Tuesday, December 23, 2008

First Fruit Cake

It is the day before the day before Christmas and there is a flurry of activity at our house. Actually, the flurry of activity is in our kitchen. We have been baking since Saturday - sausage balls, pumpkin stuff, lots of cookies, dipped pretzels - and yes, some of this has already been eaten or given away.

So yesterday we made our very first fruitcake in honor of my Grandma's memory and we made fudge according to her recipe. I always wondered why it took her days to get ready for Christmas dinner and now I know. The smells of great food and the excitement of just being at her house for Christmas are some of my favorite memories and hopefully I can pick up her mantle with grace and give my family some really great memories as well.

Making the fruitcake required several phone calls to my dad to compare notes and decide exactly how long to cook the layers as Grandma didn't think that information was important enough to write down. I think 13 to 14 minutes will do though. It was a long process but we had fun and Lindsay took lots of pictures for me. Here are a few of our favorites:



Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ho, Ho, Ho

The children are nestled all snug in their beds
While the list of things to do swirls in my head.

Gifts to wrap, candy to dip, cookies to bake,
Sausage balls to roll and a fruit cake to make.

Last minute shopping, something new to wear,
Hot pink color for the teenager's hair.

Stockings to hang, toys to put together,
A quick glance at the news to check the weather.

One last stop by the mall, one more package to mail,
Find baby Jesus and locate the Christmas bell.

The list isn't too long, I'm almost there,
The anticipation of Christmas looms in the air.

So up from the desk and off I go
With a twinkle in my eye and a ho, ho, ho!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Everything Pink

Three kids and a dog makes for a sufficiently full house, or so we thought. Just when we had given the last of the baby things away, and the youngest was about to turn five - surprise!

What a wonderful early Christmas gift three years ago today when Miss Kelsey graced us with her presence, finally. She was the only little Cortright who had to be persuaded to enter the world, but a little persuading was all it took.

She loves everything pink. In fact, I just put the cakes in the oven as I will be attempting to build a pink and purple castle cake (hopefully, I'll post pictures later.) I purchased pink sprinkles and I'll be making pink icing.

In fact, when we went out to purchase her Christmas dress, she wanted pink. I was finally able to convince her that red is in the same family.

Having one more little one in the house lets us continue to enjoy the wide-eyed wonder that disappears with age. So today we'll have castle cake, dress like a princess and enjoy the wonders of childhood through the eyes of a three-year-old who sees life in shades of pink.

photo update: here's our leaning castle cake - we won't win any prizes, but we will always remember the year we made the castle cake.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sacrificial Love

This week we are tailoring our reading towards Christmas, so we read the Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. No matter who tells this story or how, my eyes always water and I am always moved by the love these young people show for each other.

The story goes something like this:

Tomorrow is Christmas and Della only has one dollar and eighty-seven cents. She has been trying desperately to save enough money to buy Jim a grand Christmas gift. Jim and Della live in a modest flat and earn a modest income; there's not much left after the bills are paid each week.

Della has really long, beautiful hair and decides to sell her hair in order to make money for the gift she longs to purchase for Jim. She hurries to the hair goods store, lets down her cascading brown locks, and asks breathlessly, "How much?" The woman gives her twenty dollars and Della is off to find the perfect gift for Jim.

Finally, Della finds a simple, yet exquisite chain for Jim's watch. It is the only one to be found in all the stores; no one else will have one like it. Della has found the perfect gift and races home to await Jim's arrival.

Jim, too, has no money to spend on Christmas gifts and his heart desires to purchase a gift for Della. Jim's only prized possession is a gold pocket watch. He sells it.

Jim doesn't have to search for the right gift for Della because he already knows that she longs for the beautiful combs with the tortoise shell and jewels. Of course, he knows that she will never dream of actually having them in her possession as they are quite costly for someone who earns but twenty dollars a week. This is all the more reason to trade his watch for the look on her face.

But it is the look on Jim's face as he comes through the door that is startling when he realizes that the beautiful hair he purchased the combs for is vanished. And Della's gift is also rendered useless at the present since Jim sold the watch her chain was meant to accompany.

The gift this Christmas was love, sacrificial love.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Scenes from the Christmas Parade

Today I put on my elf hat with the jingle bell and found my Christmas spirit.

Yep, I put on the elf hat and took all the kids to the Christmas parade. As small town parades go, ours was fine, but these were the most spectacular scenes:






After the parade, it is our tradition to go to Krispy Kreme and purchase lots of sugar and then to Starbucks to purchase lots of caffeine. And yes, I wore my elf hat with the jingle bell everywhere (much to the chagrin of some of my children) and spread my Christmas cheer to all. Even the girl who waited on us at Starbucks thought I looked, "quite festive."

As a side note, my boys are now white mocha converts.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Love, Wrapped up in a Person

A scientist said, making a plea for exchange scholarships between nations, "The very best way to send an idea is to wrap it up in a person." That was what happened at Christmas. The idea of divine love was wrapped up in a Person. - Halford E. Luccock

Divine love wrapped up in the Person of Jesus Christ.

A love so perfect that it allows us to choose or reject this love. A love so intense that it searches the ends of the earth for us and never gives up. A love so deep that it walked up a hill to lay down its life so we could live.

Never in a million years can we wrap our minds around that kind of love, and even knowing that we would have a hard time understanding, Jesus still came to the manger in Bethlehem.

Divine love wrapped up in a Person.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Favorite Things

Oh no, maybe I am stealing Lindsay's idea. She is posting a Christmas song daily as a countdown to Christmas and while my plan is to share my favorite quotes from movies and books, and perhaps a memory or two, here I am posting about a favorite song.

Forgive me, Lindsay.

I just love to watch The Sound of Music and my favorite song from the movie is, of course, My Favorite Things. It is most definitely a warm and fuzzy kind of song.

This won't be quite as beautiful as what Maria sang in the movie, but just stopping to write down some of my favorite things about this season keeps life in perspective. So here are a few of my favorite things:

multicolored Christmas lights twinkling in the evergreen
little hands filled with candy decorating gingerbread
baby Jesus missing from the manger, again
mixing, rolling, cutting, baking, eating
kids playing carols on the piano, arranging the Christmas playlist
laughing with friends, celebrating with family.

Leave a comment and share some of your favorite things.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It Truly is a Wonderful Life

Each man's life touches so many other lives. ~ Clarence (It's a Wonderful Life)

You all know the story of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. George has a really bad day and begins to think maybe his family and friends would be better off without him. But Clarence, the angel sent to watch over George, falls right in the middle of his life. Throughout the duration of the movie, Clarence shows George what a huge hole would have been left in the lives of his family and friends had he not been around.

Even though George didn't think he had ever contributed that much to folks, Clarence shows him the seemingly small contributions he had made that literally saved the life of his brother and changed the course of life for the druggist. If George Bailey had not been around to touch their lives, they would not have been able to touch lives in turn and on and on.

Like it or not, each one of our lives touches so many others. Often we don't realize how we have encouraged someone to carry on even in the midst of the hard stuff. Just trudging through the muck of our life can inspire others to face their own mucky life with determination and courage. Reaching out to help someone in need may give that person just enough to help someone else.

Although we may not be able to see for ourselves the huge hole that would have been left had we never been born, the lives we touch, even in the simplest ways, whose holes we help fill go on filling more holes, who go one filling more holes, and on and on and that's the way the world goes round. If even one person was missing, the impact would be monumental.

Here the bell ringing? Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Can Tell You What Christmas is All About

I just love A Charlie Brown Christmas and my very favorite part is when Charlie Brown says to Linus, "I guess you were right Linus. I shouldn't have picked this little tree. Everything I do turns into a disaster. I guess I really don't know what Christmas is all about."

To which Linus replies, "I can tell you what Christmas is all about." Linus steps out on the stage and asks for lights.

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"

Then Linus picks up his blanket, walks back over to Charlie Brown and says, "That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown."

And Linus is right, that is what Christmas is all about. It's about God himself coming to earth as a man and becoming the sacrifice for our sins. It is this huge gift of love that allows us to love others. It is this gift of love that causes us to want to search high and low for the perfect gift for those we love just to see the smile on their face and the sparkle in their eyes when they open our gift. It is this gift of love that causes our wide-eyed children to see the Christmas Holiday for the miracle that it is. It is this gift of love that causes us to reach out to those in need - in need of things, in need of friends, in need of love.

That's what Christmas is all about.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thankful

As this Thanksgiving weekend comes to an end, I am pondering the many things I am thankful for.

Simple things - the smell of coffee in the morning and the chatter of kids.

Things I take for granted - a place to live, a car to drive, and money for groceries.

Things I should be more thankful for - a husband who never complains about what's for dinner and plays with the kids afterwards.

Things I remember - family vacations, the smell of Grandma's house, and sneaking down the hall on Christmas morning with my brother and sister.

The good times - the births of babies, summer cookouts, baseball games, piano recitals, afternoon visits with friends.

The hard times - the loss of babies, too many hours spent in hospitals, family and friends taken too soon.

The precious moments - a kiss from a toddler, football with all the kids on Thanksgiving, hot chocolate and movies, quiet moments with my husband.

Life is far from perfect, but there is much to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gift of God

Jonathan means gift of God and that is is exactly why he was given this name eight years ago today. After three miscarriages and plenty of heartache, I thought our family was complete - mom, dad, girl, boy.

Fortunately, I am not in total control and in the spring of 2000, I was surprised, excited and a bit frightened at the idea of being pregnant again. Besides, I had given all baby things away thinking it was better for other folks to use them than for them to just sit in the attic.

I remember having a conversation with Ken early on that March morning about his thoughts on our family increasing and something he said caused me to make a bee line to the drug store for a pregnancy test. I couldn't think about anything else, so with two little children in tow, I was off. I took the test as soon as I arrived home and let the little kids call Ken at work to tell him that his suspicions were correct - we were having another baby!

I won't lie - the pregnancy was long and emotional. There were many days I wondered if he would actually get here safely. I was very tired, but it was also a time of learning to trust in the God I said I believed in. It was so much easier to just talk about believing that God has a good plan even when things are hard than to actually walk through the hard stuff with a faith that says I believe. There were so many things to be worried about right down to the fact that my first two children arrived rather quickly when labor started, and now I lived thirty minutes from the hospital. I often wondered if we would make it there in time.

Jonathan arrived safely Thanksgiving weekend and we had plenty of time. All those items I had given away didn't matter as people loaned or gave us all that we needed. We did not have to purchase anything. Our friends and family brought so many meals, I didn't have to cook until after New Year's. It was amazing how every detail seemed to work out - God truly provided every thing we needed.

So today as I stand in amazement of God's handiwork, I will remind my little pretender with the vivid imagination what an incredible gift from God he is.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Little Things

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. ~ Robert Brault

This is the place I want to live. These are the things I want to focus on during the day. Life really is only a breath and I don't want it to slip past me while I am trying to check things off my to do list.

I am thinking that in thirty years I won't remember not being able to hear myself think for the sound of the piano, but I will remember the beautiful songs played all day and the students who benefited from her passion to play.

I imagine that several years from now I won't think so much about how annoying it was that he threw everything and anything that resembled a sphere, but I will remember all those weekends at the ball field and the trips and memories that went with them.

In the not so distant future, I won't think so much about Play Mobile and army men scattered all over the floor, but I'll miss the imagination of a little boy who grows up much too fast.

Some day I will crawl into my bed and sleep the entire night all by myself and, oddly enough, I will long to hear the pitter patter of little feet on the way to slip under the covers and snuggle with me.

There is always one child who wants to get up and talk before I finish my coffee, always a little one who wants to be in my lap no matter what I am doing, a teenager who wants to talk late at night when I just want to sleep, and another who is constantly moving, drumming, throwing and always wants something to eat. These are the little things in my life. These are the things that make me feel crazy and completely overstimulated by the end of the day. These are the things I will miss the most as soon as they are gone.

So today I will try again to really live in these moments, to see all these interruptions as opportunities to snuggle, engage in meaningful conversation, see the world through their eyes instead of mine. Today I will recognize that sleep is overrated and it's much more fun to stay up late talking to a teenager. Today I will relish in the music - the pounding of drums, the melody of the piano, even guitar hero. And tonight when I hear the pitter patter of little feet, I'll smile and pull back the covers to invite this small invader of my sleep.

Much faster than I am willing to admit, the little things will fade and the kids will grow up. The constant interruptions will slow, my house will be clean, and I will have quiet times to write. But for now, I will try a little harder to embrace all those little things that seem like a pain at the moment, but really are the heart beat of raising a family.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Funny Stuff

Today Jonathan had to go to the dentist. Obviously, this is not his favorite activity and all through breakfast, he was trying to convince me that he really didn't need to go. I assured him that the dentist would only brush his teeth and take pictures. As he continued eating and contriving, he promised that he could brush his teeth as well as the dentist. When that didn't work, his final plea was, "Can't we just take pictures of my teeth and send it to the dentist?"

Monday, November 3, 2008

It is Well

It is Well with my Soul is my favorite song of all time and I love the story of the old hymn just as much as the song itself. Last week's CBS lesson was a reminder that I can have peace whatever my lot.

Horatio Spafford was a Chicago lawyer who endured incredible personal tragedy, yet trusted fiercely in God that all would be well. The story goes something like this:

In 1870, Mr. Spafford's only son died of scarlet fever. Then, in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, he lost all of his real estate holdings. A couple of years later, Horatio and Anna Spafford decided to take the family to Britain to help D.L. Moody on an evangelistic campaign. Mr. Moody needed the help and the Spaffords needed to get away. At the last minute, Mr. Spafford was detained on business, but Anna and the girls headed for Europe as planned aboard a French steamer in November 1873. The plan was for Horatio to join them a little later. Sadly, their ship collided with another in the Atlantic Ocean and nine days later, Mr. Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales that read, "Saved alone." All four of their daughters were among the 226 that drowned when the ship sank in just twelve minutes. Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship bound for Europe to be with his grieving wife. As his ship passed over the place where his daughters had died, Horatio Spafford penned the words to this timeless hymn.


When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


Refrain:It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!


And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

My favorite remake is by Audio Adrenaline and Jennifer Knapp. There's not a great video that I can find, but you can listen to it here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A New Twist on Making the List

This morning at the breakfast table, our family was discussing the fact that Christmas is only a few, short weeks away. In addition, the two youngest kids have birthdays in November and December. Needless to say, they are beginning to tell me daily the things they would like to have for their birthdays and Christmas.

I can still remember each Christmas going through the pages of the Sears catalog, making a list of the things I wanted for Christmas. The list was always much longer than what I knew I would actually receive, but it was so much fun to make The List. Of course, I always made my list with pencil and paper; it was the only way to insure that mom and dad knew just what I wanted.

As we were discussing birthday and holidays wants this morning, Jonathan was telling me exactly what he wanted for his birthday. He was very careful to tell me the exact name and he was very specific to tell me he wanted it for his birthday, not Christmas. When he had finished with his elaborate descriptions, he said, "And if you forget, don't worry, the commercial is DVR'ed."

DVR'ed? Are you kidding me? I suppose in this technological age there is no longer the need for pencil and paper to make The List. This year the commercial is DVR'ed by an eight year old; next year I'm sure he'll email me a list of his favorites from various toy company websites.

And I guess I shouldn't complain. I mean with a commercial to watch, I won't have to worry about the handwriting or spelling of items on the list and I can experience the wants and desires of my children in full color and surround sound. Yes, making The List has certainly changed.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Baking Bread

Eating is probably one of our favorite things to do and with a large family, I spend a lot of time thinking about food, planning menus, and shopping for food. My family loves homemade bread, but I have to tell you that I do not grind my own wheat nor do I knead the dough by hand. I applaud those who do this or have fancy machines to do it for them, but really, I don't think I want it that badly.

A while back while visiting Money Saving Mom, I discovered a wonderful recipe for wheat bread that kneads in the bread machine and bakes in the oven. Now this I can handle as someone gave us a bread machine a couple of years ago and we have put it to good use this fall as we bake this bread several times a week.

This recipe is so simple (even my teenagers can handle it), only takes about ten minutes to get the machine going and in less than two hours - homemade bread!

Put the ingredients into the machine in this order:

2 tsp yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp milk
1 cup warm water

Set the machine to manual and let it run. When this cycle is complete, place dough in greased loaf pan, cover and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled. Bake at 350 25 to 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Love is Patient & Kind

For whatever reason it is easier to be kind to strangers and friends some days than to the people we live with, the folks we love the most. It seems these people can bring out the worst in us or, maybe, they are just a safe place to be ourselves and know that we are loved anyway. Whatever the reason, the kids and I are pondering 1 Corinthians 13 today and praying that we learn to love each other in this very way.

Love is patient. Love is kind.
Love is not jealous. Love is not proud.
Love is not rude. Love is not selfish.
Love is not easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil. Love rejoices with the truth.
Love always protects. Love always trusts.
Love always hopes. Love always perseveres.
Love never fails.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Milkshake Miracle

I must begin by saying that I do not believe in coincidence or luck at all. I am one of those folks who believes that things work out the way they are supposed to. I also believe that God really can be found when we seek him.

So on with the milkshake story.

The day began at four in the morning with a two year old needing something to drink. After settling in with ice water and beginning to drift off, she decided she needed to potty. Now I am so thankful that she is potty trained, but at four in the morning it is very tempting to remind her that she does have on a pull-up and it will truly be okay just this once. But no, we got up and went to the potty. We get back to bed and just as I was finding sleep again, I hear her say, "Mommy, I need to put my jammies on." Yes, she had fallen asleep in her t-shirt. I promptly replied, "You have got to be kidding me. We'll be getting up in just a little while." Fortunately for her and me, her daddy helped her get the beloved jammies on and she did go back to sleep, just before the alarm went off.

Thursdays are always packed full and this week, add head cold that leaves me feeling quite fuzzy. After Bible Study, I went by Wendy's to pick up Frosties and lunch. I really thought I ordered enough Frosties for me to have one thinking how wonderful it would feel to my tired, sore throat. Once I arrived home, I realized that I did not order enough for me. I was so bummed.

Just a little while later, my sweet friend, Pauline, stops by and her daughter runs in the house with a strawberry milkshake for me. She had no idea about the Frosty, but she did know that I had a scratchy throat. I didn't even see her come by as her daughter passed it off to Jonathan who brought it to me. I was completely stunned - I just couldn't believe it.

Now I know this doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but it was. It had been a tough week and I had been telling this friend of mine how I know that we find God when we seek Him. I had been praying for God to give my friend something tangible just so this friend would be reminded that God really is with us and really does care. And in that very moment, holding this homemade strawberry milkshake, I was reminded that the God of the universe knew all about me, even my sore throat. Not only was I reminded that my little situations, the ups and downs of my week, had not escaped His notice, but that He cared.

It was truly a milkshake miracle and it spoke to everyone who was a part of it. I was on the phone with my sister when the milkshake arrived and she was wowed. Lindsay has been sharing 'God-sightings' with her Bible study group and she shared this story. Even my boys raised an eyebrow and recognized how God had worked in the details of our day.

I must admit that it was one of things you had to experience in order to really get it. But I really got it. It really was a miracle.




Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Word According to Kelsey

"I am with you hallways." Matthew 28:20

No, you didn't misread it and no, it's not a typo. This is Kelsey's very first memory verse and she says it just like that. Oh, and did I mention that she says it ALL the time.

At first it was sweet that she had memorized this verse and funny that she says, 'hallways' instead of 'always.' But now she says it so much that I find myself thinking about this verse all the time.

When she first learned the verse, we talked about all the times God is with us: when we are sleeping, playing, sick, scared, birthdays, eating, lonely. And even though her two-year-old brain cannot fully process that God, who she can't see, feel, or touch, is with her always, she continues to say it over and over knowing it's a good thing.

So when life seems overwhelming, which it often does, I hear Kelsey singing, "Remember, remember, God is with you hallways."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Big Day

Today was the big day for Lindsay (and for me). Today we went to the DMV and got her driver's permit - oh my!

We decided to set aside our academics this morning in order to pursue the long-awaited permit. Honestly, I was feeling a bit nauseous at the thought of my 15 year old child (yes, I said child) driving me home. All I could think about was the fact that the DMV office was on the other side of town and that the routes home were filled with construction and heavy traffic. In addition, we needed to swing by the drive thru at the bank which meant making a left hand turn across two lanes of traffic and pulling up to the teller window without casusing damage to the car or any passengers. It was more than my 40 year old brain could handle. Thus, the decision to go early in the day to obtain the permit because the more time I had to think about it, the less enticing it seemed.

So we had Bible together and the boys prayed for us. Of course, Alex wanted to come along stating that he wanted us all to die together (what encouragement). Seriously, we did pray and ask God for His mercy and protection and my stomach did calm down a bit.

When we arrived at the DMV office, it wasn't crowded and I am not sure who was more nervous - Lindsay about taking the exam or me about the ride home. She did just fine on the exam, only missed three and I did just fine on the ride home, only freaked out once, just a tiny bit. Actually, I was rather impressed by her grandma-like driving. She made it through the drive up window at the bank without causing damage to the car, she changed lanes nervously, but well and I did not throw up a single time, nor did I raise my voice even once. It was a very positive experience.

I must say that Lindsay has always been my cautious child and now that she is driving, I am very thankful for that. She can drive like a grandma forever, though she doesn't look like one!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fifteen Years Ago Today...

Fifteen years ago today I woke up hoping and praying this would be the day. I was pregnant with my first child and so very ready for her to come into the world. She, of course, was not working on my time table, but her own. She was a week late.

I had been doing everything I knew to do for a whole week to get this child to come - walking, eating spicy food, starting projects (thinking if I am in the middle of a project, she will surely interrupt) - and nothing for a whole week.

But on that Monday, everything changed. A beautiful baby girl invaded my life. Once she decided it was time, things moved right along. Just a few hours after arriving at the hospital, I was holding her in my arms completely amazed at this miracle of life, and I continue to be amazed by her. I couldn't wait to get home from the hospital and begin our mommy/daughter journey.

I remember those autumn days, just Lindsay, me and the rocking chair, trying to imagine what she would look like all grown up, wondering what kind of person she would become. Now I see the beautiful young girl with a heart to match, full of mercy and genuine compassion for people. She still takes her sweet time at everything, but in the bustle of this life, I think this is an enviable quality. Her eye for real beauty and her creative spirit inspire me. It's all better than I imagined all those years ago.

Today we'll celebrate with a few of her favorite things: friends, tacos, cookie cake, marshmallows toasted over the fire. She'll be princess for a day, complete with a tiara and sash.

Happy Birthday, sweet Lindsay!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Gentle Reminder

A couple of nights ago something triggered Alex's asthma. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it can be a little scary especially since it's always on a weekend or holiday and in the middle of the night.

There I sat at 1:30 am talking to him about how he's feeling, making sure he's breathing okay, trying to find out what will make him more comfortable so he can sleep. I had given him cough medicine, he had used his inhaler, but still sleep wouldn't come. He had seemed to be asleep earlier, but he said he had been dreaming restless dreams and just felt so tired. I got him a glass of ice water and sat on the bed across from him, head in my hands, feeling exhausted and helpless. I really didn't know what else I could do for him. Alex is five feet, ten inches tall now, so holding and rocking him was not an option.

As as I sat there trying to think in the midst of his constant coughing, I told him that if he was sure he was okay then I would pray for him and I was going to go lay down. So I prayed a simple prayer that went something like this: Father, We know the fact that Alex is miserable has not escaped your notice and we know that you can reach down and bring complete healing to his body. If that's not your plan, then please, could you just give him some relief so he can rest and his body can heal? Let him know your presence in a real way. We ask that you would do this simply because of your great mercy for us.

I said goodnight and went to bed. Of course, I was wide awake, but in just a few minutes I realized that Alex wasn't coughing anymore. I went in and stood in the quiet of his room and watched him sleep, thankful for the gentle reminder that the God of the universe does see and does care about the things that tug at my heart, like a sick child who can't rest.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bible Study Update

Jonathan and I have been attending CBS and I wrote about our first day a few weeks ago. Well, I am happy to tell you that we are both truly enjoying this Bible study and we are thankful for our sweet friend who brought the card to us so we would actually sign up for our classes.

It's funny because while I have missed being a part of a Bible study, I couldn't get excited about CBS whenever my friend would tell me about it. When she brought me the card, I intentionally held it an extra few weeks thinking the children's program would fill quickly and I would have an excuse for not going. Well, that didn't work. I sent the card in and there was plenty of room for us - imagine that!

So all summer I knew we were planning to attend, but I wasn't that excited. That first morning was tough. Everyone was crying and no one wanted to go. I sat down to read my Bible and said, "Lord, if you don't talk to me about going to this Bible study, I am going to stay home." And you know what happened - he talked to me.

First, I read in Ecclesiastes 8:7, "Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do." For me, it was like God was saying to go with a joyful heart (which I did not have), that he was in favor of it.

Then I read Proverbs 22:17-19, "Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach.....I teach you today, even you." Well, that was loud and clear for me. In my heart I thought, okay Lord, teach me something. And He is teaching me something every week.

I am always amazed that God remains faithful even when I am not. Even when my attitude was bad, I could find Him when I looked for Him. I have been reminded lately that my plan is often different from God's plan and I need a heart like Mary, a heart that is willing to participate in His plan no matter what.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Typical Day

A few folks have recently asked what our homeschooling days are like and since this is a ramble of a homeschooling mom, I thought answering it here would be appropriate.

I must admit that homeschooling three little people and entertaining a toddler is proving to be quite a challenge some days. So here's what a typical day at our house is like.

Ken gets up really early and I usually follow. We have coffee together, catch up on the news and go over the after work plan. You know, who has what activity and who needs to be picked up or hauled somewhere by which parent. After his departure, I must have more coffee and a quiet time before little people can talk to me. I like to get up early, but I don't want to interact with anyone right away.

Everyone gets up, has breakfast and does chores. Next we do Bible together (not sure do Bible is the best description, but it's what we say at our house). Then I sit with Jonathan for Math and Language and squeeze Alex's algebra into the mix while Kelsey plays somewhere nearby. Lindsay is usually playing the piano all morning or reading. While I am thankful that she is playing the piano all
the time again, it can be a little over stimulating for me for all of this to be going on at once, but most days we survive.

Typically by lunch time we have completed about half the subjects and the house is relatively tidy. We usually take an hour or so break to eat, play outside or scoot around town - just depends on the day.

In the afternoon we finish whatever school subjects still need attention and many afternoons are filled with piano lessons, baseball practice or games, Bible studies, youth activities, errands and chores.

The days are very full and I am not sure we have completely found our rhythm yet this year. Some days seem a bit overwhelming and some days are just perfect. I think it's in those moments when I catch an older sibling playing with or reading to a younger one, or helping out without being asked, or just adding their own brilliant thoughts to the dinner discussion that I realize that while our 'rhythm' might not be perfect, it's working for us.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Adapting to Autumn

Fall is not really my favorite time of year as it brings on the heavy schedule and the laid back days of summer fade into a flurry of activity. But today I am enjoying the crispness of the temperature through open windows, the smell of pumpkin candles burning while I work and the sound of my oldest playing the piano like she hasn't in so many months. Yes, I think I am adapting to fall.

We are settling into our new routine with school, lessons, Bible studies and of course, baseball practice. I must admit the games in the cooler, drier air are more enjoyable. I guess maybe I am finally ready for this new season.

It's funny how God must have known that we would be ready for the changing of seasons every few months - they are really perfectly timed. Even though I was so sad to see summer waning away a couple of weeks ago, I find myself eagerly anticipating the autumn - crisp air, school year tasks, recitals, pumpkins.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First Day

I wonder why it is that new things are always so hard. Why is it so hard to walk into a group of complete strangers for the first time? I remember it being really hard when I was a child, but I suppose that I thought becoming a grown up would make it easier. It didn't.

I suppose it is the just the simple fear of the unknown. Jonathan and I had a good taste of this fear as we went to a new Bible study this morning. He was very uptight about going even though he knew the teacher and was assured to have at least one friend in his class. Still, I had to convince him to try it just once with the promise never to go back if it was absolutely horrible. No one made those kind of promises to me. When I told Ken this morning that I didn't want to go because I was too tired and it was too hard, he simply said, "Just go."

So we went and as we pulled into the parking lot, all of the words of encouragement to Jonathan (and myself) were lost when he said, "Mom, I think I am going to throw up." To which I promptly replied, "Don't worry, I feel the same way. Let's pray." I took his little hand in mine and we prayed right there trusting that the God of the universe cared enough about the anxiety of our morning to calm our hearts and give us the courage to walk into our classes. And we did just that.

Of course there was nothing horrible about the morning and Jonathan definitely wants to go back next week. All the fear and anxiety from last night and the early morning simply gone.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Eat, Drink, Find Joy

Today we begin our serious schedule. We have been easing into the swing of school since the beginning of August by reading and working on math. A week or two ago we added government, but today we are adding the full compliment of courses for each child. In addition, driver's ed continues this week, Bible study begins, piano lessons resume, and of course, baseball practice - all this week.

So being the planning kind of person that I am, I have it all planned out beginning with getting in bed on time last night so that we can rise and shine early to get the jump on a very busy day. We even discussed over dinner how the week would be, what kinds of things we expect this school year, and how we are getting back in the habit of getting up early. What was I thinking?

The evening began with Kelsey asleep on time and I follow by getting in bed at a very reasonable hour (thank God). I read for a bit, but decided to go on to sleep since a well-rested mommy is less likely to be grumpy. But just under an hour into my slumber, my sweet Jonathan cannot sleep, so I let him climb in bed for a while and I go right back to sleep. Then a little while later, my precious Kelsey awakes from her sleep announcing that she needs to potty. Now I am excited that she is using the potty, but she has on pull-ups at night (I wanted to remind her of this, but I didn't). Off to the potty we go, and then to the kitchen for ice water. Finally settled back in bed (Jonathan back in his own bed), I dose off only to be awakened by this tiny voice whispering, "I need to go to the potty." I won't bore you with the details, but yes, this scenario continued on until around 3:30 this morning when sleep finally came to this little child and I was able to snooze for just a few hours.

About seven, I stumbled out of bed and just as I entered the living room, Ken hurries to get coffee - he knew it had been a long night. All I could say was, "Why does this have to be so hard?" I mean I had the perfect plan for beginning our week and staying up half the night with a two year old who couldn't sleep was not part of the plan.

So as I settled down to drink my second cup of coffee, I pulled out my One-Year Bible, knowing I could not face this day without hearing something from God. Ecclesiastes - great! Everything is meaningless, everyone dies and no one remembers. Well that was encouraging. Okay, sarcasm aside, I read the first two chapters carefully and here's what I saw. Yes, everything I am striving for is meaningless. The degrees we are chasing after, all the stuff we are acquiring, but Solomon said that without God there is no enjoyment. You see God set eternity in the hearts of men, so even after all the useless striving, there is still eternity - the hope that we shall be with God and this brings joy. So here's the plan: be happy, do good, eat and drink and find satisfaction in my work.

There really is nothing better than to enjoy whatever work you are doing. After all, it is a form of worship to God. So eyes tired, heart encouraged, I set out to do just that.

Update:

I am happy to say that we did survive the day. Actually, it was better than surviving - it was enjoyable.


Monday, September 1, 2008

So Long Summer

I feel so sad that the end of summer is here. It seems like only a few short weeks ago we were rejoicing at summer's long awaited arrival. For some reason I am not quite ready to dive head long into our routine and the very full schedule that is calling us.

Maybe it's because now that the kids are growing up and more involved in things, it feels like there weren't enough lazy days. It seems our summer was so full of places to be and things to do that there wasn't much time to just be and there are those things I was hoping to do that didn't get done.

As we dive into our new routine, I know the warm September days will beckon us to come outside and eek out a little more summer in the midst of our crazy schedule. There will be time for a few more baseball games, a few more afternoons at the pool, a few more dinners on the grill, and maybe an escape to an amusement park once more before the cold weather and shorter days arrive for good.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Officially Two Teens

Today there are officially two teenagers living in the Cortright house now that Alex is thirteen. Of course with all the prepubescent hormones raging, it has felt like two teens for quite some time, but today it is official. Thus, a holiday at our house. That's right, no school and no chores (I must give him credit for feeding the dog this morning though). He gets to choose what we are eating and what kind of dessert we're having. King for a day, but he is required to shower before we leave the house.

It really seems like it wasn't that long ago that he was just a baby, but I won't be all sentimental today. I won't go on and on about how cute he was with his yellow blankey and passy, how busy he was during his toddler and preschool years, how I wondered if he would ever be able to pay attention long enough to handle more that one instruction at a time, and how proud I am of the young man he is becoming. Toady we will celebrate becoming a teenager - pizza for lunch, a stop by the game store, and rock band all afternoon.

Yep, life is good even with teenagers in the house.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Times Flies

I just dropped Lindsay off to drive with an instructor for the first time. Seems like it wasn't that long ago that we were teaching her to ride her bike with no training wheels. Fortunately she has always been our cautious child. Right now I am feeling thankful for that.

And yes, I am feeling a bit sentimental. I mean my baby is quickly becoming an adult and I'm not sure where all the time has gone. Today she is learning to navigate through the streets of town. Six hours of driving instruction and she will be able to have a learner's permit (I sense lots of blogging material when that day arrives). That doesn't seem like very much time to learn to handle a vehicle on a busy street.

Too soon she will be navigating through life on her own as well and these few years don't feel like enough time to teach her all she needs to know about making decisions. She is already forming her own opinions about the world, beginning to branch out where I can't always be there, trying her hand at new things with out me. Naturally I wonder if I have given her enough, taught her enough, loved on her enough.

When our kids are first born it is hard to imagine that those sleepless nights will ever cease. People tell you how quickly the time will fly, but it's hard to imagine life moving that fast. Today I know just how fast life moves. In the blink of an eye they are picking out their own clothes, studying on their own, making their own money, and learning to drive.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Balancing Act

Some days being a parent is just plain hard. Every child is different. Every parent is different. Each of us has different strengths and weaknesses. What motivates one child doesn't necessarily motivate another. And apparently, there is not a parenting handbook. I keep waiting for mine to arrive, but after 15 years, it doesn't appear to be coming. No one else I know received one either.

Of course, there are a few things I have figured out -

As a parent you want to give your kids all of their heart's desires, yet do what is best for them.

As a parent you want to protect your kids from any hint of harm, yet give them some freedom to explore the world.

As a parent you want to pass on your faith to your kids, yet give them the opportunity to find their own.

As a parent you want to teach your kids manners and kindness, love and loyalty, compassion and unselfishness,and also passion for what is right and just.

As a parent you want to say no to all the influences of the world for your kids, yet give them room to grow into their own person.

As a parent you want to do everything right for your kids and not cause them too much harm along the way.

It seems parenting is just a huge balancing act - balancing what we want for our kids with what is best for them. It is also a huge lesson in trust - trust that the God of the universe is big enough to look out for us as we look out for them.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Looking for Inspiration

Summer is slowing fading and a new school year is just getting underway. After all these years of homeschooling, I find myself looking for something new and fresh to give me a kick start. I have been looking for articles, books, just some inspiring something to jolt me like lightening and cause me to jump out of bed bright and early every morning with great anticipation and teach these little people again how to read and do math, how to live like little people instead of savages. So in my search for some great inspiration, I find myself at the beginning again. Let me explain.

In the beginning, I was looking for a name for our school. I wanted it to really mean something to us, to capture the heart of what we wanted to accomplish on this journey. One day I was reading Psalm 1:2-3, "But his delight is in the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." So the plan is to know God, to delight in Him and become a tree, yielding fruit. It's just like the tree in my yard - it is wired to produce fruit even in the face of strong storms as long as it stays full of sun, soil, and water.

We named our school The Learning Tree (thanks to our friends who helped come up with name based on Psalm 1). So in looking for something inspiring, I realized that the inspiration for each new year, and really, each new day is in the name. We are learning to know God, meditate on His word, listen for His voice and follow His lead. The end result? Bearing fruit (hopefully) - becoming what we were wired to become - writer, musician, drama queen, ball player, storyteller.

Wow, that sounds so simple, but each day is an adventure in trying to live it out.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Peaceful Morning

Even though we officially started back to school a week ago, the plan this morning was to get going a little earlier and add math (no one was excited about adding math). However, my house is so quiet and as I just walked past their rooms and watched everyone still sleeping, I just couldn't bring myself to wake them. There is no law that says we have to start and end at a certain time - the beauty of homeschooling. And if I am serious about learning occurring all the time, regardless of the hour, then I shouldn't be too concerned about what time we start today, right?

So I think I will enjoy these last few peaceful moments of the morning because once we begin math, the peace will be over.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

More than Surviving

When you spend all day everyday with four little people trying to teach them how to be compassionate, have manners, think of others first, and you throw in a fair amount of academics along the way, the days can be very full. There is barely enough time to simply live life. Well, that is changing at our house. This year, we are living life and learning along the way. Yes, there will be plenty of time for math and science too. The plan is to do more than just survive another year of school, but to make learning part of our life.

So with surviving in mind, I read this on Marybeth's blog this morning and just had to pass it along. Enjoy!

I Will Survive (the first year of homeschooling)
Originally written and produced by Freddie Perren and Dino Fekaris
Originally performed by Gloria Gaynor
Mercilessly altered with apologies by Natalie Criss

First I was afraid,
I was petrified.
Kept thinking I could never teach
'Cause I'm not certified.
But we spent so many nights
Reteaching homework that was wrong.
I grew strong,
so now I teach my kids at home!
We study mathand outer space.
I just kept on despite the fear
with a big smile across my face.
I bought a set of Base Ten blocks.
I bought books with answer keys.
My parents think we're nuts,
but they don't even bother me

Come on, let's go walk out the door.
We're on the road now,
'cause we're not home much anymore
My friends would laugh and say we'd be unsocialized.
I heard one mumblethat I'd give up
by July.
Oh no, not I!
I will survive!
As long as I know how to read
I know we'll be alright.
I've got all my life to learn.
I've got energy to burn and I'll survive.
I will survive.

It took all the strength I had
not to fall apart.
Decided to attend
a play date at the local park,
and I met oh so many moms
who offered eagerly to help.
They used to cry.
Now they hold their heads up high,
and so do we!
My kids are cool!
They're not those chained up little people
stuck inside at school.
So if you feel like dropping by
and just expect us to be free
you'd better call ahead first
'cause we're probably busy

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Back to the Beginning, Again

When I began this blog, I said I wanted school to be more than something we check off our list everyday, to find the adventure in learning again. So with this idea in mind (remember, I am quite the idealist), we officially began a new year today with a new attitude towards learning. Of course all six of us learn differently and for now, we are going with it.

Lindsay wants freedom to explore her own interests - this is why we homeschool, right? So we have given her the wheel this year. We have had conversations with her about realistic goals for her age and ability and we are letting her choose what and how to accomplish these goals. She has made her own list of books to read this semester and dove right into Latin II this morning.
Alex just wants a list of things to do (contrary to our new attitude) so he can check them off and be free to pursue other learning opportunities (in the form of baseball and video games). He's a little tricky. I think it will take a little more work for him to acquire this new attitude and not see school work as a chore.

Jonathan is a little easier. he's content to read or be read to, he memorizes things easily and still loves to pretend. We did have a little snag today with him. In an effort to emphasize learning as a lifestyle and not a check list or something we begin and end, I did not make a huge deal out of our first day. Unfortunately, Jonathan was a little disappointed that we didn't have the usual fanfare. I think going to the pool today will more than make up for that snag. Seven-year-olds are easy that way.

Overall, it was a good day and at the end when we asked the kids what they had learned, we didn't hear lots of facts. Lindsay talked about life lessons in taking care of family, Alex was intrigued about why Paul said deacons have to be so upright, and Jonathan (in the fact gathering stage) did tell us the state and capitals he learned from a book he is reading.

For me, the lesson came at the very end of the day from a comment by Lindsay about a book she is reading by Donald Miller. In his book, he comments about a friend's work ethic and how our work, no matter what we do, is simply a form of worship.

Hmmmm....
cooking dinner, cleaning toilets
worship
teaching algebra, reading biology again
worship
correcting children, wiping noses
worship
checking in on family members,
looking after nieces and nephews, being a friend
a form of worship to the Creator of the universe
Who gave me this incredible opportunity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Disappointment

Disappointment is tough, but watching your kids be disappointed is really tough. And while some of the disappointments of childhood may seem trivial in the big scheme of things, at this moment they are huge.

Alex's team was runner-up in the state tournament again this year. All the pep talks in the world will not wipe away pain of losing and telling him he did his best when it still wasn't enough doesn't seem to help. So all week I have been giving a lot of thought to this quote, "The taste of defeat has a richness of experience all its own." (Bill Bradley, former NBA basketball player and US Senator) I keep thinking I will have some awe-inspiring moment when just the right words come out of my mouth and my child realizes the richness of this experience, but it's just not happening. It is not fun to be runner up, it feels much better to win.

In my brief quiet time yesterday, I was reading in Romans chapter 5 about suffering. Now I know that losing a baseball game may not sound like suffering to most folks, but at our house, it was a big deal so bear with me while I try and make my point. Paul said, "We rejoice in our sufferings (in our case, disappointments), because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us." If you continue reading, you see that hope does not disappoint us because God loves and gave His only son for us - it's all about redemption.

So what does that have to do with being runner up again? Alex will work harder to do his part to win the next one (perseverance), he loves baseball and continues to practice and get better. And the hope is that by learning to persevere even when it's hard and disappointing, he will grow into a young person whose character out shines his wins and losses on the ball field. Winning humbly and losing graciously are just part of the game.

Now for the really good news - even though the team did not win first place in the state tournament, they have been invited to play in the Southeast Regional Tournament next week - a chance to persevere!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Benefits of Quiet

Being quiet allows you to listen to things you might normally miss - a child with a story to tell, a friend with a heavy heart, God whispering your name.

Being quiet leaves fewer opportunities to be misunderstood, less need to explain what you actually meant.

Being quiet slows your pace - the pace of your racing mind, your pounding heart.

Being quiet gives you more time to be reflective and observe what's going on around you instead of always needing to say something about it.

Being quiet lets you be still.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Driver's Ed Experience

I can't believe I am old enough to have a child who's almost ready to begin driving (enter scary thoughts), but she is taking driver's education this week. Yes, only this week. The same course I took over several weeks, 30 hours of instruction, are all being crammed into five days. Truly amazing. I guess you just have to applaud public instruction.


Having said that, I have been reminded this week why I home educate. Now I must confess, I did have a moment this week as I was packing lunches and preparing to send Ken off to work and Lindsay off to 'school' when I thought that this going off to school thing might not be so bad. I mean, with everyone out of the house for eight hours a day, I could accomplish a lot. Not to mention all the peace and quiet I might enjoy. But I'm really not that big a fan of peace and quiet.


So the things that reminded me why we educate at home - the most obvious: cramming thirty hours of work into five days. Being home lets us work at our own pace, chase rabbit trails, pause for a game or bike ride at lunch. We are not slaves to anyone's schedule.


The first day of class there was only one bathroom as the student bathrooms were under construction and someone locked the door to the one bathroom. Thus, no bathroom break all day, unless you wanted to use the boys' to which my child said, "No thanks." At home, we can use the bathroom whenever needed.


On the second day, the class was informed that for the rest of the week they would have their class in a different building in the hall as you cannot cram 68 kids in a room made for 35. The change was due to more construction on campus and epoxy fumes. Well, someone thought it wise to cram all 68 kids in a room made for 35 anyway. Does this violate some kind of fire code? And I have to wonder, did no one give any thought as to the best way to accomodate the kids for this class? I mean, this wasn't a surprise class.


So only two days left. It has been good for my child who has never attended school at all to see what she has been missing. She is thankful we do the home education thing, and I am too.


By the way, I am thankful for the person teaching the class. She must wear a halo having to deal with all the kids and the construction.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Do What You Love

Okay, I realize I am somewhat of an idealist and I have all of these great ideas of what life ought to be like. (Note: my life doesn't always reflect these great ideas). In my few short years, I feel like I have done a lot of living and one thing I have learned is that life really is short - one breath, no repeats or do-overs. Once you grasp this idea, you need to live, really live, not just merely exist.

I really want my kids to get this now, while they are young. I want them to learn what their gift is and actually use it. I'm not just talking about making a living - that may (or may not) be separate. But I don't want the fear of not making tons of money to snuff out their gift or point them in the direction of a hum-drum existence.

Sure you have to make money to live and you have to work hard, but why not work hard at something you love? God has given us gifts to glorify Him, impact others for Him, and help us along the way. If we don't use them, then we are merely existing and not really living.

I met a young man today who plays college baseball and loves it. When I asked about his back up plan, since loving baseball does not guarantee playing in the majors, his reply was, "Exercise Training. That way I can still be around baseball." I think he has exactly what I am hoping my little people will learn - he's finding a way to do what he enjoys.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Making Memories

Just before Ken and I were married, someone gave us advice that I will never forget. An older woman who attended my wedding shower told us not to spend all of our money on material things - they just collect dust and the new wears off quickly. Instead, she said to spend our money on experiences, making memories. Last week that is exactly what we did.

We took time off to celebrate summer, our anniversary, Father's Day, and Ken's birthday. Here are a few glimpses of our memories.


Twenty Years!



Cooling off



Fun with Grandaddy



Get me out of this car!!


I can't look!



Lovin' this!



Scramblin'



Pooped Out



Saturday, June 14, 2008

Twenty Years

Ken and I have been married twenty years today. Twenty years, half of my life. Yes, I was young and I guess he was too. We knew just what we wanted and we were convinced that God had a plan for us and that His timing was perfect. We ditched all the fussy wedding plans just a few weeks before the big August date and just got married at a small church with a couple of friends and our pastor on a Tuesday afternoon in June. It was really what we wanted all along. Neither of us really wanted the fuss and details of a large wedding - we just wanted to be married. And so our journey began.

Today I look back and while I know we have had some difficult moments, all I can see are the really wonderful times - the excitement of Ken's band producing a cd, buying our first house, having our first child, having our second child, the scary switch to just one income, deciding to homeschool, moving way out into the country, having our third child, deciding to get a dog, having our fourth child, moving back to civilization, summer vacations, holidays with our families, countless hours at baseball games, piano recitals, afternoons in the pool, evenings in the backyard. All of these simple joys have comprised the last twenty years of our life together.

I recently read this quote from Seneca, an old Roman philosopher, "As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters." So today we will celebrate our good life together and thank God for His mercy, grace and the many simple blessings we enjoy.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Life is Short

It seems everywhere I look today, I am reminded that life is short. From the death of a prominent journalist, to a friend whose nephew has been in a horrific accident, to a family whose poor choices may have contributed to the death of their child. There are reminders all around that there is no promise of tomorrow.

And while I may not know what tomorrow holds, I can choose how to live today. I can laugh more, love more, trust more and worry less. I can choose to enjoy the day whatever that may mean. My life really is just a short ocassion and I want to rise to it.

Lord, show me how fleeting is my life. It really is only a breath. Let my hope rest only in you. (Psalm 39)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Thoughts on Failure

I read J.K. Rowling's Harvard Commencement Address today and she said some things about failure that were very interesting. You can read her entire speech here. I must confess that I have never read the Harry Potter books - just has not been a real interest for me. This address is so thoughtful and well written as she explores the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. It is definitely worth taking the time to read.

The thing about failure that stuck out to me most was how she told about her own failure a few years after college graduation. She found herself parenting alone and broke. In her words, "...failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."

Often what we perceive as failure is actually the opportunity to rise to the occasion to live the life we were meant to live.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Teen Years

Some days I wonder if I will survive the teenage years, and I am very new at this teenager thing. Lindsay is just 14, and Alex will be 13 by summer's end. Right now it's not that they are in to crazy stuff, it's that they are venturing out more and more without me. And while I do trust them, I don't trust the world they are exploring - so many dangers, so many opportunities for trouble, so many paths to go down.

I have spent all this time trying to teach them to be confident in who they are, to remember who they belong to. I have spent time reading and discussing the Word with them and helping them discover their unique gifts. They are by no means perfect, but I hope they have learned something along the way. Looks like it is test time. As they venture away from me from time to time, I have to trust they have been filled up with good things and hopefully those good things will come out. I also have to trust God's plan and protection for them, and pray they make wise decisions along the way.

So I guess on days like today when they are out with friends, as I breathe I will pray for God's hand to rest on them.