I’m Only Happy When It Rains (NOT!)

One can find so many pains when the rain is falling.  –John Steinbeck.

Rain, rain go away…, oh, forget it. We’re past the point of cute nursery rhymes, the rain has gone on long enough, the puddles are turning into ponds and I’m going to come clean–I HATE the rain!  I’ve always hated the rain.

For years, I feigned interest when people talked about rain.  In Kansas, it seems that we never have enough rain and the topic comes up ALOT.  People love to talk about the weather here…it’s a conversation staple.  Don’t get me wrong…I am a big-time weather nerd, but the rain just doesn’t float my boat.  At all.  I can’t stand it when it’s gray and cloudy and I especially don’t like it when this type of weather goes on for days.    This spring has been especially rainy and I’m so over it.  In some ways it’s gone from annoying to spirit draining.  I’m done.

SomePeopleFeelTheRainOthersJustGetWetI thought about writing a blog titled “5 things to do in the rain,” or maybe “5 things NOT to do on a rainy day, or “5 ways not to go INSANE when it won’t stop raining,” but…I just don’t care.  This is what the rain does to me.  It puts me in this pensive mood.  It takes me to a place where time feels like it’s standing still…clocks no longer matter.  The rain brings back memories (both good and bad.)  It keeps me in this sleepy sort of daydream like mood.  I feel like eating chocolate (and I’m not a huge chocolate kind of girl.)  I have no energy.  And the worst part is that I just don’t know what to do with myself.  I should clean the house, I should catch up on work, I should start a project, I should bake something, I should read a book…but I can’t.  As I write this I can imagine family and friends reaching for their phones…thinking that they should call and check on me.  I’m fine.  The truth is, I just hate the rain.

SpongeBob Uno...Jellyfish wild, anyone?

SpongeBob Uno…Jellyfish wild, anyone?

It’s funny to think that the rain could affect me so much.  Especially since I LOVE thunderstorms!  Crashes of lightening, booming thunder, and hail–oh, I’m a big fan.  It’s exciting and BRIEF compared to our recent bout of never-ending showers.  Several people have been complaining about how the rain is forcing them indoors and cancelling all their social plans.  This makes me laugh because these are things that don’t bother me in the least.  I’m not an outdoors person (too many bugs) and I’m perfectly happy keeping myself company (a self-proclaimed introvert.)  Others have seized the opportunity to use these rainy days for family bonding and togetherness.  This is all well and good, but there’s only so many games of Uno one can play in an afternoon (BTW that number is 37.)

Spencer family swamp.  May 2015

Spencer family swamp. May 2015

Basically I am in survival mode trying to busy myself with anything that will distract me from staring out the window.  This is where Facebook is an absolute godsend!  I so enjoy all the posts about the rain…the worried, the productive, the thoughtful and especially the FUNNY takes on the weather!  It’s rainy days like these where Pinterest is a lifesaver as I pin all the projects I will NEVER get to.  Thank you, Instagram…#hashtag everything.  Fellow blog writers…I appreciate all your genius insights into every subject under the sun (oh, yes, the glorious SUN!)  Right now, you’re all keeping me sane AND awake!  And finally, HGTV…where would I be without YOU?  This sounds like an Academy Awards speech for keeping my head above water, but it’s so very true.

Right now all is quiet and it’s not even 9pm.  The kids have retreated to their own corners of the house…binging on Minecraft and streaming TV shows.  My husband is at the computer working.  And the rain–well, it’s NOT stopping.  When I pray tonight, I’ll be sure to thank God that I don’t live in the Pacific Northwest (as their rainy climate would absolutely kill me.)  Along with this constant drip, I hear only one song playing over and over in my head…and it makes me smile.

Pour your misery down….

June Bugs in May (A Horror Story)

Insects are my secret fear. That’s what terrifies me more than anything – insects.  —Michael O’Donoghue

This will probably only make sense to those who know me best: I HATE June bugs!  I don’t remember when my phobia began, but I’m pretty sure that it’s hereditary since I have early childhood memories of my mom, my aunts, my cousins and my sister shrieking in terror when one would come around on a warm spring/summer night.  By the time I was in junior high, the phobia was in full force…as my good friend, Joy, and I would part ways at the street light halfway between our houses.  Under this light it would seem that June bugs gathered by the thousands…just looking for young girls with long hair to attack.  Of course, we played it cool…walking to the street light, quickly saying our goodbyes and running like maniacs back to our houses screaming all the way!  I think it’s their large bodies, hard shells, sticky limbs, drunken flight patterns and the sheer noisiness of the little beasts that send me into a tizzy.  YUCK!

June bug memeTurns out that up until now, my fear of June bugs was strictly theoretical.  You see all that time I spent dodging them and screaming about them and running from them was merely child’s play.  I had never actually had one land on me.  I’ve never had to pull one from my hair.  Mostly, when I saw one I ran the other direction and if I came across one on the ground well, I stepped on it and tried not to throw up (it’s that body crushing sound that makes me want to hurl.)  This system was my response to these scary critters and while it may not sound like a great plan, it had always worked…that is up until last night….

While sitting around a warm campfire, preparing s’mores on an especially beautiful night I met my fear head on (so to speak, ) but let me back up just a bit–I should probably set this up a little.  My kiddos were having friends over and with all the comings and goings I left the outdoor lights on.  I wanted parents and kids arriving at our house to have a little light…especially since the bulb in the lamp-post that lights the sidewalk had burned out.  This meant the flood light that illuminates the patio and basketball goal was on…for HOURS!  It was during this time that a swarm of June bugs made their way to our house.  There were so many that my son and his friend took to trying to exterminate the problem by clubbing them with sticks (probably a boy thing) and stepping on them.  This was all well and good (or so I thought) because 1.  it gave them something to do while they were waiting for every one to arrive and 2. they were killing the June bugs!  By the time we were ready to get started I foolishly believed that the June bugs were no longer and issue and that any remaining little beasts would simply move on to someone else’s yard once we turned out the lights.  But, NO.

The only good June bug--a dead one!

The only good June bug–a dead one!

Throughout the campfire we could HEAR the June bugs lurking.  Much of the noise came from June bugs running into the garage wall where the light had once been.  There was even a loud popping noise when the less brilliant bugs sizzled up in the fire–much to the amusement of the kids.  And finally there was the crackling noise of the June bugs beneath MY feet as I moved about helping the kiddos make their s’mores.  Each crunchy moment made me want to lose my dinner and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be able to stomach eating a s’more myself.  After about 20 minutes my thoughts drifted away from these horrible bugs and on to the silly ghosts stories that were being told.  But wouldn’t you know it…just when I finally got past the situation enough to put together my own ooey gooey, delicious s’more I felt something.  No it wasn’t in my hair or on my arm…no the sinister little beast was crawling up my pant leg–ON THE INSIDE!

So there I was with my marshmallow stick in one hand and my fixin’s in the other when I could feel something moving up my leg (darn those wide leg, boot cut jeans.)  Okay, I thought, be calm…we have company.  We don’t want to panic the children.  I’ll just crush it up against my leg and then it will fall out, right?  (As I type this I can’t believe those words crossed my mind!)  So I quickly transferred everything to one hand and smacked my knee with the other.  I heard and felt the crunch.  I shook out my pant leg, but nothing fell out.  Surely, I had killed the thing!  I mean, I hit it pretty hard.  I shook my pant leg even more, stepping out of my sandal and using the moonlight to search out the area.  NOTHING.  Alright, maybe it fell out and I just didn’t see it.  Yeah, that sounds good.  I’ll go with that.  Thinking that the issue had resolved itself, I went back to the task at hand and set out to assemble my s’more.  As soon as I bit into that little square of goodness that same feeling returned to my leg.  This time I couldn’t help but react.  I jumped, squirmed and announced, “There’s a bug in my pants!”  You can imagine the giggles and fits of laughter.  Great.  So again I smacked my knee as hard as I could and this time I knew without a doubt that I had succeeded in killing that thing.  You can’t deny BUG JUICE! (Excuse me now while I once again try NOT to throw up!)

What I realized last night is that somewhere along the way, I must have grown up.  While I still wholeheartedly claim AND proclaim my June bug phobia–somehow I got through that moment.  In the past a trauma like this would have completely ruined my night, but not this time.  Instead, I shook out my pant leg (again) and what was left of the bug fell out (of course, I immediately stepped on it for good measure.) Then I moved past it.  We finished up our s’mores and Steve and I enjoyed chatting by the fire until nothing was left but smoldering embers.  It was so peaceful.  Obviously, I didn’t want to discover another bug up my leg, but I wasn’t afraid to let my feet rest on the same slab of concrete where the incident occurred.  Call me crazy, but this is BIG GIRL stuff!  I felt so good and proud of myself (especially after that squishy spot dried on my pant leg.)  Sometimes it truly is the little victories…”sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug”…and sometimes you just get over it and move on as dignified as possible…BUG JUICE and all!

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.  Proverbs 31:25

 

Beyond Grateful (A Slice of Ministry Life)

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.  Acts 20:24

“Just because you go to seminary doesn’t mean you have to be a pastor.”  I’m sure those words have been uttered by other seminarians (?) but the first time I heard these words they were coming out of the mouth of my husband.  Although I knew he would become a Pastor, he wasn’t absolutely convinced at the time.  Silly guy.  Called is CALLED…am I right?  Needless to say, all these many years later, we are a clergy family–growing spiritually and serving in ministry–and I am beyond grateful for this call upon ALL of our lives!  It wasn’t something that I expected or even considered a possibility.  In fact, you just might file this experience right up there with “things that make you go hmmmm….”

SpencerFamily2014

As a pastor’s wife I’ve seen a lot of stuff.  Interesting stuff. Far too much to include here, but one of the things that always stops me dead in my tracks is the way people respond to this vocation.  People (churchgoing and non-churchgoing) seem to have a preconceived notion about our life and us.  My all-time favorite reaction to this calling occurred at a local restaurant a few years back on our anniversary.  While waiting for a table we struck up a conversation (or should I say, Steve struck up a conversation…he’s the talker) with another couple.  We were making small talk when the exchange drifted from “what brings you out tonight?” to “California wineries.”  (Steve is from the San Francisco Bay Area and we lived there for a few years together early in our marriage.)  This was a favorite vacation spot for our new friends and we compared notes about some of our best-loved places in the region.  All was right in the world when suddenly the man asked my husband what he did for a living.  (Insert screech sound effect here.)  Let’s just say in a record amount of time we had gone from potential “besties” to complete zeroes.  The guy actually turned away from us.  I, of course, can’t help but chuckle when I recall the experience (yes, I have a strange sense of humor!)

Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we’ve seen this reaction.  And, I’m okay with that.  I only tell this story because time and time again I hear people comment that it must be “hard” to be a clergy family.  They feel bad for our children because they wear the “PK” label.  The general impression is that we operate outside of “ordinary” life.  For some the word “clergy” is quickly linked with judgemental, hypocritical, strict and even boring.  Hey, we’re all entitled to our own opinions!  But for me, it’s just another addendum to that file I mentioned earlier–you know the one titled “things that make you go hmmmm….”  So, I would like to state for the record that we’re just about as ordinary as people get.  You don’t have to feel bad for us or think that we live this horrible, sheltered, recluse life.  We actually laugh (a lot,) disagree occasionally, hang out at places outside of the church, and sometimes we even have interesting things to say (and it’s not always about church!)  Being a clergy family really isn’t all that awful…in fact, it might actually be AWESOME.  And that’s really what I wanted to share with you today.

IMG_3770

So while every vocation comes with its own share of good and bad…ministry comes with an amazingly huge amount of AWESOME!  Not just the parking-angels-smiled-on-me-today or I-found-an-extra-$20-in-my-pocket kind of awesome, but the kind of AWESOME that only God can provide.  Working in a church and being a part of a community of believers comes with a lot of God-moments.  These are the kind of things regularly lifted up as part of Sunday morning worship, in prayer chains and sprinkled in conversations all over the church.  These are the incidents where the impossible becomes possible.  The times where generosity and grace exude from every direction and you just know you’re in the midst of something amazing and special.  And the greatest part is that these AWESOME moments are not confined to the walls of the church building.  This is the part of our life that I wish I could just wrap up and share with everyone…because it’s not exclusive to clergy families.  It is ready and available to everyone.  God’s desire for creation is that we live with our eyes and hearts open to the AWESOME moments.  Saying YES to Jesus is saying YES to life.  Taking nothing for granted, grateful for the good things and seeking out the unexpected.  This is what God can do!

Throughout Steve’s ministry we have been blessed time and time again.  Please do not receive this sentence as boastful.  I type it in the most humble manner possible.  As a kid I remember feeling God’s presence and the comfort and security only He can offer.  Today, as I’ve grown in my own faith, I feel God’s presence not only with the promise of comfort and security, but alongside the assurance of joy and hope!  Our life isn’t easy.  No life is easy.  We all struggle, we all worry, we all fall short, but I am so glad that I never go through anything, good or bad, alone.  NEVER.  Outside of a loving relationship with our Creator and Savior, I think fellowship among believers is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.   Have you seen the good that a church body can do?  I can tell you that this kind of support and encouragement cannot be matched.  When people say “church family” the key word is family!  I cannot imagine life without these treasured friends and we’ve been privileged to be a part of many church families that remain near and dear to our hearts despite the miles.

So, what spurred this post?  (Yes, I actually had a point when I started writing today!)  Our family has recently been the recipient of something so kind and generous I cannot even begin to tell you how astonished we felt in receiving this gift.  It came out of the blue and when we least expected it.  It was an answer to a prayer that we might not have even fully realized yet.  I would gladly share the details, but we received this gift anonymously and I believe in honoring the giver’s intention.  However, I will tell you that this is the sort of thing that qualifies as amazingly AWESOME.  We are a witness to God’s love through the hands of his followers.  This is the “blessed to be a blessing,” that Steve talks about all the time.  This sort of generosity is the kind of thing we practice and diligently try to teach our kids (they’re still learning, by the way.)  And I am beyond grateful.  Not just for this timely gift, but also for so many other things that God has placed in our lives.  To Him belongs the glory.  We do not understand, we cannot explain, we do not deserve God’s marvelous love and grace..and yet it’s my favorite thing to file under “things that make you go hmmmm….”

God is good all the time.  And all the time…God is good.

Another Blog-iversary :)

blogiversaryDear Readers,
I would like to say THANK YOU to those who have been following my blog, hymningandhaing.com.  As I enter my fourth year of blog writing, I am proud of the 65 posts I have penned thus far and the positive feedback that I have received—it continues to fuel my desire to write more!  I am grateful for the fun comments, insights and encouraging words that you have offered throughout my blogging endeavor and I look forward to 2015 and the writing opportunities it will bring!

Happy blog-iversary, hymningandhaing.com!!!

 

A Few of My Favorite Things (2014 in Review)

My favorite things often have a story behind them….  –Amy Sedaris

As 2014 winds down the countdown to New Year’s Day 2015 begins.  It’s at this time every year that we’re all subjected to the top news stories, songs, movies, television shows, etc. of the past twelve months (just in case we forgot.)  We’re also treated to the “best of” and “worst of” inventories for just about every subject under the sun.  And since we’ve already suffered through the roll call of Oprah and Ellen’s favorite things, I thought it was time that I got into the act with a list of my own (never mind the fact that I’m not a talk show host or a celebrity!)  So enjoy (or is it endure?) a few of MY favorite things from 2014 🙂

  • Favorite Song:  “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors  This upbeat song hit my radar this spring and really spoke to me as a call to approach each day as an amazing blessing.  I wrote about this song in a previous blog post and labeled it my personal “walk up song” for 2014.  This fun little anthem encourages one to be young, to see each day as a new opportunity, and to wholeheartedly believe in the limitless possibilities of good and joy in this life.  It’s a toe-tapping, high energy, nonsensical call to be AWESOME each and every day.
  • book

    “Sundays in America” by Suzanne Strempek Shea

    Favorite Book I Read:  “Sundays in America” by Suzanne Strempek Shea  I came upon this book by accident or sheer laziness (you decide.)  My daughter and I happened to be at the local library during an unusually heavy downpour.  We had already finished up in the children’s book section, when the thought of facing the rain seemed idiotic (a lifelong Kansan…I knew it would let up in 5-10 minutes.)  So rather than get drenched, we moseyed over to the religion section of the library and this little goodie caught my eye.  It was the subtitle that really sold me:  A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith.  In journal form, the author offers up insight as she sets out to visit a different church every Sunday for a year.  Her journey takes her across every region of the country, including Hawaii.  As a self-proclaimed “Church Nerd,” I found this book to be very eye-opening, offering up moments of hope and reflection while inciting a few sad and squeamish realizations about the Christian faith and how it is received and perceived.  An easy read…fellow “Church Nerds” should make it a point to check this book out.

  • Favorite Item Purchased:  Fire Pit  Let me start by saying that I am both equally terrified and mesmerized by fire!  Yet nothing soothes my spirit like hanging out around a fire pit.  Watching the flames dance around under a star-filled sky is my ultimate idea of relaxation.  No item that we have purchased in the last year has brought this much excitement to every member of our family.  While the kiddos have enjoyed having friends over to share in the fun, they seem to be just as content to hang out with their Dad and I.  And I’m all for anything that brings everyone together for an evening (with minimal bickering, of course!)
  • sue drinks coffeeFavorite TV Show:  “The Middle”  The kiddos first stumbled upon this show in reruns and I wasn’t exactly hooked (at first.)  In fact, I was more insulted than anything.  Somehow, my children got it into their little brains that our family was just like the fictitious Hecks and that as “Mom” I was relegated to the “Frankie” character.  This scatter-brained, (often times) sad excuse for a mother was supposedly me?  No way!  I refused to accept such a role and couldn’t believe my kiddos could put me in the same category.  Yet, over time I came to appreciate this TV family.  In their own unique way, the Hecks love each other, look after each other, and in so many ways this imperfect family is absolutely relatable on a number of levels.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that I still find the “Frankie” reference insulting (let the record show that Sue is my favorite character,) but 2014 has brought about a new appreciation for “Frankie” and this dysfunctional (yet adorable) family sitcom.  You can find it in reruns on a variety of channels, or for new episodes check out ABC on Wednesday nights.
  • Favorite Snack:  S’mores  Okay, since we now have a fire pit, s’mores have earned the top spot for favorite snack of 2014.  While traditionally I am a nachos kind of person, s’mores have gained prominence as the treat of choice.  Funny thing is, that while I could probably eat a pound of nachos…I generally just want one s’more.  Maybe that’s another reason to eat more s’mores!  One little tidbit of advice that I will offer up…we’ve discovered that regular size marshmallows work best.  They toast quickly and provide the right proportion of marshmallow to chocolate to graham cracker ratio.  After experimenting with campfire (extra-large sized) marshmallows and marshmallow squares, we’ve discovered that these varieties seriously affect the ratios.  TIP:  If you just want toasted marshmallows go BIG or square, otherwise for traditional s’mores regular-sized marshmallows are best.  Yummy 🙂
  • Favorite Product to Hit the Supermarket Shelf: Peet’s Coffee  As a coffee lover I am pretty much Starbucks all the time.  However, whenever I visit the San Francisco Bay Area, for me it has to be Peet’s Coffee.  Later, when I found out that they sold Peet’s at the supermarkets in Northern Cali…well I just had to have that AND buy enough to bring some home to Kansas after a trip.  Now…you won’t believe what I found on the supermarket shelf?  Peet’s Coffee in KANSAS!  People, this is exciting!!!  This coffee is so amazing…strong, rich, full flavor…perfect 🙂  I went through a bag in a blink and I can’t wait to buy more–locally!  Hooray, hooray…such a happy day!  Jump on to their website for supermarket locations near you.  http://www.peets.com/
  • Favorite Podcast: Freakonomics  My husband first introduced me to Freakonomics a few years ago.  He came across the documentary on Netflix.  Later I found out about the book and the blog.  Finally, I discovered the podcast!  For “News Nerds” like me this is awesome!  Freakonomics is the product of a journalist and an economist.  Together, they uncover the hidden side of everything (their tagline, not mine.)  Both educational and extremely entertaining this is my weekly go-to for information and insight.  Each podcast is about 40-45 minutes long and they cover a variety of topics.  A little something for everyone.
  • Favorite Place to Shop:  Ulta  I have loved playing with make-up since I was a teenager.  So as I near 40, you would think that I would be over it.  NOT!  Enter Ulta, the make-up mega store.  It has just about every make-up product known to (wo)man, in every shade imaginable, and at prices to fit all budgets.  I could spend hours in there.  As far as make-up goes I’m pretty traditional and extremely conservative, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to look.  Orange lipstick, green eyeliner, purple fingernails…yes, I am intrigued (even if I’d never have the guts to wear any of it!)
  • IMG_0622

    Snapped this photo while cleaning the kitchen! With the Tadaa SLR app your photo can go from “cleaning up” to looking all “cleaned up” with just a few tweaks. Love this app!

    Favorite iPhone App:  Tadaa SLR  I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet knows that I love to take photos.  Now that our phones are our cameras, this makes taking pictures easy and a full-time hobby without all the gear.  I have tried and use a lot of photo apps on my iPhone, but this year’s stand out is Tadaa SLR.  With features that let you adjust the focus and depth, blur with precision (it also includes all the standard editing features) this app makes me feel like a professional photographer (even if it’s only in my head!)  Seriously, at only $2 this is definitely an app worth having and it’s so easy you’ll wonder what you ever did without it!  HONORABLE MENTION:  Wal-mart Savings Catcher because I am a mother on a budget!

  • Favorite Lesson Learned:  GOD’S CONSTANT PROVISION.  I could write a whole book about this line alone!  Going into 2014 I knew there would be one big hurdle for our family life.  (In fact, I heard that little voice as early as December 2013.)  And just as surely as I had been warned, these things came to be.  Without going into too much detail, let me say that God has provided time and time again.  And He has provided in ways and with means that I would never have expected and all in His perfect timing.  Whenever I should have been stressed out and overcome with worry/fear I knew and felt God’s presence.  I’m sure it was maddening for those around me to see that I wasn’t worried (heaven knows I found other things to worry about!)  But let me tell you that we always had what we needed exactly when we needed it!  Friends, God is good–all the time!  I won’t pretend to know God’s plans or why I needed to learn the lesson of provision, but I am grateful for it and I know that it serves a larger purpose in our family’s faith walk.

That pretty much sums it up!  Like the popular song from the Sound of Music…these are a few of my favorite things.  Well, 10 of my favorite things anyway 🙂  Would love to hear about some of your “best of” or “worst of” items from this past year.

Looking forward to learning, growing and discovering new things in 2015!

What About Bob? (aka A Fire Belly Toad Love Story)

No one has greater love than this, that one should lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

Love is a funny thing. It will make you take insane risks. You’ll find yourself in unbelievable circumstances. And sometimes, yes sometimes, love will cost you absolutely everything! But let me back up a little bit because every good love story needs a little background.

Sean Brings Home Pet Toad

Sean Brings Home Pet Toad–August 2010

So, a little boy showed up at school one day with a toad in a small plastic habitat.  And in “monkey see, monkey do” fashion, my son had to have one, too.  And since his birthday was coming up (and since I’ve been known to slip into moments of complete mom idiocy) we decided to add to our family.  After a trip into Wichita a purchase was made in a somewhat questionable pet establishment in an equally suspect part of the city.  The sales fella assured us that this was an easy enough pet to care for and that our new fire belly toad would happily enjoy the little plastic habitat that we had already purchased at Toys R Us.  (FYI:  living creatures almost never thrive in plastic containers.)

So, Todd the Toad moved into my son’s bedroom.  WAIT…I forgot to mention that fire belly toads (which are poisonous by the way…so should have looked that up before we brought it home) also need LIVE crickets every 3-4 days.  Okay–if you have never seen a toad devour a cricket you might be surprised to discover that it’s pretty amazing and just as cool as some of the things you’ll see on Animal Planet, except that it’s happening right in front of YOUR face!  So Todd would entertain us during feeding time, but that was about the extent of it.  And since this particular toad didn’t have much of an appetite, more crickets drown than actually made it into his mouth.  And this was a problem because cleaning this little plastic habitat became not only necessary, but also quite gross.  To top it all off, poor Todd wasn’t thriving.  He seemed miserable, sad and scared.  My only thought at the time was:  please, please don’t let us kill Sean’s birthday present!  Something had to be done and thus another moment of mom idiocy ensued.

Google is one of my best friends.  It wasn’t long before I had loads of info and armed with knowledge we headed back to a different pet store (in a better part of town) and looked for a whole new set up AND a companion toad (because two is always better than one and who doesn’t need someone to pal around with?  I know, even more mom idiocy!)  Almost $100 dollars later, we were set up with a new industrial terrarium and cover, a special light bulb, a new lamp, spring water, an electric thermostat and even a little greenery and log to keep our toad chums happy.  The children were ecstatic and tossed names back and forth on the drive home. They settled on Bob and Todd because it sounded like good radio DJ names (???) and the dynamic toad duo settled into their new digs.  We are such good parents 🙂

Bob and Trudy at home in their new habitat.

Bob and Trudy at home. Bob is bright green and on the left. Trudy is dark green and on the right.

So here’s where the actual love story begins…you thought I forgot?  Within a week my son had a few questions. There’s nothing quite like the “birds and bees conversation” presenting itself when you least expect it.  After a very matter-of-fact talking to…Todd was renamed Trudy and my daughter declared the two “married.”  Casey began praying for baby toads while I couldn’t believe what we had gotten ourselves into.  Back to Google…more research needed to be done.  (I am pleased to report that we were NEVER blessed with the “pitter-patter” of tadpoles!)

Bob and Trudy were quite the pair and displayed text-book fire belly toad characteristics.  Trudy was quite docile and ended up being much smaller in size than Bob.  Her skin stayed dark in color and she would secrete the poisonous milky fluid that wards off predators whenever she became frightened or uneasy.  Bob on the other hand ate like a champ, his skin color would fluctuate between various shades of green according to his male hormones, and he frequently “barked” through the night to communicate with his beloved Trudy.  (The barking sounds like a high-pitched dog bark, but it is so faint that for weeks we thought our neighbors must have purchased a small canine.)  Bob was very protective and frequently “bowed up” when we would get too close or stare a little too long at the goings on in the tank.  However, Bob displayed one unusual characteristic…while Trudy would hide and bury herself in the rocks, Bob was always trying to escape.  On more than one occasion we would find Bob tucked up in the top corner, trying to get out.  Although the crickets did manage to escape the terrarium on a regular basis, it basically seemed impossible that Bob could ever get out.  He was easily bigger than Trudy but still small for an amphibian (2-3 inches at best) and the tiny crack that separated the cover from the terrarium was just too narrow.  Bob wasn’t anywhere close to strong enough to move it on his own.  It just couldn’t happen, right?  Yet, he continued to try.  We imagined he was on a quest to take his beloved Trudy and blow this popsicle stand…aka our house.

These antics played out day after day, month after month, and eventually year after year.  We became regulars at the  pet store (our frequent cricket purchases earning us occasional freebies) and we became experts at fire-belly toad behavior and habitat maintenance.  These tiny toads became members of the family.  They were my son’s roommates.  We learned to recognize their barks and moods.  We had to arrange care for them whenever we traveled.  Not to mention, our dog was extremely jealous of his pet brother and sister.  Like any family member, they were thought of and cared for on a daily basis.  So imagine our surprise when sweet, little Trudy started slowing down.  She would bury herself in the rocks for days now or hide in the log.  While she was never the most active toad, her lethargy became worrisome.  When she stopped eating, we feared the worse.  We were about to lose a member of our little family.

We had lost ants (and countless other bugs) and a Beta fish named Swimmy, but on some level we all knew this would be different.  We had cared (and dare I say loved) the toads for quite some time.  They really were a part of our every day.  I wondered how the kids would take it.  Would they cry?  What kind of questions would they have about death?  And heaven?  And ultimately, our Great Creator?  I’ve read countless articles about the important lessons we learn through our pets and that death is a part of the life cycle that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about.  And while all of this was milling about in my mind another thought occurred to me, what about Bob?

I wish I could say that we had plenty of time to delve into the subject of death and loss, but we didn’t.  Trudy’s time had come.  And afterward, Bob barked and barked and he continued to try to escape.  And it wasn’t but a blink after Trudy passed away that her companion, her partner, her protector, her “husband” (my daughter pronounced them married, remember) went missing.  MISSING!  A poisonous toad was lost somewhere in our house.  Good gravy.

Of course, the kids were distraught.  Bob just had to be found.  How could he have possibly escaped?  They couldn’t lose BOTH of them.  It was too much.  We searched the tank…uncovering rocks and logs and faux plant life.  Nothing.  We searched the bedroom.  Under things, behind things, and around things.  Nothing.  We systematically began searching the next closest bedroom, closet and hallway.  Finally, the thought occurred to us.  If Bob did manage to escape, would our dog have eaten him?  I know it’s gross, but we were in sleuth mode and had to check off all the boxes.  My husband made a quick call to the vet and we waited, but Maddie (the dog) was as healthy as ever.  And no Bob.

After a week all hope was lost.  We gave up.  We wondered if some how he managed to make it out of the house.  And the question became, if he did–how long could he survive?  We cleaned out the tank.  Repurposed the table it sat upon and eventually moved on with life.

Every once in a while the toad topic would come up.  Everyone had a theory.  1)  Bob just couldn’t live without Trudy.  2)  He escaped in a desperate effort to find her.  3)  He met his doom in the belly of our dog.  4)  Or….he some how managed to make it outside..found freedom and made a new life for himself.  5)  Perhaps, he was eaten by the crickets (I know this one sounds extremely far-fetched, but research shows that the crickets can and will turn on a predator and in large numbers crickets can actually take a small toad down.)  We just didn’t know, until…well, until we DID know.

About half a year later, I discovered Bob (or what was left of Bob) shriveled and flattened…hidden under a pair of old baseball cleats in the far corner of my son’s closet.  Now, before you think I’m a bad housekeeper I must say that YES…we had searched that closet dozens of times, YES…Sean regularly gets in and out of his closet, and NO we are not like many on the popular Hoarders TV show who neglect their surroundings to the point that critters frequently die and go unnoticed for months at a time.  I don’t know how Bob made it across the room.  I don’t know how long he survived in that closest (he would have needed a food source, water and tropical temperatures.)  What I do know is that he was found, the mystery was solved and my heart was heavy.  The love story was over.

RIP Bob

RIP: Bob the Toad

Those itty-bitty toads taught me many things.  First of all, I never thought I could love such exotic, and let’s be honest–ugly, creatures.  I didn’t think that something so small and needy would ever survive in our care!  I couldn’t imagine what a time commitment they would be or how much fun it would be watching them grow, play  and change. These tiny creatures were awesome in so many ways.  It is just another example of a truly amazing Creator!  How could I have known that these toads (like children) thrive in routine and schedules, they’re very social and live in a communal setting in nature, they pair up and protect one another, and at the same time they are remarkably equipped to protect themselves from predators of every kind?  They were such a wonderful example of a committed love relationship.  And in many ways they came into our lives at just the right time…their parting prepared us for difficult moments to come.  It still blows my mind.

Love truly is a funny thing. It will make you take insane risks. You’ll find yourself in unbelievable circumstances. And sometimes, yes sometimes, love will cost you absolutely everything!  What a wonderful lesson for our whole family.  In the past few years we have experienced loss (unfortunately, on more than one occasion) and as we grieved it occurs to me that while acknowledging the death we have also celebrated the LOVE.  The love of family and dear friends.  Of course it hasn’t been easy (it never is,) but I think we honor those who have gone on when we remember them well.  We still talk about the toads.  In fact, as I was writing this, I wondered did I ever take photos of them?  Will there be images to keep their tiny spirits and their special story alive?  And to my delight, I found many pictures and thus, many happy memories.

 What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.  –Helen Keller

 

 

 

Summer’s Last Hurrah! (My Top 10–This Just Got Real)

Vacation Flashback: S'mores with Aunt Tricia

Vacation Flashback: S’mores with Aunt Tricia

Every summer has a story.  –Unknown

Summer never looks so good as it does on the last day of school!  Like a brand new penny, summertime is all shiny, a token of possibilities just waiting to be spent 🙂  Back in May, we anxiously awaited days of unscheduled fun and endless adventure (not to mention the joy of “forgetting” to set the alarm clock!)  In so many ways I was more excited about summer than my kids…the monotony of pick up/drop off and the constant scheduling/rescheduling of  team practices, medical appointments, school projects, etc….  And while it’s not my favorite season of the year, summer was sure sounding pretty good!  In theory, I was willing to overlook the scorching temperatures, bugs and the chaos that is the spontaneity of summer.  I planned (funny, huh?) on enjoying it all and loosening the reins of my control freak lifestyle.  Feel free to laugh at me….

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Oh yeah…THE SNOW CONE!

Now that the end of July has rolled around (and the school supplies have debuted at the local stores,) I realize that this summer has been anything but the relaxing, carefree season I imagined.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m NOT complaining.  I spent the better part of the summer watching my children grow and learn on the baseball/softball diamond.  We’ve squeezed in sleepovers, sports camps, swim lessons, and Vacation Bible School.  My “Camp MOM” program has netted the children a few prizes while propelling (okay, FORCING) them to look at Scripture in a new and exciting (?) way.  We’ve easily eaten our weight in Dairy Queen ice cream and discovered the addiction that is THE SNOW CONE!  We’ve managed to eke out a little pool time (NEVER enough for my kids.)  And we made our way to Grandma and Grandpa’s for a little family visit.  All very good things!  Still, I feel a little incomplete.  The busyness of summer has me feeling like we missed out on the lazy, less hurried parts of the season.  Frankly, we’re running out of days and there’s still more on my list.

So here and now, I’m putting out for all to see MY Summer Wish List…because summer break is all about the parents, right?  Forget about the kids (not really!)  Here goes nothing:

1.  Catch fireflies in a pickle jar.  Might as well be specific 🙂 Don’t worry, catch and RELEASE!

2.  Stargazing.  My opportunity to impress my kiddos with my vast knowledge of constellations.  Yeah, right.

3.  Drive in movie.  This is a tough one because I don’t really like sitting through movies…it’s a huge time investment.  Equally problematic is that I’m REALLY picky about the movies that I watch.  Cross your fingers.

4.  Road trip.  Okay, if you know us…then you’re already aware that we’ve been on the road for baseball tournaments this summer.  Those don’t count.  I want to go see nature…(I can’t believe I uttered those words!)  I’m thinking State Park adventure 🙂

5.  S’mores.  Enough said.  Throw in a couple of campfire songs and we just might call this one EPIC!

6.  Eat outside.  I don’t know why, but I love to picnic.  It goes against my ant phobia, but it’s really true.  I enjoy dining outdoors.

7.  Professional baseball game.  This is already in the works!  Hooray 🙂

8.  Read three GOOD books.  I’m sort of a nonfiction junky…and those are typically long reads.  Managing to get through three would be heavenly.  I’m still on book one.

9.  Visit Lawrence, Kansas.  Stroll down memory lane while reminding my kids that they can choose any college they want (as long as I approve of it.)

10.  Go to the zoo.  Because it’s fun and I like Orangutans (a lot.)

Okay, people.  There it is.  And since time stops for no one, I needed to get started on this list YESTERDAY.  Because while summer technically goes through September, my kiddos start school in mid-August.

Summertime is always the best of what might be. -Charles Bowden

UPDATE 8/2014:  Completed 9 out of the 10.  Not bad 🙂

Summer List Pic

 

May Daze? (5 Suggestions for Summertime Sanity)

A lot of parents pack up their troubles and send them off to summer camp.  —Raymond Duncan

In case you were wondering, I just might have an inside track on why this Mother’s Day thing lands in May.  This made-up homage to matriarchs across the country is every Mom’s safety net for surviving this crazy month!  End of school activities, assignments and field trips, music programs, award ceremonies, graduations, and even sport practices and games…managing each of these calendar fillers is no small task.  And, sorry fellas, many times this falls on a Mother’s to do list.  So it makes sense that Moms everywhere get this ONE day…filled with cards and sentiment, meals prepared in our honor, flowers and gifts.  We are conveniently recognized and fussed over just before the ax drops–that’s right…I’m talking about SUMMER break!

Back in the EASY days of summer.  May 2009

Back in the EASY days of summer…when a “doggie” sprinkler could make them happy. (May 2009)

Don’t get me wrong…school’s out!  Thank goodness.  I mean, I know the kids are happy…and I’m pretty excited, too.  No longer will I be a slave to the alarm clock.  I’m done packing lunches for the time being (the occasional picnic aside.)  I don’t have to arrange appointments, pick-ups, drop-offs, meetings, haircuts, etc… according to the school calendar.  We can linger over lunch and enjoy late dinners.  Yes, it’s summer and that’s a good thing…at least it is on most days.  Because in reality, summer is a lot of work .  Hear me out…I love the idea of having the kids home with me.  It’s our chance to hang out together, talk and reconnect, try new things and visit favorite places.  But we’re less than a week in and I’m already starting to notice a few things:

First, I might be in control of this ship but my crew has pretty loud opinions about where I’m leading.

Second, we don’t necessary have the same idea of fun anymore.  It wasn’t long ago when the local library provided a lot of our summer entertainment.  I have one child (who shall remain nameless) who is balking at the notion that reading is fun.  It goes something like this, “DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH READING I HAVE TO DO AT SCHOOL?”  Followed by a look of exasperation and disbelief 😦

Third, hanging out in the backyard with bubbles and sidewalk chalk doesn’t cut it.  Since when?  I’m an adult and I STILL love bubbles and sidewalk chalk!  But no, apparently this isn’t cool anymore.  I’m learning that the only permissible backyard fun includes water balloons and half the neighborhood.

Fourth, boys and girls.  I’m still trying to figure this one out.  Sometimes it’s acceptable for boys and girls to hang out together.  Other times suggesting such an idea will garner a look that turns you into stone.  If somebody has the lowdown on this one…please let me know!

Fifth, here’s a newsflash….  Gone are the days when my children choose each other as their best playmate.  Instead, every activity must involve FRIENDS!  I know my kids are getting older (middle school and upper elementary,) but can’t they at least fake getting along with each other?  And how about throwing this into the mix:  My brother advised me just a few weeks ago that having people over at your own house is the BEST way to keep tabs on your kids and their friends.  This win-win scenario (???) means that we get to be the “fun” house and maintain some kind of control over our kiddos and their activities.  I’ll have to get back to you on that one….

photo (7)In an attempt to make peace in our house, I’ve established a few Summer Rules.  Gentle reminders that (honestly) are always in place, but managed to make their way onto the kitchen whiteboard for emphasis.  Look, I have good kids…but let’s face it, we’re all works in progress.  I heard a radio program the other day that suggested that parents should focus more on raising GOOD PEOPLE rather than SUCCESSFUL BRATS.  Sign me up!  I bought the t-shirt on the proud parent thing…wore it a few times and put it in a drawer. It’s not that I don’t think my kids are the greatest (I do), but these days I’m opting for a more realistic approach to my “momness.” More like a, “Yep, those are my kiddos–good and bad.”  Indeed, we are in this for the long haul.

So here’s my plan for Summertime Sanity.  It’s not rocket science and we all probably know these things, but sometimes putting them out there helps the cause.  So here goes:

1.  Pray, not just often, but more like ALL the time.  I’m not really all that concerned with being the perfect parent, but I do want to honor God in my role as a mother.  I believe He has blessed me with two precious children and I want to do all that I can to show them God’s love and grace through Jesus’ example.

2.  Remember that it’s okay to say NO!  Sometimes it seems easier to give in…especially after a long (long) day.  It’s at this point that I try to remind myself that I ultimately know what’s best for them.  For the most part, they know that asking repeatedly will not change my mind.  When they were very young I would tell them that begging was absolutely unacceptable and it would equate to not only NO right now, but NO in the future as well.

3.  Less is more.  We don’t have to fill up every single second of summer with activities.  Many parenting experts have warned us about the hazards of over-scheduling.  I know for myself that it’s in these unscripted moments where I find my kids singing silly songs, making up games and otherwise just getting along (even if it’s only for five minutes.)

4.  Look for the lessons.  The more time you spend with your kids, the more opportunities you have to be the teacher.  Some of my favorite moments with my kids have occurred in front of the TV, at the movies, or while listening to the radio.  I like to ask them what they think the show/song is trying to say, what they know about the actor/artist, and I encourage them to put on their “God goggles” and find a spiritual message in whatever we’re watching/listening to.  Sure, they sometimes cry “buzz kill,” but other times it sparks some pretty interesting conversation.

5.  Love on them.  Extra time together means extra hugs and kisses.  Extra moments to sit next to or across from each other.  Extra hair ruffling (for my son) and extra hand-holding (for my daughter.)  Time is precious…do not let these moments pass you by.

I fully anticipate an eventful summer…one with both ups and downs.  There will be ballgames, swim lessons, Vacation Bible School, youth group events, and small getaways.  We’ll get along, not get along, all out fight and occasionally enjoy each other’s company.  Sometimes I’ll say no, other times yes and we’ll all move on.  I’m not interested in being a BFF, but instead I’m focusing on being M-O-M…plain and simple.  I will anticipate the best and get over everything else.  I can’t promise complete flexibility, but I will try hard not to be a total control freak.  And when fall rolls around I fully believe that we will be able to  point to shared highlights and lots of good memories.

Here’s to the best summer yet!!!

Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling 22

Fav Baby Photo

Everyone is the age of their heart.  ~Guatemalan Proverb

I didn’t do anything as gaudy as send myself a birthday bouquet but I am about to break a few social mores.  That’s right, I’m saying it, “Happy birthday, to ME!” and I’m going to post photos of ME, and I’m writing a blog about ME 🙂  But I hope you’ll give me a pass…mostly because I AM the birthday girl.

Okay, to be clear, I’m not trying to solicit birthday wishes and/or gifts…but I just had to share a few thoughts about turning “the year before THE year.”  What????  Doesn’t make any sense?  Well, check this out:  Most of us know that turning 40 it’s a pretty big deal…as in it’s a pivotal moment (and not necessarily in a good way.)  And while I won’t be 40 until next year (2015), I did have a friend tell me that (NEWSFLASH)  turning “the year before THE year” is actually a pretty big deal, too!  I had no clue.  39 is a BIG thing…really?  Since when?  I guess…since now.

39 has been called the “creepy-creeper” birthday.  This connotation suggests that 39 is both undesirable and sneaky? Maybe even a little scary?  Sort of like you’re walking along…minding your own business…when this dreadful number jumps out from behind the bushes and boldly states, “Warning.  You’re about to cross over into old age!”  Or something like that.  Supposedly, at 39 this is the last year that I can be considered somewhat “young.”  I’ve been told that I’ve now entered the final months where it’s even somewhat socially acceptable to wear my hair long, paint my fingernails any color other than matronly mauve, or wear jet black mascara (among a great big list of other taboo items.)  If there is a distinction in adulthood, apparently 40 is the line for women and so I’m left with this one little year in which to kick up my heels and behave accordingly.  365 measly days left to be young!  I can hardly believe it…it all went so fast!  Actually, I find all this to be pretty funny.  Funny for two reasons:  1) because I think when I was in my 20s that I actually believed these rules and 2) especially funny because in my heart of hearts the first number that pops into my mind whenever someone asks me how old I am has ALWAYS been 22!

Photo (4) fixed

Birthday gathering with friends 🙂

Yes, I know.  It’s been a long, LONG time since I was 22, but you have to hear me out about this.  So when you’re a kid, you can’t wait to be in double digits.  10 is a BIG deal.  The next milestone age is 13, right?  Because now you’re a teenager.  Followed by 16…the year you can get your driver’s license.  The next biggie is 18…no curfew, you can vote, live on your own, etc.  And finally 21.  The BIG ONE.  That’s right…all the sudden you’re able to do all the things you’ve been told REAL grown-ups do. (?)  I know, we all know…most of them are very OVERRATED.  So when 22 rolls around you figure, okay…that’s it.  Nothing to see here people and I guess I just stopped counting after that.  Ridiculous, right?  I know…but that’s the house that I’ve been living in.  Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s still MY house.

At this point, I’m sure you’re laughing at me and I’m actually laughing at myself, too.  It’s been ages since I’ve been carded, had a night life, or gone on any adventures that don’t involve having my two kids in tow.  I’m not up on the newest trends, nor do I drive a hot car, or keep up with the latest movies or music.  I don’t really do any of the things that would lump myself in a category with anyone who is actually 22, yet that’s still the number that sticks in my head.  I always imagined that someday I’d graduate to a new birthday number, but it just never happened.  So now that I’m turning “the year before THE year,” I thought I’d better do a little research and see what the hubbub surrounding the number 40 is really all about…I mean, since I don’t want to be caught off guard (again) and I’m headed in that direction anyway.

It appears that there really are a lot of resources out there concerning the Big 4-0.  Countless books, websites, blogs and articles about embracing the “new and improved” you.  As I enter “the year before THE year,” it might behoove me to start reading up on some of these expectations and societal norms.  Here’s what I’ve gathered from the headlines so far:  40 is magical.  40 has attitude…it’s called “fortytude.”  There’s also a rumor that 40 can be fabulous (but I caution you, there are a lot of caveats to this one.)  40 is the first year a woman can qualify as a “cougar.”  40 is something that needs to be figured out and faced…it also makes you fierce and a force to be reckoned with (don’t you love all the alliteration that comes with 40!)  You can also be fit and forty at the same time (who knew?)  For those who truly believe in stressing themselves out about the number 40, there are a few websites that offer up 40 things you should accomplish by the time you reach 40.  And, by the way… in case you haven’t heard, forty is the new “F” word.

That’s a lot for one girl to take in.

All of this aside, here’s where I’m at.  It’s MY birthday and all I really want to do is thank God for another day, another year, and another reason to celebrate life (while eating Dairy Queen cake, of course.)  I don’t really get wrapped up in all this aging stuff.  I’m sure the day will come when the wrinkles and the gray hairs will win out, when my body doesn’t cooperate like it used to, when people stop asking me just how old I really am (and just start assuming I’m OLD!)  Until then, I’m just going to keep chugging along…making up nonsensical songs with my daughter, teasing my son by repeating hip phrases that sound anything but hip when I say them, wearing my hair as long as I want to, and sporting nice, bright nail polish as the mood strikes.  I’m not going to worry about figuring out or facing 40 or even reading up on the 40 things to do before you reach this supposed milestone.  While society might find my lack of alarm annoying or unheard of,  I think the psychological term is called “self differentiated.”  That’s right…who says you can’t teach an “old dog” new words.  And by the way, I’m going to stick with the age 22 for the time being (especially since Taylor Swift makes it sound so fun!)  Sure I’m a long way from it (and you really couldn’t pay me to go back,) but mostly just because it’s a nice number and like I said before… I still have a house there.  (Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s MY house.)

Here’s to 365 days of “the year before THE year!”

I’m not 40, I’m eighteen with 22 years experience.   Author unknown

Gonna Make My Black Thumb Green (aka A Lesson in Faith Planting)

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Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.  Liberty Hyde Bailey

I didn’t just believe that I had a black thumb, I had confirmed it…time and TIME again.  You probably think that I’m exaggerating, but it’s a well documented  fact.  Have you ever had someone take a plant AWAY from you?  Yes, that has happened to me (and not just once.)  I was a cold-blooded plant killer and I’m not proud of it.  I wanted to be able to grow things, I really did.  I potted, watered, and adjusted for sunlight and shade.  I wasn’t above asking for help, checking out library books and looking up tips on the internet.  It just wasn’t my knack and, honestly…hey, I was cool with that.  But for some unknown reason, people kept giving me plants (I think that happens when you move as often as we have…let’s face it, a plant is a pretty safe “welcoming” gift.)  In defense of these plant-bearing gift givers, I realize that you all had no idea what these little green treasures were in store for once they were under my care 🙂

Fast forward several years and while I’m certainly no green thumb, I’m not quite the plant killing queen that I used to be.   So, I still can’t grow ANYTHING from a seed, but I have managed to keep three plants alive (and mostly thriving.)  One plant has actually been around for nearly five years and I’m proud to report that it has somehow managed to survive three repotting stints as well.  (Yes, it’s the little things.)  In fact, I actually purchased a plant (my first time) just last month and so far…well, so good.  I think my mother-in-law would be so surprised and my mom, well I’m sure she can just hardly believe it’s true!  (The black thumb thing runs in the family.)

Thinking about this shift in my gardening abilities reminds me of another change in my life.  This one pertaining to my faith in God.  While I’ve been a believer just about as long as I can remember, I was never really comfortable sharing that faith.  To be honest, I didn’t know how.  As  a kid I can remember occasionally going to church, however, I really didn’t have any formal faith upbringing.  Despite all this, I considered myself a hard-core, pint-size prayer warrior (and I’m not even sure that was a term at the time.)  I prayed about anything and everything.  My overactive imagination, news junkie status (even as a kid) and an overwhelming realization that we lived in a broken and scary world would occupy my thoughts from the time my head hit the pillow until dawn.  So often I found peace and comfort in prayer and somehow knew that there was a great, big God out there who loved and cared about me.

In time, those little prayers eventually turned into a desire to read the Bible…which gets easier once you learn how to read and possess a  vocabulary.  By the time I was in high school I was working on reading the Bible all the way through.  I would read one chapter a night before bed–and I don’t think anyone ever knew.  I really didn’t talk about it.  I just did it.  Looking back, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t understand much of what I read.  I just felt called to do it.  And when I finished, I started over.  Look, I’m no theological scholar and I certainly didn’t consider myself holier than my teenage counterparts.  All I know is that the more I learned about God, the more my love for Him continued to grow.

I wish I could say that my Bible reading led me into church as a young adult.  It didn’t.  Of course, I did do a lot of praying in college…it WAS college after all!!!  I had tests to pray for, temptations to avoid, friends who needed help, and then of course there was safety and an entire crazy world out there to worry about.  I think in some ways my desire to get into journalism was a love for writing tied into an off shoot of a faith that I was trying to figure out.  My end goal in my pursuit to become a reporter was always to make the world a better place.  I wholeheartedly believe that knowledge is power.  I thought if we could just gain an awareness for the people in our neighborhoods, community and world that we would all have our hearts transformed–we could BE BETTER and DO BETTER.  Little did I know that this warm stirring that I so desperately wanted to impart on the hearts of others was in line with a desire to share with the planet the God that I was coming to know.

My faith journey goes on from there, but those early years–the faith planting years–came to mind today as I watered and tended to my plants.  Now, I look forward to attending church every Sunday (actually I’m something of a church nerd as I love visiting new churches whenever I can.)  I also love being a ministry volunteer and a pastor’s wife.  I continue to read and pray and discover more ways to draw closer to God.  I often thank God for putting people in my life to inspire and encourage me to pursue this faith.  What I once kept guarded and close to my heart, I now openly talk about.  I’m not afraid to share what I know about God.  In fact, I feel called to talk about Him often…especially with young people.  I remind them (and myself) that it takes time to develop and foster any kind of worthwhile relationship.  The same is true with faith.  The world won’t know about our awesome Creator, if someone (you?  me?) doesn’t share it with them.  I still wholeheartedly believe knowledge is power.  And if faith and following Jesus is the most powerful choice we can make in our lifetime, I want every person to have that option.

I can’t tell you what a blessing it is to have my children grow up in the church.  Faith planted…I see their early development (and that of their peers) tended to by good men and women whose lives serve as living testimonies to faith in a mighty God and who desire nothing more than the same for my kiddos and others.  In this season of my life, this is where I focus my attention.  What a blessing it is to witness a child’s heart discovering God for the first time.  Connecting with a young person and letting them know that there is a Creator who loves them.  Sharing scripture and Bible lessons with new believers and fostering the kind of environment that says there is so much more out there for each of us.  Seeing Christ’s love influence the thoughts and actions in so many young ones…well, it takes my breath away.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have an opportunity or even the ability to share and witness faith  like this.  I didn’t think I was capable or qualified.  I didn’t think I could GROW into that person.  God had a better idea and I really can’t wait to see what blooms as a result.

This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way, producing with us great praise to God.

2 Corinthians 9:10-11 The Message