Tag Archives: Family

A Prayer for Christmas Eve^2

Thank you, God…

Thank you for rowdy days and silent nights.

Thank you for peace, though, with two girls alternately fighting, squealing, laughing, and giggling, it’s not terribly peaceful.  There’s peace in my heart, nonetheless.

Thank you for that fall two years ago.  It was a great lesson for my family in all I do, both expensive and invaluable.

Thank you that I seldom have to ask them to work with me anymore.  Thank you that they take that initiative.

As I read and soaked in a not-warm-enough bath and my older came in to talk to me – then apologized and left – thank you that she’s here and excited about the helpful thing she’d done for her sister.

Thank you for time this Advent – time to spend with friends, time to bless people around us, time to hang out with my family, time to play games on the Santa Trackers.

Thank you for all those Jesus moments, especially in the random words of my daughters as they speak the love of you for us.

Thank you for movies that make us cry as they remind us of what’s truly important this season and every season – that You became flesh and dwelt among us, that you love even the smallest and imperfect of us, the importance of putting our fellow humans over our material gain, the importance of family, the wealth found in friends.

Simply put…  Thank you, God.

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Where My Loyalties Lie

In the beginning, God created men and women in God’s image.  That’s according to Genesis 1, anyway.  In Genesis 2, a slightly different account, we’re told that God formed the man out of the dust of the ground, then God made the animals.  However, from these animals, no suitable helpmate was available to Adam.  So, short version, God created the woman.

This man and this woman were created to be in relationship with God.  Second to that, the man and the woman were created to be in relationship with each other.  They were family.  Out of this relationship, they had children; the Bible records the names of three boys, though I surmise that that’s not an exhaustive list.  The first couple multiplied and expanded their family.

Skip down several generations and about ten chapters, and we meet Abram.  Abram was an old man of 75, married to Sarai, and they were unfortunately childless.  God called Abram into covenant, a covenant which would extend to all of Abram’s descendents.  Abram and Sarai received new names and the promise of a child.  This small family grew – and would grow exponentially.

Three more generations, and the family of Abraham has grown exponentially, with his son Isaac bringing two sons, and Jacob having twelve sons and a daughter.  For his faithfulness, he received a new name:  Israel.  They acknowledged “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” but otherwise, this god had no name.  The descendants of Jacob would be called in Hebrew ben-Y’isra’el, which means literally, “the sons of Israel,” but which refers to all descendants of Jacob.

Four hundred years went by.  The Israelites had moved from Canaan to Goshen, a fertile land under the purview of Egypt.  There they grew and flourished to the point where the Pharoah considered them a viable threat and enslaved them.  Four hundred years of just acknowledging the god of their fathers.  They worshiped at altars, but there was no true worshiping assembly.

After the Exodus, the Lord delivered through Moses detailed how-to instructions for worship, including everything from when, what, and how much to sacrifice.  The sacrifices were all given in gratitude for what the Lord had done, not as a bribe to make God do what they wanted God to do.  (This was different from the pagan deity worship practices.)  Even through the desert wanderings, the Israelites didn’t worship as a community as we understand it, but what is clear is that they are still a huge family – all descended from one ancestor – with separate, individual tribal, clan, and family units.

It would be another millennium (plus a few hundred years) before the church as we know it was established.  The church as a mash-up of people from different backgrounds, different families, and different beliefs wouldn’t emerge until the first century A.D.

The church is a vital part of the believer’s life, and corporate worship is a beautiful part of that life.  I feel bereft of something if I miss more than one Sunday of worship.  However, true to the original design, we were created first to be with God, and second to be in our families.  Someone from our church tried to lay a guilt-trip on me for skipping something at church in order to take my daughters home so they could have dinner with their waiting dad – and so we could be together as a family for the first time that entire day.  We were not created to be a part of an institution; we were created to be a part of our families.

And the church is an institution.  Early in our marriage, Peter and I both spent many Sunday afternoons helping out at our small church and engaged in various local ministry projects.  The problem was, between my two jobs and his job, we barely had any time together the other six days of the week.  We thought we were being “holy” by spending all this time at church, but in reality, we were damaging one of the best gifts God had given us and were failing to be good stewards of that gift.

When someone wants people – whether individuals, parts of families, or whole families – to give up family time for time at church, then the church starts taking on cult-like qualities.  Cults desire their members to sacrifice family loyalty for loyalty to the cult and the leader.  I refuse to go there.  If I have a choice between being home with all my family or at church with just part of it, then I’ll choose to be with my whole family every.  Single.  Time.  Sunday mornings are the exception; if Hubby is sick, then I’m perfectly fine taking the girls to church without him, and vice versa if I’m sick.  But any other time…  At the end of a long day of working and teaching, when all I want is to complete the 35-minute drive home, hug my hubby, and eat dinner, then no.  My first loyalty is to God.  My second loyalty is to my family.  Everything else comes after that.

We So Fly (Lady)!

We live in CHAOS – Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome.  Yes, it’s true.  Between teaching and canning and running the biz, cleaning happens randomly (grabbing something of mine as I walk out of a room), and it’s so frustrating getting on the troops to clean up while I’m doing something in the kitchen or my workshop.  Those aren’t my Legos or dolls!  Those aren’t my clothes left in a heap on the living room floor.  That stack of mail doesn’t have my name on it.  Ugh!  Then when company wants to come over, there’s the 5-hour, really stressful blitz to get everything picked up.  With Christmas coming, who wants to deal with that???  I want to decorate on my schedule, not be cleaning instead.

It showed up in a homeschooling group:  The Fly Lady Holiday Control Journal, which promises to help one conquer cleaning, making gifts, baking, hosting, and shopping.  Seems like a pretty audacious claim, doesn’t it?  The Fly Lady premise tackles cleaning in small, 15-minute chunks, claiming you can do anything for fifteen minutes.

The original Fly Lady

The original Fly Lady

As soon as I discovered and printed off this journal (it’s in a handy .pdf), I sat the family down and said, “This is what we’re going to do.”  I don’t want to be stressed this Advent season, and I want to be doing something other than last-minute present making/assembling on Christmas Eve.  The Troops got it.  We’ve done the 15-minute blitzes twice now; the only problem we face is, some of us don’t want to stop once the 15 minutes are up; a still-cluttered space – just this morning, in fact – can make one of us say, “But that area still needs to be cleaned.”  That was my older daughter.  I know the struggle, but I say, “Nope.  We’ll come back to it after moving on.”  At the end of each blitz, I make everyone come into the room.  I ask them to remember what the room looked like before we started, then have them take a good look at what it looks like now.  What do they think of it?  Everyone agrees that there’s a lot of improvement.

We’re a family of four, and the children are both old enough to help clean.  No one wants to be stuck cleaning a room by her- or himself, so if the room is big enough, we all tackle it together.  Think about it:  Fifteen minutes times four people…  That’s like an hour’s worth of cleaning in that one room!  Darn straight, there’s a lot of improvement in a short amount of time!  I was even able to seize a teachable moment by grabbing one of the teaching clocks and explaining this concept to my younger daughter.  It’s like a competition against the clock – how much cleaning can we do before the timer goes off?  That means there is very little second-guessing – things get thrown away, there’s little squabbling over “that’s not mine” (it all gets put away), and there’s a real sense of teamwork.  At the end of it, I get the cleaner home I want, I get the help I need, none of us are spending all day cleaning, leaving us free to enjoy other activities.  That’s a win all the way around!

The Sadness of Losing Someone Who’s Still Alive

It was a bitterly cold late-December morning, 1999, a day nestled in between Christmas and New Year‘s in upstate New York.  I was a newlywed, only married a little over seven months, and my husband and I had gone up north to visit his family.  His grandparents were getting ready to move to Florida and were giving us his grandpa’s recliner – leather with both heat and massage – and his Mimi’s hutch, a beautifully handcrafted piece made of cherry and mahogany.  We’d arrived late the night before at the home of Peter’s Uncle Jim and his wife at the time, with whom we were staying.

Peter, flat-out exhausted from having driven most of the entire way, was still in bed, and Jim and I were sitting at the kitchen table over coffee, just talking.  I was so new to the family that he felt it helpful to enlighten me about some parts of it.  One of those parts is that his brother, Fred, is gay.  I’d suspected that perhaps that was the case, but I didn’t want to assume, and I wasn’t comfortable enough at that point just to come out and ask.  (If I’d known at the wedding, I would have included Uncle Dan, Fred’s partner, in the family pictures since he is, after all, family.)  It was important to Uncle Jim that I understand and accept Fred, which even then I couldn’t imagine not doing.

To further my understanding, Jim gifted me with two books:  The Good Book by Peter Gomes and Love, Ellen by Betty DeGeneres.  The former, written by an Anglican bishop (if memory serves me correctly) takes a broad-minded view of interpreting the Bible, in particular, those parts dealing with homosexuality.  The latter, written by Ellen’s mom, tackles the subject of acceptance of those in the LGBT community, especially family members.  I read The Good Book almost immediately after receiving it, but I did not start reading Love, Ellen until this morning.  Tucked inside between two pages was a note from Uncle Jim, written oh so long ago.

Jim, unfortunately, joined a cult several years back and has nothing to do with anyone in the family except for Fred, and that includes his own children from what I’ve heard.  At Christmas, we hang the snowflake ornaments with which he gifted us in our early years of marriage, and we remember and miss him.  We miss the emails and the easy exchanges.  This note scratched on a piece of yellow lined paper in a book that, before last night, I’d touched only to move it twice from apartment to townhouse to home reminded me of that long-ago morning at a kitchen table.  It reminded me of a brother’s protective love for his brother and an uncle’s welcome  of a beloved nephew’s wife into a new family.

Given my Baptist background, perhaps Jim wasn’t far off in believing I needed to increase in my understanding.  It was a great experience for both of us.  We still enjoy the occasional contact with Fred and Dan, and they’ve both come to our home to visit and spend time with our family.  I was talking about our relationship with them in a study group at church one night a few years ago, and a well-meaning lady in the group looked at me with pity and said, “Oh.  So your children have already had to be exposed to gays.”  I casually replied, “Well, yeah.  Why wouldn’t we want our girls to be around kind, loving uncles who we love?”  She had nothing to say to that.  Truthfully, I find Uncle Jim’s cult involvement far more bothersome than Uncle Fred’s sexual orientation.  At least one of those allows open-mindedness and inclusivity.  (Hint:  Not the religious cult.)

Maybe one day the cult will release its hold on Jim, and hopefully one day soon we will get to see Uncles Fred and Dan again.  In the meantime, I’m going to treasure this little slip of yellow paper and mourn the loss of an uncle I barely got to know.

Christmas Gift for a Hater

No H8

No H8 (Photo credit: RussellReno)

The past year – the past two months, actually, – revealed something to me that I did not know.  I have a hater.  To say I was surprised is an understatement.  What multiplied my surprise exponentially was the fact that (1) this hater is my brother-in-law, (2) this hater professes a  personal relationship with Christ, and (3) this hater and I have had the leanest, most bare-bones contact since we saw each other last two Christmases ago.

Yet, Christmas is the season of giving and sharing, and I felt it appropriate, despite everything, to give him a gift.  Three, actually.  Here is what I gave him:

Herein lies your three gifts from me, two of which you’ve already received, though you haven’t realized it.

My first gift to you is forgiveness.  I forgive you for the mean and hateful things you’ve said about me behind my back.  I also forgive you for telling my husband he should divorce me, simply because you don’t like me.  I told you once before that I am willing to forgive you 70 times 7 times, and this is simply one more.   You’ve had this gift for over a year.

My second gift to you is prayer.  When Peter told me you hate me, I was incredulous.  My first thought was, Why?  After all, we haven’t seen each other in two years, nor have we spoken.  My second thought was, Isn’t he supposed to be a Christ-follower?  My Bible tells me not to hate.  It tells me that God created us all in God’s image, and that God is love.  My Jesus tells his disciples – his followers and those who learn from him – to love one another.  Period.  There are no conditions on this love; it’s to be unconditional.  My Bible also says that it’s not possible to hate someone and live in the light of God.  Lastly, my Bible says to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  For whatever reason, you’ve allowed jealousy and hate to enter your heart, and from there, they have spread their poisons to your soul like thick, black sludge.  Your hate only hurts you and those who love you; you’ve already allowed your hate to severely damage your relationship with your only brother.   I have been praying for you since I learned how strong your feelings for me are, and my prayer for you is that the spirit of God’s love will be the antidote to the poison of hate inside of you.

Lastly, my third gift to you – and this comes from Peter and me! – is gratitude.  Every time you tell Peter all the things you can’t stand about me, it reminds him of how much he appreciates those attributes in me.  He’s known I’m “opinionated and outspoken” from when we were dating, and he knows I get it honestly from the very strong women in my family.  He loves that I’m intelligent enough to form my own thoughts and opinions on matters, and he respects and is proud of the fact that I’m bold enough and confident enough to express those thoughts and feelings.  He knows I can speak openly for myself; I don’t have to play silly games like hiding behind some man, pretending I’m speaking in his voice.  This leads him to love me more deeply and it brings us even closer together.  So we thank you, because, like most couples, we can use moments of renewal, and your words bring that.  How awesome is our God who can bring good out of evil!

I wish you a Merry Christmas, and may God bless you in the New Year.

Returning hate for hate seems easy.  Nurturing “The Poison Tree” takes time, effort and sacrifice.  Forgiveness and offering prayer is much harder, yet only requires the sacrifice of pride.  Once I forgave and committed to praying for my brother-in-law, I became free!  I was free of his hate, free of anger, and free to have the love and compassion for him that God Godself has for him.

I key these words, not to prove anything or to appear any way.  I am a genuine Christ-follower who sins and misses God’s will for my life on a daily basis.  But I give you these words to inspire you, to give you hope, and to show you that there is an alternative to hate.

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Leaving a Legacy

Lord, we thank thee for this food and all blessings we receive.  For Christ’s sake, amen.

Every meal at my Grandparents Streib’s house began with this simple prayer that my grandpa would say.  I learned Saturday that my Great-Grandparents Streib didn’t bless meals, but my Great-Grandparents Wethington (Grandmother’s people) did, so when my grandparents got married, Grandpa asked Grandmother to bless so that he could learn the blessing.  The other beauty of this blessing is, it recognizes that God gives us our blessings – all of them, both big and small – and that we thank God as part of our connection to God through Jesus.  (Remembering this blessing has helped me over the past week to appreciate my own blessings more, modest though they may seem to someone who’s more materialistic.)

Grandpa died early Friday morning peacefully in his sleep after a very long, rich, blessed life.  The memorial service was today, and it reflected his values.  The service exuded the faith with which he lived his life, and he, a decorated WWII vet, received military honors.  He didn’t like talking about the war, and it’s said that he never really forgave the Japanese (knowing Grandpa, I have a hard time believing that).  However, he was very proud of his service to his country in the US Army.  Plus, if he’d never gone off to war, Grandmother and he would never have met.

Grandpa was a gardener who could create rich, loamy soil that produced abundant crops.  He was a builder with parts of several churches in their area to his credit, as well as their home.  And he was a master carpenter, building clever toys and expertly crafted furniture.  One piece he made is a box.  Grandpa crafted this box from wood from trees from the family farm in Ohio and their home here in North Carolina.  It’s gorgeous.  Two types of wood worked together and lightly varnished with a cut-out double heart on the front.  The inside holds his ashes.  When Grandmother – his wife of 67 years – dies, her ashes will join his.  They will be together in death as they were in life.

In the same way Grandpa tended and  cultivated his garden, he also tended his marriage.  He epitomized the description of how Paul says husbands should treat their wives, loving them completely and sacrificially.

What great lessons he left to his children, grandchildren and all those who knew him!  And what an incredible legacy of love, sacrifice, and quality work he left!  I got over 40 years with Grandpa and was able to see him shower my daughters with his warm, quiet, genuine love.  I watched him talk woodworking and fishing with my husband, a man after his own heart.  We will miss him, but we know he’s fishing in a far-away Crystal Sea and hearing, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

A Test of Motherhood

Flavor of Mommy

Flavor of Mommy (Photo credit: LizaWasHere)

It’s been a rather eventful 36 hours.  It started with my lunch yesterday not feeling so great going down.  It was a decent enough lunch – sandwich, carrot salad and tortilla chips.  I was going for something filling and vegetarian.  As the afternoon wore on, I started having to go to the bathroom more and more (I won’t go into more details than that).  I gagged down some of the pink stuff, dressed my toddler for our Wednesday night church activities and made the 35-minute drive to church.  I dropped my firstborn off for hand bells practice and went to park the car.  My toddler was excited about getting to swing on the swingset some, and I was happy to let her.

We never made it that far, though.  In the parking lot, waiting for my husband to show up, I started feeling worse and worse.  Finally, I had to get out of the car to vomit, leaving my poor little girl buckled in her car seat (I was no more than ten feet away).  I called my husband to find out how far away he was and to tell him what was going on.  Then I called a friend I had planned to check on after church to say I wasn’t going to make it.  My husband collected our older daughter and drove us home, after a stop at Target for some necessary items.  I lost the rest of my lunch in the Target parking lot.  My older daughter could climb over the seat to give me a hug; my toddler knew Mommy was sick and couldn’t hug me, which was more upsetting to her.

We made it home without further incident, and Peter assigned the older daughter the absolute perfect task for her.  She had to take care of me.  This translated into her bossing me around with a servant’s attitude all evening.  After getting into my bum wear and settling on the love seat with the amount of water she felt I should have (32 ounces!) and a trash can by my feet, I was good to read, watch TV, chat with a good friend and be miserable all night.

I finally staggered up to bed at around 11 and had a fairly fitful night, but blessedly, not very eventful.  When I slept, I slept hard, but a few things woke me up.  I woke this morning with my stomach feeling more settled but otherwise feeling as weak as a newborn kitten.  I ate a little, drank a lot, kept it all down and spent the day on the love seat with Victor Hugo.  In short, I rested and recovered.  What little fever I had broke around dinner time and though I feel sleepy, I feel well.  Good thing, too.

Around mid-morning, Peter started complaining of not feeling so great – and he was supposed to be the substitute teacher today.  Around bedtime, the firstborn started complaining that she didn’t feel good.  You could just see this coming, couldn’t you?  So, here it is, nearly 11 p.m., and I’m having to pause in my TV watching and chatting occasionally to hold a little girl’s head, give her water and wash her face after her dad and she have yet another synchronized puking session.  She didn’t make the trashcan the second time; her sheets are in the washing machine now.  I figure, if she messes up the current sheets, I’ll have fresh ones on hand.

So, here I am, facing a long night ahead.  My little girl just wants to sleep so she’ll feel better, and she asked if she had to do school tomorrow.  I’m not worried so much about her lessons; I’m just hoping she’ll feel well enough to play her soccer game Saturday morning.  Her grandma’s coming to watch her play and they’ve both been looking forward to this.

It’s a Mom thing, and I’m just really grateful that my family let me have this valuable day to rest today.  I’m also grateful for the moments on the phone with a friend, my escape for the day.  All this contributed to me feeling rested now so I’ll be well enough to take care of my family after they took such good care of me.  It doesn’t matter to me right now that there are dishes piled in the sink and laundry to do; these things will wait until at least my little one is well.

A Time for Hugs and a Time for Muffins

If you’re a mom and you’re reading this, what I’m about to say won’t come as any surprise to you:  Being a mom is hard work!  This morning as my daughter and I were preparing to begin our homeschool day, she threw a drama fit.  “I don’t want to brush my teeth!  I don’t like my toothpaste.”  Then came “I don’t like my hair!”  Followed by “I don’t like homeschooling and I’m not going to do it!”  The fourth drama fit came after I assigned her a writing assignment:  “I’m not feeling the love here.”  Four drama fits in under two hours.  Whew!  How exhausting!

Somewhere between drama fits three and four, we were sitting down in the living room and I broke through her tears to ask, “Honey, what in the world is all this drama about?”  She told me she’s still scared.  We talked about that for a while, with me asking the right questions and giving her the right assurances.  And just to prove she’s a counselor/chaplain’s daughter, after I said, “Being scared doesn’t feel good, but it’s not wrong to feel scared.  It’s OK to feel that way,” she replied, “I know it’s OK to feel scared.  I know it’s not bad.”  I was beaming on the inside when she said that.  My husband, when I told him, just rolled his eyes and grinned.

Magic wand with stars. Transparent background.

Image via Wikipedia

I still don’t know how to take her fear away.  I can’t.  I can give her a million reassurances and tons of hugs, but there’s no magic wand I can wave to make those bad feelings go away.  And isn’t that just a kick in the keyster?

She gave me a huge hug after our talk and we snuggled for a bit.  Then she wanted to sit right beside me while we did our morning homeschool routine, all except for her spelling test.  Even then, we weren’t more than two feet apart.

The morning passed successfully and we got through lunch and moved on to math.  Two extremely ripe bananas demanded my attention before I was forced to throw them away, so my daughter and I decided we wanted to make muffins out of them.  I dragged her white board into the kitchen so we could work out the math for doubling our muffin recipe.  She’s been introduced to fractions, but she’d never done things with them, like adding, converting or reducing.  With just one explanation, she got it!  We were both flying, because she finally had a challenge in math, she was still learning it quickly, plus we now have a bunch of yummy whole wheat banana muffins for breakfast.

Repeat After Me

 

My photos that have a creative commons license...

Image via Wikipedia

 

“I am a fabulous mom!” Go ahead, say it! Sure you might feel funny talking out loud to your computer, but go ahead and say this. Now say it again, but with conviction this time.

Hard time believing it? Try this. Are your kids well-fed, dressed and reasonably clean? Do they sleep pretty well at night, secure in the safety of your love and home? Can they laugh, sing, dance and share their love with others and you? Then you’re doing a GREAT job as a mom!

So, one more time. Shout it! “I am a fabulous mom!” With feeling this time! “I AM A FABULOUS MOM!!!”

A Daughter’s Fear

After our drunk neighbor made all this noise last night about calling DSS, my poor daughter now believes that this woman wants to take her away from us. She’s scared.

In the meantime, we watched while her two daughters rode their bikes in the middle of the street in front of a huge black SUV with no supervision at all. Then later this afternoon, we heard cries of “Help! Help!” coming from next door. Once more, their three-year-old was on the neighbor’s trampoline. My husband hollered over to the owner of the trampoline and the little girl’s mom who was sitting right there just waved her hand dismissively and said, “There’s someone watching her.” There was no one watching this little girl, and she was so scared. It broke my heart. This, folks, is what “near perfect” parenting looks like.