On taking time

Yesterday was a difficult day. It wasn't that my children were especially difficult. I'd say it was a fairly average day as far as disobedience goes.

My oldest two (three and four years old) touched the little lights on our front window. They know not to touch them. And I spoke harshly to them. Okay, I yelled.

My youngest (19 months) climbed atop the toy chest for the umpteenth time that day. Not to mention the too-many-to-count other times he gets up there, every other day. And each time he is sternly told "No" and gets disciplined. He knows better! And I was angry at him for not getting it. Again.

And then there's my three-year old, who dawdles at every opportunity. How many times do I have to repeat myself? All without any movement whatsoever on his part. Sometimes I wonder if he's heard me at all.

There were other things, too. But it wasn't the issues themselves, it was my response to these things that was wrong. I knew that it was me.

I talked to my husband about my day late last night, and he listened. I told him about the times the children had disobeyed , and what my response had been. I told him- through regretful tears- of my impatience, my exasperation, my frustration with the kids.

He said something then about how it takes time to do it right. And time is difficult to come by as a mother who is pulled in three different directions every day. (Or more. After all, if it's not my children who need my attention, it's the laundry piling up, the ringing phone, the dishes filling up the sink, a meal that needs to be made... and a myriad of other things.)

But what he said about time was exactly what I needed to hear. That's what I've been missing of late: taking the time to discipline properly. Bibically.

Instead I have spun around from my duties in the kitchen, witnessed an offense, abruptly (and in frustration) administered discipline. I have reacted. I have sinned in my words, in my tone and in my anger. I have neglected to stop what I am doing, take my child aside, and take the time. To ask questions. Listen and understand. Consult God's Word together. Administer the rod of correction. Pray. Hug.

I am so thankful that His mercies are new every morning. Today I get to start afresh. And I purpose- with God's help- to do it right.


Ugh. I am blowing it today as a mama.

Lord, strengthen me. Fill me with Your love, grace, patience, compassion and kindness. May I be slow to anger. As You are.

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)

Shape me, I pray.

May I choose a soft-spoken word over a harsh one.

Kindness instead of crabbiness.

A smile instead of a frown.

Patience in place of my impatience.

Thank you for entrusting me with these little ones. May I be faithful to honor you today in my calling as a mother.

The perfect tree

Yesterday after church we set out in search of the perfect Christmas tree. I want to be absolutely clear that the perfect Christmas tree, in my humble opinion, can not be an artificial one. And. One more thing: I don't think anyone should peruse the tied-up pre-cut varieties at any store or stand and purchase one of those. They are simply inferior. (Like I said, in my humble opinion.)

Without fail, for as long as I can remember, the weekend after Thanksgiving is when you would spot my family-- my dad, mom, my older sister, me, and my younger two brothers--traipsing through the cold Christmas tree farm, hunting for the perfect tree. Ahem. My mom's version of the perfect tree. For those of you new to this type of hunt: To find the perfect tree means that you have to rule out every other tree.

As it happens it was usually pouring down rain, and the tree farm we frequented had a valley in the middle of it, boasting some very evident drainage problems. So getting to the other side of the lake (which is where the perfect tree surely sat, according to my mom) was an adventure to say the least. Each one of us had our work cut out for us to try to convince mom that this one, here, was it. Right? The perfect tree. Before we got to the lake.

Really, as a young girl- any tree was sufficient as long as we could get back to the warmth of the car straightaway. But my mom had the deciding vote. And my mom is the most indecisive person on the planet. "Oh, I don't know. Do you think it's too sparse right there at the bottom of the tree? Maybe. I think so. Where was that other one...? No, not the first one, but the second one. Remember? The one I said I liked? Let's go look at that one again." And so off we'd go.

Over the years we developed a system. We'd get out and scour the lot, marking all the possibilities. (With leaves, rope, a twig, whatever we could find...) Then we'd go back to each one and finally, after about an hour or so had passed, my dad would say something like, "Okay, honey. Really. I think we've seen them all, now. Time to choose one." And so she'd narrow it down- to maybe the final two or three choices- and then on our way back to the one she'd decided we could cut down and take home, she'd spot a few other possibilities.

Somehow we always came home with a tree. The perfect tree.

Now, I don't know how this happened--it's not like I consciously decided that my husband and children should endure the same thing as I did growing up--but I do happen to have a very clear picture in my own mind of what the "perfect tree" is. And so the tradition continues.

I meant to detail our own hunt here in this post, but... this is far too long already so I'll do that next time.

[Photo courtesy of the stock.xchng]

Saturday gratitude

540. snow!

541. the exuberance of E & I upon peering outside this morning
542. snow nestled in the trees
543. a Creator who thought of snow
544. making a snowman. at 7:40 in the morning.
545. my children all bundled up
546. cold fingers and toes that are certain to be warmed
547. hot cocoa with marshmellows
548. the paper snowflakes we plan to make today. (Thank you, Ann!)

[Snowflake photo courtesy of the stock.xchng.]


A couple of months ago, on a Sunday afternoon, my husband said this: "Would it be a blessing to you if on my day off, I planned the menu, made the meal and you could have a break?"

I envisioned trying to take a break in our house while he was in the kitchen making dinner and watching all three children. The three children that would surely end up wherever I was taking my break. And the husband who may get exasperated in the kitchen. What I was envisioning wasn't much of a break.

Then he continued, "You'd have to leave the house. And you can't run errands. You could go to the fabric store, get some coffee and read a book, go shopping... "

Yes. He actually said those things. An offer like this is not a regular occurence at my house. I was nearly speechless.

"Well, YEAH. That would absolutely be a blessing. I would love that!"

And so I had two days to look forward to this break. (Which is part of the gift, in my opinion. The having-time-to-anticipate it.)

On Tuesday afternoon, Mark asked, "What time would you like to eat dinner?"

I said, "5:30". He said "It will be ready."

I left the house at around 3:45, heading for the fabric store.

At 5:20 I was home, and found Mark in the kitchen, dinner nearly ready, the table nearly set, and the children happily playing. We ate a delicious meal. As we ate, I tried to express my gratitude for such a gift (such a gift, by the way, that he is offering not once a year or once a month, even. But once a week!?!?!). I was searching for a word to describe how great it was but couldn't find it. So I said things like, "I feel like a queen..., this is just so huge..., such a luxury..." Mark smiled and was clearly delighted to have blessed me so much.

Later, he was cleaning up the kitchen (having instructed me not to even think of cleaning up; he would do it!!!), and again I tried to find the word. This time, I thought of it. Extravagant. I felt overwhelmed; this gift seemed so extravagant to a practical girl like me.

It was at that moment that I remembered something.

About a week prior to that I'd been reading about God's love for us. How full; how lavish His love is.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:17-19)

One of the questions in my Bible study was this:

If you can't think of an occasion when you felt lavished in the love of God, ask Him to make you more aware. God's love is demonstrative. Ask Him to widen your spiritual vision so that you can behold unexpected evidences of God's amazing love.

So I did that. I asked God to make me more aware of the magnitude of His love for me.

I'd forgotten I had asked Him. Until that moment.

Sitting at the kitchen table, expressing to Mark how grateful I was for the extravagance of his love for me, I remembered. It was then that I recognized that this was God's love for me, expressed through my husband. That extravagant, overwhelming-to-me, lavish gift was God's gift to a tired mama of three little ones. To me, Stacy. His child whom He loves so deeply.


Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! ~Matthew 7:7-11

Still thanking Him...

...sinking my bare feet into fluffy bath rugs...a newly mopped floor...Mark's clean-shaven face...our kitchen table...the shelter of our home on a cold day... that gust of warm air that greets me as I step in from the cold ...kids who crawl into bed with us on early mornings...whispering children in church...our porch swing...our oven...Christmas shopping almost done!...grocery carts with room for two children...our digital camera... naps/quiet time at our house...my boys' brown eyes...Mark's Bible stories with the kids at bedtime... very little debt...Mark's faithfulness...authenticity in others...hardwood floors...my wedding ring...Marks' wedding band...inside jokes within our family... the hope of heaven...the gift of rest on the Sabbath...Amy's pregnancy...board games with Mark...

Praying for the nations

When we were in the process of adopting our son from Guatemala, we bought a set of maps at Costco. We put the world map on top of our table and then covered it with a clear tablecloth. We spent a lot of time pointing to Guatemala on the map, and showing our children where it was in relation to where we live, and talking about how daddy and mommy would go there to pick up their new baby brother. In addition to all the attention Guatemala got, our map made for great conversation when we had guests over. Where have you been? Where would you most like to visit? Where do you not have a desire to travel, ever? Which country would you like to learn more about? Which country would you adopt from?

I soon tired of it covering our table, so I moved it. (Perhaps because my husband's favorite game was to quiz me on geography and countries, and I tell you, those are not my gifts. :))

It now hangs on the wall near our kitchen table. We're using it for something a little different these days...

We came home one night recently after hearing the Uganda Children's Choir sing. Our children were anxious to talk about the children from Uganda; what they looked like, how they sang and danced, and where was Uganda? I said we would find it on the map when we got home. And then I suggested that we should remember to pray for the country of Uganda, because so many of the children there are homeless and orphaned. The following night we pointed out Uganda on the map, and prayed after dinner for the people of Uganda.

This experience made me think: we should do this more often. So I ordered the book Operation World by Patrick Johnstone.

For those of you who aren't familiar with this book, Operation World is a global prayer guide. It is a wonderful resource that informs readers how to most effectively pray for each country.

We've begun using it in conjunction with our map, to pray for people around the world. My original idea was to have one of our children choose a country- by pointing on the map- each night as we sat down to dinner. Then after dinner, Mark or I would thumb through the pages for that country and choose one or two prayer requests, share them with our children, and go around the table, each of us taking our turn to pray for the needs of that particular country.

My original plan of every-night-after-dinner isn't happening. After all, we're still trying to get into the habit of having family devotions after dinner, too. And we often forget that. I suggested to my husband that we do it every other night (the night we're not doing family devotions, we'll pray). But so far we're averaging about once a week. (Which is more than what we were doing before!)

We have prayed for the countries of Uganda, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Madagascar and Canada-- each at the request of one of our children.

There is such value in giving our children a heart for the nations; in taking their eyes off the world as they know it and praying for those who are orphaned, dying, living in tremendous poverty, and worshipping other gods. It has been a joy for us to hear the prayers offered up by our children on behalf of the people from these countries.


I have two friends I used to work with. One is single, never married, no children. One is married and has a little daughter (1), and works full-time. Occasionally I meet one or both of them for dinner. Always, they ask something like, "So... what do you DO during the day?" I smile, because their tone implies that what they're really asking is this: "Isn't it boring to be home all day?"

I thought of this again this morning as I finally sat down. Out of curiosity, I spent a couple minutes remembering-- than jotting down what we'd done so far:

-Alarm goes off at 6:20, I'm up.

-I leave to go walking with my mom.

-Back in the house, I hear that our youngest is awake in his crib.

-I see my husband off to work. I hop into the shower.

-Shower is interrupted a couple of minutes later by the pitter-patter of littlefeet. First, my daughter (4) , then my oldest son (3). I peek my head out to say good morning and give them wet kisses.

-They exit the bathroom to check on little brother (1), leave the door open. Steam from my hot shower sets off the smoke alarm.

-I scramble out of the shower, alarm is stopped, I get dressed.

-I get our youngest son out of bed.

-Change both boys' diapers.

-Oldest son's jammies are wet; we head downstairs to find some clothes. Find them in the hampers of clean laundry that are sitting in front of the dryer; waiting to be carried upstairs. (Laundry days at our house are Monday and Tuesday. It's Friday. None of our laundry has been folded or put away for the week. And I'm sure if I checked, there's a load that has been sitting in the washing machine for a couple of days.)

-Get oldest son dressed.

-Grab wrapping paper, tape and scissors and wrap gifts for a birthday party we're going to later in the morning.

-Send my daughter to get crayons, get the kids busy coloring on the wrapping paper while I try to load the dishwasher. (I like to start my day with a clean kitchen and we had a birthday party to go to last night so it didn't get done.)

-Phone rings. It's my mom. Her hairdryer broke, can she come over and use mine? Yes.

-I get the kids snuggled on the couch to watch Zoboomafu, mom comes in.

-Mom dries her hair, we chit-chat for a few minutes, she leaves, kids say goodbye from the couch.

-I head to finish loading up the dishwasher, hoping I'll have some time to check email, too... while the kids are watching TV.

-My daughter realizes grandma just left. And she wanted to wave goodbye from the window. I told her it was too late; grandma was already gone. She begins to cry. I ask her to stop. She's distracted by the TV. I turn the TV off, send her to my room for a time-out.

-I turn the TV back on for the boys, go to talk with my daughter.

-My daughter's time-out has now turned into a need to administer the rod of correction. I do that. I then ask her to sit on my bed quietly for a few minutes and think of her attitude.

-I go check email (3 min), bring clothes for my daughter on the way up the stairs (also found in hampers!)

-Go into our room to pray with her, remind her of this verse: "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control" . I hug her. The boys interrupt us once, as Zoboo is now over. I tell them to wait in the living room for us. They obey, but then we hear some commotion while Ella is praying for wisdom and self-control. Both boys are crying and making their way back to us.

-We wrap up; I find out that my younger son had bitten my older son on the hand, so he retaliated by biting my younger son back- on the arm. I check both boys' arms; they're fine. I give a stern reprimand to crying younger son, and a swat. Send oldest son to the room to await discipline. Daughter is getting dressed.

-I talk to my older son about how he should not retaliate if he is bitten, hit, or pushed. I lead him in a prayer where he confesses that he made trouble with his brother by biting, and asks God to strengthen him in kindness and love. He is disciplined and goes to make things right with his brother.

-It is way past time for breakfast.

-I go to make pancakes.

-Oldest son is requesting a cup of milk, daughter would like a cup of water with ice. As I'm getting those (and making pancakes), I notice that the ice cube trays need to be refilled. I do that.

-While they eat, I finally get the dishwasher loaded.

-By the time I'm done, the kids are done and need to be cleaned up. I stall them so I can sit and eat.

-I look at the clock.

It is 9:30.

Boring? Nah. Our days are pretty eventful, actually!

Homemade bread

I've always wanted a really good bread recipe. Until recently, I was having trouble finding one. Either people rave about their recipe but won't share it with you because they're sworn to secrecy, or you're at a restaurant and they simply don't give out their recipes, or you find a recipe, make it, and the bread is too dense.

I've finally found a really good bread recipe, and I am happy to share it. It makes four round loaves, and this bread is delicious. Honey instead of sugar, white and whole wheat flour and oats. Mmmm. Try it. I guarantee it will be worth your time. And really, this is an easy recipe.

Honey-oat bread

3 cups milk
1/2 cup honey
4 T. butter or margarine
1 tsp. salt
2 T. yeast
1 cup oats
6 cups white flour, unbleached
2 cups whole wheat flour

Scald milk in a small pan. Pour hot milk into a large mixing bowl and add honey, butter and salt. Stir occasionally until lukewarm. Sprinkle yeast over milk. When dissolved (and slightly bubbly):

Add oats, whole wheat flour, and 2 cups of white flour. Beat until combined. Gradually add remaining 4 cups of white flour. Beat (I use my hands at the end) until the dough is smooth, elastic and non-sticky.

Turn dough onto a floured surface, knead till smooth.

Wash and lightly oil mixing bowl. Put dough in, cover. Let rise until double.

Punch dough, form into four loaves. Cover and let rise again.

Brush with beaten egg.

Bake @ 350 for 20 minutes (*I remove from the oven at 17 min, so check it early)

Our Thanksgiving journal

As I was growing up, my mom instituted a Thanksgiving tradition. One evening prior to Thanksgiving day, our family would gather around the table and make a family thanksgiving tree.

Basically, we drew a big tree on a poster-sized piece of paper, dated it, and then we'd each grab markers and write down things we were thankful for-- usually just a short phrase or even one word. When we were done, mom would hang it up near our table and there it would remain for the next month or two... a daily reminder of the things our family was grateful for.

I loved doing this, and wanted to have a tradition similar to that in our home. I wasn't quite sold on the tree-on-a-paper idea, although Mark and I tried that for a couple years when we were first married. What I didn't like about that format was that I wanted to save them from year to year, and I didn't want another stack of papers- least of all poster-sized papers.

When our daughter was born, I came up with the idea to make a family Thanksgiving journal. We basically do the same thing-- record the things we're thankful for-- we just do them in a spiral-bound book, and each family member gets a page.

It's really a sort of family scrapbook-- we use words and photos. Each year I begin the new section by using a page to mark the year, and then the following page is Mark's, the next page mine, and so on. We take an evening and work on it together. Our children get to color on their pages, too- and choose their own photos. We help them think of the things they are thankful for-- and obviously two of our three children can't write, yet-- we write for them.

Ella's pages, last year

Our Thanksgiving journal sits on an end table in our home during the month of November. Others have the opportunity to peruse it when they're in our home, and of course our children look through it frequently. And it is a delight to look back at the things God has done in our family through the years.

I'd love to hear some of your Thanksgiving traditions!

One Thousand Gifts

One of my favorite bloggers, Ann from Holy Experience, writes:

"As the moments slip down the hour glass of time, I am scratching down the gifts---just as they happen, as they arrive, as they are unwrapped---that He has given that make my life grace, the daily graces that He gives in an infinite number of ways, that stir me."

Head over to Holy Experience and read this post. And this one. And this one, too. Aren't you inspired? I was.

I've begun my own list of One Thousand Gifts. A couple times last week I grabbed my journal and took it with me to the kitchen. As I washed dishes or made dinner, I pondered the gifts God has lavished upon me. I'd get a running list in my head and then quickly dry off my soapy hands or pause in my meal-making, pick up my pen, and jot them down. I'm on number 236, and counting... up to one thousand.

So, some snippets from my ever-growing list:

....crisp fall leaves crunching beneath my feet....a fresh bouquet of flowers....flickering candles....grandma slippers....the rice bag that keeps my feet warm when I crawl into bed....seeing my children raise their hands in praise...and lift their voices to sing-- if too loud or off-key....how "I" puts his hands on my cheeks and pulls my face toward him to give me a kiss...beginning a good book.... little arms wrapped tightly around my neck.... a hot bubble bath....the patch of sunlight that falls on the floor from our front windows.... love notes on the bathroom mirror.... rearranged furniture.... praying with Mark.... obedient children.... pajamas.... hearing grandpa's prayers.... my daughter's handwriting-- big, mishapen capital letters.... binding that final stitch to clear the knitting needles.... photos of loved ones.... early morning walks with my mom.... our home.... memory.... stacks of folded laundry....
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!--Psalm 118:1

Got a shoe box?

I'm super excited about something we're going to be doing in the next week or two. We're participating in Operation Christmas Child, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse. Have any of you ever done this? It looks like so much fun. I know my children will love this. You, too, can do this. Here's how:

1. Find a shoe box.

2. Decide if your gift is going to be for a boy or a girl, and choose the age of the child. (This is fun because that way your children can choose children their ages!)

3. Fill the shoe box with gifts appropriate for the child. There is a list of ideas on the right-hand column of this page. You can even wrap the box, as long as you wrap the lid separately.

4. Donate $7 for shipping and project costs.

5. Drop off your filled shoe box(es) at a nearby location. To find the drop-off location nearest you, go here and type in your zip code.

The drop off dates are November 13th-20th, so now is the time to get moving on this!

So.... what are you waiting for? Got a shoe box? Like to shop?

Join our family as we wrap some Christmas gifts early this year... and bless some needy children in the process!

*Any additional questions about Samaritan's Purse or Operation Christmas Child can be answered by checking out their website.

As for blogging...

... I am back.

When I wrapped this up a little over a month ago, I really did think it was the end. I just re-read that post. My question then was this, "Is blogging a pursuit that God is pleased with in my life?"

You know what? It wasn't. Quite frankly, blogging had become too much in my life. I cared too much what people thought in the blogosphere. My thoughts resided here when they should have been elsewhere. One too many times, I was saying, "Just a minute" to one of my children who waited near my elbow as I blogged. By the time I got back to them, some 15 minutes later, they didn't have the same question. Or I was impatient or crabby at their interruption.

I'll be the first one to tell you that I lack discipline. It's a tough one for me. It's why my house is full of clutter. It's why I rarely get up early to pray even though I want to. It's why I begin projects but leave them unfinished for months (okay, sometimes years).

I knew that God was nudging me to lay blogging down, but I wasn't sure why. The day after I wrote my final post, my Bible study was on "Tearing Down the High Places." I puzzled then if I had any high places to tear down. By the end of the study, I knew the why of it. This whole blogging venture had become an idol in my life.

I hesitate to even use the word idol because my fear is that some of you will think, "Sheesh. That girl must have been on the computer ALL THE TIME." I wasn't, truly. I was not addicted to the computer, I was not neglecting my husband or my children. (Overall. There were moments. Check confessions three paragraphs up.)

I never would have used the word idol before in this context. It's not like I was worshipping my computer. And yet, this. From my study that day: "Our thoughts can be held captive to someone or something that builds up our egos or satisfies our fleshly appetites. Simply put, captivating thoughts are controlling thoughts-- things you find yourself meditating on too often." And this: "Satan fights dirty. He jumps on anything that could keep you from centering your thoughts on Christ." And the reminder that the object of our thoughts itself (in my case, blogging) is not necessarily sin. "The sin lies in the exaltation of it in our own minds." (all quotes are from Beth Moore)

So this blogging thing- a good thing- was captivating my thoughts. I recognized it as a high place and found comfort in this:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

A week or so later (after that final post) I realized that maybe it wasn't a permanent thing, this end to blogging. Maybe that nudging was soley for the purpose of removing that high place. And me being the task-oriented person I am, wanted to pick it right back up: High place removed, back to blogging. But I wanted to make sure God would bless that. So I set some parameters:

- I would not blog for an entire month..

- I would not move forward unless I had Mark's full support. And his encouragement to do so.

- I would move our computer from it's centrally-located place in our home (where it has proven to be a distraction) to another room. Downstairs, in the basement, as it resides now.

- I would email some women I respect in the blogosphere and seek their wisdom and insight. Women who blog regularly and have been doing so for some time. (Not regarding my situation, necessarily, but on blogging in general.) What were their guidelines, their time-restrictions, what have they learned? etc...

- I would continue to pray and seek God's wisdom on whether or not I should pick it back up.

A couple of weeks ago I told Mark, "I could take it or leave it, truthfully." I was no longer pining to get to the computer. Which was such a good place to be. And I was perfectly fine with the idea that I was done.

That gradually changed. I found that I wanted to continue writing here. I kept having more I wanted to share with you, dear readers. (If you're still there, that is.)

So, I begin again. I continue to pray that my time here (along with every other usage of my time) will be honoring to God, and that this small offering of my writing might bring encouragement to some of you.

Things are a little different. My computer is in a different spot. I have set some computer restrictions for myself. (No blogging (writing, reading, or checking comments) while the kids are awake, basically.) I will not be posting every day. I've removed the sitemeter.

I considered removing the comments function, too, but for now I've decided to keep it. Yesterday I stumbled across this quote, from C.S. Lewis:

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You, too? Thought I was the only one." That is one of the things I really appreciate-- hearing from you via the comments and finding out, "What! You, too?"

So...how are all of you? I've missed you.