Personal Journey

Weekend Coffee Share

Just as I took my first sip of hazelnut roast with heavy cream, the retirement club arrived at Panera. Judging by the volume of their voices, they’re a bunch of bingo callers. Actually, they’re adorable, and I hope I have friends like that when I’m white-haired. Heck, I hope I live to be white-haired. Still. I have to move away. I smile as I do, so they know I’m not offended. My hot pink and yellow earplugs just aren’t cutting it at this range. ADHD? I’ll look it up later and diagnose myself.

How do you like your coffee? Be careful how you answer that question in this charged culture. On Saturday morning I read a blogger who made the statement: Donald Trump didn’t teach us to hate; he just made hate fashionable. I’ve been pondering that, as well as several other assertions from my blogging friend. Many groups have had their fashionable day: Jews, Commies, Catholics, Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, Japs, Jews. And Jews.

White men, it’s just your turn, is all. This too shall pass.

It’s at this point you pat my mug-holding hand and tell me to stop. Just, stop.

I get the hint and we change the subject to safer things, like kids. On Saturday Gabe had a swim meet. Can I tell you how much I love to watch him swim? He’s a monster. He swam the 200 freestyle and 100 Fly, as well as both A relays.

On Sunday, Bob and the team going to Africa were called up to the stage. I’m excited because I get to live vicariously through them, a writer’s preferred way to experience life. They’re building a church shelter in the “bush,” which means they get to sleep under the stars for a few nights. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Supposedly the mosquitos won’t be bad this time of year. How about the lions? How are they? (See why I’m your best vicarious team member?) “I volunteer as tribute.” Said I, never.

Which is why I’m humbled and inspired by those who are willing to sacrifice vacation, money, and whatever it takes to love people. Thanks, Eclectic Ali, for helping me find my voice. I’ve got a ways to go, but it’ll happen. I’ll just keep showing up and hope you do too. xoxo

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Personal Journey

Luke’s Missions Trip 2017

Luke, 2016. To donate to this summer’s trip, click his picture. Thank you! 

Every summer since he was eight years old Luke’s gone on a short-term missions trip to an Indian reservation. This particular missions trip is so physically exhausting that most people (myself included) can’t hack it a second time around. Sleep deprivation, strenuous and sweltering construction, and mosquitoes of apocalyptic proportions are what you sign on for.

Luke loves it.

This year Luke hopes to travel with his high school youth group to Santiago de los Cavelleros, Dominican Republic, to share God’s message of salvation and love. Like his usual summer trip, this is no pleasure excursion, no summer camp experience. The students show love tangibly: playing with the kids at the dump where they live, cleaning, digging out foundations, construction– anything that needs to be done. They get dirty. They get sick. They get the gift of perspective. I dare not say God’s perspective, for no one can reach that. But they get a bit closer when they step out of their comfortable lives and go.

With all the need here, why go there? Because there is worse than here. It’s not enough to study National Geographic covers. One must go.

It is faith-building to lean on God’s provision. I’m not saying God couldn’t drop a duffel bag of $1,700  on our doorstep, but generally He works through the actions of people, moved to do benevolent work. Luke was moved to sign up. I am moved to write this post on his behalf. Some friends and family have been moved to support him with a donation. THANK YOU!!! If God just dropped the duffel, so much would be lost.

So here’s Luke. He’s been rolling subs, waiting tables, and working at various church functions– to raise the needed funds. On Sunday the students stood before the church. (Luke’s right behind Pastor Jonathan on the big screen.) As of today, Luke has half of his support raised. Kindly pray for Luke and the other students, that they’d raise the needed funds, that this trip would be life-changing, that God would eclipse all in the lives of the students, the advisors, and the people they go to serve.

If you would like to help Luke get to the Dominican Republic, send up a prayer for him and/or make a tax-deductible donation here.

Personal Journey

K is for Katae

KIn a lineup of siblings, first-borns traditionally shoulder the heaviest burdens. Katae has always gracefully shouldered her world, praying that God would make her a good example, always considering her brothers and sister. In our home Katae would do what needed to be done; she’d find the holes and fill them; she’d enlist her siblings to help. First-borns are often leaders that way, sympathetic to their ragged mothers. Katae was the one who cared. She never saw me as Super Woman or– most likely, never even saw me as Capable Woman. All my shortcomings hung way out in those early years when I had more littles than bigs.

Katae played soccer until homeschool status prevented her from playing at the high school level. Then she helped Bob coach. Up through the ranks of Civil Air Patrol Katae worked, becoming a Master Sargeant in just two years and hating every minute of it. In an activity even more hated, speech and debate, Katae also shined. It doesn’t matter how Katae feels about a job: she gives it her all. I don’t have to see her to know that she does exceptional work at QDRO (a company that divides 401K and retirement packages according to divorce decrees). At twenty years old, Katae graduated from Bowling Green State University and landed a good job in an economy when even bad jobs were scarce. At twenty-three, she’s still shouldering her world gracefully.

Because they love her so, Katae’s leaving felt like a mortal wound for a while. I didn’t even recognize it at first. One day I realized that the kids were just… off. And Gabe said, “I miss Katae.” It’s the way things are supposed to be. A daughter grows up. She meets a great guy. She gets married. And we all miss her. But we’re happy for her too. And when she comes for a visit, Katae’s a rock star. Really, we didn’t lose a daughter; we gained a son. Paul is as beloved as Katae. He brings a playful spirit into every pursuit. Can I still cry when, after a lovely visit, they get on their motorcycle and leave?

When Bob and I went away on our 20th anniversary cruise, it was Katae and Paul who took Gabe to his swim meet so he didn’t have to miss it. Anyone who has experience in swim meets knows we asked a lot of Katae and Paul, like six hours’ worth of stifling hot, chlorine-asphyxiated swim meet on one of their two weekend days. I trust Katae to be kind to her little brother. I trust that she loves people the best she knows how, that her intentions are good. Katae has always been a kind spirit. Sleek and soft and beautiful, like her many cats, is Katae.

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Personal Journey

How To Be An Idiot This Thanksgiving

Pass me the sweet potatoes… and the Black Friday Ad.

The talk this Thanksgiving is whether or not to shop the Black Friday specials, which have slithered into Thursday, and onto our Thanksgiving table. Passions run high on both sides of the turkey. Some folks can’t pass up a deal and will gladly sacrifice dinner no matter how much it ticks off the hostess. With a voracious lick of their lips, they’ll set down their greasy forks, pat their fat, full bellies, and rush out to grab a spot in line at Best Buy or Walmart. Others have taken offense at the intrusion– nay, the kiss-off, the Thanksgiving Table has endured, and they steadfastly refuse to leave the table or open an ad until midnight, Friday: the moment shopping is supposed to begin. They’ll be singing “Kumbaya” around the free range turkey and praying for America to shed its materialistic skin.

To shop or not to shop. That is the question. If you shop, you’re a selfish, materialistic pig. If you don’t shop, you’re either a tree-hugging idiot abstaining for religious reasons, or you’re just a plain old idiot who doesn’t even know the glorious deals out there for the taking.

Like so many of our holidays, Thanksgiving today wouldn’t recognize itself even a generation ago. It’s inevitable that holidays go through metamorphoses over time and because of changes in our cultural values. But we’re not becoming butterflies. The changes in our holidays aren’t pretty. How did we forget to be thankful for the little things? Food. Life. Freedom. God. A sunrise. A table with plates. A job to hate. Kids to manage. Butterflies.

Rather than questioning whether or not to shop this Thanksgiving, perhaps we should question how to be thankful. Perhaps we should question everything: look at Thanksgiving with fresh eyes and a new perspective. See all that we enjoy and take for granted because we’ve never lacked. I’m willing to be the idiot who misses a Black Friday deal; I’m not religious about Thanksgiving, but I love God and try to love what He loves. I close the ads because I don’t want to open myself to coveting or discontentment on the one day in 365 that’s designated for thankfulness. I lack nothing. Neither do you.

Happy Thanksgiving, 2014

Personal Journey, Politics

Hollow. Ween. A Zombie Tradition I Wish Would Just Die Already

GravestoneSkeletonPopsUpMore disgusting and mutilated than any front yard ornament or trick-or-treat costume I’ll see this year is the philosophy behind this “cultural tradition” we call Halloween. Yes, some of you will hate me when I’m done.

An impressionable sapling of a boy was riding in the car with his mom one day when he made this remark: What I like best about Halloween is that everyone gives away candy and you don’t  have to pay any money for it.

Wait.  What?  I nearly threw my computer across the room.  I thought I’d gotten lost in cyberland and was redirected to the democratic party platform or the Affordable Care Act website.  Everyone givesand you don’t have to pay any money for it?!?  I’m not very good at math, but even I know that if everyone is giving, someone is paying money for it.  Just not him– the recipient of the windfall.  But he’s just a kid, right?  He can’t be expected to understand that, can he?  That is the lie our culture perpetrates on young minds.  Thanks for stating it so succinctly, kid.

ZombieAttackUncleSamOf course someone is paying for it; Halloween candy doesn’t grow on trees.  But that’s precisely the problem with our culture and is laser-spotlighted by this boy’s dewy remark.  We teach, sometimes overtly and sometimes through our traditions that it’s possible there really is a free lunch out there somewhere, that it’s possible for everyone to give and for no one to pay.  Isn’t that what we were promised back in 2008 by a certain candygiver, our national SugarDaddy?  But I know many people who are paying for the candy now. And they’re not happy about it.

It gets worse.  His Mom writes:  We all agreed heartily and even as we said so it sunk in further how right he is.  Halloween may be the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A. Seriously. Candy is handed out to our friends’ children, our neighbors, and complete strangers all the same. And people who give out treats on Halloween expect virtually nothing in return.  Maybe just a thank you.

Then the coup de grace (again from Mom): Is there any other cultural tradition that compares when it comes to the spirit of altruism?

If Halloween is “the most givingest holiday we have in the U.S.A.” then we may as well build bunkers in the backyard because we’re doomed.  Seriously.  If our greatest act of selflessness, of altruism is to give fun-size chocolate bars to kids dressed up in disturbing costumes, we are an empty, vaporous people, valueless, clueless, and without a scaffold of truth on which to hang anything meaningful.  This is the Kool-Aid of the default culture; it’s the Common Core Curriculum of our moment-by-moment reality: the idea that there is no ultimate responsibility.  Everyone gets and no one gives.  And no one is ever wrong either. Don’t miss that. It’s the real pollution we breathe day in and day out.  It whispers to us in the sidebar ads, screams in the commercials, and lies seductively all throughout the show.  If we don’t step in front of the media tsunami that is our culture, we too will wake up and think the best thing to happen to us is hollow.  Hollow. Ween.  

The greatest act of altruism happened 2000 years ago.  Sorry.  I know it’s not popular right now. But it wasn’t then either.  It was so unpopular that it just might have killed you to sign on.  Now that’s a scary proposition.  But it didn’t deter them from signing on in droves.

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Other than that, I don’t hate anything about the innocuous holiday known as Halloween. Trick-or-treat until your heart’s content.  Dress up. Have fun.  Don’t forget to thank the person who did spend quite a bit of dough on your boon.  And learn as much as you can about the other altruistic days we celebrate.  Please.  Oh please do learn so you won’t think Halloween is the pinnacle of goodness on this earth.  Oh, and the word– holiday originally meant “holy day,” as in celebration of something holy, like God. Sadly, for many people, it now just denotes a hollow day.  There really was someone who didn’t stay dead.  And He didn’t look like a mutilated zombie either, which is probably why His story won’t die. Either that– or it’s true.

Homeschool Life, Personal Journey

Car Wars: Driving Through the Dark Side

Rated R for Rant.

7:05. Wake up and drive Katae to Berea Courthouse for her internship.  Well, she drives there.  I drink my joe.

8:30. Get home.  Have 2nd cup of coffee and read Bible, eat breakfast, read emails, yell at kids.

10:00-11:00. Take boys to the orthodontist where we try to get school done.  Gabriel gets spelling done between xrays.

11:30.  Josh arrives 30 minutes early for his testing; I’ve got a mouth full of deep fried cheese-bean quesadilla.  Kids work independently (I love that word) while I administer his test.

1:30. Josh finishes his testing.  Way to go!  🙂

2:00. Take Josh’s test and Gabriel to my post office (ahhh, post office… how do I love thee?).  I leave the test there, but take Gabriel on to the library.  The questions about whether or not Gabe is “fragile, liquid, perishable, or potentially hazardous,” throw me, as he’s all of those things.  Now I know: he’s unshippable.

2:30. Stopped by my neighbor on my way home from the library to talk about some heavy things.  Not the weather.  Not just “fine-thank-you-how-are-you?”  We talked until the rain drew him away from me.  Gabe sat in the back seat, engrossed in his recently checked-out Captain Underpants the whole time.

Me: Did you hear what I was talking about?

Gabe: No… what?

Me: Nothing.

Gabe: (desperate b/c he senses a secret) What??

Me: Nothing.  Just old people stuff.

3:00. Finally begin the complicated math lesson with Gabe I absolutely have to do, as it’s a new concept he can’t just teach himself.

3:01.  (not joking) The phone rings.  I ignore it.  Have I mentioned I always ignore my landline?

3:05. (not joking) The doorbell rings.  I say to Gabe, “Tell your friends you’re still wor–“

“It’s a big person,” Gabe interrupts, crestfallen.

(sigh)  It’s my neighbor again.  With an umbrella.  He tells me I never answer my phone.  We talk a while longer because I value relationships more than math.  Yes.  I value relationships more than math.  Yes.  I do.  Gabe sits listening for something juicy because of our conversation before.  Nothing gives.

3:20. Gabe & I begin math.  Again.  I do some actual school: checking, teaching, coaching.  Luke’s history notes need coaching, but he resists my attempts to show him what adequate note-taking looks like.  After we sort out the 13th & 14th Amendments to the Constitution and learn some cool facts about the “Radical Republicans,” who fought for the rights of blacks after the Civil War, I’m getting in the groove when…

4:15. My timer goes off, which means for Tory it’s time to make the Donuts.  I take Luke with us, because after I drop Tory at Dunkin, Luke needs to be at his FLL club.  Gabe stays home and plays with the neigborhood kids.

5:00.  Drop Luke at FLL club.

5:09. Pick up Katae at the courthouse.

5:45.  Get home for crockpot dinner and admonish Gabe to eat his chunk of meat.

6:40. Leave to pick up Luke and friends from FLL club.  On the way home from what feels like a marathon of driving, Luke tells me he needs help with his algebra lesson.  There are a few things that make me want to drive off a cliff. Non-understood algebra lessons are on that list.

7:55.  Begin hated algebra lesson.  It isn’t so bad after all.

8:05.  Take Abbott for a much-needed walk (not sure who needs it more– him or me). Bob asks if I’d like a partner (besides Abbott). Yes! We have a lovely walk while I rant about my day.

8:50.  I leave a bit late to pick up Tory from Dunkin Donuts, so I speed accordingly.  I am exhausted– can’t wait to get home and curl up in my cozy bed.

9:03.  Sit in the parking lot of Dunkin and watch the many, many people who–amazingly– order donuts and coffee at this late hour.

9:07.  Receive this text from Tory: I don’t get off till ten just FYI

9:08.  My response: Telling me that at 9 isn’t working 4me.

9:09.  Enraged.

9:10.  Wonder what I can possbily do to redeem these minutes?  Dishes are at home, crusty and piled; my computer, my work is there too.  All the stores I’d like to browse (ie, Volunteers of America, Goodwill) are closed.  I start praying about how not to lose character (ie, yell my head off) over this pathetic waste of my time.  MY time, right?  God reminds me it’s His time.   I pray for truth in the inner person, truth in my relationships, truth about God and many other things.  God brings to mind one practical thing I can do at 9:26 at night:  Walmart.

9:35.  Arrive at Walmart and buy a birthday gift for Gabe’s friend.  I pray my way around the aisles, looking for the perfect gift that won’t offend, won’t cost a ton, etc.  I find a stomp rocket for $12.94.  Sold.

9:57.  Back at Dunkin.  More people ingesting sugar and caffeine just before bedtime.

10:04.  Tory gets in the car.  “Hi.” She says sweetly.

“Are you kidding me?”  Not sweet.

10:25.  Tory & I arrive home.   Alive.  We still love each other.  A little miscommunication that iced my cake-of-a-day, is all.

10:30. Snuggle down in my comfy bed.  zzzzzzz

Personal Journey

My Sister’s Response When I Bemoaned my Consumer Status

Recently I tried to get a “real job.”  Not that what I do right now isn’t work.  But most of what I do is pro bono, gratis, charity– you know, housework.  A too-good-to-be-true opportunity came my way, so I dropped everything summer and spent five hours updating my 20-year-old resume.   I somehow managed to not look like an antique in my resume and landed an interview.   That was where my dust started to show.  Uh, a block of time?  You want me to give you an available block of time?   I thought this was a project gig.   At some point my rambling and inability to commit got me the secret gong signal, and I was hastily ushered out.  My reaction: a kamikaze plunge into self-pity and worthlessness, at which I declared to anyone who would listen, “I’m nothing more than a consumer!”

I didn’t actually want the job, but I was still cut that I didn’t get it.image (3)

My sister, bless her wise heart, is witty and Godly and real.  She had this to say:

Also, per your comment last night that you had a moment where you thought you were not contributing [to the world at-large]….each day you invest hours into your kids’ lives so that they will have the ability to navigate through the salt marsh that is our world. It may not feel like much… but trust me, your presence in Him [God] is doing more than you can ever imagine. Keep fighting the good fight. Your kids are worth the investment….as you know. 

I wanted to share Heather’s words, as they speak straight to the daily challenge of impotence or unimportance that can creep over us parents like the tide.    Each day… we invest into our kids, pouring into them what we think matters.  Some days the fight is “good.”  Some days it just feels like street fighting.  But I’ll try to keep my presence in God, like she says, because He is the One who sustains me.  

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Phillippians 4:13

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