Month: March 2012

Happy Birthday, Norman

I turned forty-five yesterday. It’s the start of the second half of my fifth decade. I’m okay with that. I feel good. My husband tells me I still look good. Of course, I tell him he says that because he really has to. The alternative would just be mean. I’m still spoiled to have him say it often. I have been blessed well beyond what I deserve. I have four incredible kids in spite of all I have done to mess them up. There’s not a bad apple in the bunch. And I have great friends. Really great friends. And extended family? Well, let me tell you a bit about my family…

The biggest laugh I got on my birthday came from my brother. My OLDER brother. He turns FIFTY this year. I wish my telling that would get under his skin, (once a little sister, always a little sister) but it won’t. He doesn’t care. Men are like that.

My brother called me two times on my birthday. The first time, I was in the middle of a sweet birthday dinner that my husband and kids had put together for me, and I hated to break that up by answering my phone. So he called me again later that night. He scolded me for not answering my phone earlier, and how that foible had caused me to miss out on a great adventure. Then he launched into telling me what had transpired since his first phone call.

My parents own the farm that used to belong to my grandparents. My brother and my dad still keep cows on the farm. They raise them, sell them. Sometimes we eat one or two. It’s a lot of work. It’s springtime, so it’s time for little calves to be born. Mostly cows can manage this without too much interference from anyone. Occasionally, they require a hand. Yesterday one did. Apparently this young cow was trying in vain to have her calf, and it just wasn’t happening for her.

In rushes my brother to be midwife to a cow. So he starts telling me how he attached chains to the part of the calf that was already seeing sunshine, and with a tractor facilitated the delivery of said calf. I said, “YOU DID WHAT?” Apparently, this is not so uncommon as you city slickers might think. He said he tried pulling on the thing by hand, but they are slippery little suckers, and this one was quite tightly wedged inside it’s mother. Hence the chains. Well, after quite a struggle to birth the calf, it eventually did come on out. Then he noticed the thing wasn’t breathing. He thought, “Oh no you don’t. I’ve worked too hard to get you out for you to die on me!” So what do you think he did next? Yep. Mouth to snout resuscitation. Ewww!

You’d think his job was done now at this point. But no. Now that the calf was out, both the calf and the mother needed to be put up in a pen. I’m not quite sure why, but I was just listening… and laughing, and crying, and wetting my pants. As you can imagine, after having a calf pulled out of her rear end by a tractor, the mother cow was exhausted, and likely a little peeved, and decided to lay down. She had refused to lie down during her ordeal. Even post-baby this mom weighs over half a ton. She generally can go when and where she wants at that size, but my brother, weighing considerably less, needed her in the pen.

So with the help of my dad, his father-in-law and his sister-in-law, they tried first one thing and then another to get the weary cow up and at ‘em. They tried putting a rope around her neck and pulling her. Again, half a ton. They tried nudging her with a riding mower. Half a ton. They tried rolling her onto a piece of 4”x8” plywood and pulling her with the tractor. This she really opposed and finally decided to stand up. But she refused to budge and after a little while lay back down. I’m thinking a few pieces of dark chocolate Godiva candy might have worked just then to motivate her.

Finally, he had to bring out the birthing chains, and pulled her into the pen with the tractor. Dear Lord, what I would not have given to have seen all that. Then he put momma cow and baby cow snout to snout so they could get acquainted. All I could think of was how momma probably smelled my brother’s scent on her baby’s mouth and thought, what the…?

When I could stop laughing and could speak again, I told him we had to name the calf Norman, after the one in City Slickers, and how we could never eat him or sell him. Norman should get to live on the farm for all of his days. I can’t wait to get up to the farm and see that calf for myself. Happy Birthday, Norman!

Yep, life is funny. Thank God!

Life Moves Pretty Fast

Today, I have the great pleasure of blogging from my balcony in Hilton Head, South Carolina. (Keep in mind that envy is a sin.) I’m looking out over an inviting turquoise pool surrounded by empty lounge chairs and green umbrellas. There’s nice eighties music being piped in from I’m not sure where, Barry Manilow, currently. Spanish moss hangs from the trees that reach up to a blue sky with light wispy clouds. Are you here with me?

Later today we’re going to go rent bicycles to ride around the island. That’s going to be our pace for the next few days. We’re going to be building memories with our kids once again. No one expects us to be anywhere to do anything. Just like that, responsibilities that usually keep our attention elsewhere are gone. Matthew and I can focus on each other and our kids.

I can remember the first time we took our oldest kid to the beach. We put him on a blanket on the sand, and he stayed right there. He didn’t like the feel of the sand. He’s eighteen now. He’s over that. He and our other two teens and a friend will likely take off today to do teen stuff. That’s okay. They’ll come back when they get hungry.

If it were up to me, our family would never go on vacations like this. Matthew is our vacation planner.  That’s just not my thing. Matthew realizes the importance of getting away as a family. To set aside time just for us to circle the wagons and have some forced family fun.

I like to travel with our kids now that they are older. It’s easier. But I also realize that time is marching on and that times like these will not always be here. Our kids will grow up, get married, and start their own forced family fun times. So I’ll treasure these times while they are here.

I think God likes it when we set aside time for important things. He was forever having the people of Israel do that. He wanted them not to forget the importance of certain times and certain events. For them it was training time for things to come. The same is true for us. In our busy-ness we can miss out on times when God is doing something in us and for us. We have to make ourselves stop. Slow down and pay attention. Time marches on and things won’t always be like they are now.

One of my favorite movie quotes comes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ferris looks right onto the camera and says,

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you can miss it.” 

Raising Children for Eternity

Anyone with even one child can attest to the fact that raising children is no walk in the park. From the moment the doctor plops that messy little bundle in your arms you get a sense that dealing with that little mess isn’t going to be a mindless endeavor. Well, not if you hope to be any good at it.

I think I’m a much better parent now than I used to be. I’ve been at it for over eighteen years now. I should have grasped a hold of a few things. When Matthew and I had our first child, we had no idea what we were doing. I can remember our first diaper change at home included both me and Matthew, and my mother. It took us all three to get the job done.

When that same child was in preschool, I decided he must play little league baseball. He must. All the other kids in his preschool class were going to play. I couldn’t have them coming to school and talking about their batting averages and not let him be a part of all that, now could I? What kind of mother would I be? What if he was supposed to be the next Mickey Mantle? So I signed him up to play. It was a total bust. He hated it. We all did.

So we moved on to other things. Karate, swimming, Boy Scouts, piano lessons, drum lessons, trumpet, guitar, sports camp. We tried it all. I was convinced that it was my job to help my children find their passion… their calling in life. How could I do this if we didn’t try everything?

I have a different philosophy now, thank goodness. I still believe it is my job to help my children find their passion. I just believe now that their first passion should be Jesus. More than anything, I want them to love Him. The Bible tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and THEN all these things will be added to us. (Matthew 6:33) Whatever my children do, I want them to do it to the glory of God first. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

It’s about having a Kingdom mindset. I have a friend who weighs situations in life by how his life will be affected five years from now by them. His philosophy is that most things we worry about won’t matter five years from now. That’s good, but what about for eternity? What if we ask the question of eternity? How will what I do today effect my eternity or someone else’s?

Will it matter for eternity if my son makes a D in Geometry in tenth grade? Um.. no. I do understand that a D in Geometry won’t help his GPA, and won’t do much to get him into a great college, but again, eternity? I do want my children to live an abundant life here on earth, and to do that they need to achieve some measure of success in their education or in areas where they are gifted. Lots of parents talk about raising well-rounded kids. I have another great friend who tries to make sure that her kids are spending equal efforts on education, talent, and spirituality. I like that, except for one small change. I don’t want the spiritual to be just a third. I want it to pervade everything in my child’s life.

So, when we study, let’s do it as if unto the Lord. We offer only our best to Him. So to put forth anything less than our best is to shortchange the One we serve. And our talent? Our talent, whatever it is, has been given to us for the purpose of glorifying God alone. Not for selfish gain. And how about our relationships? As parents we worry about the friends our kids choose. But if our children are seeking the Lord first, then we can feel better about the kinds of people who bring joy to their lives through relationships. And what about that messy teen bedroom? All those clothes on the floor? Doesn’t everything we have come to us from the Lord? (Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of heavenly lights in whom there is no shifting of shadows. James 1:17) Pick up those clothes! We’re still working on that one.

The Lord has placed uniqueness into every child. His purpose and plan for each one is only theirs. I can try to help my kids find that, but they will be better off if I help them find Him. Finding Him will set them on their course not only for this life, but for eternity.

Cover the Night

I am loving the generations that are coming behind mine. I see things that impress me. I see weird clothes and hair and odd things printed on and hanging from their bodies, too, but I see a lot of great things going on in these generations that will follow mine.

They care deeply. As the “Me Generation” moves on out of the spotlight, I see the “We Generation” taking the stage. Our kids have been born into truly the first of the global mindset generations. They are seeing injustices around the world and rather than turning a deaf ear and a blind eye, their hearts are being moved to action. They aren’t stopping and wondering what they can do to effect change, they are using what is right at their fingers and spreading the call to change through Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and more.

I see a strength and depth of faith in young people right now that I didn’t see in my own generation. To tell you the truth, it scares me a little bit. I have to ask the Lord, “What are you preparing them for?” But then I know. The world is spinning more and more out of control. It’s pulling apart at the seems and while one day, all will be set right, there are tough days ahead. A passive, shallow faith will not serve them then. Our kids will likely be challenged in their faith like we have never been. I look at my own children and see strength of faith I did not possess at their ages.

I see Facebook photos of the ProLife March on Washington that were not seen in news broadcasts and see that the overwhelming majority of the thousands who attended were young people.

Today, I watched a thirty-minute video called Kony 2012. It highlights the atrocities Joseph Kony, Leader of the LRA in Uganda, has been allowed to perpetrate unchecked against the adults and children of Uganda for the past few decades.

“In the spring of 2003, three young filmmakers traveled to Africa in search of a story. What started out as a filmmaking adventure became much more when Jason, Laren, and Bobby stumbled upon Africa’s longest-running war–a conflict where children were both the weapons and the victims.

They produced the documentary Invisible Children: Rough Cut in 2005. At first they just showed it to their friends and family, but it wasn’t long before millions of people had seen the documentary and knew about the “invisible children.”

In 2006, Invisible Children, Inc., became an official 501(c)3 non-profit.” ~ (Taken from the Invisible Children Website)

Those three young film makers learned that Joseph Kony has been allowed to continue to steal Ugandan children from their homes, making the girls sex slaves and turning the boys into soldiers, often making them kill their own parents. They came home and have spent the last nine years raising awareness and helping the people of Uganda protect themselves from this man. Three young men inspiring other young people to make a difference. To care, and to do something.

On April 20th of this year young people all over the world will be called to “Cover the Night”. It is their goal to make Kony famous. They believe that if people know about Kony, and what he has done and is still doing to the children of his country, people will respond. They hope for the world to wake up on April 21st to see the name Kony everywhere. Billboards, posters, flyers, stickers everywhere. If they pull it off, it should be amazing. Then if enough people respond, the government will have to. Already, because of this group of young people, President Obama, last October, sent a group of military advisors to help the Ugandan army learn how to find and capture Kony. But if they are not successful soon, or if the public outcry were to die down, the military help could be withdrawn at any time. The movement is calling for help. They are going to make Kony famous. Not for praise, because he deserves none, but to shine a light on something happening unchecked to thousands of children thousands of miles away.

I know there are kids out there without a clue, but many of the ones I’m seeing these days do. They have heart and passion. They are moved to action, and I for one am cheering them on.

Want to learn more? It’ll take you thirty minutes, but it’s worth your time. Take a look at what these kids are doing.

Who is Your Elphaba?

“I want to remember this moment always, no one is staring, no one is laughing…” ~ Elphaba in Wicked. Spoken while she was in the Emerald City.

My husband treated me to a performance of Wicked this week. It’s a musical I have long wanted to see, and it did not disappoint. I posted this fact to my Facebook page and an author friend of mine, Nancy Kennedy (author of Girl on a Swing, and Lipstick Grace- both great books), posted that after seeing Wicked, “I realized I could never watch the Wizard of Oz the same way again.” I feel the same way.

Growing up watching the Wizard of Oz, it was easy to hate the ugly, mean, green Wicked Witch, Elphaba. She was horrible. She was vengeful. And she hated little Toto. Who could hate Toto? And those dreadful flying monkeys! Those were the things of nightmares.

If you’ve not seen the musical, this should serve as a spoiler alert. I’m not going to give too much of the story away, but I will tell you a few things. After watching the production, I found that I could identify with Elphaba the Wicked Witch more than I could Glinda the Good.

The story takes the audience back to the beginning. Back even to before Elphaba was born. The audience sees the circumstances of her birth. They learn why she is green. They learn how she grew up and what made her evil. Kermit the frog once sang, “It’s not easy being green.” I think Elphaba would have to agree. At one point she states, “I clash with everything.”

Glinda and Elphaba eventually form an unlikely friendship and I found myself liking Elphaba more. Glinda had never wanted for anything. She was popular, beautiful, and privileged. One of my favorite lines from the play is this one from Elphaba. Glinda had asked Elphaba if she was still riding around on her “old broom”. To which Elphaba replied, “Not everyone gets to come and go by bubble,” Elphaba had heart if not much else. Oh she had her moments of nastiness, but she cared deeply and pushed through adversity. She had more than her share of adversity.

The world is full of Elphabas and Glindas. We make snap judgments about people without really bothering to get to know them or what makes them tick. We gravitate to the Glindas. We discard difficult people without ever bothering to find out what made them that way. My pastor often says, “Hurting people hurt people.” It’s true.

Just last week I was in the grocery store when I witnessed a verbal altercation between two shoppers. I wondered if they were going to come to blows right there on the soup aisle. Someone had made a snap judgment about someone else, and right or wrong had acted on it. The other person had immediately jumped to their own defense and the result could have sent soup cans flying. Have I ever mentioned that I hate grocery shopping?

Think about the Elphabas in your life. They don’t likely have green skin, but they are hateful. Or snarky. Or rude. Still, there’s a story there that you might not know, and if you did know it, your opinion of your Elphaba might change. You might find compassion, and a new appreciation for the person you call the Wicked Witch. You might find that getting to know them might change you…

For good.