Thursday, May 31, 2007

Playing Catch Up

We had a wonderful holiday weekend with our dear friends - full of swimming, good conversation, lots of laughter and catching up. The time went all too quickly and Monday night was a somber, quiet night of restoring order and routine to the house. The kids were all whipped, and lightly sun-burned, and went to bed early without one complaint!

Since then, I've spent the days of this week doing laundry, cleaning the house for the next round of company, planning meals, and avoiding that grocery bag full of mail that I kept stuffing away and ignoring while our friends were here to visit. Contrary to popular belief, ignorance is not bliss! It is however, a great coping tool when other, more important matters are at hand. Like staying up till midnight watching movies and giggling together over our crazy lives.

Like all coping tools, at some point I had to consciously decide to stop coping and "DEAL." So last night, after a lovely (LATE!) dinner with my visiting brother and sister-in-law, I sat myself down and attacked the now-bulging grocery sack full of mail, school papers, and "notes to self" in an organized manner. It took me 3 hours. I'm not exxaggerating - 3 hours of sorting, scheduling, and deciding. And the pile only represented incoming papers from Friday till Wednesday. No wonder I never go away from home for more than 4 days. The sheer volume of paperwork generated from a week's vacation would drown me! I dropped into bed at 11:30 last night, completely brain dead from input overload and decision burn-out.

So, I face today with a clean counter and neatly organized lists of "To Do's." And a pending visit from my in-laws. And a sick kitty. But, I've done my baking, started my laundry, sent my brother and his wife off to their next destination, and tackled the Sunday bulletin. Next, I'm off to Curves for an hour of "me" time and back to my computer later to finalize our Pastoral Search Team FAQ brochure. Somewhere in there, I guess I should take a shower and get my face on. Wouldn't want to scare away the in-laws!

And here I thought this "stay at home" mom stuff meant being my own boss, calling my own hours, and playing blissfully with my children while enjoying lots of leisure time to "sit around and eat bon-bons!" HA!

See you all tomorrow . . . .

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Favorites" Friday

I'm beginning a series of Friday posts, listing my 5 favorite things. Most of the time, I hope to have a theme for the week, but I have to confess upfront that I won't always be that cohesive. Today's post is in honor of the pending Memorial Weekend Visit from my best friend (next to The Boss and my sibs!) and her family. I capitalized it because it's become one of the most important holiday treats in my life. Many of you may know her and many of you are privileged to have her serving you as a pastor's wife and, more importantly, as a friend.

Five of My (many!) Favorite Things About My Best Friend
  1. She is among the kindest and gentlest spirits I know. Her compassion is not just a feeling - this woman puts ACTION to her enormous heart.
  2. She works at this friendship equally and I never question my place in her heart. My prayer is that she never question hers in mine.
  3. She knows the great balance of spiritual depth and levity. This makes me crave conversation with her and incredibly grateful for time spent together.
  4. She has adorable children, who love my children and are deeply loved by my children.
  5. She had the good sense to marry a man who was happy to take on her crazy, outspoken red-haired friend and make us family, too!
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, gang. I'll be sitting poolside, sipping iced tea and hopefully sneaking off with MBF for a girls-only trip to Kohl's to hit the sales. Don't forget to stop and thank the Lord for the men and women who have fought and still fight today to keep us free and secure!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Another Sibling to Brag On

While I'm in the mode of bragging on my sibs, let me introduce you to my other sister, who shall be known for purposes of this post as Suzy Q. She never lets me call her that in person, but since she's like a gazillion miles away in Massachusetts, I can get away with it here. And since I'm about to say some really nice things about her, I'm hoping the screen name won't bug her too badly.

Suzy Q is one of the smartest, thriftiest, handiest, and most industrious women I know. She is the mother of 4 huge Norwegian giant boys (Shout out to da' boys!!), and the wife of a huge Norwegian giant man-boy (love ya, K!). She is also a pastor's wife and works part-time and goes to school part-time. And when she's not wearing one of those many hats, she's busy creating a beautiful haven in their newly remodeled New England bungalow home. She gardens like my grandmother, cooks and sews like my mother, bakes like Betty Crocker, quilts like the Amish, and runs her home better than Martha Stewart.

I love going to visit her home, because every time I'm there, I have this incredible feeling of being transported back to my grandmother's home in NY. Not necessarily because of any similarities in the structures of the houses, but because Suzy Q has carved out a home that is warm, inviting, quaint and old-fashioned. I mean quaint and old-fashioned the GOOD way. See, Suzy Q doesn't do things the pre-packaged, quick or easy way. In fact, I don't think I've ever even seen a cake or brownie mix in her pantry. And CERTAINLY never have I seen a store-bought pie crust! She believes in doing things from scratch.

And when she does things from scratch, there is an inordinate amount of love and care poured into her end product. She plans for the time to make cookies from Mom's recipe book, plans for the time to create family favorites to share over the table, and she plans to invest herself while she is doing it. Often when I call she is also planning meals for a family in the church who is struggling, or making a big double batch of something to freeze for use another time. And if you peek at the calendar on her fridge, she has meals planned for her family for the entire month. She watches over her family finances with such diligence and care that she often knows exactly how much her meals cost her per serving. In her planning, she exhibits the love she carries for the people she's serving.

Not only has she carved out an atmosphere of "home," she also physically designed the whole upper floor of her home. Several years ago, they sold their adorable little rancher and found their bungalow-style home. It had great bones, and was chock full of potential. That's another great thing about Suzy Q - she can see potential in a bare bones circumstance. So anyway, they utilized their little math brains (both my sister and her hubby were math majors and he currently teaches math in their church's high school) and got ready to remodel. My sister created plans for 4 spacious rooms and two beautiful bathrooms out of a big empty attic space with dormers. She figured out a way to utilize every spare inch of space, and the result has been amazing to see unfold. Her boys have a huge closet that serves as a play room and extra space for cousins to sleep, and the bathroom in the master bedroom is so luxurious and inviting, I almost never want to leave that shower. I've seen the "before" pictures, and the transformation has been amazing.

I admire Suzy Q. I admire her ingenuity, her smarts, and her diligence. She is a strong, courageous, and deep woman. I also happen to think that her clear, green eyes and red hair are beautiful. We haven't always had the easiest of relationships: I was very immature and selfish for many years. But I have ALWAYS admired her. And when I read Proverbs 31, and I visualize that woman in the marketplace making deals and selling wares and creating a beautiful life for her family, that woman often has Suzy Q's face.

Locks of Love

In honor of NBC's second annual Locks of Love cutting extravaganza this morning, I wanted to share our own LOL experience. In the fall of 2005, after hearing about this organization from some kids at school, my daughter LadyBug decided that she wanted to grow her hair and donate it. She decided at the same time to grow out her bangs. So for about 16 months, we found creative ways to pull her hair back, clip her bangs, and still make it "pretty" (a very big requirement when you are 6!). Swimming season was the easiest: I braided it once or twice a week in tiny little braids all over her head and let it go till it fell out of the braids!

Finally, in February of this year, LadyBug and my cousin Lauren headed out to our local hair shop. We passed the word to a friend in church and when we got there, there were three beautiful heads of hair, waiting to be cut. These are the "before" and "after" pics of my LadyBug. If she'd had her way, she would have given all the hair directly to the little girl in her school who has Alopecia! When we got home, Daddy made a big deal of the occasion, presenting her and my cousin with flowers and a card expressing pride in their selfless acts. It's been a bit of an adjustment, considering that the new haircut makes it official: she's not a little girl for much longer. But it was worth it all, knowing that her generousity and compassion was expanded and that some little girl will get to enjoy the beautiful gift of my LadyBug's pretty hair!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Pastor's Wife

I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming our pastor's wife yesterday to speak at the MOMS' group I lead in my home. We've been meeting for about 2 years together and she's actually spoken 2 or 3 times now. Tuesday morning, she spoke on "Reflecting The Father."

As she spoke, I kept watching her and listening to her. Her mannerisms and little "asides" are very familiar to me. Her heart for purity and holiness in all she does was shining through. Her easy, approachable manner made her words sweet and palatable, even though they challenged something in me. And I marveled at how well I've seen her "Reflect the Father" as she's grown into the woman that she is.

I've had a unique opportunity to watch this woman grow. I've seen and experienced many of the same life circumstances that have molded her to CRAVE His image and likeness. I've been in the same trenches, and now raising kids together in the faith of our father. And our Father. You see, this woman that sat before us today to share the heart of the Lord for mothering our children is my sister. She is younger than many pastors' wives that I've served under in the past, but she is gifted with a clarity and wisdom that is beyond her years. She and my brother-in-law are walking our church family through a transition of leadership, and have been appointed interim pastor for this season. She carries a love for these people and a desire to see them live freely and wholly that can only come from God. She parents her children with much grace and mercy and honors the individuality of each child's wiring. She seeks information and resources when she is stumped - and she's not too proud to say that she doesn't have it all together. She is warm and loving, and a lot of fun to hang out with. And because she still likes to take some credit for this, she was wise enough even at 15 or 16 to point out to me that The Boss was a "keeper!"

I did not intend to start a series on my family, but events of recent weeks have been pressing on my heart and I feel so incredibly grateful for the legacy that my parents have created for our family. And I feel honor-bound to live that legacy to the best of my ability. And I am surrounded by family members who live their lives the same way. I am not by any means telling you our family is perfect. But sitting with my parents the other night, I caught a glimpse of the holy calling that they have burning in their hearts. That's the biggest change I remember happening when my dad got saved: we had a mission. In my little 8 year old spirit, that mission was to share Jesus with my friends and go with my family to Bible school. As I grew, I understood the more global idea of allowing the Father to mold my whole heart to beat like His heart. And now, for as long as I can clearly remember, my (our) mission has been to share the love of Jesus Christ to those in my path and to teach my children to do the same. And to be diligent in the pursuit of "Reflecting The Father."

So, Little Sis, you are reflecting your father. And Reflecting THE Father. And I'm honored and proud to serve under your leadership and join you in that journey.

Monday, May 21, 2007

So Proud I Could Burst!

This past Sunday night, The Boss and I travelled with my younger sister and her husband to join the family in honoring and celebrating a great milestone in my younger brother's life. Sunday night was a graduation ceremony for a group of young men and their wives being launched into full-time ministry as pastors in their ministry circle.

Let me start by saying that I have always been extraordinarily proud of my little brother. I am extraordinarily (almost maniacally!) proud of all my siblings. I love being their older sister, love knowing that they have all grown to be amazing, godly, interesting and challenging adults that I am proud to call my very best friends. I love it all so much that I think I might creep them out occasionally - or at least make them wonder about my emotional stability! I tear up a lot when we are together - they're getting used to it.

There are 8 years between my brother and I, so I have many vivid memories of him growing up I remember volunteering in his kindergarten classroom and being proud of how friendly and kind he was. I remember attending countless Little League and basketball games, screaming from the stands and making a nuisance of myself. I remember being so proud of how loving and respectful and kind he was with our elderly neighbor ladies. I was proud to watch him court and woo his lovely wife, gentling his boisterous nature in respect for her more reserved nature. I was proud of excited he was to become an uncle for the first time to my Shaggy boy. I remember how protective he has always been over all the women in his life. I remember all those things with fondness, and enormous pride in the man that he has grown to be.

But I have never been as proud of him as I was last night. First, because this graduation represented the second generation of men to submit his life and whole future to the service of expanding and nurturing the kingdom of heaven. Second, because last night represented a sacrifice of more than 9 months of self. Being part of this program required them to move, live in a small bedroom with his wife in the home of their lovely host couple, and live in a world immersed in training and dying to self daily in a way few of us ever experience. And both of them did it with joy, never complaining or whining, and did it by serving others around them faithfully. This brings me to the final reason I was prouder than I have ever been. Last night, my little brother was honored by his peers as the student who most exemplified the spirit of humility and servanthood modeled by Jesus. I was so proud, I couldn't even scream from the stands. I could hardly swallow past the lump in my throat. There is no honor that they could have bestowed upon him that would have made me (or, I'm certain, my parents!) more proud.

See, we all know he's amazingly smart. We all know he has wonderful leadership skills. And we all know that he is a completely different man than he was even just a year ago. Those other awards were great, and I'm certain the recipients deserved them totally. But to know that my brother has been honored by the men who grew with him, cried with him, laughed with him and learned with him, for being a HUMBLE SERVANT LIKE JESUS is the highest honor I could ever think of for him.

Then get this: he called me this a.m. to thank us for giving up two days away from home to support him and join him in celebrating. (Like you coulda kept me away - I was SOOOOO going, no matter if I had to go alone! See, maniac!) And he tells me that he really believes that he shares that award, first and foremost with MOM (who I must say is one of the most selfless servant-hearted women I've ever known), and then with us, his sisters. Because in his opinion and his heart, he believes that we taught him by our lives what serving family and serving the local church really means. Blow. Me. Away. Not just tearing up anymore - fully crying. So incredibly shocked and proud. Again. Proud of this man, that he can so easily and selflessly deflect any praise and SHARE IT. Wow. And I've got to tell you, I only hope I can walk away from conversations like that deflecting all attention to my self and pouring right back onto my Savior. I was so proud of him I could have burst wide open, right then and there - all over again.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I Am Techie, Hear Me ROAR!

After several frustrating hours last night, followed by major connection problems with V****** and several more phone calls and troubleshooting with the V techs, I finally cried "Uncle" and called my blogger guru, Natalie. She patiently walked me thru the process and I've successfully enabled my comments. So have at it, gang! Drop me a line and let's start sharing our thoughts.

I'm not a competitive person, but I just had this unrelenting need to figure this world out, and conquer it. I've come to learn about myself that if I think I should be able to do it and I can't quite figure it out - watch out! I fell asleep last night thinking of ways to improve this blog and conquer the comments issue. And I woke up, obsessed with finding the solution. And with finding other things to learn about it as I go.

On another note, I have to tell you: this whole experience has The Boss and I shaking our heads and laughing. Let me give you the background: my little brother was for many years a very successful up and coming radio-frequency engineer for a large cell company. As part of the perks package, he was able to get great phones and cell service for many of us in the family. At first, I resisted - loudly, and regularly! - I finally relented and requested the most basic, no frills, no bells and whistles phone he could get me. Then we moved to "the suburbs" and my trusty dinosaur phone died. My next phone was only a slight improvement in technological wonders, and again, I had no extras. Boring ringtone, basic voice mail and for heaven's sake - absolutely NO TEXTING!

Then it happened. My brother responded to the call of the Lord on his life, left his company and prepared to head off to Pastors' College. Before he left, he informed me that the new "Razr" was on sale and if I wanted a great phone that would last for a lot of years, I'd better move on it before his last day at C*******. I caved. I didn't just cave: I jumped in head first! On the day that my phone was delivered and my service was set up, I actually felt high. (Or what I can only assume was high, having never been on anything but pain meds for a c-section!) I ordered a media bundle, bought ringtones (if you call me, I get to hear Keith Urban crooning to me!), and taught myself how to text. I even started taking pics of my kids, my cat, and the polar bear at the zoo. And swapping out my wallpaper every couple days. (A girl's gotta have variety, you know?!) I even cancelled all long distance on my home phone and my cell became my constant companion.

And several months later . . . in order to be faithful to do ALL we can to save money and funnel all "non-essential" funds (ha, LOL!) toward the adoption account, I cancelled my media bundle and contented myself with occasional pics stored for my own enjoyment. I determined that I could live with just the ringtones I'd already purchased. After all, BonJovi and Jennifer Nettles sing to me when the kids call from home and Keith sings . . . .well, you get me. Anyway! I bit the bullet and even pulled back my free minutes plan when we switched to unlimited long distance with V******. The problem is, I think the song I chose for The Boss's ring is too sad. It doesn't totally capture the essence of the love story between us. It's not "me."

I know, it's the most frivolous and ridiculous thing I've ever heard. If someone else complained to me about this, I'd quirk my brow and wonder. Maybe mutter some less than encouraging things under my breath about the marshmallow-y-ness of it all. But it's getting under my skin. It's bugging me. How stupid is that?!? I have the coolest phone, Keith sings to me daily, and I'm irked about my dh's ringtone. Come on! And now that I see this in print, I see how utterly vain and trite it is. And how completely BESIDE my original point it all is,too.

So anyway, the fact that I have begun my very own blog (embracing all its technology and terminology!) created quite a stir here in the house last night. The kids were buzzing, helping me create their names, asking me to post about the adoption (I will, I promise!), and begging to read what I wrote about them. And The Boss? He just keeps looking at me as if he's thinking, "Who are you and what did you do with my wife?!"

But now I'm thinking, once I get rolling, he may just be the most grateful man you ever met - I'll be using my thousands of words on you all and he won't have to duck at the deluge as he comes in the door any more :) And my next frontier to conquer is the digital camera - hint, hint, BossMan <3

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I've been called out . . .

Well, here it is, the inaugural posting of my very own blog. I've spent enough time and energy lurking in so many others' sites that I shouldn't be surprised that I've finally taken the leap. But I am. Surprised. And nervous. And excited. And glad that my friend Natalie called me out - and into this crazy new world. Look, Nat - I did it!

I don't know that I'll have enough to add to the blogosphere to make this a venture worth pursuing for anyone but those who lovingly put up with my madness and drama, but here I go! Not that I'm saying, by any stretch of the imagination that I won't have enough to say - I ALWAYS have something to say. But we'll lean on the test of time to see if they are worth your while. Or mine.

In the coming posts, I hope to share with you all some pics and stories about my family. For now, allow me to introduce "The Gang:"

Shaggy is our wonderful, creative, funny and verbose firstborn. He is almost 13 (how on earth could I possibly be the mother of an almost teen-ager?!) and full of joy and passion. He is becoming a leader in many areas of his life and continues to bless us with his growth in the Lord. Now, his growth in other areas? Well, let's just say that a second mortgage for the grocery bill is imminent!

Dr. Doolittle is our resident animal lover, brainiac, and comic relief. His deep brown eyes reflect the compassion of Jesus Christ for the "voice-less" in our world, mainly the animals of the world. His funny facial expressions and mimicry have been known to break tension just when it's needed most. And his speed and skill on the soccer field is completely surprising, given how laid back he usually is.

Ladybug rules the roost as the only daughter in an home full of potty humor and body functions. While she is quite the girly-princess, she can belt out a burp to make her brothers fall over in shock and make Daddy proud. She has a joyful, sweet spirit and is anxious to welcome another sister into the family soon. She wakes up with a smile and falls asleep with a smile, skipping and singing her way through the hours in between.

Baby Blue Eyes is (for now) the baby of the family, loved and cuddled and hugged by all who know him. You just can't help it, he's so stinkin' cute with his toothless (more on that later!) smile and big eyes. He is the glue that holds us together - reminding us very frequently of the importance of stopping for hugs and kisses and time together to just hang out.

The Boss is my college sweetheart, putting up with my steady stream of extreme emotional outbursts (mostly happy!) and constant conversation for over 16 years now. He is a strong, steady leader in our home and in our local church. He is a runner, a consummate do-it-yourselfer, and a servant at heart. He's gotten increasingly more handsome (yes, even sexier!!) as we've aged together and I'm so grateful that his heart is truly grounded and anchored here in our home.

I don't know that I have a good screen name for myself yet, but I'll work on that and get back to ya! The Boss is voting for "Foxy Mama" but I just can't seriously consider that one - he's sooooo biased!

In the meantime, I gotta serve some tacos to the hungry gang. I will be back - and you can count on it!