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Best Friends

It is wonderful when your best friend is in all your classes, tags along on every family road trip, shares a room with you every night, and totally understands your frustrations with your little brother.

Sisters, best friends, family, a gift.


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Super Strong Muscle Boy

Mother and Son

I recently attended my youngest brother’s wedding. I’m not generally the tearing up type, at least when not pregnant. (If you’ve been pregnant, you know there’s no getting through the touching coffee commercials at Christmas without turning into a blubbering pile of sap. Please tell me it’s not just me. It’s okay to lie…just a little…just this once.)

When I saw my mother dancing the mother-son dance with my brother, the groom, I had a simultaneous flashback/flash-forward experience. (It’s similar to having a split personality juxtaposed on some inverted space-time continuum. Don’t try to figure it out. Nod and smile. Nod and smile.)

I remember when my little brother was, well, little, my darling little tag-along. Now he’s 6’4″ and married and living in NYC doing things like operating a power drill and buying his own groceries. He probably even has a job, although being a musician, I’m never entirely sure. When did he learn to tie his shoes?

And now I have another precious little tag-along, my own little man. He’s still shorter than I am. His power drill runs on batteries and only tickles when he drills his little sister’s forehead. He helps push the cart at the grocery store, which is still as exciting as getting a driver’s license, and his job is making his bed and cleaning the music room for a dollar a month. His musical opus is belting out “Do, a deer, a female deer,” and most of his shoes have velcro. He seems so…young, and the future seems so…distant. But I know better.

At the wedding, while my mother swayed across the floor in the arms of her youngest son, I saw myself in 20-some years dancing that dance as the mother of the groom and then the music ends and I hand those big brown eyes and intoxicating smile and spontaneous affections (not to mention the results of endless hours of training) over to his new bride. I would have hugged my little man a bit too tightly and not let him go had he been there, but he wasn’t, and I had to wait all too long to get back to him. When I did, he got an extra long squeeze and a handful of half-melted M&Ms I had saved especially for him. (They really do melt in your hands. Who knew?)

Too soon the little man in the toddler bed in my bedroom will be a husband, a father, a man, and I will be proud and pleased, but I will always miss the little person he is right now, my very own promise of how great a man can really be.

And I savor the moments and the memories and the words.

Words like these:

“My nickname is Super Fast Muscle Boy, but you can just call me Boy.”

I’ve been bragging about those muscles for four years now. Wow, can that boy carry groceries for his Mama. Won’t the future Mrs. Super Fast Muscle Boy love that?

And won’t she love His heavenly focus?

“God never has to knock on doors, Mommy, because God is everywhere!”

So true, my Boy. And yet, so many closed doors. Perhaps God will use him to open a few.

“I love God, and I love both my grown-ups. Do you love God, too? And do you love me, too?”

Do we ever! And forever!

I leave you with this little family adventure from a couple night’s past, brought to you by Super Fast Muscle Boy:

“Mommy, can you please help me get this popcorn kernel out of my nose?”

Sure, Super Fast But Slightly Short on Common Sense Muscle Boy. Anything for you!

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The Hiding Place

Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer
is too small to be made into a burden.

~Corrie Ten Boom

I don’t often like to read sad stories. If I find myself perusing my shelves looking for a page-turner, I generally skip over anything that will make me sad. Doesn’t life itself offer enough opportunities to cry without intentionally adding more?

So I pass on Anna Sewell, Francine Rivers, John Steinbeck, yes, even E.B. White. Charlotte, after all, does die, and Wilbur never again finds quite as dear a friend as his octopod companion.

Corrie ten Boom

It was a light, cheerful read I sought when, in my childhood bedroom for a recent visit back home, I searched the bookshelves, my eyes caressing each treasure, greeting each old friend, looking for a companion. I surprised even myself when I pulled out Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. I had read the book before and knew the story, the heartbreak, the death, the pain, the loneliness. I read it anyway.

And I will read it again.

There are many stories about the Holocaust, but this one is different. This one is about forgiveness, gratitude, and Home. This one is about the life of a Christian, a very real Christian–not a saint–learning very real lessons.

It is more than just a history book. It is as relevant to our lives today as it was when Corrie ten Boom first penned it, including everything from the blind denial of the political state of the day to the necessity of thanking God for all things as part of His providence, however unwelcome, including fleas.

Corrie ten Boom’s message and experiences are valuable lessons worthy of your time. Read it, reread it, and praise God for the fleas in your life.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow;
it empties today of its strength.

~Corrie Ten Boom

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Give up, Mr. Lincoln!

I entered a writing contest of sorts. I won’t say that I poured my sweat and blood into it, but I did give it my best, and I was pretty sure when I hit “submit” that I would be receiving a congratulatory email and the accolades of my soon-to-be peers in the writing industry. Although I am not normally one to give in to false hopes and back-patting, I could almost hear the judges hinting at a book deal. (It was a total Ralphie moment.)

Then it came, the awaited email.

It read LOSER!

I do not typically waste much effort on either self-deprecation or feeding my ego, equally selfish pursuits in my view. A bit of confidence, however, would serve me well. Unfortunately, that confidence often eludes me, leaving me easily discouraged, if not defeated.

I decided then and there to quit…everything. I wasn’t good enough. The judges had stamped “Loser” on my forehead, and nobody would read past that ever again. I resigned myself to a writing career climaxing in grocery lists and belated birthday cards, if I could find a willing audience even for those. I imagined my mailbox filled with unopened birthday cards stamped “Return to Sender.” (Yup, I can get pretty dramatic.)

At times when my husband is anchored by discouragement, I remind him of the great Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln’s pre-presidency failures would have sent most men to the unemployment office with defeat written across their faces, but not Abe! He persisted, struggled, had a nervous breakdown, and kept going until finally, WOW! President of the United States! Healer of the Great Rift (sort of)! Emancipator of Many! Does it get any better? This is what I tell my husband.

When it was my turn to feel defeated, I again referenced the life story of Abraham Lincoln. You do realize, I argued to my husband in a strange twist of perspectives, that if Abraham Lincoln had just given up, he probably would have lived a lot longer. If he had pursued a medical career instead of law and politics, he could have become a small country doctor, saved his sweetheart from early death, avoided the nervous breakdown entirely, and lived a long and happy life quietly tending to the needs of his grateful and affectionate patients in the backwoods of Illinois with a doting bride at his side and a passel of healthy children growing strong under their parent’s gentle tutelage. (While I’ve heard of a place called Reality, my dramatics only skirt its edges.)

Look how much happier Mr. Lincoln could have been had he thrown in the towel early on. Never mind the huge ramifications this scenario would have had on our country…and on the look of our monetary system and national monuments, come to think of it. Weren’t the nervous breakdown and the defeat upon defeat signs from God? Get a clue man! Just give up!

Get a clue lady! Just give up!

Sometimes all it takes to set me back on my Lincolnesque course is a little encouragement from someone who neither birthed me nor benefits in any way from my continued happiness. Alas, no such bolstering of the spirits was available, so I threw in the pencil and let the weight of yet another broken dream drag me down. (Can you say “mountain out of a molehill?”)

That’s when it came to me. The still small voice.

Be what you need.

Be to others that which you yourself need. Be the encouragement. Be the smile. Be the woman who spits on her thumb and rubs a few layers of skin and the Loser label off the forehead of the downtrodden. Do it with sincerity and honesty, not with empty flattery or a lying tongue. But most of all, just do it!

Hey, I can do that! I’m a great spit rubber!

I started in on the nearest and smallest. “I like your outfit. It’s clean-ish.” It was weak, but it was a start. “Hey, nice job setting the table.” I moved on to bigger and better. “You did a great job on your speech last week. Keep it up!” Caught in the act. “You’re a sweet big sister to the baby. I can tell she really loves you, and so do I.” The unexpected. “Thank you, Honey, for giving up your whole weekend to work on the taxes. If it helps any, I could have another half dozen children and hike up our child tax credit.” The everyday. “We always pick your checkout line because you are friendly and helpful, even when you’re swamped. Thank you.” The lifting up. “Yes, you misspelled a lot of words, but I see a lot of improvement since you started working at this. Keep trying, because YOU CAN DO THIS!” The moment of quiet thoughtfulness. “You know that horse book you want to write. I think you can do it. It’ll be hard work, but you’ve got what it takes…and I’ll help you.” And every once in a while, a stretch: “That is the wildest bedhead EVER! You ROCK Little Dude!”

After only a few minutes of being what I needed, I no longer needed what I had become. The power of encouragement directed outward not only took the focus off my personal woes, but, when a quiet moment allowed some retrospection, I realized that my own Loser label had faded as I set about building others up in truth and love.

Not a bad lesson, one I never would have learned had I not first failed. Lincoln would likely have agreed.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

~1 Thessalonians 5:11

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He Washes My Feet

    After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ~John 13:5

      Something menacing and invisible has been creeping through this family, probably brought into our haven by a small-ish boy who–and please tell me if you know why–was chewing on library books.

      I knew I shouldn’t have gone to the library in January, but we had remained healthy through the holidays, and I had gotten smug. Besides, I justified to my man, how can we hold up our heads in homeschool society if our library cards aren’t worn clear through?

      He didn’t say no, but I knew he was thinking it, and I should have listened, should have obeyed.

      But I didn’t, and the invisible menace creeped in.

      To fully appreciate the depth of my man’s subsequent actions, you must understand that he is repulsed by body fluids. With the possible exception of a small amount of “baby mustard” from a nursing baby–his own baby, mind you–he prefers to leave the damper side of parenting to me.

      So when the first of the victims–the book-biter–began erupting, followed shortly by four siblings, I set to work scrubbing and bathing and wiping and disinfecting. It’s what mothers do.

      It’s what fathers do, too. While I bathed sick children, he stripped beds, scrubbed carpets, removed sofa upholstery for washing, bagged up stuffed “friends” caught in the line of fire, and did remarkable things with vinegar. He even gently held back masses of hair on sick girls and dried wet chins and damp eyes. Apart from a bit of initial mumbling about libraries, snot-nosed kids, irresponsible parents, and the surface-life of certain bacteria, there was no I-told-you-so.

      We make a great team!

      But two nights ago, our team was cut in half. It was my turn to go down, and I took the baby with me. I usually skirt the edges of sickness, dangling my toe in now and then, but I almost never dive into its throes with the rest of the family. Almost never.

      By the second night in the grip of the bug, I was barely recognizable as the bride my man carried over the threshold of the rinky-dink apartment we called home fourteen years ago. My hair, my face, my eyes, my ragged excuse for pajamas–I was a vision. And I smelled even worse. The baby only missed me two out of the six times she vomited, and the lingering scent was only mildly subdued by the baby wipes I called a shower.

      Touched with the bug himself, my man nevertheless took pity on my sorry state. With the children as capable and willing helpers, he tended my needs, dabbled with the laundry, spent time in the kitchen with the girls, ventured to the grocery store, and quietly washed baby vomit number five off his arms.

      I slept on the couch that second night, selfishly not wanting to be disturbed by the midnight needs of the small-ish book-biting boy that shares our bedroom. It wasn’t long before I stumbled to the nearest bathroom and briefly wondered, in my state of weakness, if the floor wasn’t close enough.

      A pragmatic child, jolted from her sleep by my not entirely noiseless trial, retrieved Daddy from his own deep and well-earned rest and reported my condition. He found his shell of a wife in a condition that likely inspired the “for worse” segment of the marriage vow.

      I mumbled my apologies, but he shushed them away. He was there to help. He was in the realm where he least wanted to be, and he was there willingly. I went back to my couch, and he toted, tended, and scrubbed…and then he kissed me. Smelly, clammy, ragged me.

      I squinted at the clock. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I mumbled. “I love you,” he assured me before he went to bed, and I smiled.

      That was marriage. That was love. He had washed my feet.

      Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. ~John 13:14

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      Not Good Enough

        It’s like a disease. It permeates the being. It undermines everything. It steals precious joy.

        The culprit:

        Feelings of inadequacy.

        It’s the curse of the conscientious homeschool parent.

        The voices are inside our heads.

        Maybe I can’t do this. Maybe someone else could do better. Maybe I’m just not good enough.

        The voices bombard us from all sides.

        What makes you think you’re qualified to teach your own children?

        Legislators claim the government is where our children belong.

        You can’t teach your own children. They’re ours to educate.

        Family members worry aloud about the children’s social skills.

        What about socialization? Wouldn’t they be better off somewhere else? That one is awfully shy; maybe if she were in school…

        Church members wonder about the life experiences our children will miss.

        What about sports? What about homecoming? What about debate team? What about graduation? What about prom?

        Parents of our children’s peers point out the negatives of our choices.

        Your children don’t have the advantages school children do. And what about your life? You can’t possibly get everything done. You get no time to yourself. You have to be everything for everybody. You’ve lost your individuality. You never get a break.

        Strangers question our ability as teachers, test-givers, principals.

        What about upper level math? What about science? What about high school? How can you teach them when you’re not a real teacher?

        Concerned specialists question our choices, as if we’re children playing a game.

        How long are you going to continue with this? How do you know you’re doing it right?

        Friends acknowledge our strengths, but unintentionally add fuel to the burning flames of inadequacy.

        Aren’t you afraid that you’ll miss something, that your children will fall behind, that you can’t handle math, that they won’t get into college, that they won’t know how to behave in public, that you aren’t good enough, that they aren’t good enough?

        Rest assured, people, that there is nothing you can ask, say, question, contemplate, point out, acknowledge, or debate that has not gone through the mind of the conscientious homeschooler. The entire repertoire of “concerned questions” is nothing compared to what the homeschooler contemplates.

        What are the possible worldwide ramifications of selecting the wrong math program? What is the likelihood of premature armageddon ensuing from introducing grammar too early? An exaggeration? Only slight.

        Consider this:

        Homeschool parents must, by the very nature of the choice to not follow the traditional path, put more consideration, self-evaluation, and research into every aspect of the child’s day than the average questioner is even aware exists, and this before they even begin homeschooling.

        Most questioners do not intend to be hurtful. Most are merely curious. A few are nasty or dealing with their own sense of inferiority. Some are genuinely concerned that perhaps there are one or two issues the parent has not yet drug through the wringer of over-analysis in the sleepless hours when panic has replaced the godly trust that usually serves as guide.

        If you really want to help, try this:



        Smile again.

        Offer to help without masking an attack.

        Smile more.

        Stop talking.

        If you absolutely must present a concern, be absolutely certain you have earned the right to offer objective criticism. How do you earn such a right? By being a constant encourager–not an empty flatterer, not a set of vacant ears, not an interrogator with an ulterior motive, not even a concerned family member, but a legitimately interested and honest encourager. If you are legitimate, interested, honest, and encouraging, most homeschoolers (our clan included) would welcome any question you might ask, and they would even be willing to listen to your concerns.

        Conscientious homeschool parents do not need to be attacked, questioned, debated, or taken down a few notches. They need encouragment. Notice the period. My children would call this a declarative sentence or statement. I call it a simple truth.

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        Behind the Clouds

          The desert can be a beautiful place. Can be. Unfortunately for my beauty-thirsty eyes, our little corner of it is not.

            Our desert valley was once an agricultural center. Crops were grown, soil was depleted, our valley was left in dry desolation. Most areas can recover from unwise land use. The desert cannot.

            Our valley is u-g-l-y, ugly…if you don’t look up.

            We are surrounded by mountains. When I say surrounded, I mean that to leave our valley on one side, we have to climb several hundred feet through a mountain pass. To leave on the lower end, we skirt the mountains.


            They are pretty all year, but in the winter, they are beautiful. Ah, what a paltry description.

            In the winter the mountains are awe-inspiring!

            Truly breath-taking.

            Beyond words.

            Sometimes, in our valley, God covers the mountains, and all we can see is the ugliness that is our barren, over-worked desert. Clouds hang low, covering the splendor that we westerners love.

            But then he reveals his purpose. The clouds part.

            And God’s work is displayed anew.

            Our beautiful mountains are made even more inspiring with their crowning snow-capped glory, God’s work behind the clouds.

            Such is the walk of life. When God covers the mountains of life and all we can see is the tired, barren, over-worked desert, the beauty is not gone. It’s just hidden while God is at work. The clouds will be parted. The crowning splendor will be revealed. Maybe not today. Maybe not soon. Maybe not while we still have the power of breath. But in His time, in His way, in His eternity and through Christ, we will see the mountains of God behind the clouds.

            Get on your knees and look up.

            You absolutely must click on this photo.  You won’t receive three wishes or have your wildest dreams realized, but you will certainly gain a greater appreciation for the beauties of Creation and the power of an Almighty God.  Be honest: you probably would have blown those three wishes anyway.

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