids will handle many of the household chores. Oh blessed day! For example, just today my kids cleaned all four bathrooms, vacuumed the main level of the house, folded laundry, and picked up. You'd think I'd be a lady of leisure by now, but alas, there is always still much more to do than I have hours in my day.

Anyway, I was washing the dishes. Honestly, I was a bit grumbly in my heart. I knew that I was just washing the dishes in order to dirty them again by making a delicious dinner for the family. And it was me washing them because I wanted my kids to enjoy the gorgeous weather outside instead of being stuck inside just before winter.

As I washed and grumbled in my heart, my oldest - who was icing a jammed finger - made a comment that stopped me in my tracks. He said, "People sure must have been bored in the olden days."


I asked him to repeat the statement to be sure that I had heard correctly and then asked him to explain his thinking on that ridiculous statement. He simply replied that he figured they just had a lot less to do back then.

Oh, my poor misguided child!

I quickly launched into a long diatribe describing how much more work they had. They didn't have electric or gas stoves. They had to chop their own wood to heat their houses. Showering wasn't done quickly and with ease most nights of the week. There were no dishwashers, no garbage disposals, no plastic diapers. Farming was much more difficult without the modern machinery we now have. Cleaning was a constant job. On and on and on.

Finally he interrupted and said, "Well, at least the kids were probably bored."

Again, what?

As I began on another diatribe about how much was required of children and at such an early age, he quickly stood, stated his finger was better and ran outside to play. I guess I made my point. He probably saw the inevitable direction of my lecture, which would lead to more work for him. He knows me well. Hint at boredom in our house and you are given a chore to fill your time.

At least I set this one child straight. But it sure got me to thinking. So often we complain about the state of things today. We spend a ridiculous amount of money on conveniences and then complain about our lack of time and money. Frankly, in reviewing the difficult life our ancestors had, I really don't long to live in a different time. Politically, yes. Religiously, you bet. But in regards to the advances of science, medicine, and technology I'm quite happy to be living in this era. Aren't you?

And you can bet that the next time I'm complaining in my heart about doing the dishes, I'll remember this little chat with my son and thank God for His goodness in providing running water, a dishwasher, and so many other things. I really do have NOTHING to complain about.

Monday, November 19, 2012


It has been a delightful week with my man home on vacation. And since I've had so much time with him, I'm feeling a little sappy.

I ran across a book full of poems that Josh's grandpa wrote to his grandma as they were dating and married. It gives such a sweet picture into his heart for her. My favorite poem is titled "If". He was in the navy and must have written it just before heading out to sea. Enjoy. And please don't copy it without permission.


If I were a poet or author,
I'd write a poem about you.
But all I am is a sailor,
Hoping and praying you're true.

If I were a singer of lyrics
A composer that writes his mind,
I'd write and sing a song about you
That would leave all others behind.

If I were a statesman in congress
Or boss of a ship on the sea,
I'd speak of the love I want you to have
For a lonely old fellow like me.

If I were a king in Europe,
Or a poor civilian back home
And had you I'd call you and tell you,
Just why I would never more roam.

If I were a man of expression
Or a preacher with every nice thought,
I could only express the half of my love
That being with you has wrought.

Alas, I am only a sailor
But all that I say is still true,
And all of the powers on earth couldn't stop me
From saving all my love just for you.

I know you are only a maiden,
With a heart that is pure and true.
But please believe when I tell you,
That this lonely sailor loves you.

So long, my darling, I'm leaving
But I shall return someday
To be yours and love you and keep you
And make you happy to stay.
Maybe I'm not a poet
Or captain of a ship, that's true.
What I am tho, darling, I'll tell you,
Is very much in love with you.

- Kenny Ray Keller

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Green Eyed Monster is ... Good?

Recently I counseled a friend by saying that it's right to be jealous. It may sound a little strange to offer the advice of "Be jealous!", but I believe the Bible gives us a clear picture that jealousy is a completely valid and warranted emotion.

In fact, God even describes himself as jealous:

ESV Exodus 34:14 for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God

ESV Deuteronomy 4:24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

NIV Exodus 20:5-6 I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Given that God describes himself in this manner, there must be another definition for jealousy other than the destructive view we typically take.

Part of the problem may be that we tend to confuse the terms "jealousy" and "envy". Envy is desiring something that doesn't belong to you. A house like the neighbor's. A marriage like the one you read about in a recent romance novel. Your friend's skinny body. A voice like the singer at church. Envy wants what you don't have, but others do. It creates a discontent with what God has given you, and a longing for more than He has blessed you with.

On the other hand, jealousy desires what already is yours. It is a fierce protectiveness and longing for something that belongs to you. A husband. A child. Honesty in a close friendship. Time with God.

For example, in marriage jealousy is essential. When a couple exchanges marriage vows they essentially said to one another, "I will save my affections for you only. I will belong only to you. I will be faithful." When one spouse breaks that promise in word, emotion, or deed there is absolutely good cause for the other to be jealous.

Likewise when we commit to a relationship with God, we are also making a vow. A vow to place Him first in our lives. God is jealous for our affections. He purposely sets out to expose the idols in our lives, those things that compete for the primo spot in life. We are His and He has every right to our affections.

But what strikes me even more than the fact that God is jealous for me is that I should be jealous regarding my relationship with Him. If I truly value my time with God, I should be consistently weeding out those things that prohibit me from investing time and effort into the relationship. Just as I would with a spouse or a child.

I'm thankful that God is not forceful in His regard toward me. He does not slam His way into my life and harshly rip out anything that gets in the way. Instead, He patiently waits for me to fall so deeply in love that I jealously guard my time with Him. Although much too frequently I really could use a swift kick in the pants to get me moving in the right direction!

But that is the incredible complexity and care of our God. He calls Himself a jealous God, but in the same breath reveals that He extends love to a thousand generations of those who love Him. What patience! What forgiveness! Surely He is deserving of the highest priority.

I leave you with a song by Meredith Andrews that puts God's love into beautiful words. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Christmas Memory

A friend who works at our local Christian radio station often stops by to get clips of the kids' voices for the radio. Today she was asking questions about their favorite Christmas memories and had them read a few passages from the Biblical account of Jesus' birth.

Last year, she recorded Josh telling one of his favorite memories. He shared a funny story about the time he had asked for a compound bow for Christmas and how his parents had creatively and surprisingly given it to him.

This time I tried to think of a favorite memory. I have a lot of trouble with this since so many of my favorite memories have to do with the Christmas season. But I chose to share about a moment that happened just a few years ago.

(Disclaimer: If you are local and may hear this on the radio, I aplogize for the spoiler.)

When my little Gabe was just about 2 years old he figured out that Christmas would include opening the fun, shiny packages under our tree. He knew that some of those presents were for him and he was so excited for Christmas morning. He came into the living room that morning full of exuberance, ready to celebrate and indulge.

He just didn't know about one little thing. Our family always begins our Christmas morning celebration by reading the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible. It's our way of focusing our attention on the correct reason for celebrating.

Our poor little Gabe didn't understand the delay. He sat on Daddy's lap and cried his heart out as we listened to the story. Big tears and everything.

The reason why it's a favorite memory is because I use this as a reminder for myself. In just the opposite way of my little Gabe, if I don't have my focus on Christ during the Christmas season, I'll be miserable. If I'm so bound by the busyness of baking, and buying, wrapping and visiting, but forget to spend time dwelling on the gift I have received because of Christ's sacrifice, then I am missing the whole point.

When you come down to it, Chistmas isn't about the giving or receiving. It's about the Son of God who came as a baby, grew to manhood, lived a sinless life, died a horrific death, and rose from the dead. It's about the only One who can save me from myself and my poor choices. It's about something far greater than me ... it's about redemption.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Five Minute Fridays: Quiet

Linking up with Lisa-Jo for the Five Minute Friday.


Be still my soul


Be still my soul


Be still my soul


Be still my soul


Be still my soul


My soul is still


My soul is still


The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love" Zephaniah 3:17

Beautiful Hands - a rerun

Recycling an oldie but goodie today as I link up with the MOB society blog:

This morning I watched as you discovered your hands. Your fat little fingers reached out and grasped hold of mine. And as you brought my hand toward your mouth your eyes widened with wonder.

I began to dream of what those hands may someday do.

You may have the hands of a craftsman. A mechanic or woodworker. Rough, calloused hands. Useful hands.
Beautiful hands.

Perhaps your hands will be soft. Hands used to press keys on the computer. Hands used to write. Hands forming words of impact and influence.
Beautiful hands.

Your hands may be dirty from working the soil. They may stroke the fur of a beloved pet or firmly grip the chalk as you mold young minds. They could grasp the ragged rocks as you climb a mountain or gently pick fruit from a tree to share with a friend. Hands that delight in the world around you.
Beautiful hands.

Someday I pray your hands will be wrinkled from soaking in the dish water. Crusted with paint from a child's art project. Recovering from a paper cut after folding yet another paper airplane. Hands used to brush silky hair, change stinky diapers, dress little bodies. Hands that will cause the laughter of ticklish children. Hands that steady your bride on your wedding day. Family hands.
Beautiful hands.

Your hands can be used to bring comfort to the aged. Food to the hungry. Peace to the harassed. Help to the helpless. Hands of compassion.
Beautiful hands.

Of all these things, my greatest desire is for you to have hands of worship. Hands that are raised in adoration of the King. Hands that hold a worn Bible. Hands that frequently fold in prayer.

Because if your hands hold firm to these tasks, your hands will reflect the greatest hands. Hands that are scarred. Hands that stretched out on a cross. Hands strong enough to hold all your dreams, pains, fears, and joys. Christ's hands.
Beautiful hands.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Political Prayer

Whether you are in celebration or mourning today, I hope you will read this and consider what a Christian's response to the elections should be.

Many thanks to my sweet husband for sharing this amidst all the turmoil.

Finally the election is over. But the result is exactly what everyone predicted: half of us are discouraged and half us are happy. Whichever camp you find yourself in this morning, let me exhort you to put aside your feelings
& your opinions and seek the Lord. Be encouraged by two things: the Lord God remains sovereign and the Lord God remains a Redeemer! Let us put our hope & trust not in any human person or institution but in the Lord. As followers of Christ, let us speak the truth in love. Let us set aside any divisiveness and seek to work together rather than against one another. Let us implement the second greatest commandment. Let the republican put the democrat first and the democrat put the republican first. Let the rich man prefer the poor man to himself. Let the poor man prefer the rich man to himself. etc.

However you may feel about the election, remember your Christian duty to pray:

ESV 1 Timothy 2:1-2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Given the great domestic & international challenges we face, our president & elected officials desperately need prayer. Join me in praying for them.

Heavenly Father,

You are the Creator of all people everywhere. You know each person intimately – even how many hairs are on their head. For those candidates & their supporters who lost yesterday, may they see your face in all this and take your hand. For those candidates who won and are therefore accepting important responsibilities, may they fall to their knees in humble reliance upon you and may they reach for your hand to lead them. Father lead our president. Father lead our congress. Father lead our governor & state reps. Father lead our nation. Father lead your world.

Father, may your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We wait on you. You alone are the answer. You alone have wisdom. We wait on you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

May God bless you this day and may God bless America!

Pastor Josh