Friday, November 13, 2009

Snow Day

The kids didn’t have school today. It wasn’t because of snow though, just an end of the quarter break for teachers. It was rainy, gray and cold. I wanted to take the kids to the Aquarium today because it’s inside and fun and free since we have a membership. The kids didn’t want a family day, they wanted a friend day. So we scrapped the Aquarium and everyone had a friend over except Maren and Annie. They were not okay with that.

As the morning wore on I found the kids were suddenly sitting in front of the TV. Jenna and Abby were bickering a little. I thought I should really do something with these kids. I remembered my Family Fun Magazine. I subscribed to it years ago when I was still a parent that cared. I still liked giving them creative time and interactive play.

I quickly decided I didn’t like the magazine because it made me feel like a bad Mom. Yes it does. The suggestions sent in by the readers are obviously people who have only one child, are major over achievers or have a nanny. So I quit subscribing to it and yet it still comes. I think it is basically an advertisement for Disney at heart but it does have great ideas in it. I’m trying to be a Mom who cares so I thought we’d do a project or two.

There is no snow on the ground here yet, but we made snowmen inside. Enter snow dough. The only things you need are flour, salt, water, oil, cream of tartar, paint or food coloring, glitter and peppermint extract. I happened to have everything on hand because I’m a Mom who cares.

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1 cup flour

1 cup water

1/2 cup salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 tablespoons white tempera paint

1 tablespoon white or iridescent glitter

A few drops of peppermint extract (optional)

Put everything in a pan except the peppermint.

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Cook and stir until it clumps together like play dough. Turn it out onto waxed paper and add peppermint extract.

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After it cools a little, knead it and play. We made 7 batches. I ran out of paint and we started using food coloring. That worked just fine. You can keep it for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

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I think one of my problems with doing activities with my kids is wanting to stick to the plan. It’s called snow dough because it’s supposed to be white. Like snow. When they wanted to start making it pink, green and blue I wanted to protest. Because it’s supposed to be white. Like snow. I’m learning that I just have to let them be creative and have fun. What’s the big deal? If I really want it my way, I can make some more after they go to bed and play with it all by myself.

I also despise the mess. For instance, when you fail to specifically tell your two year old to pour the water in the pan and she pours all the water in the big storage tub of flour turning it to paste. I was tempted to be frustrated. It seems that would be a good time to throw in the towel, abandon them mission and turn on the TV. Somehow today I just laughed. It was a simple mistake. I could’ve let that ruin all our fun. And it was fun. Lots of fun. They played and created for hours. Then I cleaned up for hours.

If you make this with a bunch of kids you might want to be prepared for this.

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I served lunch and drinks and snacks. After that was all cleaned up I was starting to feel tired and a little cranky. Yet they wanted to paint because destroying my kitchen twice before 1:00 p.m. was not enough. So five girls painted. Including my two year old. She had paint in her hands, hair and mouth. I was getting paint and paper and water and paper towels. True works of art were being formed. There were discussions about what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Another thing I’ve learned that will never make it into Family Fun is that even though I’m all about conservation, I like disposable things for painting. From the dollar store. Like plastic tablecloths, plastic cups for paint and water. That way all I have to do is wash the brushes and wrap everything else up in the tablecloth and trash it.

And also, don’t take pictures during painting projects. That can be disastrous.

A bath was being run for the small paint monsters. As I was washing them up, Annie said, “We did lots of things today.”

I replied, “Yes, we did.”

She said, “It was the best day ever!”

In my mind, a rainy day at home could never top going out to do something. But I’m not as smart as my kids. It was the best day ever.

I couldn’t agree more.

So when the renewal notice comes for the magazine, I’m sure I’ll renew just to make sure we have more days like today.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Is Today The Day?

I have part of my house in order. The upstairs is all clean and I mean clean. As in scrubbed floors, clean counters, dust-free picture frames, clean tub: the works. If you popped in, I would even let you into my bedroom but please don’t open the door to the laundry room, okay? There could be liability issues with that.

Anyway, when the house is in order I feel like I am ready for anything. I take more time to play and read with the kids, I can tackle projects and keep up on everything. I am ready for unexpected guests to drop by. I can drop everything and rearrange my entire schedule at a moments notice.

I love when I’m caught up on the house. I was caught up seven years ago for five minutes. Trust me, those five minutes were bliss.

Unfortunately, my house is usually in some state of disarray. Have you met my five children? If I quit picking up for even five minutes it looks like a hurricane hit. When the house is a wreck it’s so overwhelming that I don’t even know where to start. The basement is in shambles right now and by the time that is in order the upstairs will have issues again.

The problem is my spiritual house is out of order just as much as my physical house. This week we’ve had to flex to meet needs. Things haven’t gone as planned. Just like it seems to be Murphy’s law that when the house is messy and I’m in my pajamas at 2:00 p.m. someone will stop by. I should always be ready for that unexpected company even though I rarely am. I want to be. I want to be able to throw the doors open and welcome people instead of rolling my eyes or quick throwing everything in a bedroom. Not that I’ve ever done that.

When things come up in my life and I’m not spiritually ready I don’t know how to handle it. I want to hide or run or fake it. Having to change my plans feels intrusive and annoying. God is showing me that as I keep my heart right with Jesus I can be ready for His plan. His plan is much more important than what is written on my calendar.

How do I know when my heart house is in order? When I’m focused on Jesus and living for His glory, reading His word and praying for His will. I know what to do, I just often let other things dirty the house. Then I am not ready. I am not ready for life to hit. I am suddenly overwhelmed. It seems like too big of a burden.

It was supposed to be Mike’s day off the other day. We were tired after a busy weekend. He went to the hospital for a visit. Then we had unexpected company. Someone we knew was struggling. A great wonderful surprise. Someone that we’ve been praying for, but hadn’t heard from in months showed up at our door. I honestly was beginning to think that day would never come. But it did.

Those are exactly the things I want to keep my house in order for. Not my physical house, although that helps, but my heart house. I want to open the door and embrace the unexpected that God puts on our doorstep.

So, is today the day?

That the lost friend or family member will show up at your door broken? The thing that you never thought would happen happens? Something you’d totally given up hope on comes through? The call will come for the new job you’ve been looking for? Your house will finally sell? You get the devastating new you’ve been fearing: sickness, loss of a job, marriage trouble,the bad choices of a child or parent?

Is today the day Christ will come back and none of the stuff we worry about will matter anymore?

Today could be the day. Get your house in order.

Colossians 4:2

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Be Still, My Soul

Be Still, My Soul was sung at a memorial service in Northern Italy on Sunday, March 11, 1945, in the regimental rest area.

“While preparing for the final push into the Po River Valley, which was the last formidable Nazi defense, the men of the 350th Infantry “Battle Mountain” Regiment held a memorial service to honor their members who had died in action over the last year.

“The newly formed 40-man regimental Glee Club sang “Be Still My Soul” and an address by Colonel James C. Fry inspired the men with his vivid recollection of their last year in combat, and closed the service with a reminder to the troops of their duty to their God and country.”




My uncle read about that service in the books he’s been reading on my Grandpa’s war years.  My Grandpa was at that service.  Grandpa told me on the phone last night that it was in a big open field twenty miles away.  There were thousands of people there.  The whole division went but they didn’t have enough trucks.  So half of the division walked and half rode.  On the way home, they switched. 

This was six months before the end of the war.  It’s surreal to me that in the middle of these intense battles, they stopped to have a service in a big open field.  Actually I can’t fathom the whole thing: the memorial service, living through what they did, seeing their friends die. 

What an amazing time that must have been to stand there and remember while getting ready to press on with their duty. 

Be Still, My Soul

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and bless├Ęd we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.


words by Ka­tha­ri­na von Schle­gel


Psalm 46:10

"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Greater Love Hath No Man…

Happy Veteran’s Day! This is the new Veteran’s Park in my Grandparent’s hometown.

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This is the bench that honors my favorite Veteran, my Grandpa Victor Ness. 64 years ago today he was discharged from the Army.

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Here is part of my Grandpa’s story, retold by my Grandma. The story picks up after they got married on his first furlough.

“Well, anyway, it was a sad parting because our future was pretty uncertain. He had planned for me to come to North Carolina as soon as my teaching job for the year ended, but Uncle Sam had different plans.

They moved them to Mississippi in May and then back northeast and then to Virginia Beach, Virginia. There they backed the train right out on the pier and the guys were loaded onto a ship and headed for Italy. It was an old British boat and they were fed oatmeal and rotten fish. Victor said that the canteen did a big business. It would be empty just after it opened. They docked in Oran, Africa for a short time. It was there that they sold their mattress covers to gals that used them for wedding dresses. Mattress cover – don’t you know what they were for? Each man carried one and if he was killed in action the remains of the body would be put into that mattress cover.

Then they went to Naples, Italy. It was here that Victor was assigned to the 88th Blue Devil Division under the guidance of General Mark Clark and Col. Fry. He saw a good deal of action in Italy. Victor says, “We walked up and down the Po Valley.” I guess the two battles I have heard most about are Mt. Battaglia and the one where they were in the front lines for 54 days in a row. Mt. Battaglia had a sort of castle on this high hill and the Germans and the American were trying to occupy it at the same time. They were so close to the Germans it was hand to hand battle there. After a week of battle, they finally took the hill and there were only seven boys left in the American company.

And the other time they were 54 days on the front line – no shaves or showers and C rations for food. That was a long time. He said they would march in the dark – each on hanging on to the guy in front of him. One guy dropped his ammunition box and they heard it go thumping down, down, down so they knew they were on a mountain walk. One time their company was hiding under a bridge and they heard the Germans walking over them.

He came close enough too – a bullet went through the blanket he was carrying on his back and another one grazed his ear enough so it drew blood. They were a happy bunch when replacements came and they were called back for a rest. Victor went to the French Riviera for his rest.

When the Germans surrendered in September, Victor did some stockade duty – that is, guarding prisoners. He said so many of them were just kids and they shared cigarettes with them. It just shows us that there wasn’t a grudge held. These German soldiers were only fighting under orders too.”

That’s just one man’s story. There are thousands of others: some are heroic, some are scary and difficult, some have happy endings, some are tragic. Throughout the political turmoil that has surrounded war, there’s no doubt that soldiers have shown great bravery and great love in their sacrifice. And I’m thankful.

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Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Making of A Gentleman

This fall I helped run a little carnival at a local festival. My friend and I were the only workers. She had all four of her young children with her. I had some of mine. We set it all up, worked the games all morning and then cleaned up. When it was over, we were taking down tables, hauling them to the van all with kids and sleeping babies in tow. We walked by many grown men that just stood there and looked at us. Until Hank saw us. He jumped right in and started helping us carry things.

A few weeks ago I was again hauling heavy things up and down stairs and loading up my van. Again, there was an able bodied male just standing there watching me.

I know there are many women that would prefer not to be helped. Some men get yelled at for holding a door. In fact, just this morning I was helping roll big heavy tables back in place after church. I had high heels on. It feels good to do things on my own sometimes and I'm certainly capable of it. I get that.

Of all the things I love about my husband, I really love that he is quick to help. He is always ready and willing to jump in. I’ve seen him jump up on a roof to help tether down a tarp or pound shingles and offer to grab pieces of furniture in the back of trucks. He could easily continue on his own way but he notices and offers to help. I think that’s why it shocked me so much. I guess I don’t appreciate what a gem of a hubby I’ve got.

My only son is growing up. There are dreams I have for him, things I want him to be and do. Those experiences made me realize that I really want him to get this. I want my son to be the guy who jumps in to help no matter who it is that is in need. For that matter, I want my daughters to do that too. It just seems a little more important for a boy to learn it.

How do we teach that? He will never see the gallant gentleman celebrated in the Hollywood he knows. Nor will he see it very often in the world he lives in. I have always thought that we need to model it and teach good manners. And those things are true. But deeper than that is teaching him to love like Christ.

All through the gospels, Jesus sees and responds to the physical needs of those around him. He heals, befriends and feeds many needy people. Do I think it was because he had good manners and impeccable breeding? No. He literally was born in a barn after all.

His willingness to meet people’s needs came from the love in His heart. As He helped meet physical needs, He was able to show and relieve spiritual neediness as well.

It has made me rethink my approach to training my son to be like Hank or Mike. Although they are good examples, I really need to train him to be like Christ. It’s about love and having a heart for God. It’s about taking that love and putting it to work in the lives of others. It’s about pointing people to Him.

Galatians 6:9-10

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one,

because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down,

his friend can help him up.

But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.

But how can only one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,

two can defend themselves.

A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Romans 12:9-11

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

That’s a lesson my son AND my daughters need to learn. And so do I.