Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to Have Your Crow and Eat it, Too: Part I

Moron! That's what I told myself as the van choked out on the side of the road yesterday.

I had just left my first Weight Watchers meeting and was headed to school where I teach afternoon classes. Karen had met up with me at the 12:30 meeting and had helped me keep an eye on the clock; I left WW at 1:00. My intention was to stop for gas and then zip to school.
The station was less than a half mile way, as the crow flies, from where I pulled over on the shoulder of Route 24, out of the way of a seeming zillion cars in the early afternnon. I looked at the clock. 1:12. Oh, no. I am supposed to be there by 1:30.

I reached for my cell phone. Dead!

You're really a moron! No gas, no cell phone? How stupid can you be? How old are you? What now? Pray.

Lord, I've done it again. I'm so stupid. I know I should have gotten gas before the meeting, but I didn't want to be late. Please send me help soon so I can get to school. After all, I was looking forward to acting out my lesson on Hard Times: Soup Kitchens in the Great Depression. I had my box of chicken broth along and everything. Can cars run on chicken broth? I was tempted for a second to find out.

Stay with the vehicle. That's what Paul would tell me. I wished he were here. Even though he'd chew me out, it'd be better than being alone. Oh, Father, help me. Please send someone!
I watched my rearview as drizzle began to collect on the windshield--and my heart. Raindrops got heavier and the clock ticked on. It was now 1:37. They'd start to wonder, where is she? You're putting people out, making Cheryl wait. You've been impatient when kids have dawdled on the way to class, and now you're making them wait. Irresponsible! Why did you even try to make the Weight Watchers meeting? Is your weight loss more important than being prepared for school?

The word "prepared" made me laugh and cry at once. Teaching fifth and sixth graders means training students in personal responsibility--to help them remember to have pencils, papers, books, and homework where they need it, when they need it. I occasionally have to send home an " Unprepared Slip" with a student for a parent to sign. When a student forgets something really important that messes up other people's day, I hand a writing assignment to the offender, requiring they tell me all the ways their irresponsibillity has affected others, and make them write a note of apology, asking forgiveness of all involved. Let's see, running out of paper versus running out of gas. Hmmm.

In the distance I could see the intersection where I could turn, where just at the crest of the hill is a gas station. I was so close! Then I heard a medevac helicopter, and suddenly it was hovering just beyond the intersection somewhere. Bad accidents were common here. I quickly thought about where each of my driving-age kids would be. Ben: home working on a paper. Stephen: school or home. at 1:00. Dear Lord, I hope Sarah made it to work okay. I hope she didn't take 24 to work today.

Fear seized me like a grizzly bear. "God, take these thoughts. What do I do?"

Sing, He said. Sing to Me.

I was reminded of a blog post my friend, Emily, had written. No details, just the title and remembering what Paul and Silas did in their time of distress: they sang. So I began "How Great Thou Art, " which--oddly enough--led into "Silent Night" . (Whatever, it brought my thoughts into submission.)

This is no time to cry. What do you tell your students when they are about to cry over something trivial? "Take it like a man." But Lord, I've got too much woman in me to take it like a man. Help me! Help me get a grip! I'm out of gas, not oxygen. I don't want someone to come along and find me in a full panic with mascara lines down to my shoulders.

I giggled a little to myself when I realized I was weeping on the side of a major highway: Lord, you've given me a "shoulder" to cry on.

Then I wondered, what if someone heard about that accident, knew I hadn't shown up for work, and... Oh, Lord, please guard anyone I love from thinking it's me. Don't let anyone be worried. I'm fine!

Fine? You're a hypocrite as well as a moron! my thoughts said, clearly crafted by the Enemy of my Soul. You're causing people to worry, you're never gonna make it to school, you'll be the laughingstock of the campus. If you can't keep gas in your car, you shouldn't have a license. Satan's attack was vicious, each thought piercing my mind like a snakebite.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Q&A Tuesday: Do You "Spring Clean"?

I have been decluttering my house a lot. Still have a ways to go, but it's already feeling lighter.
In fact, I have even been taking art off the walls to let them breathe, while I figure out how I want to redecorate.

Starting Saturday I am going to start some deeper cleaning--you know, wash windows and their treatments, scrub baseboards, vacuum the vents, wipe walls down, that kind of thing. It might take me through the end of May at the rate I go, but I might surprise myself.

Do you spring clean, and if so, how do you go about it? Two long Saturdays, or a couple hours a day, or what?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Please Pray for "Collegers"

Joel calls people in college "collegers." After all, people in teenage years are called "teenagers." Makes sense to me.

If you know anyone in college right now, please pray for them. If you don't, please pray for my own three children. They have three weeks left.

Ben is feeling sick and run-d0wn and has a 10-page paper due Thursday. Last night I told him I was praying for him and he said, "Thanks. I need all the prayer I can get." He works 25 hours a week. I'm happy to announce that he got elected Vice President of Beta Alpha Psi at his college.
(It's an honors society for accounting majors.) The downside to that is that it's not just a figurehead position; he is actually supposed to recruit special guest speakers. Not exactly a high priority for someone who can't see a straight path from here through finals.

Sarah is spending most of her waking hours absorbed in schoolwork, and has a 16 hour-a-week job. For her, the biggest chunk is over; she had to put in 30 hours of field placement at a local elementary school and 10 at a nursing home. She may be able to get out of finals because of her grades; please pray that's the case. It would be such a reward for her diligence. Her mind is racing ahead to June when she'll be leaving for summer camp.

Stephen is finding himself facing harder work at school and tonight mumbled something about wanting "out of this major" (computer science). He is on a full merit scholarship and wants to maintain his 4.0, but this programming class has him stressed. Not only is he a student, he works about 15 hours a week and is a drummer for two different worship bands at church. He never complains about any of it; he simply wants to do well at everything.

They are all three having to cast their burdens on the Lord. I ask for:
-grace to finish projects in less than expected time
-improved health for the boys
-that Sarah doesn't have to take some of her finals
-safety on the road when their minds are elsewhere
-good sleep, even when it's less than they want
-me to be understanding (I've been trying to do extra little things to lighten their loads)
-that they wouldn't neglect quiet times w/ the Lord for refreshing
-gratitude for their education
-moral purity and spiritual strength on godless campuses
-that they wouldn't find their identity in their GPA like I did at 19 and 20, but remember it's secure in Christ alone
-anything else you can think of

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tweaking and Tweeting

Once again I'm changing things up with my blog. Got tired of the pens picture, though it was appropriate. I am craving coral in my life (see post below) so I thought I'd get it via a place a visit often.

I don't have the patience at the moment to wade through the code instructions. I'm trying to get it back to a 3-column page where I can view my blogroll w/o having to scroll down. I wish that stuff came as easily to me as typing.

Until then, tweet tweet.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Fankful Friday

Had Paul given me more than three days' notice that he'd be taking off work today, I would have done the same. It was absolutely gorgeous outside, warm and breezy. The kind of day that makes you want to skip school altogether. Joel did get to stay home, but it was because he woke up with a nasty cough and congestion that he got from Stephen.

Since I don't report till noon on Fridays, we used some of the morning to go to Lowe's for flowers and mulch. I should've gone flower hunting earlier this week; what I really wanted were coral colored flowers. They didn't have nearly enough to do the border in front of the house, and Paul hates geraniums--the only other sunloving flower in that color there, so I went to Plan B. (I have had to divert to Plan B so often I call myself Queen B.) I bought coral colored impatiens for the covered porch, since they must be shaded at all times, but I am not wild about them. I'm just wild about the color this year.

As long as I have a garden, it will have purple in it. So I went with sweet williams (dianthus) that have purple centers fringed with white. Hardy for my likes, cheap for Paul's. He just wanted to get on with it. I had to fight ingratitude and stubbornness; picking flowers is such a joy to me, I hate to be rushed and was feeling I have to just settle for something. But God quickly reminded me of last year when there was no extra money for flowers at all. Last year was a lesson in really making do, really waiting patiently during the seemingly colorless interlude between March's crocuses (croci?) and June's salvia. I had to wait for every single perennial to come back, which made me ever the more thankful that God doesn't make us plant everything new every year in order to be surrounded by beauty.

As I climbed into the Jeep after paying for our new petaled friends, I thanked God for giving me a husband who is willing to take the day off work to work hard at home. He does not enjoy yardwork at all, but likes a green lawn and tidy landscaping. Not that ours is ever completely green OR tidy, but we aspire. I thanked God for the money that we're appreciating this year, finally some extra because we are totally debt-free (sans home mortgage) and walking in financial freedom.

A quick weeding of the side garden, then a shower, and then I had to leave for school. I felt a headache coming on as I drove, maybe from the sun or the guilt of leaving the whole job to Paul. There was still more weeding, all the planting, and all the mulching to do. He asked me where to plant the flowers and I said, "along the border," and trusted him with placement.
At school the headache had intensified to the point of near nausea, and kids were extra loud from Friday excitement and the anticipation of taking their geography test. One precious student followed me around the room, telling me about the outstanding grade he just got on a Bible test. He was thanking me for the grade.
"But I don't teach that subject. Why are you thanking me?" I asked.
"Because," he replied, "Mrs. Ruiz grades our punctuation which I used to be really bad at, but because you're such a great grammar teacher, I do really good at it now. "
(Between the pure sweetness and comic irony of his compliment, myheadache almost vanished.)

When I got home from school, my mailbox garden greeted me with lovely purple sweet williams on a wonderful smelling bed of black mulch. Scanning the yard, I beheld all the landscaping was done! Every last flower planted, every weed gone, every garden area heaped up with fragrant chips of bark.

I came into the house to thank Paul, but found him zonked out on the couch, next to Joel, enjoying the late afternoon in silent slumber. I took two ibuprofen and went up to bed. When I awoke two hours later, I hugged Paul tight and said everything looked great. I think the man deserves a medal.

What a Fankful Friday I've had.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Should I Be Concerned?

I am not sure why. Maybe because his teacher's mother just died, but my seven-year-old has been doing something for the past four or five days that makes me wonder.

I'll just be sitting on the sofa reading or grading papers, and he comes up, throws his arms around me, hugs me really tight and says urgently, "But, Mom, I don't WANT you to die! I LOVE you!" I assure him I'm not planning to die any time soon, but no one except God knows for sure. And I tell him I love him, too, very much.

Has anyone else experienced this, and should I do anything more about it?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sarah: 20 Things I Love About You

Dear Sarah,

Happy 20th birthday. What a fast two decades these have been since the day you were born.
I'll never ever forget the way I found out I was carrying you. No, it wasn't a pregnancy test.
It wasn't a sonogram. It wasn't even a hunch. I was lying in bed one night in mid-December, 1988, when I felt a flutter in my womb. It fluttered again. Since I had just given birth to Ben eight months earlier, this flutter was unmistakable. Putting the old "two and two" together, I told your dad, "Honey, if this isn't a baby in my belly, I don't know what it is." (He said it was the broccoli.) Two days later the OB (not the GI) sonogram technician congratulated me. "You're 22 weeks along. Your baby is due in April."

Being a girl of order, your birthday lines up numerically after Ben's. His is 3/21/88 and yours is 4/22/89. (My sister Rachel teased, "Should we reserve a hospital room for 5/23/90?")

Sarah, I would like to share with you 20 things today that bring me great pleasure at this stage of your life. In no particular order, here they are:

1. You are making the most of your single years even though you have a deep longing to be married. I appreciate the way you have initiated a junior high/high school girls' fun times, drawing out the homeschool girls especially who have a hard time bonding with the day schoolers. You are active in the Christian Club at school. You hold a job. You babysit so a certain young couple can go to care group consistently. You attend your own care group faithfully. You will work at youth camp in PA this summer, gaining independence (waaaa), but only after you sought and received your dad's and my blessing. (Thanks for that.)
2. You come home from school with the funniest and most touching stories. I love to hear about your special ed kiddoes and how much joy they bring you. I was moved when you cried over one teacher whose son needed a heart transplant and she had to quit work. The boy got his new heart, which I reminded you meant another child lost his life, and you choked up for the family who was grieving as well as for the one rejoicing.
3. You visit old-ER people in the nursing home and bear with the ignoble spirit of a certain Miss S. The 80-year-old woman has sins you detest: prejudice, lust, and bitterness. Though you tell the stories that crack me up, I see that you really wish Miss S had the joy of Christ.
4. You go out of your way, over and over, for people. You grocery shop at BB's for the fun of it, but it's practical service to our family. You use your time and gas money to bless license-less friends with rides (friends who are old enough to be driving). You've taken lunch to Steve at work. You've folded Ben's clothes. You've taken Joel to Walmart, Chuck E's, the library, and Goodwill and countless other places he enjoys.
5. You are a conscientious, hardworking student. Congratulations on being accepted into the honors society at school. You manage your time well in order to prioritize good grades.
6. You give generously of your resources. Not only do you still sponsor a child through Compassion, you bless your Promise Kingdom 2-year-olds with extra nice crafts and treats that
you often spend your own money on.
7. You listen to people. What a rare thing these days, to be really heard. You, of all people in the family, seem to care most about my job, and I appreciate that. It means so much to me, that when you tune in to my stories or offer suggestions, I feel honored.
8. You keep people and places organized. Now that you're a church secretary, I see the grown-up little girl acting on her dreams. You used to love to play receptionist (though your office was always intaking pediatric patients). I know Pastor Joel appreciates your cheerful willingness to do whatever he asks, whether for the singles' or childrens' ministries.
9. You bake a mean triple chocolate cake.
10. You often cook dinner when I'm just too tired or woefully uninspired or unprepared.
11. You maintain high standards of personal integrity, modesty, and responsibility. People can count on you to be consistent, honest, pure, and dedicated.
12. You are loyal.
13. You keep confidences. Not even I have detected problems you've been experiencing with a friend until it's over and you've forgiven them. You don't gossip and aren't a drama queen.
14. You seek the counsel and friendship of older women whom you (and I) respect. 15. You teach 2 year olds at church. Not just 2 year olds, but 14 or more at once! Little tikes just past one year old, mixed with those on the brink of three. Wow! When I asked, "How do you know they're getting anything out of your lessons?" you gently replied, "I just teach as if they can understand , and hope they want to come back again." One little girl told her mommy, "Miss Sarah is my best friend." I think some of them might get sad when they realize that turning 3 means Miss Sarah won't be their teacher anymore.
16. You are an intercessor. I know you have a long prayer list and take your requests to God.
17. You write a blog I enjoy very much, even if I don't comment very often. I should, to encourage you to keep writing.
18. You thank people, even me, whom you could take for granted. It means a lot to a mom to hear, "Thanks for packing my lunch" or "Thanks for folding my laundry. I was so tired."
19. You have a beautiful smile. And you use it often. The joy of the Lord comes forth every time.
20. You are authentic. You are you, the same sweet Sarah at home as you are at school, church, work, restaurants, retail shops, and grocery stores. You are the best daughter a mom or dad could ever want.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, I love you and hope your coming year is filled with great joy and lots of love. (Selfishly, I hope that does not mean a husband for you, but I can't pray out both sides of my mouth , now can I?)

Happy birthday, Sweetie.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Lime and Sublime: Sarah's Closet Makeover

Since my girl, who will be 20 tomorrow, leads such a full and busy life outside the home, I have given up asking her to post pictures of her closet transformation. It took place in January, so don't you think I've been patient enough?

Sarah knew what she wanted:

-no more pink and blue little girl motifs
-colors to go with the rest of her lime green, cobalt blue, and deep purple room
-simple organization
- nothing on the floor
-laundry sorters for darks and lights
-matching hangers
-a result that looked so cool she might not want to close the door
-and all of that for under $100 since she'd be paying for it

She sweet-talked her dad into painting, and her little brother into using power tools. (It didn't take much.)

The paint, if I recall, was
left over from the rest of
the room job, which she her
Pappaw (also a good painter)
worked on together. So
paint cost for the closet, we'll
say, was about $7.

She and I went to Lowe's and Home Depot to shop for the shelving and laundry organizers. (Not exactly a camera-worthy adventure.) I think she ended up finding the boxed unit for about $60.

In went some colorful canvas boxes from
Target ($5 each, so $25)..

and up went the hanging clothes on matching white plastic hangers (20 for $2)...

positioned near her fuzzy blue Christmas slippers...

And ...

VOILA! Brand new closet for under a hundred bucks

so inviting
it begs an open-door policy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Sunny (Daughtery?) Blog Spot

Here's where I blog, at my daughter's desk. She has such a cool, comfy, hip room. She designed and decorated it herself. I love to be in here (much to her chagrin at times). I am so going to miss her when she goes away for two months this summer.

Her birthday is this coming Wednesday. She wants me to do some art for her room in chalk pastels.
Hmm...any ideas? Want to see pictures of her new closet? She knows how to organize and make a closet look so cool you don't want to shut the doors. And so they're always open!

For those who know me well...

Would you say I cry easily or would you call me Harriet Hardnose?

Feel free to sign in anonymously.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Losing its Grip

This weekend I have felt something of a real victory in my life. I hesistate to say anything for fear that maybe it's just a victory in a battle, not in the war--the war on stuff.

The battle was staged in my bedroom closet. For years I have clung to stuff. Stuff that reminded me of a better time in life. Stuff that made me
remember certain people every time I looked at it. Stuff that made me feel smart or successful or, at least, above average. Stuff that I would make into something new, somehow, someday.

I have had many closet-cleanouts before. Dejunking marathons. 27-thing flings. Weight-loss contests where the weight was measured in pounds of stuff. But always before I have found myself holding back, reluctant to truly give up and let go of things I loved more than the space they occupied. I could never understand the root of my problem. And it wasn't for lack of seeking to understand; I had read seemingly every book on the topic of organizing and simplifying. My problem wasn't a lack of knowledge. I can organize. I can simplify. But the stuff kept me in bondage anyway. I didn't know what my real problem was.

Until this weekend.

God gave me a major revelation about my War Against Stuff. The real reason I hadn't conquered the sin of hoarding finally surfaced. The truth had do to with the timing of the Lord's providence.

Had you asked me if I believed God has always provided for me, I'd say, "Yes."
If you were to ask if I believe He always will provide for me , I would say, perfunctorily, "Of course."

So, then, what was the problem?

The problem, as it hit me like a wooden bat, was this: I didn't believe God would provide what I needed exactly when I needed it. He would procrastinate. He would withhold. Dangle the proverbial carrot in front of this donkey's nose with almost sinister pleasure. Therefore, to reassure myself, I would store whatever I could think of "just in case" (and the ugly reality of my heart said, "just in case God doesn't come through when you need something").

It hit me, not coincidentally, as I lay on the floor of my closet picking up small bits of trash before vacuuming. The last big item left after trash stood neatly wrapped by its own cord in the far corner under a winter coat. It was a full-length body massaging mat. Black, about feet 3 feet wide and 7 feet long, with a remote control for both massage and heat, it's something I rarely use now, but it was perfect when I needed it. My older sister sent it to me as a gift right after Joel was born when I was in intense pain on bedrest 24/7 for over a month. Having ruptured my pelvic ligaments in a freak delivery, I was severely limited in mobility, unable to take stairs or put my own pants on. "What do you really need?" she had inquired."It sounds like you've got all the baby stuff you could want."

I had cried and cried when she asked. "I want a backrub all the time," I said. "Even with Mama here every day to help, it's all Paul can do to care for a newborn, check the schoolwork, keep the house and laundry going, track my meds, get me changed and my hair washed, and hold down a job. Sarah is practically Joel's mother except for feeding him. Ben and Stephen feel awkward enough seeing me lay here helpless. I don't want to ask one more thing, but I am so sore all the time. I need a backrub every day, but I don't have the courage to ask."

I was merely pouring out my complaints to a caring sister; it didn't occur to me that a loving Father was also listening. Telling Rachel my feelings was cathartic, though I had no idea she could do anything about my need for a daily massage; she lived in Texas, I in Maryland. But a few days later something from her showed up in the mail. When I saw what it was, I sobbed and sobbed. (I was a daily bucket of tears.) God had heard my very specific need and used my sister to answer it. I had no idea this kind of device even existed. Not only would it massage where I needed it, it had a remote control. At a time when I had no control over anything, not even my paralyzed bladder, it was so liberating to be able to effect change by pushing a button.

So, this past Saturday, as I moved this marvelous massaging doohickey on the floor of my closet, God reminded me of His perfect timing. He had not been late back in February of 2002. He was just waiting for me to make my request known. He hadn't procrastinated, for that's a sin, and He cannot sin. He had not been withholding, dangling a carrot before my eyes with sinister pleasure; He was waiting for me to ask for it so that I could receive the pleasure of His answers.
I went shopping this afternoon because I had parted with so many ill-fitting clothes, 80% of which I never wear. My remaining lot gets worn so often I call it my school uniform. However, in the stores, as I looked at clothes (and pillows and purses and shoes and dishes and linens), I honestly did not feel compelled to have any of it. None. I wasn't feeling depressed. I didn't feel guilty for looking. I didn't sense that "I'll feel better if I buy something" or "This might not be here next time" or "This would look great in the family room." Rather, I kept thinking, "God, I feel so loved, so blessed, so cared for. I don't need anything today. I don't even want it. This is such a new feeling. Thank You!!!"

I don't say this with the stupidity of one who thinks she'll never covet again, never feel a "need" (really, a want with a worldly nickname), never feel glee when shopping again. No, I'm human. I'm a woman. I'm a homemaker. And I like to shop. I have lived long enough to battle materialism and discontentment over and over. But I can say this: I feel like the chains of mistrusting God for what I need WHEN I need it, have been broken. And that beats a massage (hands down) any day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Let Them Play Teacher

Yesterday in class, when it was time for grammar, I let my students do something I often used to make my own kids do in homeschool: play teacher. If you've ever taught anything, you know how much you learn by doing it.

Well, this was impromptu, not planned in advance, so I don't know how much they learned, but they sure did like it.

The Shurley Grammar workbook page had four sections. I have six students. Once again I had to choose "teachers" without being partial. So, at random, I asked, "If you have a brother, raise your hand. " (All hands go up.) "If you have a younger brother, keep your hand up." (Half go down.) The remaining three would "play teacher" first, one at a time.

I love watching them in teacher mode. The boy who led the first section, labeling parts of speech, used "the voice" of a teacher, somewhat sing-songy and very "praisy" of right answers.
The girl who led the second section used the same "voice" as the boy. Cracks me up. Her section called for labeling sentences (simple, compound, fragment, and so on). The boy she called on gave a monosyllabic answer. We all know that could mean a good guess, not necessarily comprehension, so I whispered to Teacher Girl, "Ask them to please explain."

Teacher Girl continued when the next student she called on got the right answer. "You are correct. Sentence 3 is an SCV. Can you please explain why?"

We ran out of time and I heard two other students ask if we can play again next time and let them be Teacher. He warmed my heart when he said, "This is the funnest afternoon we've had in a long time."

I didn't have the heart to correct his grammar.

Instead I thanked him for saying so and thanked the Lord for giving us an extra good day.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Everyone knows what a Post-it note is. We are probably all too familiar with the tendency to get a bunch of them scattered hither and yon in an attempt to remember this, that, and th'other throughout the day.

Well, since I have a bunch of TTTs (this, that, and th'others) on my mind, I will write one post instead of a bunch of "postettes" today.

Here goes:

Postette 1: Tea and crumpets, Uncle Nigel and the Merchant Marines, India and citrus. Who knew where the If You Give a Lamb a Lemon story would go? I have perfectly loved reading of the serious case of wanderlust in a warm wooly. Thank you, Terri, Kelly, and Krista, for your imaginative contributions. Anyone want to start a new If You book?

Postette 2: I plan to teach a lesson on painting in the style of Georgia O'Keefe two weeks from yesterday. I need flower and landscape pictures from magazines and/or calendars, specifically large close-up shots of flowers. (Please, no roses; they're tough enough for me to draw, let alone little artists.) If you want, you can hand them to me in church or--to be quite archaic about it--stick them in the mail. I have 12 students and would like at least 12 samples for them to choose from. Since the pictures get slopped up, I won't be returning them. Might even trash them.

Postette 3: My current Bible study book will end in just over a week at the rate I'm going. What are you studying now and would you recommend it to me? I am definitely a Beth Moore fan, and to a slightly lesser degree, Kay Arthur. I also always enjoy Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Postette 4: What do you think are the top 3 things someone should know about US geography by the end of sixth grade?

Postette 5: I'm ready to completely redecorate my house. I am bored, bored, bored with all of it.
Have you ever taken everything off the walls (when you weren't in the process of moving) in order to view naked walls? Naturally I don't have the time, vision, or moolah to create all the change I want (and want NOW!) but a girl can dream, and that I do often.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fun Story Taking Shape

Thanks to some creative writers, I'm delighting in the lamb/lemon story. Krista's up!

If You Give a Lamb a Lemon

Okay, writers, I'm starting the "book" ( a day late, sorry). It will continue in the order you signed up to participate. Remember, in these books, the story comes full circle, so the last writer will have to end it like it starts. (This picture is a Google image and I was about to change my title to If You Give a Lamb a Dandelion, but my little 7-year-old said he likes the lemon better.)

If you give a lamb a lemon, he might ask for tea. And if you give him some tea, he will ask for...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Looking Back on Spring Break's Blessings

I really had a wonderful spring break and I feel the need to write it down so I can look back and remember the kindness of God as I head into the last quarter of school. (Can't believe I'm writing "last quarter" already. )

It started out with a spontaneous prayer retreat with Marilyn. That was exactly the way to start a week that might otherwise have seemed one burden on top of another. But focusing on God and praying for revival, starting with ourselves and then our youth was what I needed to lift my view upward.

Several areas of the house I had on my list to tackle actually got my attention.
I got the office back in good order (a 4-hour job entailing decluttering and packing a box for soldiers). I had two charity truck pick-up days, which saved me the trip to Goodwill with bags and boxes of junk. I cleared out a catch-all area behind the living room chair (which is big enough to hide a rural post office). I thoroughly dealt with the bookcase in the kitchen (formerly known as the school shelf). And--a bonus not on my list--the contents of my china buffet. Getting rid of dishes is nothing short of a miracle. Truly, it's not funny, it's an act of God's mercy on me (and the rest of the less-is-more minded family members). I actually considered giving away all my china, but am not there yet.

Monday through Wednesday we had Darren (20) here while his parents were at the pastors' conference. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't do anything but sit around and eat with ice packs on his knee. He thought it was a torn miniscus (sp?) but the MRI has shown it's a lot of fluid on the knee and inflammation. He was nearly immobile, though, and Stephen had school and work so was not here to entertain him much. Yet it was good that he didn't have someone here who was beggin him to play basketball. Joel was quite happy to sit and play video games with Darren.

On Wednesday night, my co-teacher and friend Cheryl and I met at the Fallston Diner. Just wanted to catch up on each other's lives and get to know each other better. Seems most of our talks at school are about students; we wanted girl time, not teacher time. And boy, did we! We met at 8pm and parted ways at 12:40 a.m.! Laughed and cried, talked from the heart, which I desperately needed from another person.

Passover had never meant so much to me as it did this time. I absolutely loved looking around the crowded room and seeing Jews rejoicing in the salvation they've received from Yeshua, their Messiah. For the first time I felt like one of them. For the first time I truly identified myself as the descendant of Hebrew slaves in Egypt, and when one of the women read a true story of a Passover observed in a concentration camp, I wept as if it had been my grandmother telling me her story. The other thing that meant so much was when my dad, as he started the seder, said to the people,"Tonight we are here to bless God. We do a a lot of asking for Him to bless us, which is fine because He loves to do it, but this night we are going to bless Him--make Him happy, happy, happy! And if you get a blessing out of doing that, then that's great." My dad makes it so easy to understand the Heavenly Father's heart. He is genuinely thrilled to see us, loves to dote on his family, does not hold things against us, cherishes us, and shares generously. (When two young boys found the afikomen at the same time, Daddy reached into his pocket and drew out two dollars, not two quarters. He handed each boy a greenback and, as they sat down, I heard their mom say, "He treats you like his grandsons!")

Good Friday service was led by the youth of our church. My favorite parts were the dramatic monologues which had been written by Ed Gordon and Pastor Arie. One was of Barabbas (played by Eric Powell), another of the thief on the cross (played by Josh Freeman) and the last was Mary Magdalene (played by Amari Lewis). I was so moved by the boys' monologues I had to keep Kleenex handy. They had memorized a 10-minute script in less than two weeks. Astounding. Following the service was an art gallery in the Chesapeake Room. Our creative team (among them, Danielle and Josh, Karyn and Dan and others I'm unaware of, shame on me) put together a collection of art done by church members with mad talent in photography, drawing, painting, and collage. To see the visual and performing arts giving glory to our Risen Savior was an answer to many prayers.

Saturday I got some alone-shopping time. (The only bump in the week was an argument between Paul and me that resulted in his going alone elsewhere when I wanted to shop for bathroom sinks with him.) So I went to Home Depot to drool over cabinet choices.
One lady, about 60--plump and overcolored, hairwise-- was standing beside me looking at countertop samples. "I really like this cobalt blue with silver sparkles," she told me. "I just bought a stove and the oven inside is this color. Makes you want to bake when you open it. I just loves sparkles. I think I was born to be a stripper, I love all that glitter and glam!" Cracked me up. It's not every day you hear something like that.

Easter Sunday was also memorable in that our family actually got there early, not late. The sad news that my Joel's teacher, Cindy, lost her mom to cancer on the weekend. The comfort, however, was realizing that death cannot keep her mom in the grave any more than it could keep Jesus there, because she shares in His resurrection. The power is the same for those who believe in Christ, and Cindy's mom had a firm faith and true joy as she faced her Homegoing.

Last night I read a good bit of Anne of Avonlea, planned out my next two weeks of school, and
went to bed late. Today is my last full day of "break" and so far I've 1) gotten up very late, 2) hidden Easter eggs for Joel, and 3) interviewed my sweet boy, and 4) taken some trash out. Not exactly ambitious, but there is a "love note" (ie to-do list) from my never-say-quit husband waiting for me in the kitchen. All good things, as they say, must come to an end.

Friday, April 10, 2009

THIS is How to Read and Recite God's Word

Thanks to Laurie Lynn's post, I will never read these scriptures the same again. I had tears in my eyes during the delivery of these words which no sermon can surpass.

To my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, the Messiah who died once for all and is risen indeed, just as He said, who sits at the right hand of God the Father making intercession for all of us, who will return on a white horse and take us to live with Him forever in an unimaginably beautiful home which He is preparing even now for us, where we will always be in perfect relationship with him and each other, and never forget His love for us because we will see the nail scars in His hands as He wraps His loving arms around us and says, "Welcome Home, dear one. The waiting is over!", to you I say, "Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday! He is risen indeed!"

The link button is goofy today, so here's the link another way:

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Of Gnat Castles and Passover

This morning, in keeping with scriptural commands, I was rehearsing the story of Passover with my children--er, youngest Jewish child, to be exact.

Joel was snuggling up to me on the sofa as I read from Exodus each of the ten plagues.

When I got to the gnats, I described how pesky they are when they swarm your face. "God sent a plague of gnats on all of Egypt which is almost all desert," I told my son. "He turned all the sand into gnats. Honey, can you imagine going to the beach and, instead of sand, all you see everywhere are gnats?!"

He wrinkled his nose and said, "Eww, so the people had to make gnat castles instead?"

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Precious Interlude Choked Me Up

It's often in the most everyday interruptions that God reminds me how much He loves us and cares for us. This morning Joel was putting silverware away on one side of the dishwasher while I unloaded dishes from the other. What he said choked me up.

Monday, April 06, 2009

This Week

Tonight I will start the If You Give story. Here are my 3 suggestions for those of you who signed up to be in the writer's circle. If you read this before I post, cast your vote.

a. If You Give a Lamb a Lemon
b. If You Give a Dog a Donut
c. If You Give a Worm a Waffle

Today I am cleaning (can'tcha tell?). I already took care of the awful bookcase in the kitchen and am about to scrub floors and baseboards. A houseguest is coming for 2 days starting at 2, 2day.

This week I'm on spring break. Read: spring break-my-neck cleaning.

If Paul feels well enough, he will help get the basement ready to repaint. He thinks he has walking pneumonia. We are project-minded right now and actually have funds available to realize some of the dreams we've been saving for. He also wants to redo the little bathroom which we bought a new vanity, top, and faucet for. Maybe by April's end we'll have a mini-makeover to share.

Thursday we get to have Passover with my parents' congregation. I am so happy !

And our church is having a Good Friday service this year. Whoopee! I do believe someone from our care group is going to be preaching a sermonette. Extra whooopees!

Got to get back on my knees. Maybe I'll pray while I'm scrubbing.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Spontaneous Prayer Retreat

The Lord is so kind. He heard my prayer, the prayer of my heart since January when I started really sensing the need to get to away with one or two friends for a personal retreat. I didn't have many wants on top of the needs, just some solid prayer time, outdoor time, some exercise, and maybe some decent food.

Well, Friday night my friend and pastor's wife, Marilyn, called to ask a favor for this coming week if we didn't have family plans already in the works for my spring break. I said it would work and the only thing I really wanted (after some spring cleaning for sanity's sake) was to get away for a personl retreat. "Me, too!" she said. One thing led to another, Paul agreed it was fine, and on Saturday at noon Marilyn finally got through to Sandy Cove and booked the ONLY room Sandy Cove had left. It's a Christian conference center 45 minutes from here right on the Chesapeake Bay.

I had exactly 3 hours to prepare. She had said something about fasting isntead of eating dinner, which I wrestled with in my heart. So much so that I probably should have taken it as a "yes, if it's that big a deal, you probably do need to fast!" But she had a headache and decided food was a good thing to have.

We prayed a solid hour for our families, our church, for our own hearts to be changed and ready for revival. We laughed, cried, listened to music, and worked out , finally saying goodnight at nearly 2 a.m. AFter breakfast we went to the pier and took pictures, then prayed another hour together and an hour separately. Then lunch, some bookstore shopping, and more devotions separately in the sunshine overlooking the bay. Such beauty. God is majestic in all His ways, mindful of us and oh so good to refresh us spontaneously and thoroughly!

Thursday, April 02, 2009

If You Give a _________ a _____________

So remember how I was going to write my own version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?
My version was going to be If You Give a Wife a Credit Card.

In all seriousness, I am going to assign my Inklings (my two high school homeschoolers) a book project--a creative writing assignment. (Today they turn in their 8-page research papers, which we will all rejoice to be over with, once I've graded them.) They have to write a book for this series, choosing a one-syllable animal as the indirect object and something else as a direct object. I have three of the books at hand for them to read and use as models. Depending on the degree of difficulty, I may have my 5th and 6th graders do this assignment in the computer lab. My next bulletin board will feature their writing; I think I'll title the board If You Give a Kid a Keyboard.

Anyhoo, I thought it'd be fun if my fellow bloggers would write a round-robin version. I'll start it and tag someone. That person will add a line and tag the next person (one specific person). Who's game for this? I'll see the response I garner, give thought to what we'll write about, and if a writer's circle emerges, I'll start the "If You Give" story on Monday. (Feel free to offer title suggestions.)

The order of tags will be the order in which you sign up in my comment box. Got it?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

They Got Me and I Got Them Back!

"All I will say, Mrs. Zubrowski, "said our school receptionist to me as I walked in, "is this is April Fool's Day."

"Oh, I am very much aware of that, and I know I'm a sitting duck. "'

I peeked into my classroom and saw all my students' desks turned backward. When I opened the door, they all rose to their feet and greeted me (backs to me) with what they always say, only backwards. Looking around, I saw the chalkboard were covered in toilet paper, my desk was wrapped in it, the parts of speech posters were upside down, and I wasn't sure what else they had in store.

My co-teacher was there, giggling. "All their desks were upsidedown , thanks to a couple of the boys who got to school very early." When she got up, I whispered, "Watch this."

"Okay, everybody, take out a piece of paper and a pencil. Remember the state capitals test I said we'll be having Friday? Well, I decided to move it up to today." The test was supposed to cover the 11 southern states we've been working on.


"I didn't study!" "I'm unprepared!" "I only know six of them!" and on went the excuses till I cut them off.

"Number one , what is the capital of Tennessee?"
"Two, the capital of Georgia?"
"Three. Alabama."

After 11, I said, "number 12, what is the capital of Oregon."
"Oregon? What's that?" asked one kid.
"It's a state north of California, I said. '
"Number 13, Montana."
"How should we know?"
"Number 14, New York." Some kids knew this from our previous states that ran from Maine down to Virginia.

I went on and on till I had given them 35 states, hearing comments like, "ARe you going to put these in the grade book? I'm so gonna fail."

"You know I always drop the lowest grade of the quarter, " I said.

"Not on tests, you said!"
"Oh, that's right. Sorry."

Then I started really making them sweat. "Number 36, what is the capital of Thailand?"

"Thailand? Where's that?"
"In Asia."
"I know the capital of Vietnam, " said one boy.
"Good for you, but I need the capital of Thailand."

I asked for the capitals of Canada, Japan, and even Zaire.

At number 40, I said, "Please pass in your tests." They submitted, frowning and moaning about how not fair it was, they'd never even heard of some of those places.

My co-teacher and I had been exchanging knowing glances the whole time.

"April Fool's Day, guys. This test doesn't count!"

Then I took my seat right at the very moment I heard a fart sound. Giggles all around. "Okay, where is it?" I asked. No one fessed up. But every I shifted so that my legs hit the desk, they'd laugh at the fart sound. "Mrs. Zubrowski! That steak last night must've really bothered you!"

"Must have," I said, "which is odd considering I had chicken." Peels of laughter all around, and at clean-up time they revealed the battery powered whoopie cushion they oh-so-cleverly hidden in my desk.

Worship on the Treadmill

It's obvious from looking at me that I don't like to exercise. I hate to sweat. Hate the look, the feel, the smell of all things sweaty. The chemical composition of sweat, a nurse once told me, is just about the same as that of urine. No wonder I hate it.

Nonetheless I have been sacrificing my sense of what smells good on the altar of that which is good: physical fitness. Daily the Lord has to boost my desire from zero to twenty because I am not one of those girls who loves the gym, can't wait to run her three miles, or thinks a size 8 is big.
I am a girl who loves to sit and read, sit and eat, sit and dream, sit and write. You see the common denominator?

But the Lord amazed me once again today. He not only motivated to get on the dreadmill , but I really believe He directed me first to pop in an old Matthew Ward CD. Matthew Ward, not West. We are going back a few years, so if you've never heard of the Second Chapter of Acts, trust me, I'm not referring to the 47 verses of a Pauline epistle.

I put the CD on to play straight through. The first song lifted my spirits heavenward as I pictured the Lord, "seated on high" while His "train fills the temple" and "the whole earth ...filled with His glory." It was more of a slow-down song, so I hopped off and switched the CD to shuffle. I got an upbeat song that I thought was a Sovereign Grace oldie original. Doubt it!

I kept increasing my pace and singing very loudly. Oh, the bliss when I'm the only one home: I sing at the top of my lungs.

Before I knew it, my 20 minutes were up but I kept right on going, praising God and "sweatin' to the oldies" of Matthew Ward. I was nearly weeping to the words of "My Redeemer". I love to meditate on what Jesus has redeeemed me from and for!

How faithful is God to give grace for the things He calls us to and asks us to sacrifice for the greater good. I pray that my desire to steward the only body He's given me
will continue to result in a sacrifice of praise .

What is your "altar" --the thing you come to with dread because you have to give up something you enjoy for something God wants for you or commands of you? Be specific, because I know we all say just about "everything that isn't my gift."