Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Closer to the Baby Jesus every day

Many years ago I sewed a plastic canvas/fabric nativity set that my children could play with and touch and not worry about breaking. The "3 Wise Men" are all together as one piece. When my son was little, he loved setting up the nativity set and after he gently placed Jesus in his little fabric 'cradle" and placed all the animals and the shepherds around Mary and Joseph and the baby, he put the Wise men at the far reaches of the room.

Every day he made a point to move the Wise Men. After several days we realized this was a pattern - moving those Wise Men to a new location each day. We assumed he was just playing some imaginary game. Finally we asked him, "Why did you put the Wise Men all the way on the other side of the room and why do you keep moving them?" He told us "they're getting a little closer to the baby Jesus every day. On Christmas they'll find Him." (I know the time line is off, but he definitely "got" the concept and the story of their journey to Jesus.)

Nearly 2 decades later, as we take the nativity set out of the box and my son sets it up on the floor under the tree, I am still reminded to see Christmas through the eyes of a little child.


Blessings on your journey,
Mary

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Angels

(Please mute my playlist box so you can play the You-Tube performance of Angels We Have Heard On High at the end of this post)

In 1988 I purchased the first in the series of Hallmark's Mary's Angels Christmas ornaments. That is the year my son, our youngest child was born (in May). The first in the series was out that Christmas and while I wasn't really sure he'd grow up to like angels (was it too "girly"?) it was the only series I really liked.

This year, Jeff will receive the 22nd in the series in his stocking! Fortunately, he is a deeply spiritual young man and delights in hanging each angel on the tree every Christmas. Like his mother, he is in awe and wonder of angels and ardently believes in their existence! I delight in stopping by the tree and seeing the--by now--full choir of angels hanging there!

This year has flown by for us and we have had many challenges and obstacles as a family. There were weeks, and even months, where we wished away the experiences we found ourselves in the midst of.

As the year winds to a close, and the Christmas season is upon us, I rejoice in our many blessings. The angels are now too numerous to recall which one was received on which year -- though they are each dated and we could figure it out if we were so inclined. I think it's more enjoyable to look at them as a whole - an entire choir of angels filling up a good portion of our tree - like those that filled the sky one Christmas eve a long, long time ago.

That baby and his family faced many hardships as well. But like each of us, they received the promise of eternity in heaven. Like us, they were no doubt in awe of the choir of angels in the sky on the night Jesus was born, announcing the good news of all time!

Angels we have heard on high
Sweetly singing o'er the plains,
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains.

Refrain

Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!

Shepherds, why this jubilee?
Why your joyous strains prolong?
What the gladsome tidings be
Which inspire your heavenly song?

Refrain

Come to Bethlehem and see
Christ Whose birth the angels sing;
Come, adore on bended knee,
Christ the Lord, the newborn King.

Refrain

See Him in a manger laid,
Whom the choirs of angels praise;
Mary, Joseph, lend your aid,
While our hearts in love we raise.

Refrain


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Big Sister!

I'm going to a birthday party for big sister! I just got an email from her mom that they're having a small celebration on Sunday!

I can't express how excited I am! I also can't believe big sister will be five years old! She was little more than a baby -- just barely 2 years old -- when I was hired as a nanny for her and her infant twin brothers.

I'm pretty sure I now what I'm going to give her--I've had my eye on a couple of potential gifts for a while now -- wanting to give just the right "Mary gift." I want my gift to be memorable and fun and yes, durable! I want it to be something that when she opens it, she'll know it was from me! I'm the crafty, puzzle working, song singing, dancing to music, silly, no-nonsense-let's not forget whose the boss, sidewalk chalk drawing, bubble blowing Mary!

Yes, it is important to me to be thought of in certain ways. It has occurred to me, though, that I have not spent as much time and energy this year focusing on the one true important birth that will be celebrated in a few days. I haven't prayed about who I am to God--how He views me and my life. Only just this morning have I spent time in prayer and quiet reflection about whether or not my life is a "perfect gift" to God.

Sadly, the answer is no! I rejoice though that I have at least realized my folly and have committed to some serious soul-searching and prayer for the remainder of this holiday season and into the new year. I rejoice too that no matter what gift I give big sister, she will like it because it is from Mary.

God wants the kind of planning and thought--and excitement--that I have about big sister's birthday party when we offer our lives to Him. He already gave us the perfect gift--our goal to is express our thanks by living our lives in such a way that we become an acceptable gift to Him. I rejoice that while I will never be perfect, I worship a perfect God who loves me in spite of that truth!

Monday, November 30, 2009

My way or God's way?

On my last visit with my little buddies, God revealed several lessons to me--as He always does through the children in my life! This one is especially poignant, I think.

Last year - either for Christmas or for a birthday, I gave the boys two DVD's. One was of trucks-neither of them is spectacular, I don't think, but I bought them on-line and they like them - well one of the twins LOVES them! He's a truck fanatic--loves anything truck-related. Another thing the twins love is watching videos with Mary:-) Part of our new routine when I babysit is to watch all the videos we used to watch every day when I was their nanny.

Now that I only see the children every few weeks, our times together are especially precious - to them and to me. It had been at least 6 weeks since my last visit and in that time mom and dad got a new remote control because they changed cable service. Those who know me well already know where this is going. You see, while I can figure out quite a bit about blogging, HTML code, and on-line "anything" I am like a complete idiot when it comes to all things electronic. If you can't just push the "on" button and have everything work as it's supposed to, I'm lost.

Well, after dinner was eaten, hands and faces washed and puzzles worked on the floor together, the children decided they wanted to watch some movies. Of course the "truck twin" immediately announced he wanted to watch the truck movie. We got it out and placed it in the DVD player and then . . . yikes . . . I don't even know what button to push next . . . this new remote is similar to the other one, but even pushing the buttons labeled like those on the old remote, in what I thought was the same order, I could not for the life of me get the thing to play on the television.

After about 10 minutes, big sister offered, "Here, just give it to me and I'll push all the buttons." No thank you, sister! I can mess up the remote and/or electronics all by myself! LOL! Both boys "worked on" the DVD player. One brother pressed open/close and the other brother took out the DVD, replaced it in to the player and pressed the button again. Then they tried the "play" button several times. (I was quite impressed with their teamwork, but had visions of what that might look like when their 12 and want to do something they're not supposed to do:-) All the while, I'm suggesting they stop pushing buttons so I could try to see if any of the combinations I'm using to unlock the secret code to play the DVD is working.

After about 10 more minutes, I gave up and announced that the remote was "broken" and that I would figure out how to work it so we would have to watch the movie next time. But truck-twin was not to be deterred. He took out the DVD and brought it to me, "see Mary, it's this one," and "It works, I put it in." This went on for about 30 minutes - and I counted how many times a little boy, determined to watch a truck DVD with Mary can actually press the open/close button, take out the disk and put it back in - I told his mom, I was pretty sure it was about 75-80 times!

You know, I didn't get upset with my little buddy though, and I let him continue to push those buttons and work on the problem. He didn't want to hear that something so important to him was just not going to happen this time. He didn't understand that it wasn't about what he wanted -- or even what I wanted. It was about the circumstances in which we found ourselves.

I thought about how much like my little truck-loving twin I am when I take my requests to God sometimes. Even after it is abundantly clear to me that a plan I had made or a path I had chosen is not going to work out, I just keep at it. Sometimes, as sister suggested, I just "push all the buttons" in a last ditch effort to get my way. Sometimes, like my little buddy, I don't get mad or even rail at God--I just keep . . . doing . . . what . . . I . . . was . . . doing . . .

In the end my buddy resolved himself to not being able to watch the movie and we found an acceptable alternative program on television (thank goodness for cable television!) But the lesson of that night is not lost on me. Since that night, I've been praying a lot about some things that aren't really working the way I would like them to. I'm asking God to show me whether I am to persevere and keep at it, or whether I need to turn these situations over to him and allow Him to show me a better way.

"Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long" (Psalm 25:4-5 NIV).

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Clap Your Hands

Oh my! I was long overdue for my "big sister" and "little buddy" fix! Yep, I spent 4 wonderful hours this evening with the children I nannied for two years. Big sister will be 5 (on December 14 as she informed me tonight) and the twin boys will be 3 in January! Oh my goodness I was so happy to see them!

They were excited too, which was wonderful! The boys ran off the porch and into the yard to greet me! I got so many hugs and all three of the kids talking at once, wanting to tell me everything going on in their lives! At one point this evening when we were sitting on the couch watching a show, one of the boys told me, "I missed you, Mary." My heart was full to overflowing at that moment! Both boys wanted to sit on my lap and be near me the entire evening. Big sister is SO big and smart and very busy telling brothers what to do!

I had had a long, long, stressful, tiring, exhausting week at work. I really needed this unbounded, overflowing, joyous time with three children I spent 5 days a week with for 2 years. The boys were only 8 weeks old when I started caring for them. And sister was 2 when we sat on the back balcony of the apartment they lived in while Mom and Dad looked for a house in Richmond, blowing bubbles and starting with potty training.

I needed to be loved on and to be in the presence of those three little ones who just could not restrain their glee and excitement at seeing me. This is how God expects us to approach Him as well! And when you think about it, it is exactly how we should be any time we go to Him in prayer.

No matter what we're going through in our lives; no matter what we're struggling with; no matter how tired or frustrated, beaten down or worn out we may feel, we need to run to God with joy and celebration because we've been promised a place with Him in heaven someday!

Don't wait at the door - run off the porch and into the yard! Leap into His arms! Clap your hands and squeal with glee! We have eternal life already guaranteed! That's something about which to be overflowing with excitement and celebration!


"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Join me in the journey!


I've just started a second column at Examiner.com, Richmond Working Moms. My "other" column is the Richmond Frugal Family. I hope you'll take a few minutes to stop by. Subscribe to either or both, if you like, so you don't miss any great ideas, tips or suggestions!

These two columns are really ideally suited for me! I consider frugality a spiritual discipline and I strive always to support and encourage other moms in their parenting journey. Times are hard, money is tight, and being a parent is never easy! I'm quite excited to minister in two different venues to parents, and especially moms, of children of all ages and stages.

I've also been given a HUGE vision by God in the last week about the next big thing in my life. I'm not ready to share it yet, but suffice it to say, I am really blown away. I am in continual prayer, and God has sent several folks across my path to affirm and confirm that I am hearing Him correctly! As a woman who believes ardently in the power of prayer, I covet any and all you care to offer up on behalf of this ministry. I will be sharing it with my readers - and the world! - very soon!

I've been revamping this site and trying to find suitable music that reflects the tone I want to convey. If you have a particularly favorite song that makes you feel glad to be an adult living a world full of children, please leave me a comment! I'll consider adding it to the play list.

I also would appreciate your stopping by God's Wonder Woman where I invite readers to share the journey toward capturing the divinely-designed image of ourselves as God's beloved daughters. I publish there twice a month and have been blessed beyond words to share my own journey.

What is going on in your life? Leave me a comment. Are you in need of prayer? Visit my Divinely Designed Blog and register your confidential prayer request HERE.

Finally . . . where are you from? Find out where I'm from at Godly Graffiti.

Come back often! There's always something going on! Join me in the journey!

Blessings!
Mary

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Let's Go Krogering - November 3


Light shopping week as the cabinets are full and we only needed a few items this week. Plus we'll be getting our Angel Food Order on Saturday, so we didn't much from Kroger.

10 Item Mega Event purchases:

3 Steamfresh Vegetables $1.99/ea - used 3 0.50 coupons (each doubled) - 2 electronic coupons, 1 from 10/18 Smart Source
2 - Ball Park Meat Franks - .99 ea. when you buy 2 plus $1.00/2 from 10/18 Red Plum
2 - Orbit gum - 0.41 each (when you buy 10 mega event items)
3 2-liter - Coke products - 0.79 ea

Some other good deals: My Kroger also had Michelina entrees for 0.79 cents; Weight Watcher string cheese - 0.30 off plus I used 0.75 coupon from coupons.com; bought a Hawaiian Private Selection Pizza (jumbo size!) for $6.99

Mfg. Coupons Savings: $4.75
Bonus Coupon Savings: $2.00
Kroger Plus Savings: $24.28
Total Coupons: $31.03
Senior discount (5%): $3.66; bag buy back: 0.25 (@ 0.05 ea.)
Total Savings ($31.03+3.66+0.25) $34.94 or 36%

My sales receipt also announced that Kroger is having another special promotion beginning soon! Spend $500 between 11/15 and 12/12 and earn one 10% of total order from 12/27 - 1/9/2010!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"JUST" A Mom

I don't title this post lightly. This issue has been bouncing around in my head for a while and I've shared it with a couple of friends who have affirmed that I'm on the right track. (Of course, I realize we often pick friends who are like-minded.)

A little background: My children are now 24 (daughter, married for 2 years) and 21 (son). When I became a mom, I knew I was 'meant to' be one! I have loved every minute of being mom to Jen and Jeff. No they weren't perfect kids -- but pretty close. We didn't have a lot of problems that many of their peers experienced. We were (and remain) very fortunate.

To claim no credit at all for how well our children turned out would just be insincere and disengenuous. I tried very hard to be a wonderful mother--not just a good mom--a wonderful mother! I know I fell far short of that ideal many, many times. But somehow, my children knew that was my goal and ardent desire, and they forgave me for not always rising to the ocassion, and savored the common knowledge that they were that important to me - and that 'getting it right' meant so much to me. They got that they mattered.

Getting to the point here. My daughter is a beautiful, bright, incredible young woman with multiple gifts and graces. My son is a handsome, strong, incredible young man with multiple gifts and graces. My son also has Asperger's Syndrome (very high end of the autism spectrum). We didn't always know what the diagnosis was, but we knew very early on what his challenges would probably be. We also, though, recognized early on what challenges our daughter would probably have (based on her personality and dispositon).

We never identified our son as being "special needs" because of his diagnosis. Not because we were in denial but because we don't make that kind of distinction in life. All children have 'special needs' regardless of where they fall on any spectrum, chart or yardstick for measuring their development. Some have more challenges, larger obstacles, fewer resources. All have needs that are unique and specific to them.

We've never identified Jeff as our "special needs" son. Nor have we ever identified him by the sports he participated in, the instruments he played or the fact that he read (and undersood) college-level reading material when he was in 5th grade or by his gentle spirit and deep faith.

But then we never identified Jennifer as our "exceptionally bright" daughter, either. Nor have we identified her by the sports she participated in, the excellent GPA she maintained throughout school, or by her beauty--inside and out.

That's because ALL children are special! I don't want to be pigeon-holed as a parent of a XXXX child. I want to be a mom--just a mom. My children are amazing human beings and I am proud to call them both my friends. I am humbled that God gave them to me and entrusted their care and nurturing to my husband and me. We have been in awe of them since the moment they were conceived. We continue to be in awe of the incredible human beings they have become and continue to grow into.

In the world too many things drive us apart and the mentality of "divide and conquer" and one-upsmanship seems to run rampant. I choose to be just a mom who can understand and empathize with other moms who want what is best for their children. I have tried never to judge other women for their parenting (or lack thereof) because I know there were times I dove into uncharted waters and stayed afloat only because of God's grace.

That's the message that I hope resonates for others when they hear me speak or read what I write: God's grace is the common thread for all of us. It's okay that we weren't (aren't) strong enough, smart enough, rich enough, young or old enough on our own to be the kind of mom (or person) we want to be. God's grace is enough--it makes us enough. It makes our 'best shot' at everything we do enough.

My husband and I have never doubted divine intervention and guidance in our parenting or in our lives. We fully accept, acknowledge and are ever grateful for it and invite it into our lives on an on-going basis.

So next time you think you're "just" a mom, smile! Next time somebody identifies you as "just" a mom, say 'Thank you!" It's a great thing to be!

"By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict" (Hebrews 11:23 NIV).

"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads" (Deuteronomy 6:6-8 NIV).

"he said to them, "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law" (Deuteronomy 32:46 NIV).

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth"(3 John 1:4 NIV).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tough Love Sprinkled With Grace

The last time I babysat for the my little buddies was different than previous visits in that the boys, being in the year between 2-3 are learning and growing and blossoming by leaps and bounds! Big sister is also developing that incredible little brain of hers - she's just not as "out there" as the boys. She's quieter and you can almost see the gears turning in her head behind those beautiful blue eyes:-)

Sister didn't want to go to bed. I told her if she settled down and helped the boys settle down during a short video, she could stay up a few minutes later than the "babies." For 30 minutes I had to remind and redirect her as she continually engaged the boys in "dancing" and running around during the video.

I made the mistake of yielding to her request, even though she ignored my previous repeated instructions to settle down, sit down, and not get brothers riled up so they would go to bed easily. (They did anyway, thankfully.)

Sister and I worked a puzzle (twice) and she clearly grasped the "hints" I had given her on the first go-round about edge pieces and matching up pieces with the same colors in the them. But then it was bed time. She didn't want to go to bed (by this time she was overly tired). She didn't want me to leave her without reading several books (we had already agreed that if I let her stay up, she would go straight to bed without the usual routine because it was so late).

She was having none of it! She was not a happy camper. I am, however, a "seasoned" parent and pretty much a no-nonsense person when it comes to establishing who is in charge (kids vs. adults). Eventually, she wore herself out and fell asleep.

Where am I going with this? Well, big sister reminds me a great deal of myself when God doesn't "comply with my wishes." I can become pretty hard-headed and complain, then start to get upset, then yell and rail at God until I ultimately just relent and let Him "win."

I held up my end of the deal, big sister did not. We both knew the rules going in, but big sister didn't like the rules, once it was time to abide by them. Even though I felt sorry for sister, after she had worked herself up into a pretty big fit, I continued to remind her of our agreement.

I went up to her room several times to assure her I was still hearing her (hard not to!:-) and she carried on with a great deal of histrionics, that I knew were only making her more upset. But I had to abide by my end of the deal--I had to stick by my guns or the next time she would push the limits even more and act up/act out to a far greater degree. I felt sorry for her, but I love her too much to have yielded.

I'm sure God feels as I did that evening: sad that I am unhappy, even knowing He is being just. God always keeps "His end of the agreement." I'm the one who protests, fails to cooperate, and ultimately work myself into a fit when He doesn't yield!

I'm so glad He is a just and unyielding God! The world needs that kind of unwavering justice and love. I need that kind of fairness and certainty that I will receive His love even when I haven't earned it and especially when I don't deserve it.

I'm glad God loves me enough to always exercise "tough love" sprinkled with mercy and grace.

"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD" (Psalm 34:11 NIV).

"what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children," (Psalm 78:3-5 NIV)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Transitions and Growing Up With Asperger Syndrome

Our son has graduated from the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center's Work Readiness Program with a Certificate in Materials Management (just like a certificate from the community college) . He far exceeded the expectations of the program and we are thrilled for him! We are doubly blessed because before he even graduated we received a call from his local case worker that he was eligible to participate in a 1-year grant program through a collaboration of VCU and Dept. of Rehab. Services!

He has been assigned a job coach who has already met with all of us and then with him once individually. We emailed her the resume we had developed and she combined that information with his experience and training over the past 9 months through his program at Woodrow Wilson.

On Monday they will meet again and she will assist him in completing on-line applications for jobs she has already identified. She will also conduct mock interviews with him and even attend interviews if he desires.

Since he's back home, I'm needing to get busy finally and help him find ways to transition from high school, to young adulthood. He is struggling, but knows it it important. I'm going to suggest he reactivate the blog he started in high school and share his journey as a way to process and also to help other older teens and young adults navigating the waters of this challenging life transition.

I've shared here some resources I have explored in the past and will revisit in the weeks ahead. I hope this information is beneficial. Please feel free to leave a comment regarding both on-line and print resources as well as any local groups you know of. (Please indicate your City)


Asperger's Syndrome Resources - Great list of websites and books

Wrong Planet.net - the only social networking site for individuals (and their parents) on the Autism spectrum.

Autism Society of America - News, headlines and resources for "all things Autism"

Autism Speaks - Information about Autism, activities for raising awareness (and money), advocating for individuals with Autism

Autistic and Healthy - Education, nutrition, studies, resources and consulting

Local Member in the News - A local (Richmond, VA) member of Autism Speaks shares his story

New Theories of Autism/Asperger Syndrome - New York Times article about some ground-breaking research and news.


Blessings on your journey,
Mary

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Let's Go Krogering - Week #3

I was feeling under the weather this evening so my wonderful husband made a quick Kroger run by himself. He did very well, too! His overall savings = 46%!

We didn't need too much this week as we've been stocking up and there are only the two of us at home till our son graduates and moves back home at the end of the month. We made up a list of the Buy 10 items get $5 off at register promotional items and then matched up Kroger store coupons and other coupons.
Here's how it worked out:

All the following were on sale and part of the Buy 10/$5 off promotion:

Deer Park Drinking Water (1)
Skinny Cow Ice Cream (2)
Philly soft cream cheese (2) Coupon for $1.00/2
Kraft Cheese slices (1)(Coupon for $.55)
Oreo Cookies (4) Used 2 coupons for each for $1/2
Oscar Mayer Bacon (1)

Then he used a $1.00 off coupon on Hormel Beef Tips dinner.

Mfg Coupon Savings: $4.55
Bonus KFT NESTLE Savings: $5.00
Kroger Plus Savings: $18.43
Plus 5% senior discount: $1.97

Grocery Sub total: $63.92
Total savings: $29.95
Spent:$33.97

To date, we've accumulated $183.30 of qualifying purchases toward the "Spend $400 and earn 10% off total order" and currently have 147 Fuel Saver Points (100 pts. - 10 cents off/gallon of Kroger gas).

What was your Kroger experience this week?

If you would like to read more Kroger frugal shopping stories and learn how to maximize your "Kroger experience," hop on over to Marianne Thomas', blog, The New Frugal Mom.

Don't forget to stop by Richmond Frugal Family for tips on how to live frugally and thrive!

Friday, September 11, 2009

God Rejoices In Our Progress

This evening I'll be visiting my little buddies! To say I'm excited is an understatement!

I miss these children so much now that I only visit about once a month! The other night we stopped by their home to pick up something from mom and dad. Mom told us the kids very excitedly asked them if they were going out! That warmed my heart:-)

It's been a full, somewhat stressful week. I typically look forward to Friday nights these days as a chance to relax, unwind, and have quiet time alone. My husband currently works on Friday evenings. Tonight though, I will benefit from the energy and abandon that is contagious in the presence of children.

I imagine God delights in us in the same way! When we run to Him and throw our arms around Him, His heart is warmed, just as mine is every time I see my little buddies.

I think that just as I delight in seeing the progress the boys have made - they're in big boy beds now - and share in the newly acquired reading and conversation skills of big sister, God delights in our progress too.

Each baby step we take toward Him is a reason to rejoice! He loves us so much! I'm sure I'll have an update over the weekend:-)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Let's Go Krogering - Week #2


This week we didn't need too much, but decided to stock up on some items that were on special. Our subtotal was $181.39.

We bought 3 packs of Keebler cookies (on sale) and received a free gallon of Kroger milk ($2.39) value)
Then we received $6.03 as our senior discount and .$35 for our bag buy back.

Best deals I found this week were in the 10/$10 deals that I combined with coupons:
Michelena Frozen Entrees - 10/$10 - I used a $1.00/5 for a total of .$80 ea.
(I eat these for lunch at work)
Chef Boyardee Canned & Microwave Pasta 10/$10 - had 1 coupon for $1.00/5 and one for $.35/3 (my son loves these and he'll be graduating at the end of the month and moving home:-)
Weight Watcher String Cheese $2.51 - I had a coupon for $1/1

Our household (probably everybody's:-) has been selected for a special promotion: $spend $400 form 9/6-10/3 and earn one 10% off total order form 10/6-10/17. After our trip tonight, be have $123.33 of qualifying purchases toward our total. (This promotion is actually one of the reasons we stocked upon on some 10/$10 items this trip)

Bottom line: $118.52 Saved: $54.17 (a little over 31%) Not as good as last week, but still not too shabby.

If you would like to read more Kroger frugal shopping stories and learn how to maximize your "Kroger experience," hop on over to Marianne Thomas', blog, The New Frugal Mom.

Don't forget to stop by Richmond Frugal Family for tips on how to live frugally and thrive!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Break From Tradition: Let's Go Krogering!

I've decided to start participating in the Tuesday meme: Let's Go Krogering! I really love Kroger and we do our grocery shopping almost exclusively at Kroger. Because my dear husband is now eligible for the {senior} discount on Tuesdays, we shop on Tuesdays - yes, it's our "old married couple" weeknight date night:-)

I keep my eyes open for good deals elsewhere, but between the great pharmacist at our neighborhood store, the 2 Prescriptions = 10 cents off per gallon gas; $100 spent = 10 cents off per gas; the great prices and in-store specials and the fact that they double coupons up to 50 cents . . . well . . .

Here's my first post. If you would like to read more Kroger frugal shopping stories and learn how to maximize your "Kroger experience," hop on over to Marianne Thomas', blog, The New Frugal Mom.

If you'd like to learn some of my great tips for Frugal Families, visit my Richmond Frugal Family column at examiner.com.


*********LET'S GO KROGERING STARTS HERE*********

Tonight our total was: $133.61
Less 5 cloth bags: $.25 bag buyback
We got 1 free gallon of milk for buying 3 participating Keebler/Kellog Items - $2.49 savings
Less: 5% senior discount $5.11
Less: Mfg Coupons $16.40
Less: Bonus Coupon Savings $.035
Less: Kroger Plus Savings: $33.87
PLUS: $10 rebate from Kellogs for purchasing 10 participating items in one transaction.

Here's the bottom line: $133.61 - 2.49(milk) - $.25 bag buy back - $5.11 senior discount - $50.62 (coupons/Kroger plus savings) - $10 rebate for a grand total of $72.99 spent after rebate

Saved: $60.62 or 45% - That's my best trip yet! I'm shooting for 50% or better every trip, so stay tuned!

Monday, August 24, 2009

A "Magic Touch"

My sister-in-law, N, called yesterday afternoon to say she and her two youngest children were popping down to Richmond for the afternoon (they live bout 45 minutes away). It was an unexpected surprise and I was so grateful that this was one of those rare weekends with nothing on our schedule except what we felt like doing.

I still remember the year I helped my sister-in-law fix her hair for prom when she was in high school. Later, my daughter, 3 years old at the time, was a flower girl in her wedding. Even then N had a 'magic touch' with children as my daughter was not 'going along with the program' when it came time to walk down the aisle and N whispered some "magic words" to get her on track. To this day I don't know what N said to her, nor probably does either one of them remember, but Jen pulled it off like a pro!

It's been no great surprise then, that N has large family. She is a natural with children and I admire the way she and her husband have reared their boys (oldest one a freshman in college, youngest one in 7th grade) . . . and their precious daughter - 3 years old:-) The boys are polite and respectful (to us and to others). I'm sure they're typical siblings/children within the confines of their home:-) I'm a mom--I get that!

The thing I admire the most is how they have honored and allowed to develop each of their boys' individuality. They are as different as can be - one from the other. It's kind of ironic to me that N had four boys, and yet God prepared her for a house full of testosterone, because she has two older brothers - one 8 years older and one 10 years older. She was uniquely equipped in her childhood to parent all those boys!

We sat on the deck for a while, then moved inside when it got too hot. We talked about the pictures I have displayed in our living room and shared the memories of the events captured in many of the shots. It was such a sweet opportunity to share our family history with her children and pass on the stories of our shared life.

This morning I'm wondering where all those years have gone. I'm rejoicing, too, that we have had such full lives! She and we are truly blessed to have each other and our children and our memories to share.

The lyrics to one of Cat Steven's songs implore, "Teach your children well . . ." The Bible offers the same advice.

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them" (Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV).

"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 20:18-20 NIV)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Thoughts on a Daughter Leaving Home

I wrote this six years ago as our daughter was preparing to leave for George Mason University. I pray you will be blessed by my sharing.


Desperation, Deliverance and other words that start with “D”

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah” (Psalm 62:8 NIV)

Desperation. Our oldest child, our only daughter, my friend, my sister, my heart will be leaving for college soon. It occurred to me in the wee hours of this morning that our family will be forever diminished by her absence. We have watched her foray out for a day trip here and there – a few hours at the beach; a few days keeping a house-sitting friend company – but never before have we had to prepare for her long term and ultimately permanent absence. Oh, she’ll be home for an occasional weekend. She’ll come home for winter break. But she won’t really be coming home. She’ll be coming to the place that used to be her life. Our home will soon become the place she visits while she’s waiting for the rest of her life.

And I am desperate. Desperate to tell her everything she will need to know to live without us. Desperate to keep her from the pain and sadness that is inevitably intermingled with success and joy from living in the world. Desperate to somehow impart the absolute and boundless love, admiration, pride and respect we have for her not only as our daughter, but as a fellow human being on this earth. Our loss as a nuclear family is the world’s gain—a strong, beautiful, brilliant and good member of the world community has sprung forth! And I am desperately grieving her impending departure.

I know that this kind of desperation is sinful. It demonstrates my lack of trust that God will enfold her with his love and protection. It proves that while I know He will always be with her to help her deal with the disappointments as well as the victories, I lack the will to allow Him alone to play that role. It shows my lack of confidence in myself and the job I did as a parent, mother, friend to my precious daughter. It is a desperation born of fear.

How can I reconcile this face of desperation with my belief that God is a good and loving God? How do I proceed from this point on, confident that God will continue to be, not only in the margins but at the core of my daughter’s life – and mine! My prayers for her safety and care continue to be lifted on high. My grief is over losing a part of me and my life that has been not only the margins, but the core. She will thrive. She will fall down. She will love and live and grow into the extraordinary human being that only God can envision. My hesitancy is only because I love her so much.

Perhaps sin is too strong a word? But my lack of confidence is not in her. Or in God. Not really. It is in the world. My desperation reminds me how absolutely and completely we must all rely on God to get us through the transitions in our lives. He is at the heart of every milestone, joyous or sad. He is the heart of every day of our lives.

My desperation reveals a stumbling block in my faith life. But mostly, it reveals how desperately I seek the face of God. How I long to know the answers to the burning questions I pose to Him every day in my prayers. Desperate to know my child will grow into the woman He has planned for her to become. Desperate to believe that I have done the best I could to help her on that journey.

And while I am certain it is not enough—has never been enough—I trust that God was there to fill in the margins when I was not wise enough or strong enough to do what needed to be done.

Post Script: 6 years later, our daughter is now 24 years old and a graduate of George Mason University. She has been happily married for 2 years to a wonderful young man we instantly considered our son.While we wish she and husband lived here in town, we're thrilled they are a mere 1.5 hrs away and we see them often.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Shopping is Love

Shopping Pictures, Images and PhotosThis is not the title I had planned for this post, but when I found this picture online, I realized that yes, sometimes shopping is love. If you have a daughter you can especially understand how this can be so. But wait, I'm not talking about spending money (well that is involved, but that's not my point!)

I have recently made some important lifestyle changes, not the least of which includes eating healthfully, exercising and losing weight. My daughter, now in her 20's, has been an inspiration to me in this arena (and many others). She is beautiful and smart and yes, has matured into a woman I am glad to call my friend. I have recently lost 30 lbs. and so have had to buy some new clothes -- I really am talking NEED, not just want. She and I went out shopping this afternoon and I thought over and over "I am so blessed to have my daughter."

I am blessed, first to be her mom. Since the day she was born, we have had a connection that goes beyond mother and daughter. We are kindred spirits in so many ways -- like me, she was born an "old soul" and so we have pretty much "gotten each other" from the day she was born. She was not a perfect child, but I have no real complaints. I wasn't a perfect mom either, and she hasn't expressed too many issues about which I marred her for life:-)

Now, rewind about 10 years and I might have had a few complaints. I have memories that until today, were more vivid than I had thought I would want them to be. Picture this: A 13 year old girl and her best friend + back-to-school shopping + fitting room with not enough stalls + hundreds of other moms and teenage girls packed into a department store Jr.'s department.

I have memories of standing outside the dressing room, serving as a human clothes rack while pants, shirts, skirts, t-shirts and jeans were tried on, rejected, returned to me to go back to the rack and begin the process all over again in search of smaller, larger or different color clothing items. I'm talking hours. I don't think I complained about it a lot. I was a pretty patient mom, who may not have savored moments like those, but accepted that it went with the territory.

As I reflected back on those times this afternoon, a flood of other memories rushed back as well. I'm at a point in my life where I just don't know how much more blessed I can possibly feel. Yet, each day God reveals another blessing. Today, my daughter and I changed roles. She was the human clothes rack, making countless trips back and forth in search of a different size, style, color for her mom! She also provided me a tutorial on "never wear this" and "don't even think about buying something like that", as we breezed past racks of clothes until we found some style and fit that was at least acceptable:-) for me to try on. She was equally as patient as I recall being. She was even magnanimous - something I may not have achieved back then.

Full circle is what I was going for when I sat down to type this post - maybe even along the lines of the Circle of Life from the Lion King. My daughter can shop! She can dress, too! My daughter's pretty amazing and today I felt especially blessed to be her friend.

Not to mention that I have the beginnings of a brand new wardrobe - all of which was purchased from sales racks -- and using a store-ad coupon! That's my girl!!

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18 NIV).

"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth" (3 John 1:4 NIV).

"[Children and Parents ] Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right" (Ephesians 6:1 NIV)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Rejoice and Be Glad in Him

Last night I had the joy of babysitting for the twins and their big sister. Oh what fun! They were quite excited to see me, which warmed my heart! All three of them started chattering away about what was going on in their lives.

The boys decided they were done with dinner because they wanted to get down from the table and play with me! Big sister wanted to go outside. One brother was barefoot so he needed to put on his shoes while the other one wolfed down the remainder of his fish sticks. It was just like "old times."

Because of their age, the boys looked so much older than the last time I saw them--about 6 weeks ago! They are moving from the baby stage to the toddler stage. Sister is as smart as ever! I delighted in every word and action of all three of the children. My favorite activity last night was sitting under the "playground" while the children ate popsicles. (Under the platform/playhouse at the top of the play set is a picnic table with benches where we sat for popsicle eating.) We had a detailed discussion about the colors of each popsicle and about the wonderful play set with swings, slide, "rock wall" and various other fun features.

As I played and hugged and kissed them throughout the night, I thought about how God must feel when we go to him in prayer, confession and gratitude--for just about any reason at all. I know He must smile when we lift a word of praise, when we ask for His forgiveness or when we simply spend quiet time reflecting on His word. I know He adores us even more than I adore my little buddies. I know He misses us when we separate ourselves from Him, even more than I miss the children.

God rejoices in us. We are His beloved! He created a world specifically and perfectly designed not only to sustain our lives, but to allow us to flourish and thrive. Then He sent His Son to demonstrate His ultimate gift to mankind: grace.

"But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, "Let God be exalted!" (Psalm 70:4 NIV)

"But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy" (Isaiah 65:18 NIV).

"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV).

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Thank you for your prayers!

Many thanks to Andrea for her rallying prayer warriors from around the world to intercede on our behalf!

Well, 3 days and much stress, worry and concern later, I brought Jim home this afternoon! He spent 13 hours in the ER before the cardiologist released him to a room in the Heart Pavilion. There was only one minor episode on Sunday night where the nurse gave Jim nitroglycerin because he complained of some rather painful pressure in his chest. Since then -- nothing!

Jim has had what one of the technicians at the hospital dubbed "the million dollar workup"!!! In other words, they did just about every logical test they could do without him undergoing any invasive procedures. (We're pretty sure that tech isn't too far off on the cost, either!:-)

The doctors are baffled because every test was negative -- multiple blood work-ups, chest x-ray, echo-cardiogram, ultrasound, stress test, full body scan, upper G.I. & esophageal something - all negative. And yet, on two occasions when he experienced chest pain/pressure, he responded to nitroglycerin.

We tend to believe that the prayers of the faithful led God to heal him. That is our ardent hope and the hope that we cling to. God is so good to have placed so many faithful prayer warriors in our lives -- and around the world! We felt your prayers and love every moment during our ordeal and thank you more than we can ever express.

We do ask for continued prayer that Jim not experience any more episodes like this.

I don't think all of it has really hit me yet, but I am certain in the days and weeks ahead there will be much about which to write and share.


Until then, blessings on your journey.

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16 NKJV)

"pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

URGENT PRAYER REQUEST


Hi, my name is Andrea from Arise 2 Write and All Gods Creatures. I am a friend of Mary's.


Mary called last night to ask for prayer. Her husband Jim was admitted to the hospital shortly after 3:00 A.M. Saturday morning with a Cardiac Episode. He is stable, now. He will have more tests done on Monday morning.


Both Mary and Jim are prayer warriors and believe in the power of prayer. Please storm the heavens on their behalf.


Please visit Edie at Rich gifts to pick up a button to place on your sidebar to pray for Jim. Edie is a dear friend, too. Edie graciously made this button without being asked. Thank you, Edie!


Please leave a message for Mary. Let her know you are praying for her.


In HIS grip,


Andrea

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Who Are You Imitating?

"Hello, jabber, jabber, jabber." This was the "conversation" that went on often at the house where my little buddies live. They imagined just about anything was a cell phone - like mom and dad have. At one point I purchased them each a phone at the grocery store. They made a ringing sound, and "talked" depending upon which button was pushed.

Even as young as 20 months, I can remember the boys, "phone" to their ear, shoulder to the phone, walking around the family room, "talking" as I'm sure mom did - phone held in place via ear and shoulder so two hands would be free at all times. It made me chuckle every time they did it. And of course, if one of the boys had a phone, I immediately needed to help the other find one in the toy bin! As they got older, I could swear sometimes even the boys sounded like their mom did on the phone - same inflection in the voice and everything!

Children live what they learn. They imitate others in their lives. But you know, so do adults. By the time we reach adulthood we have learned quite a bit - and not all of it is good. It can be challenging to break free from the undesirable learned behaviors we have developed. It can be painful to recognize that the people in our lives who we look to as examples, mentors, friends may not model the kind of behavior and attitude we know is appropriate for Christians.

Paul urges us, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children" (Ephesians 5:1 NIV). That means we are also to set a Godly example for the children in our lives and for everyone else as well. It's not always easy, but we have a Savior who bore all our burdens for us. He will give us the wisdom and the courage to break free of undesirable behaviors and attitudes.


"If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 4:11 NIV).

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 NIV).

Friday, July 3, 2009

July 4th, Easter Baskets and Christmas Morning


I remember when I was about 9 or 10. My grandmother (paternal) used to make us all matching outfits for various holidays. I assume this memory is of July 4th, because we lived in Massachusetts that year and it didn't even get really warm until about July (Memorial Day was probably still a bit chilly).

I don't know why I remember this year in particular but my three younger sisters and I all wore blue and white striped seersucker jumpers (there was some red rick-rack, I think) and my brother had some type of little outfit to match. I have a copy of a picture somewhere of all of us in those outfits. I remember thinking I looked so pretty! I thought we all looked so great! The little outfits were sewn with love and care. They represented my grandmother's love to me.

Some of my favorite photos from my childhood are those where we all "went together." I don't know how my mom did it, but more often than not, we looked clean, combed and dressed impeccably in coordinating, matching, or "go together" clothes -- no small feat for a mom with for four young girls and baby boy.

I think of those outfits every year on July 4th. I remember so much about that house and the wonderful basement where my sisters and I played for hours! I remember the room my dad built from the ground up so he would have office space to work in. I didn't realize at the time that all parents aren't that intentional and devoted to their children. They aren't all handy and able to make do and often even "make something wonderful out of nothing."

My parents did that for us. They set the bar pretty high! They were far from perfect. But I like to think I received from them the best of both of them. All the things in me that are creative, handy, resourceful, passionate and compassionate came from them. I know July 4th is an odd time to honor one's parents. But fireworks, trick or treating, Easter baskets and Christmas mornings are all tied up together in my mind and my heart, especially the older I get.

So I am blessed to have had parents who God hand-picked for me. He brought them together so that I and my sisters and brother would have exactly the skills, talents, gifts and graces God planned for us to have. Then he gave us their presence and their love so that as we grew up we would become the best of each of them and the best of them as a couple.

There were some things in my childhood that I didn't enjoy. But as I've grown in my faith and in my ardent desire to surrender more and more of my life to Christ, those memories fade. As I learn about forgiveness - of others and especially of myself - I am able to "forget" the pain and unpleasantness, though not the lesson.

The other night I heard Dr. Wayne Dyer make a statement that strikes me as so profound I can't stop thinking about it. It applies to our childhoods, to our parenting, to our jobs, to every aspect of our lives: "Everything that has happened to you was supposed to happen. How do we know that's true? Because it happened!"

So today as the sun sets on this July 3 I rejoice in everything that has happened in my life and in the memories that bubble to the surface that give me joy and make me wistful and remind me of the legacy God prepared for me long before he made the first star in the sky.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kreative Blogger Award

What a blessing to receive this award from one of the most "Kreative" people I know! Andrea at Arise 2 Write awarded this to me and I am honored to be considered her friend. I am amazed at how she encourages me and everyone else in her world. She is a wonderful person and a great friend.

I am required to nominate 7 other bloggers for this award and they are supposed to nominate 7 others. (Be sure to leave a comment on their blog about the award.) After they accept the award they are then asked to write a list of 7 things that their blog readers may not already know about them. I would like to pass this award on to the following:

Sharon ~ her journey
Today's Christian Mom
Inspirational Poetry of Joy and Peace
Graceful Abandon
Splashin' Glory
Seed Thoughts
LindyLou-Walking Through Womanhood

Here are 7 things about me:
1) I'm the oldest of 5 children (3 sisters after me and a brother-the youngest child)
2) When I was young I wanted to be a Psychologist.
3) I've lived in 5 states: Washington, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina
4) I'm 3/4 Irish and 1/4 German - My dad always told us girls, "You're Irish and you're beautiful; you're German and you're smart."
5) At one point in my childhood I knew all the words to Big Rock Candy Mountain, Down in the Valley and all the Clancy Brothers songs (They're an Irish folk group).
6) I took piano lessons for 5 years and taught myself to play guitar in my teen years - can't play either any more!
7) I believe in angels.

I hope you'll stop by the blogs of the bloggers I've tagged. You will be blessed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

What Did I Miss?

"What did the boys play with while I was at school?" For many weeks, this was the first question out of sister's mouth upon being buckled into the car seat to ride home from pre-school.

She didn't say hello. She didn't want to know what was for lunch. She didn't want to know if we could play outside after nap. She wanted to know what she had missed! She wasn't worried only about what she had missed, but also if the boys had played with any of her things while she wasn't around to protect them! After several weeks of this, I shared with my mom how frustrated I was.

She told me "You big girls always ran into your rooms after school to see what the babies had played with while you were at school." (There were we three "big girls" born within 4 years of each other and then the "babies" a year apart four years after the youngest 'big girl') Mom recounted how we often came running with the complaint that the babies had played with our Barbies or how "they got out my (insert the prized possession of the moment)", etc. After that, I gave big sister a break!

Too often I worry about other people--what they have, what they say, what they do. I make judgments about them and their actions. I criticize (often to myself) how they live and how they conduct their lives. It's a human failing, I know! I just seem to have to catch myself way too often.

Instead of worrying about what I'm missing, I need to focus on what I should be doing! God has given me some pretty specific instructions: WRITE! Not only has He instructed me to write, He gave me a writer's DNA and a mission and a vision to go with it! He wants me to do what I'm supposed to do and not worry about anybody else's instructions, abilities, missions or attempts to obey God's call upon their lives.

We are all sinners, and as Paul so eloquently and unabashedly states in 1 Timothy, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst." That also means I need to give others in my life "a break."

God wants us to look to the Cross before we judge others, and also before we beat ourselves up for falling short of who and what we want to do and be. He died for all of us -- my neighbor, my friend, my spouse, my children, my coworkers -- and even for me!

"But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life (1 Timothy 1:16 NIV).

"Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD" (Proverbs 23:17 NIV).

Friday, June 5, 2009

TRUCK! BUS! CHURCH!

This past year big sister attended a two-morning-a-week nursery school at their church, about 1.5 miles from the house.

One one might be tempted to think that I would then "have a break" to be minus one child two mornings a week. Picture this: urge brothers to finish breakfast; urge sister to eat something--anything--for breakfast. Change diapers. Take one of the twins to the potty (the other one was having none of it!). Dress both boys, put socks and shoes on both boys. Get jackets on. Load all three children in the car. Are you tired yet?

Each Tuesday and Thursday morning the boys were so excited! They considered these days full of great adventure! They got to ride in Mary's car! They got to go somewhere! Sister and brothers alike made announcements along the route. "There's the school bus people," sister would point out, referring to the children waiting on the corner for the school bus.

"Truck!" one of the boys would shout! "Bus, Mary! Bus," the other would announce. By the time we made it through the neighborhood and on to the main road to head toward church, everyone in the car was quite animated! I can recall several times I even looked for something exciting to point out! Once on the main road, it was a contest to see who would spy the church first.

During the fall and winter, we could see the steeple through the trees. Most often, though, we passed several busses, trucks, and "van's like mommy's" by the time we turned onto the road where the church was. "CHURCH!!!" one of the boys bellowed every single time to we turned the corner to pull into the church lot.


The favorite part of the entire trip was the "double bump" right after pulling in to the parking lot (a speed bump). Every time we crossed the speed bump the boys giggled. Every time.

As I was riding to the other side of town today to attend a training, I drove past that same church. I traveled over the James River - very high due to all the recent rainfall. I passed neighborhoods I hadn't seen or noticed previously. I even noticed traffic patterns and places in the road where several inches of the extensive rain we've had lately had pooled.

I was alert and very aware of all the sights along my way. I realized that on a regular work day, I make my trip rather routinely. I don't generally focus on the simple things in my path. I don't make a point to enjoy some of the beauty of the trees, shrubs, gardens and other plants in yards and courtyards, parks and median strips.

So often we just "get through" our daily activities. We forget to stop and admire the beauty God has created all around us. We don't take the time to notice how amazing our world is. We fail to thank God for His world and everything in it. We don't notice the amazing clouds or the glorious sun on the horizon. We take for granted our blessings.

Jesus told us to become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. Today I was challenged to appreciate my little part of the world and everything in it. Today I remembered to thank God for the little things that make life worth living. Today I remembered three little children who continue to enrich my life!

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (Mark 10:15 NIV)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bubbles of Prayer

I don't know what it is about bubbles that makes people so happy! The children I used to nanny for loved to blow bubbles! When big sister was barely 2 years old and the boys still napped a lot, sister and I spent many hours on the balcony of their apartment with a bottle of bubbles.

At first she couldn't blow them by herself, so eventually we decided I would blow and she would chase. That worked pretty well, actually, until I got winded! From the time the boys could walk they have wanted to be able to blow bubbles. This past spring they finally mastered it to varying degrees. They just giggle and run after the bubbles as if they were grasping for valuable treasures.

The trend now is also to blow bubbles as the wedding couple leaves the reception hall. We did that for my daughter's wedding and it was very festive.

The site, 42explore.com explains:
"Bubbles are round pockets of air or other gases in liquid (such as boiling water, fizzy drinks) or solid materials (plastic, glass). Bubbles can also be a thin, ball-shaped film of liquid that has gas trapped inside. Soap bubbles are shaped by an equilibrium between their outward air pressure and the inward surface tension of the soap film.

The detergent molecules tend to line up with one end pointing inward and the other outward, making the liquid surface more stable. The thickness of the soap film layer is due to these detergent molecules and is uniform for all size bubbles. Colors are seen because of the light diffraction through the soap film."

I don't know what it is about bubbles - the beauty, the wonder, the colors, their floating in the air, having the feeling of creating something unique and beautiful . . . Sometimes the children just stand and watch to see how high a bubble will float, or how far away it will go before it pops or disappears from site.

Years ago now, a small group of us gathered at our church sanctuary for intercessory prayer. We prayed aloud the name of every single person in every single family in our church as well as any particular prayer requests that had been lifted up during Sunday service.


We typically met on Sunday evenings. The church was quiet, the lights were low and we centered ourselves to pray the names of our brothers and sisters in Christ prior to beginning our sacred ritual.We divided up the pages of the list and each of us read our own pages aloud, simultaneously.

One of my praying companions said that sometimes she would just stop and listen to the others of us reading names, each of us at a different place on the list. She said it had a beautiful sound to her and when she closed her eyes she imagined that each name was encased in a bubble, floating up to heaven.

I love the idea of that imagery. It really made me tingle when she shared that vision with us. I felt as if we were encasing the souls of all those whose names we read in a type of supernatural force field --sending them directly to the Lord's throne.

Bubbles are just round pockets of air. Something about them though brings out the child in us. Something about intercessory prayer made me feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps that is what transported those names into the heavens. Perhaps a round pocket of the Holy Spirit surrounded those names and guarded them on their journey.

Even now, many years later, I think of those times we gathered and sent bubbles of prayer aloft to heavenly realms.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't Eat That Cookie. You'll Ruin Your Dinner

God's word is sometimes hard to hear. His instructions are challenging. Though we may fully believe God wants only what is good for us--what is best for us--spiritually, emotionally and physically, we don't always do as He commands.

Because I realize I have spent a great deal of time being disobedient to God's instructions, I generally demonstrate a tremendous amount of patience with toddlers who are testing limits and trying hard to find out how far "too far" really is! God gives us a great deal of latitude, I think. Because He is all knowing and all powerful, He often manages to get us to His desired place for us in spite of our own actions. He invented time and space itself, so His purpose and plan are never undone.

Like parents telling a child not to eat a cookie 30 minutes before lunch, God tells us how to live and act in accordance with His plans for us. Of course, disobeying a parent, snictching a cookie and gobbling it down in spite of our parent's instructions has a far less significant consequence than does our defiance of God's instructions!

That is how we learn though. First we learn that eating that cookie will, indeed, ruin our dinner. Then we learn that leaving our toys in the driveway could result in their being run over and broken. Not picking up our toys will result in their being taken away or getting lost.

Not doing what God tells us to do often results in our feeling disappointed in ourselves, guilty for our disobedience, and leads to our remembering (hopefully!) the next time we decide to defy God's word how badly we felt the last time! Just as we give children leeway and allow them to make choices, God gives us free will. Sometimes that results in pain, discomfort, sorrow. But it always leads to a deeper understanding that God's will is what we should strive for.

"This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success" (Joshua 1:8 RSV).