Saturday, October 24, 2009


Our church is in the midst of an ambitious capital campaign to help purchase a new building as a second sight and make some renovations to our existing site. They are going about it in a very wise way, which is encouraging, because it's our church after all, not to mention my place of employment.

They have scheduled several smaller meetings for people to come and hear the vision and ask questions more in a town hall format than rolling the plan out to everyone at once. And they gave out a book to everyone called Generosity - a devotional with a biblical perspective of being generous in all aspects of life, not just financial giving, and a good amount of perspective on what best motivates any kind of giving.

While considering what our role in this campaign might be Dan and I reviewed our budget. I don't know how often people do this in general, but my experience is most people don't do it very often at all. And if enough time passes between audits, you might be in for a surprise when you start taking stock of it all again. I was.

I think there's no such thing as successful coasting. In fact, I think with the exception of a 60 second period on a bicycle, there's no such thing as coasting at all, let alone successfully! You're always either moving forward or lagging behind.

We do an exercise every once in awhile with our couples small group in which we ask everyone to break down their day on a pie chart. We approach it like a budget, keep track of every "time" receipt - how much time at work, commuting, eating, sleeping, watching T.V., on the computer, doing chores, homework, sporting events, etc. etc. till the whole day is accounted for - then we figure percentages of time spent in each activity in a typical day and ask everyone a few questions. Do they think anything worthwhile is altogether missing (i.e. time alone with a spouse, reading the Bible if that's a priority for them, exericising, etc.)? Were they surprised when they put it down on paper where their time went? Do they feel their current pattern truly reflects what they think their priorities are - or whether it might suggest some new priorities are in order?

I read somewhere once that if you want to know what your highest priorities are, just look at your checkbook and your calendar.

How we spend our money and time is most likely the truest reflection of what we believe and what we value whether we thought that was the case or not. Not knowing how we spend our money and time can be dangerous...albeit tremendously comforting for awhile. No need to remedy a problem that doesn't exist, right?

I think of all the big scandals in corporate America in the past five years because of a lack of oversight, regulation or adherence to auditing practices in place and it seems to me the problem is just as big in our personal lives. If there is no regular check-up (think about the last time you were at the dentist) then the longer you wait to look, the more damage that can occur and the more expensive it can become to address what you find in the end.

I'm glad we did the budget and I'm glad we regularly consider how our time is spent so we can make changes when necessary that prevent much bigger problems later, but mostly I'm glad we both know that the only proper motivation for giving anything is a response to Jesus giving us everything.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bus Stop Musings

The other day I was dropping the twins off at the bus stop like I do four days a week on my way to work and Maggie said before getting out of the car, "Mommy, I'm glad you and Daddy have jobs and all, but sometimes it's hard when all the other parents are at the bus stop and you're not there."

Okay, I know the working mom's out there just did a collective sigh in sympathy for me while I try to dislodge the knife from my heart. Mind you I leave the bus stop approximately 5 minutes before their bus comes (and yes they are very well attended with the most parents per capita of any bus stop I've ever heard of, let alone seen). Plus, on Mondays when I'm off and I wait at the bus stop until the bus actually picks them up and drives away, they don't stand anywhere near me or talk to me - they go off with their friends and only give me a hug (or in Ryan's case, a quick shoulder bump) right as the bus pulls up.

Watch. I'll arrange to get to work a few minutes late and wait at the bus stop with them and by March they'll be telling me to go to work already, because they aren't babies anymore and I'm embarrassing them at the bus stop.

Or maybe not. Because they are still pretty young, and unlike a lot of kids at their school, not so eager to speed up the aging process. A rare virtue for which I am extremely grateful.

So this has had me thinking. If Maggie wants me there even though she never talks much to me when I am, there must be something about my visible presence that she finds deeply comforting. Especially when the effects of my absence are heightened by the physical presence of so many other parents. She sees the other Mom's (and Dad's) many of whom also work outside the home, but apparently have really flexible schedules, waiting around with their kids.

I know this is something that causes her to struggle in her faith, too. She can't see God or touch Him or hear Him audibly and there are so many other adults around who she can see and hear. How can she possibly experience God's presence when there are so few tangible signs of Him?

How can she know He's there and more aware of every single thing she is doing than all the parents combined who are having their morning coffee together on a corner? How do I assure her she is never alone, even when I'm not there? That she is always thought of, even when I'm not doing it? That she is always completely in her heavenly Father's care whether her mother is close by or somewhere else?

And so far my only conclusion is that I won't be able to assure her of this at all. So I'll pray that the Father does it Himself. And trust that He will give her a stronger faith that helps her see and hear and know and understand how high and how deep and how long is His love for her. And by His grace, I hope she'll know how much I love her too.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sundays in Fall

Today has been nearly perfect in the most unassuming, noneventful way. We went to church like we do every Sunday. We drove separate this time because Dan was filling in on the Welcome Team for the early service. I was grateful the kids and I were able to sleep the extra half hour. The service was amazing as it often is, and today I didn't take it for granted that we live in a country where we are allowed to drive freely to the church of our choice and hear the Word of God boldly proclaimed without persecution from the government or anyone else for that matter.

We stayed through the second service as we always do to participate in a group called LIFE Connections that is basically a bunch of small groups in the same room that discuss the sermon we just heard to dig a little deeper and then pray for each other. I've been prepared to lead a women's group this year as I have done in the past, but up until today the only women who have participated have preferred couples or mixed groups. So just as I was sitting down at the mixed table I see Dan (who has joined the men's group) escort two women in for the first time and I quickly move to join them.

It never ceases to amaze me when a group of relative strangers can come around a table for a common purpose and encourage, challenge and bless each other in under 90 minutes. I'm hoping they both decide to come back each week and believe God would use that time to grow all of us in our faith if they do. I'm exicted about the possibility of forging new relationships in a solely female setting. However, I also know God will grow us all in our faith even if they don't return and unlike a month or so ago, I don't feel it's up to me to make sure I have a group of women who regularly attend. It's a very peaceful feeling to be surrendered to God's plan...willing to play the part I'm called to without playing God myself.

We came home and ate wonderful leftovers - Lou Malnati's pizza - and watched the Bears game while we ate. The Bears won and are now 3-1 which was another treat! I napped a bit on the couch right after the Bears game ended and when I woke up Dan had just returned from throwing the football around with Ryan and his neighborhood buddies on the perfect 60 degree and mostly sunny fall day.

After my nap I had some energy so I cut down some plants in the garden (it's like the one time a year I get involved in the landscaping) and cleaned out my train wreck of a car. I was thrilled to have accomplished something so rewarding in under 20 minutes.

Together Dan and I made chicken on the grill, rice, salad, green beans & rolls and all sat around the table and laughed together (which we do most nights because of all the quirky little inside jokes and odd languages that exist in our family). Then Dan and I cleaned up together and he went off to the park with Maggie and Ryan to make the most of the little light left after dinner these days.

Caitlin and I stayed back and I'm listening to hear play the French Horn which she switched to from the Trumpet at her Music teachers request a mere two weeks ago. Not because she wasn't good on the trumpet -she's great at it, but there were no French Horns, so she and one other boy are now on the job. She is sounding remarkably good.

I know there aren't many of these special autumn days when the weather and the colors and the football all come together after encouraging worship services to bring me such pleasure. So I'm reveling in them while they are here.