Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Poem

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a present was wrapped, not one single blouse
The stockings lay empty as bags were unpacked
And I frantically searched through the piles of gift stacks

While counting the items to ensure all was equal
I think that I lost my son's DVD sequel
A quick glance at the calendar and what should I find
But a nativity scene that was three days behind

But advent was coming - sure it's almost here
And ready or not it's the time for good cheer
For Jesus came down from heaven to earth
Fulfilling the prophecy of one virgin's birth

And gifts from the store, with all their fine labels
Are no match for the joy that was born in a stable
This Christmas my hope and my prayer for you all
Is not for the prizes that come from a mall

But for minds to believe and hearts to embrace
The Savior that came to us filled with God's grace
That favor would rest on those whom He calls
And new life would be shared with the King of us all

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Advent - noun - from the Latin adventus meaning

1. a coming into place, view, or being; arrival: the advent of the holiday season.
2. ( usually initial capital letter ) the coming of Christ into the world.
3. ( initial capital letter ) the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas, observed in commemoration of the coming of Christ into the world.
4. ( usually initial capital letter ) Second Coming.

There's been a lot of coming and arriving lately for our family. My sister came last week from Australia with her two youngest boys. Last night her husband and daughter arrived. Next week my other sister will be coming in, then two other nephews.

At church/work last weekend four identical Christmas concerts arrived along with a Senior Luncheon for 300 that my parents organized. This week (which is almost half over) will bring the arrival of a Live Nativity production - for which my family makes up almost 1/3 the cast - two Christmas parties, two music concerts and a massive birthday party.

Next week my vacation time is coming up.

Much of these activities have been eagerly anticipated. Some have come much sooner than expected.

We've been gathering together with our kids every night to hang characters on our Advent Calendar, taking time to read Scriptures and talk about the anticipation of earlier generations waiting for the promised Messiah who would deliver them.

700 years passed between Isaiah's prophecy of the Christ to come and His arrival.

That's a long time to wait.

We've been singing songs about Emmanuel, which literally means "God with us" and really thinking about what it means to be on this side of the incarnation of the living God.

For me it means, even while I find myself waiting, this time for His Second Coming, there is much to celebrate and marvel at today.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


The leaves are falling and the weather has turned colder (like 25 degrees colder than it was yesterday) and I know autumn is almost over and winter is almost here.

Today was the last leaf pick up for our neighborhood and the street was filled with them, but there will be many more all over our backyard from the tree that hasn't dropped yet.

The tree doesn't know today was the last pick-up.

I'm glad God doesn't have a schedule that limits the days and number of times He picks us up when we fall.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gratitude Continued

It's the ninth so I'm listing nine more things I'm grateful for to cut back my tendencies for self-pity! See previous post for more explanation....

1. Our Couples LIFE Group at church which met tonight - we come in weary and leave full of joy.
2. The library, including four consecutive visits without a fine.
3. That the picture frame that just fell off the wall didn't hurt anyone or shatter into a million pieces.
4. The truth of 1 Peter 5:5.
5. Extra large take home and bake pizzas from Dominicks for under $8 (under $6 on Fridays).
6. ESPN.
7. Claritin.
8. That I can get in and out of a bank on my lunch hour with all the signed photocopies of documents I need in under ten minutes because I used to work there.
9. That my 25-year-old washer and relatively new twelve-year-old dryer are both still getting our clothes clean.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cultivating Virtue

Last Sunday my pastor was preaching on the struggles of the Christian faith. It was actually the second part of a previous sermon titled "New Life, New Battles" which explained that along with the new life received for those who place their faith in Jesus Christ come new battles with sinful behaviors that previously may not have bothered you all that much.

Your "flesh" is at war with your spirit.

Sunday's sermon was called "Move the Ball Forward" and came complete with an NFL analogy for which the Eder household was very appreciative, since it's akin to our native tongue.

He explained how advancing towards holiness was rather like moving a football down the field - we will need a strategy, rely on previous training and have lots of opposition. He went on to say that like scoring a touchdown, it's a wonderful feeling to win a battle over a particular sin. Then he reminded us that immediately after you score, the ball is coming right back at you and you better D up! Okay, not exactly his words...he is Scottish after all.

So the rest of the sermon was about practical ways you can intentionally cultivate godly virtues that are contrary to a particular sin with which you may struggle - or to keep with the NFL analogy - what kind of defensive play to employ for the sinful attack coming back at you. To illustrate, he confessed a hidden sin of his own.


Now, I have to admit this took me entirely by surprise. I've worked ten feet or so from his office for the past four years and not once in that time have I ever heard the man complain. About anything. Or anyone. Seriously.

So I guess that's why he called it a "hidden" sin. Not only is it less obvious to those who know us, we may not be aware of it ourselves.

Self pity is not a hidden sin of mine. Nope. I wear self pity very publicly. Trust me when I tell you that no one I work with will be writing about how they haven't heard me complain about anything or anyone for the past four weeks let alone four years.

So I was all ears about the virtue that works against self-pity. Any guesses?



And since it's November and we have a national holiday committed to reminding us to be thankful I'm spending the rest of the month (at a minimum) counting my blessings.

Since today is the 8th I will list eight things for which I am extremely grateful in closing.

1. My father in law is out of ICU, in Rehab and improving every day after brain surgery!
2. The fruit fly traps we set up worked and the infestation in my home is over!
3. Both Maggie & Ryan chose their dad as the Veteran to honor for a social studies project.
4. All the veterans who sacrified so much (and still do) for my liberties.
5. My back hasn't bothered me in almost a year.
6. We are both employed.
7. 69 cent Hamburgers at BK on Tuesdays.
8. No snow yet.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Don't Have the Words

For the past month my father-in-law has been in the hospital. Less than a year ago he had brain surgery for a non-cancerous tumor that they were able to remove 90% of successfully. Inexplicably, it grew back with a vengeance.

About ten days ago he had another brain surgery to remove 90% of the new tumor. Since then he has undergone a series of surgical procedures because one thing keeps leading to another - a drain for fluid - a screen for a blood clot - a traecheotomy to prevent pneumonia, etc.

So far, by God's grace, he has rebounded exceptionally well after each one. And he's almost 81.

So it's hard to explain why the father of three boys, two of which have been on Ryan's baseball teams, passed away tonight after a long battle with Crohn's Disease which isn't normally fatal. He was about my age.

When Dan and I spoke with his wife about an hour after she said goodbye to her husband, I asked God for the right words to say. Words of comfort and hope. Words that would somehow strengthen or console her.

"I'm sorry" sounds so pitifully inadequate. But I am deeply sorry she has to experience such a tremendous loss and I said so.

"God loves you" doesn't sound much better to a grieving widow with three young sons, but I said that too. Then I added it probably didn't feel like that right now and that I do not know why God let this happen.

Because I don't. I don't know.

Sometimes you just don't have the words to say.

When I find myself in that place I am so grateful for God's Word. Especially verses like Romans 8:26...

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Summer's Sun in Fall's Playground

I've been experiencing something I've never experienced before in the month of October in my 40 plus years living in Chicago...a week of sunny and 75-82 degree weather. I guess I've never experienced it because it hasn't happened since the 1930's. So the name of the game has been play outside.

As much as humanly possible.

That objective was made easier by a 4 1/2 day weekend for my twins (thanks to parent-teacher conferences) and a three day weekend for my high schooler (thanks to Columbus Day) though she is quick to protest and call it Lief Ericson day. Not that he discovered America either, since there were people ALREADY HERE.

Anyway, on Friday I took the twins to a stellar Pumpkin Patch in South Barrington - Goebbert's on Higgins is THE PLACE to be. Because it was a weekday and not a holiday everything was cheaper. They bring in animals you wouldn't even see in the best city zoos and place them under three large tents - exotic birds, bears, tigers, alpacas, kangaroos, and on and on. $5 a head gets you into all three tents, the corn maze (it was harder than it looked) and access to a two tiered deck high enough to feed the giraffes face-to-face (they like carrots). We went with friends, ate apple cider donuts and basked in the harvest sunshine.

Saturday we sat outside for Ryan's homecoming football game. I'm not sure what business a bunch of 12 year olds have celebrating an alma mater tradition, but it's a great excuse to tailgate, legitimately TP your friend's houses and write your team name and jersey # all over your car.

We lost. Big. But it was still a GREAT afternoon.

Today I took my oldest (who was suffering in school while we played at the pumkin patch) to the Morton Arboretum. She's been begging for that excursion for the better part of the past three weeks. It's about 15 miles from where we live. We got to the exit next to the gardens in 20 minutes. And then it took an hour to get the extra 1/2 mile into the park. Apparently everyone and their brother shared our great idea.

Turns out it was totally worth it. My daughter's joy was only rivaled by the amazing color show God put on display. I will try to remember this two months from now when I'm shoveling my driveway and scraping my windows. We heard a couple of guys behind us talking about the new heavens and the new earth and we smiled at them and shared their wonder that the spectacular landscape around us was a mere glimpse of things to come.

Tomorrow we are headed up to Lake Geneva for the day to cap it all off. In the midst of a particularly busy season for us, I am truly grateful for this Indian Summer respite.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rain Check

The weather has been very pleasant the last couple of weeks and by that I mean mostly in the 60's.

I love fall.

The past couple of days it's also been rainy though, and that has made these nights just about perfect.

Not because I love the rain, but because football practice was canceled two nights in a row.

Don't get me wrong. I LOVE football. Love it. But I also love my family and there haven't been many relaxing weekday meals together since August 1st.

So tonight I'm grateful for the rainy, fall weather.

Now if I could just keep the sun from setting so early....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Curriculum Night

A lot has changed in the 20-ahem years since I've graduated high school.

Tonight I got to go to my first curriculum night for my freshman daughter, walk her schedule and meet all her teachers in ten minute increments.

Why I thought heels were a good idea is beyond me. It's a big school. And her 5th period class is on the opposite end of the school and on another floor than her 4th period class. But she manages to get there on time every day so I was determined to do it too.

My knee only gave a little on the last flight of stairs.

After parking in the adjacent county and walking in said heels a few blocks to get back to the school I was on my way.

Her first period is PE. Poor thing. Sweaty all day. Thank God she's not one for primping and getting her hair just right. The woman was laid back, extremely reasonable, very informative and a mother of three girls herself. Love her teacher.

On to AP English - writing, reading, grammar, the works. They don't call it L.A. in here. Her teacher has a son on Ryan's football team who was born on the exact same day in the exact same place as my twins. They act out some scenes from the classic books they read. She messes with the freshman boys and asks them their tights size for the Romeo and Juliet unit. Love her teacher.

In Algebra 2 everything is on warp speed - her teacher also teaches applied computer science. The beauty is he cares more about how they finish the story than the points they accumulate along the way and has figured out how to mathematically program the scoring system so they get the most credit possible for their efforts and end results. Love her teacher.

In biology the man at the helm was an alumni himself...class of 1975, and good humored enough to share his high school photo, complete with plaid sportcoat and four-inch-wide tie. There was a sign in his room - Caution: Deadlines are closer than they appear. He had paper and pens so we could write them love notes and leave them behind. Love her teacher.

By some miracle I made it to her Spanish class tucked away behind the auditorium in a hallway labeled with room numbers that stopped shy of hers and met a straightforward woman who doubles as the assistant athletic director and couldn't say enough about what a gem my daughter was. Love her teacher.

Had time to kill for lunch/study hall so I visited the booster sales table, got a free oatmeal raisin cookie in the science atrium and stopped to chat for a few minutes with a friend in the hallway. We reminded each other that it's good our daughters aren't so mainstream socially because their faith will always be counter-cultural and we don't need to be concerned about them missing out on all the popular activities, like homecoming. Took a quick peek in the book fair, was thankful I forgot my checkbook and moved on to band.

Sat in the front row and realized the mom next to me had been in at least three other classes with me, introduced myself and found her to be delightful. The band director made us clap out a vertical rythym. Don't ask me. I don't know what it is, I don't play any instruments and I can't read music, but we did it in unison somehow. Love her teacher.

Most of my high school memories are gone, but the few that remain offer a wide spectrum of emotions. The best memories have to do with the relationships I had with just a few close friends, and the two or three teachers who made all the awful experiences more bearable.

I think my daughter is way ahead of the game on all fronts. And for that I am very encouraged. And grateful.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It's been anonymously brought to my attention that I haven't blogged in a month or so. My sister...I mean my anonymous commenter...speculated that not much has gone on in my life lately. Of course if there were a sarcasm font, it would have been the typeface she'd used.

Yesterday when I left work I was assaulted the moment I stepped outside with an intense burning odor. I would have guaranteed you a house was on fire within two blocks of where I stood had I not been told by a co-worker that the stench was actually from wildfires in Minnesota. As in above Wisconsin. Over 400 miles away. I didn't really believe it until I experienced it first hand.

I pondered it all the way home.

My day to day life has been a lot like a wildfire this past month spreading over miles of terrain, burning hot and fast and requiring urgent attention. In fact so much of how I've been spending my energy at work has been determined by the biggest fire that it was getting a little hard for me to see the forest through the trees.

And I work in a church.

It's been all hands on deck and a flurry of activity as we have launched a new ministry year that just happens to coincide with the new school year bringing extra urgency to my need to master the circus that is my calendar.

It actually feels a little hot to the touch.

I do not know how women can work full-time and take care of a family. I am more baffled by how single parents do it. And I am outright bewildered as to how I have become the mother of a high-schooler and two junior high students already.

I do know God has given me the strength to manage sickness, school activities, band, football, parades, hospital visits, assorted clubs, work, family, mid week church activities, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and a multitude of meetings.

I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:11-12

Today the air was a little clearer.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fount of Every Blessing

A few weeks ago while we were sitting in church, our pastor made an announcement about the all-church baptism event coming up on August 14th. I love all-church events, especially since we became a multi-site church. They are the only time when we all gather together in one place and I get to see folks who worship at a different location. Dan and I have worshipped at each of our three campuses at one time or another, where we have made friends and enjoyed special fellowship. So it's almost like a reunion when we are all gathered together in His name. And I knew this event was going to be held in the backyard of a member's beautiful home on a picturesque lake in South Barrington.

I quickly decided I wanted to attend.

The pastor invited those interested in being baptized to sign up. He reminded us that baptism is one of only two ordinances Jesus commanded us to do (the other being communion) which makes it an act of obedience. It is also an act of identification. Being baptized means you identify yourself with Christ. His death. His life.

Few events in my life have touched me more deeply than hearing those who were lost share their testimonies of how Christ found them and worked a miracle in their lives. The stories vary a great deal, but they all celebrate the same amazing truth that we sinners are washed clean by the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

So there were plenty of reasons for me to rejoice in this day and occasion.

Then God gave me two more.

My husband Dan and my oldest daughter Caitlin decided it was time they made the same proclamation...that they are disciples of Jesus Christ.

Today skies that began cloudy and gray turned brilliantly blue. The sun shone warm and strong over the hillside lawn and lake where hundreds of brothers and sisters in Christ of every age, race and color gathered together in worship.

While sweet, familiar hymns and songs of praise served to remind us we are saved; by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, I watched two more members of my family declare their life in Christ.

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26-28

Friday, August 5, 2011

Vacation Mode

As summer winds down and the start of school looms I am happily stuck in vacation mode. Backpack sales abound, and school supplies hit the shelves before the 4th of July this year, but it didn't phase me one bit. We've been back from our family vacation for almost a week, and it feels like I was there yesterday. The calendar says football practice and band camp and orientation but it's all a little unreal to me yet.

It helps that my boss has been on vacation for two weeks and my work load has been lighter. It helps that my sister is visiting from Colorado and we do more "vacation-y" type things when she's here. It helps that the pool water is warm and it's still light out until late.

But I honestly don't know why reality hasn't hit me more.

We didn't think we were going to be able to take a summer vacation this year but God provided through the generosity of wonderful friends and we were able to spend several days in Lake Geneva at their home. We had access to a huge community pool and lots of space to lay around and relax. The weather was supposed to be awful but it hardly rained at all. We were able to rent a boat and take the kids tubing for the first time. Well, Caitlin tubed. Maggie took a nosedive in .6 seconds and promptly called it quits. Ryan made up his mind then and there it wasn't worth trying. But it was still a great experience and a lot of fun. Maggie and I went horseback riding and even trotted (her first time) which was an added bonus. I don't know why, but two of the most relaxing places I can think of to be are on a horse or on water (as long as I'm not doing the tubing).

I'm sure within a week or so I'll adjust to the reality of my situation, but until then I'm basking in vacation mode.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Beautiful Days

I've been walking around the past four or five days saying "God is good all the time.." to which my children reply "and all the time God is good!" Well, He has been exceptionally good to me this weekend. In fact He gave me a series of Beautiful Days.

Last Thursday night Ryan's baseball team won second place in their division losing to an undefeated team twice their size. While they were disappointed not to win, they quickly forgot it when the parents started pelting them with water balloons during Coach Dan's "I'm proud of you" speech. After that all was fun and games again and we were thrilled to be #2.

Friday night we had a fire pit and made Smores with the kids. We've been really struggling with the fact that for the first time since the kids were born (and in fact much longer for Dan and me) we will not be going to our beloved Arcadia for our annual summer vacation. Finances are tight now and we made the tough decision to skip it this year. So we've been trying to think of things we normally do there that we can still do here. One was a campfire which was made all the more sweet when we found the laminated lyrics sheet with the Praise and Worship songs they sing at Camp RKD. We sang a capella around our own backyard fire. It felt like my heart was singing.

Unlike my mouth, my heart sings on key.

Saturday night we had a new family from church over. We ate a lot of dessert and all our kids played in our pool together while we got to know each other better. I am so grateful that God keeps giving us new opportunities for friendship and fellowship.

Sunday after church we lazed around for awhile and then went to Dan's brothers house and hung out with his family and Dan's parents. We ate a wonderful dinner, swam in their big person pool and watched a private display of fireworks that had to rival most small towns. It was lovely.

Monday we went to our favorite 4th of July parade just blocks from my parents house. It starts at 11:30 am, so it's really the only parade we ever attend being late risers. My Mom and one of my good friends went with (whose birthday was the next day so we had a wonderful lunch afterward).

Independence Day has long been my favorite holiday for lots of reasons, including summer weather, BBQ's, parades and fireworks. But more importantly I love it because we celebrate freedom and those who gave it to us. With Dan having been in the Army for 22 years we feel our patriotism deeply and are grateful to all the men and women who gave their lives so we can live in a country of freedoms. Our most treasured freedom is the right to freely worship God. We also celebrate Jesus and the freedom He gave us by defeating sin's power.

Late that night we walked to a hill by our house with the kids and watched the fireworks light up the sky.

Tuesday I took Maggie to see a genuine PG movie. No violence, no swearing, very little sexual material at all, other than a few kisses. It was very refreshing. I happily abstained from popcorn since she got her braces on six weeks ago and can't have any. At night Dan and I went to the U2 concert at Soldier Field. That experience is a whole other blog post. Bono sang Beautiful Day, Rejoice and One Tree Hill among many, many other songs. Suffice it to say I cried tears of joy twice.

Today we slept in and spent the whole day just hanging out with the kids. Dan played Risk with them on the living room floor, we went swimming in our little pool together and I took them to the library late in the day.

The sun has been shining for five days straight in Chicago and the Son has been shining every minute of those days on my life.

It's been a bunch of Beautiful Days.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Double Fours

Today I turned 44.

Not sure how that happened as I'm pretty sure about two years ago I was 32.

Today, God in His grace gave me a beautiful day.

It started with my three kids standing over my bed at 7:15 am with coffee and a toasted English Muffin. I thanked them sincerely and promptly went back to sleep.

When I woke again two hours later I read their homemade cards.

Ryan's said, "The greatest day in history was Jesus' birthday - but your birthday is a close second."

Maggie's said I was the best Mom ever and included a coupon book for free chores, hugs, and back rubs!

Caitlin's gave me credit for taking care of everyone and having a close relationship with God while still looking good.

Dan's card came later, but I'm keeping that one to myself.

Best. Cards. Ever.

Both Dan and I took vacation days and we had perfect weather. We took the kids to Top Golf (I highly recommend it ). It was today's Groupon Now. I love that my daughter Maggie has access to this app on her itouch - which has been replaced for free after she dropped it because it was still under warranty - so I also LOVE Apple's Customer service, but I digress...

So between the twins getting free student memberships for a year through the school's reading program, it being my birthday and having this groupon, four of us played two golf games for $9 and had credit left!

We spent a couple of hours chillin' on the back patio (twins in pool) and then Dan and I got a dinner date alone at Bahama Breeze (another highly recommended place to visit) while my in-laws watched the kids. We sat in their open air section which they play island music and everything seems to slow down to a very relaxing pace. It felt like we were in the tropics for a night.

On the way to the restaurant I had this flashback and remembered 12 years ago when the twins were three weeks old, I had three kids under three and I thought I'd never be alone with my husband again.

Time flies.

I know this is all so temporary. What astonishes me most is that these near perfect days are just the smallest foretaste of heaven.

I am blessed beyond measure.

Even 44 feels good.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

No Limits

I was on the internet today when an ad popped up for Sprint. Their new sales slogan is "Unlimited."

As in unlimited everything - talk, text, internet, whatever the phone can do, do it all the live-long day. 24/7. 52 weeks a year. No black out dates.

Unlimited as a concept.

And I'm thinking...are you mad?!

No limits?!

What is it about our culture that believes we should be establishing habits that lack all self-control...and that it is somehow a good thing?

Funny, but a complete lack of restraint just doesn't sound like something I want to sign a two year contract for.

My mind flooded with Scriptures that speak to this subject. Galatians Five tells us Self-Control is a fruit of the Spirit. Proverbs 25:28 warns, "Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control."

Then there's Titus...

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." Titus 2:11-12

And 2 Timothy gets really serious about it...

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power." 2 Timothy 3:1-4.

I read this and I think, we are in the last days. This is our culture, right now, to a great extent. But verse five really hits it home...

"Have nothing to do with them."

So I think I'll pass on Sprint's latest offer

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Beginnings

Within 48 hours last week, my babies turned twelve and my oldest graduated 8th grade. It was a busy couple of days and so I hadn't thought about it much until I got a call from my son at school asking me to drive his yearbook over so he could get autographs. He had forgotten it at home. No big deal, it was my day off and we're less than three minutes away so I drove it over and brought it into the office.

It had been ten years since my first visit to that room for kindergarten registration for Caitlin and it suddenly occurred to me I may never set foot in the building again.

I sort of lost it.

Contrary to popular opinion amongst my siblings, I am not an overly emotional person. But I cried a little in the midst of those 48 hours while I realized I am now the mother of two junior high students and a high schooler. Everyone starts new in the fall. Actually Caitlin starts new on Wednesday - she's enrolled in a summer school class.

Starting new can be scary. Maybe that's why we don't choose to do it all that often.

I think of myself as someone who adapts fairly easily to change - I'm not a very structured person by nature. As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman - "I wouldn't say I'm a planner, I'm more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-kinda-gal - moment-to-moment." I wonder who I've been comparing myself to getting that impression of myself, because when I stopped to think about it, not much has changed in the past couple of decades. Or four.

I've been married to the same man for 21 years. I've had the same hairdresser my entire married life. We've been worshipping at the same church for 22 years. I only switched doctors because mine died. I've subscribed to the U2 fan magazine/website for 28 years and vacationed in Arcadia, Michigan every summer for 32 years. Aside from six months in Alabama in 1992, I have lived under an O'Hare flight path every day of my life. I have always used Crest toothpaste.

Apparently, I don't begin a lot of new things.

That could be why I was blindsided by an emotional outburst over all three of my children starting new schools.

It's easy to understand why they are nervous and not all that excited about these new beginnings. They aren't ready to leave all that is comfortable and familiar. They don't know what to expect.

We were reading in Genesis together the other day about Noah's Ark. Ryan had lots of questions about why God flooded the whole earth and wiped everything and everyone (except for Noah, his family and two of every animal species) off the face of it. We talked about the wickedness of the people and the incredible holiness of God and how grieved He must have been that all of humanity had been so evil except this one man. We also talked about the kind of faith Noah must have had to spend 100 years building an ark to the exact specifications of a God no one else honored.

While he was made fun of.

While there was no sign of rain.

When he had no instructions about what to do after the flood.

God gave Noah a new beginning.

At church right now they are preaching through the book of Ruth. It's only four chapters, but man are they chock full. Naomi left the land of Judah with her husband and two sons and relocated in a foreign land. Her sons married women who weren't of their faith or heritage. Then all three men died. Naomi, which means pleasant, asked to be called "Mara," which means bitter, because she felt the Lord had abandoned her. But she returned to her people and amazingly her daughter-in-law Ruth went with her. Not reluctantly, or even resentfully, rather Ruth clung to Naomi and traveled with her to a foreign land that worshipped a God she didn't know.

And God in His kindness provided for these women. Boaz, a relative of Naomi's, gave them food and eventually married Ruth, literally redeeming her in the process. The Hebrew word used to describe Boaz was "goel" which means "kinsman-redeemer." It's the same word used to describe Jesus Christ. Gone are the days of famine and heartache for Ruth and Naomi. They know who will take care of them and that Boaz is faithful to do it.

Jesus, the most faithful and worthiest of all men, redeems His people from all their sins, past, present and future. He delivers us from death. But to do this, he has to take us out of our old nature. He removes us from everything we know and transports us to a new place. He takes our hearts of stone and gives us hearts of flesh. He gives new life.

That's a new beginning I hope everyone makes.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

My father is a lifelong White Sox fan. I'm not sure why. He isn't a Southsider, but claims that's always been his team.

All four of his children are Cubs fans.

Blame it on WGN and all those day games. We would come home from school and turn on the game. My oldest sister Lin isn't really a Cubs fan, but she is a fan of Wrigley Field and well remembers the days when you could walk up the day of a game and buy bleacher seats for $4. She is morally opposed to the lights at Wrigley and until today managed to escape their shine (overcast skies brought down her streak). She's in town for awhile and it was her birthday this week so we were really happy when my brother and I were both fortunate enough to score tickets for two consecutive days worth of games.

Yesterday we actually had 12 seats - five in the bleachers that my sister had gotten through a fundraiser and another seven behind home plate where we were on TV for the majority of the game. I have to say, I rather enjoyed those seats. We were blessed with decent weather and the wonderful added bonus of fighter jet flyovers after the National Anthem because of Memorial Day weekend. What a rush! My daughter Caitlin came with for the first time in awhile. She usually has her fix met somewhere around the 4th inning, so I'm proud of her for sticking it out till the 8th - especially because the Cubs put forth zero offense. Unfortunately, we left before the Cubs scored their only two runs in the bottom of the ninth.


My brother had Ryan out in the bleacher seats with a couple of friends so my sister, aunt and cousin's son all got the good seats with Caitlin. It's funny how often those beer guys come by the "money seats" - they were coming in for landings more frequently than the 30 second intervals at O'Hare.

Today Lin went back down with my cousin who wasn't able to make it yesterday and got there early with the hopes of allowing Ryan to watch batting practice. It's the only time you're guaranteed to see the Cubs hit home runs. Not only did she get him down there on time but she sweet talked an Ambassador and got him ON THE FIELD to watch the whole practice! He high-fived Darwin Barney and got a baseball signed by Ryan Dempster.

Peanuts and hot dogs and rooting for the Cubbies is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon on a holiday weekend in Chicago. The ivy and the organ and the old fashioned scoreboard (still updated by hand) are just some of the charms that make Wrigley so special. It's a ballpark haven that somehow makes you feel like you're on top of the world.

Even when your team loses.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sing This With Me

"Sing this with me...this is 40."

So begins the live version of U2's song drawn from the 40th Psalm.

I know, I know...two U2 related posts in a row. Have I learned nothing in the way of obeying the first commandment? Ah, but by God's grace I have. It's been a month since I logged onto U2's website and I'm even contemplating not renewing my fan subscription this year.

This post is not about U2. It's about the 40th Psalm.

I've been reading Wendy Alsup's blog lately - you can check her out at I love her subtitle caption, "This blog is primarily a lecture to myself, but you are welcome to read along and participate." I'm going to steal her line (now that I've given her credit for it) and let you know this post in an exercise in preaching to myself.

"I waited patiently for the Lord"

Sometimes to do something right you have to stop doing everything and wait. The wait can't have too short of a time allotment. To wait patiently you have to be prepared to wait indefinitely. But the important thing to realize is that you're not waiting on something, you're waiting on someone. And not just anyone. You're waiting on the Lord. The Lord of the universe. The Lord over all creation.

Time is in His hands.

That's who you're waiting on. He's never in a rush. He's never late. His timing is always perfect.

"He inclined and heard my cry."

It gets better. This Lord you wait on? He's immediately in tune with you. He hears your cry. He's leaning in so closely to you He can't miss what you're saying. But He knew before you asked anyway. And He knows what you need even if you don't. He's sympathetic to your cry. He's near.

"He lift me up out of the pit...out of the miry clay."

How deep are you stuck? How thick is the muck and mud and mire of your circumstance?

It doesn't matter.

He lifts you up. He plucks you from the dark, dirty, oppressive pit.

"He sets my feet upon a rock and makes my footsteps firm."

He doesn't just pluck you from the pit. You're not left hanging mid-air to wonder what's next. This isn't the kind of rescue that takes you out of the frying pan and places you in the fire. He transports you to solid ground.

A reliable terrain.

He makes your steps so sure you are guaranteed not to slip and fall back into that old pit. He removes the shifting sand from underneath your feet - or perhaps more accurately - He removes you from the shifting sand.

He secures your path.

"Many will see, many will see and fear."

The road is narrow, but many will travel on it. They will behold the unseen Lord in you. As you behold Him, you will reflect Him. You will show something of the invisible God to a tired and weary race. They will fear the One who holds life in His hands.

They will recognize Him for who He is.

They will know what He has done.

Do you know what He has done for you?

"I will sing, sing a new song."

He puts a new song in your heart. He melts the heart of stone and turns it to a heart of flesh. We are jars of clay in the Potter's hands. We will put away childish things. We will be new creations. And we will sing praises to His name. And it won't have seemed so long then that we waited.

A mere breath.

Originally written 7-6-10.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bono Birthday Bash

Today is the 51st Birthday of the frontman for the Irish rock band U2. If you don't know who U2 are, we have obviously never met.

And you live in a cave.

While my obsession has been waning (this has more to do with spiritual maturity than a decreased affection for the man and his music) I still get quite a thrill whenever a U2 song comes on the radio. I can count on one hand the number of U2 songs I would voluntarily turn off.

And it wouldn't take the whole hand.

They are due to come back to Chicago this summer and play a second time at Soldier Field as part of their U2-360 Tour. This is a postponement from last year when Bono had back surgery (it's hard getting old and I imagine harder when you fly all over the world for a living).

I am looking very forward to it.

Those of you who've read the blog long enough know about our adventures after the last U2concert here (let's just leave it at car towing) and how we skipped the second show as a result. My biggest disappointment was finding out they sang "Amazing Grace" live that second night.

My favorite song...sung by my favorite my favorite town...the weekend of my favorite holiday (4th of July). Sigh.

I admire Bono for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is how he inspires so many people to care for the marginalized, or what Jesus refers to as "the least of these."

One such inspiration is the annual fundraiser "Build a Well for Bono's Birthday." I've participated many times over the years.

Q: What do you give the millionaire artist-activist who has everything for his birthday?
A: Clean water to folks in Africa.

I celebrated Bono's birthday by loading one of my favorite live CD's and reliving a previous concert performance.

Bono has performed in Chicago twice on his birthday.

And once on 30th birthday party ever.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Days

It's not a typo. It's not a post on Mother's Day, rather a musing on any given day in which a mother goes about being a mother.

Yesterday I left our house around 8:15 am - a good 75 minutes after Caitlin left it to catch the 6:55 am bus for Jr. High. That's going to be a rude awakening for Maggie and Ryan in the fall. Unlike Caitlin, they are not self-starter material. They don't turn off the alarm by the fourth buzz and they don't leave their beds without considerable coaxing.

I started to make hot lunches then remembered it was a 1/2 day of school. Not that they can't make their own lunches by now, but it's something nice I can do for them when they have to eat at their desks. It feels more like a meal than a snack.

Work has been busy and yesterday was no exception so I was very relieved when my husband decided to work from home (he's been sick for the better part of a week). It's hard to leave work early (or even on time some days) and while they are old enough to fend for themselves for a 1/2 day I feel better when they have some supervision.

Wednesday nights are the youth program at our church so I usually end up driving right back to where I came from a couple of hours later. My husband graciously offered to let me work late and bring the kids there on his own. With gas at $4.50 a gallon and a pile of work on my desk I was more than happy to agree. The first Wednesday of the month is small group time, so our three kids are delivered to three different homes. By 7:05 we had dropped the last one off and after paying a bill at a local store we stopped to grab a bite to eat (I hadn't had dinner yet) and catch a bit of the Bulls playoff game. We talk about our days and I hear how there were some issues with a pick up basketball game in our driveway and having to change to warmer clothes before leaving and am grateful Dad took a turn in my after school world.

(I had to pause for a minute here while Maggie came up to tell me a joke. "Mom, the mom has blonde hair and the dad has black hair - What color is the baby's hair?" Mom answers "No hair." Maggie replies "Did you hear me practicing it?!")

So an hour passes and the food hasn't come - they are packed and they have a new cook but the waitress is so kind and apologetic and bringing free Diet Cokes and chips and salsa - we tell her she is redeeming the whole situation but we're starting to worry we will have to leave to pick up the kids before the food actually arrives.

This is our date night.

We finally get served and pay less than half the bill (God's provision) and manage to round up all the kids. I try to get some more information about the after school antics while I have only one of them in the car and watch the face deflate from pure elation after youth group to feeling scolded all over again and immediately regret bringing it up. I say a silent prayer and somehow manage to say something encouraging before the next one gets into the car and chats away about how miserable she was on the way here and didn't even want to come but then had the best night. We get home around 9:30 pm to four messages on the answering machine three of which want calls back that night.

I realize I never told Dan to make the kids shower that afternoon and none of them have seen soap and water since Monday. Caitlin obediently gets into the shower at 9:40 and Maggie and Ryan set alarms that they will ignore for 7:00 am so they can shower in the morning. Before they head upstairs, Maggie says, "Oh I need to bring salsa in to school tomorrow for Cinco de Mayo." Then Caitlin adds, "Who's going to bring me to school in the morning?" Confused, we inquire why she isn't taking the bus. She says, "Because I'm going to Springfield on the Field Trip and need to be there at 5:45 am."

We exchange the "Did-you-know-about-this" glance, and quickly determine neither one of us had any idea it was this Thursday.

Wonderful husband says he'll drop her off in the morning if I pick her up at night (one year that was 11 pm). I enthusiastically agree.

Caitlin continues, "Oh and I need $20 for lunch and dinner." Dan and I exchange yet another glance knowing full well we have 87 cents in change between the two of us and most of it isn't silver.

Wonderful husband goes to Walmart 15 minutes shy of closing for salsa and $20 cash back.

Dan returns around 10 pm as Caitlin emerges from the shower and announces there's something else she needs from the store now. I dig through purses and linen closets trying hard not to keep the other two awake until I find what she needs.

Around 11:30 I plop into bed. I remind myself to apologize to my mom again for my entire school life, thank God for the day and the kids he has entrusted to me and for a husband who runs errands while sick.

I am exhausted.

And I am so blessed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Better Said by Someone Else

I've noticed over the years that the best writers are those who read a lot and write about what they know.

Sometimes you know things by experience and sometimes you do the research or the kind of investigative journalism that makes you an expert in the process. Either way, the end product is better when what you're commenting on is within your realm of understanding.

So I tend to wince a bit when the average blogger starts posting away when a big news story hits. I'm totally fine with it if they are just stating their opinion or perspective, but more often I find folks stepping into the spin doctor role and telling me how I should feel about it.

Or God feels about it.

There's been a lot of posting about the death of Osama bin Laden. Political affiliations aside, the most disturbing posts have been self-appointed experts claiming to speak on God's behalf. So it was really refreshing when I came across this post
I couldn't have said it better myself.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Songs From the Rain

The post title is actually the name of an album by Hothouse Flowers. They're an Irish band (if you know me at all, you know how I love the Irish bands) that hasn't gotten much play outside of WXRT in the early 90's. I had "Songs From the Rain" on a cassette tape which is long worn out from frequent play. There's a brilliant track called "Thing of Beauty" on it that always elevates my soul when I hear it, but the rest of the album is kind of melancholy and just the sort of background music you could imagine playing on a dreary, rainy day like today.

Days when it's easy to let the weather overcome you with it's wide gray showers.

It's been raining so long here we've passed mood-altering and headed straight for pity party. Everything I heard today made me more emotional. And I heard a lot of stuff that would tug at heart strings on a bright sunny day.

I spoke with a friend who has a child battling addiction. And another who is facing divorce. And still another who just learned the cancer she beat four years ago is back. All while the rain beat the rooftop and the windows offered little light.

I kept hearing this song in my head called Emotional Time. The lyrics are actually pretty encouraging but the melody is like the rain.

As I was contemplating my friends' stories I found myself running the gamut of emotions -gratitude that I'm not facing such difficult circumstances - compassion for my friends who were - hope that our God is good - frustration that I didn't offer more comfort - grief over their grief.

Galatians 6:2 tells us to carry each other's burdens. A few verses later it says not to become weary in doing good because at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don't give up. I believe that's true.

I was in tears before my work day even started. We had a staff meeting and one of the pastors was recapping our Easter weekend activities and spun off into a little exhortation of the Gospel as he's prone to do. The words that hit me most were when he said "uncreated God condescended to sinful man." The God of the universe who has always been there - no one created Him - stooped down to rescue me when I was still His enemy. And there was nothing I had to offer Him in return. So I was emotional even before all the stories began.

I know God is good. I know the world defines "good" differently than God does. And I know His definition serves me better. I know all this. I can even communicate all this to my friends who are suffering far worse trials than a prolonged rain and heightened sensitivity level.

But it didn't change my mood.

One of my favorite children's books is Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day. It follows a child through a particularly frustrating day in which he hopes to escape the tyranny by moving to Australia. It ends with him telling his mother it has been a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day." To which his mother replies, "Some days are like that. Even in Australia."

Monday, April 18, 2011

April Showers Bring....Snow?

I don't know why we are still surprised in Chicago when we wake up one April morning to see snow outside.

Even if it is halfway through the month.

Even if it was 83 degrees last Sunday.

We washed the car out front in the driveway.

The kids wore their bathing suits.

An hour north of us (by my brother's house) they got three inches. It was less than an inch by us, but still enough to make puddles in every parking lot when it melted.

Which it did, thank God.

We thought since Easter was so late this year, we might actually get the chance to wear those sleeveless dresses that look so much like Spring. And we may still be able to do that.

Underneath our parkas.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


I was listening to a radio program today on WMBI around lunchtime. I was driving back from a meeting at our church's Barrington Campus and caught a snippet of Nancy Leigh DeMoss' "Midday Connection" program. She was talking about the thief on the cross next to Jesus. The bible doesn't say much about him or his life prior to that point in time. We know he was a criminal and that unlike Christ, he had been guilty of the charges against him. We know his punishment was deserved. So he's not exactly the poster boy for entry into heaven. And yet, that's exactly what was promised to him.

Nancy asked the audience if they had ever wondered if their entry into heaven was contingent upon what they had done - how they had lived their lives (I'm paraphrasing, you understand) and then she made a very helpful statement. She said the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn't salvation based on what you have done, but believing and receiving what He has done for you.

As a kid I was taught that being a good Christian was all about following rules and keeping God happy. Or rather, not making Him angry. Trouble was you never knew how good was good enough (there's a book by that title by the way and I highly recommend it -it's by Andy Stanley).

Isn't it just like God to have the first saint joining Jesus in Paradise be a rebellious, convicted, castaway thief?

In what were literally the final hours of his life, the thief understood that his punishment was deserved, that God was to be feared and that he could ask Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. And Jesus' astonishing response? "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:39-43.

Third Day has a song called "Thief" that puts a melody to this event and takes some poetic license in painting a fuller picture of what the thief was thinking as he and Jesus both hung on crosses on that hill. It has brought me to tears on more than one occasion.

And it has reminded me, like Nancy Leigh DeMoss did earlier today, that my salvation is secured not by any works I have ever done, am doing or will do, but solely on the work my Savior has done for me.


I am a thief, I am a murderer
Walking up this lonely hill
What have I done? I don't remember
No one knows just how I feel
and I know that my time is coming soon.
It's been so long. Oh, such a long time
Since I've lived with peace and rest
Now I am here, my destination
guess things work for the best
and I know that my time is coming soon
Who is this man? This man beside me

They call the King of the Jews
They don't believe that He's the Messiah
But, somehow I know it's true.
And they laugh at Him in mockery,
and beat Him till he bleeds
They nail Him to the rugged cross,
and raise Him, they raise Him up next to me
My time has come, I'm slowly fading
I deserve what I receive

Jesus when You are in Your kingdom
Could You please remember me
and He looks at me still holding on
the tears fall from His eyes
He says I tell the truth
Today, you will live with Me in paradise
and I know that my time is coming soon
and I know paradise is coming soon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lions and Lambs

You know the old adage about March? "In like a lion, out like a lamb"? I didn't understand that phrase for the longest time.

Probably because I live in Chicago.

March rarely leaves like a lamb.

In fact, most memories I have of the season preceding Easter is catalogs and flyers selling sleeveless dresses for little girls and shorts sets for little boys and me wondering who is going to see those cute little outfits under their parkas?

I can count the number of warm Easters we've had on one hand. And I'm middle aged.

And it's not just the temperature that lacks all things mild at the end of March. The weather is generally pretty volatile with late night thunderstorms and bone chilling mornings. This year was no different.

The lion still roars at the end of March.

On Friday the DVD for the third "Chronicles of Narnia" movie (based on C.S. Lewis' books) comes out, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I can't wait to see it. We missed it in the movie theatres because it was only released in 3D which means tickets were $10 a piece and I couldn't justify spending $50 to take my three kids to see it with one bucket of popcorn and a shared pop.

I love the Aslan character and how He is a metaphor for Christ in so many ways. When he roars the power is palpable. The books and the movie often describe Aslan as being good, but not tame.

That sounds like Christ.

And then there are the lambs popping up everywhere. In the store fronts and the newspaper ads, on the children's books at the library and scattered about the church signs in people's yards...everywhere you look there are soft, wooly lambs. To some people they're just a sign of spring. A reminder to stop by Fannie Mae and get going on your Easter baskets. To me they are so much more. They are a symbol of another attribute of my Savior.

In Old Testament times there were a lot of sacrifices made to God. Many of them were lambs. They were used as offerings to atone for sin. In Exodus, Chapter 12 you can read about the first Passover. It was a lamb's blood that was spread over the doorpost of those who followed the Lord's command so that their firstborn's lives were spared. The lambs used were to be without blemish. The lionlike God was coming with judgement and a sacrifice needed to be made.

I find that one of the most fascinating things about God. He always provides the very sacrifice He requires.

Even more fascinating is when He becomes the sacrifice.

One lamb slain for all.

There's a great song we sing at church especially during lent. It's by a well known worship leader, Chris Tomlin. It's one of the few songs that captures the uniqueness of God's character. And how He simultaneously embodies what seem to be contrasting qualities.

There is only one who is both lion and lamb.

"How Great Is Our God"

The splendor of a King, clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps himself in Light, and darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father Spirit Son
The Lion and the Lamb
The Lion and the Lamb

Name above all names
Worthy of our praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God, sing with me
How great is our God, and all will see
How great, how great is our God

Friday, March 25, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

Tonight is the last night of our Spring Break vacation in Colorado. I didn't realize it had been four years since we had last come out to visit my sister and see the mountains. It doesn't take long for everything to feel familiar to me, but I forget my family hasn't been here as often as I have. The kids were much younger the last time we were here and didn't share many of my memories.

So we made some new ones.

While the weather has been volatile, it still beats Chicago hands down where our home town has suffered an average of 32 degrees this week. The sun shines bright and often in Colorado and it has been a welcome relief on the colder days (40's) and downright balmy on the warmer ones (60's). Until this week, we hadn't worn shorts since last September and we have the pasty legs to prove it.

If you've never been to Colorado I highly recommend you visit. You begin to realize the semantics of words like "majestic" when you see the mountain terrain. And for those with faith, you see God revealed in His creation in ways you may never have known before.

We started the week out with a trip to Colorado Springs - hit the Air Force Academy for the first time in over 15 years and returned to the Garden of the Gods (although my kids call it the Garden of the One True God). My sister generously took the kids for several days and booked a cabin in Estes Park for Dan and I as a belated 20th anniversary present.

It was glorious.

We spent our first night having a quick meal at a Mexican restaurant on an open rooftop. We walked around the charming little town with all it's shops and had dinner in the famous Stanley Hotel our second night. On the third day my sister brought the kids up and we knocked around town some more and played games by the fire. Our final day there we drove around Rocky Mountain National Park and stopped to hike a bit at Sprague Lake and Bear Lake.

I had forgotten the last time we were here it was summer.

There was a LOT of snow in the mountains. Bear Lake was completely frozen. Soooo...we sort of let Ryan walk across the whole thing. I should have disclosed first that it was after we watched several adults do it and many people were right next to him the whole time. The girls made it quite a ways as well. That's one of those stories you tell the grandparents well after everyone is safely back on firm ground.

Our last day we hung out at the Denver Zoo and it was a perfect day - almost 60 degrees with all the animals out and a lot less walking than Brookfield.

Tomorrow we start the long road trip back. My prayer is that when we get back home we can maintain some of the slower pace, outdoor fun, and appreciation for God's creative power.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sweetheart Dance

Saturday night my husband took a young lady out for dinner and dancing. The young lady was my 11 year old daughter and the dance was the annual Girl Scouts Sweetheart Dance. We use to call it the Daddy-Daughter dance, but we've realized over the years that not every girl is fortunate enough to attend with her dad. This is their 5th consecutive year going.

It's also their last.

Maggie leaves the grade school that hosts the dance at the end of this school year. The last dance of the night was only for 6th grade girls and their dads - it was set to U2's "The Sweetest Thing." It's a good thing I wasn't there or I'd have been bawling my eyes out.

I've heard people tell me my whole life - you blink and it's over - they grow up so quick - don't miss these moments, etc. And now I'm the one telling the new moms the same things.

Ryan always adds a little levity to the situation though. When he asked where they were going for dinner, Maggie told him Olive Garden. And Ryan said, "Olive Garden?! I LOVE that place! No matter what you order they ask you if you want cheese on it!!"

Thursday, March 3, 2011


We went to our second wake in as many weeks tonight. A neighbors father passed away after a quick battle with a rare disease. Her kids are about the same ages as ours and we've lived two doors away for over a decade now. Her father would often come over with his big black pick-up truck and all the neighborhood kids would climb in the back and hide under moving blanks to jump out and surprise him. He always played along.

After watching some of their cousins say "good-bye" to their grandmother when my sister--in-law's mom passed a couple of weeks ago and now their school friends do the same with their grandpa my kids are beginning to realize the same thing may happen to them sooner rather than later.

We've been so blessed to have both sets of grandparents still living, each within ten minutes of our house and active in our kids lives. But it's dawning on all of us now we won't have them here forever.

Each time we hear about someone dying Maggie seems to re-mourn the loved ones who passed during her lifetime. Mostly Great Aunts and Uncles. Of course my knee-jerk reaction is to make her feel better about it but I'm beginning to realize there's value in letting her grieve for those we miss.

I'm increasingly aware of these opportunities to preach the Gospel to her and to myself.

This life is so short. The older I get the faster it goes.

What an equally sobering and comforting thought it is to know this life does not begin to compare with what our heavenly Father has in store for those who love Him.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Shortest, Longest Month

I've finally figured out why February only has 28 days (or the occasional 29) one would survive north of I-80 if there wasn't the promise of Spring when we flip the calendar to March.

Although "spring" in March is kind of an oxymoron. In Chicago, it's usually "in like a lion, out like a lion." When Easter is early, which it usually is, we all gaze at sleeveless dresses and short sleeve dress shirts in the Sunday ads and then wear our parkas to church on Sunday. I remember a couple of years ago we had a snow storm on Good Friday and we built a huge snow bunny in the front yard.

I know February is going to drag on every year - I've lived here my whole life. I know it's going to feel like two or three months in one and so I shouldn't be surprised. But this year it seemed longer than others. I guess no matter how much you know what's coming you're still hoping for that reprieve. The calls come early and often from my sister in Denver to report temperatures in the 50's and 60's with a bright sun in a cloudless sky. You remember that movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray? It's starting to feel like that. We actually broke the record in Chicago for the most snowfall in February...ever. Seriously. The old record was from the late 1800's.

I don't know how many times the sun was shining this month but it feels like I can count them while making the peace sign. Every color is white or gray or dull brown.

Last night there was a thundersnow shower. No, I'm not making it up. It's the second time this winter. This morning everything on our property; grass, driveway, sidewalk, stoop, was one giant sheet of ice. We didn't so much walk to the bus stop as glide there.

My husband is in Florida. It's 75 degrees. He had dinner on the waterfront outside. I'm happy for him. I really am. I'm thrilled he's getting a little break after driving his parents down there (which took three days) and visiting with his brother. And I totally get why his parents were chomping at the bit to go as well as why his brother moved there over twenty years ago.

Fortunately the sermon series at church this month has been "Staying the Course When You're Tired of the Battle" and it's all about perseverance. That's God's grace in action - providing a little warmth in the long, short month.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Yesterday was a day of good-byes. Both seemed too soon and both were bittersweet.

One was at a funeral for my sister-in-law's mom. We sat through the service and listened to the wonderful eulogy that captured the spirit of Mary with laughter and tears. Watching her family band around each other with love and support gave comfort even as it testified to the kind of woman she was. My heart hurts for her children and grandchildren who weren't ready to say good-bye. Life goes by so quickly.

The other farewell was for a beloved co-worker who is retiring and headed south to be near her daughter and grandaughters. She and her husband have made such an impact on so many lives at our church and they've done it all quietly, behind the scenes and with no wish but to see the Lord glorified through their efforts. I can't possibly bemoan their leaving knowing what a blessing they will be to their own family now.

At each event we celebrated the time we had together and at each event we mourned the time we'll have apart.

Days like that remind me how temporary this all is and how, for those who believe, an eternity together in the presence of the Lord is cause for rejoicing every day.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day

In the last 24 hours 22" of snow fell outside ranking as the third worst snowstorm in Chicago's history. I remember the 2nd worst - it was 1979. I was 12 years old and the snow drifts on either side of our driveway seemed like mountains at the time. I don't think we even had a sled, but it was the time of bell bottom jeans and we coaxed the neighbor's huge German Shepherd into biting our jean bottoms and then got him to pull us along the snow. It was...awesome.

Apparently this one surpassed the storm of 1999 which I don't have any recollection of whatsoever. I may have blocked it out entirely. Caitlin would have just turned two, I was working full-time and I was four or five months pregnant with the twins.

The all time winner is still 1967 - the year of my birth, so that one isn't even a blip in the memory banks.

I'm confident we'll all remember this one.

It started somewhere between 2:00 and 2:30 pm yesterday and didn't stop until 9:00 am this morning. It came on fast, with almost whiteout conditions and did not let up all night. To make it even more memorable we got some thundersnow. Literally lightening and thunder in the midst of the snow. I've never seen anything like it in my life. O'Hare got over 20" and canceled hundreds of flights - no planes in the air last night at all. That hadn't happened since 9/11.

It's the first time the schools have been closed in 12 years. So we all slept in, had pancakes for breakfast and then bundled up to dig out. The neighbor kids were ringing the doorbell at 9:30 am ready to play. Ryan lasted outside for nearly two hours straight. Maggie quickly went inside for hot chocolate and a movie with some of the girls. Cait never made it past the garage door.

Because we had some advance notice I made the bold decision to finally break down and buy a snowblower. I figured I could spend the money on that or pay for our doctor's bills when both our backs go out and we collapse from the strain! Best investment we've made in quite some time. I got the last of it's kind (Toro Power Clear 180 - I highly recommend it) at Ace Hardware on Monday afternoon. I called Dan for permission first. I had wanted to surprise him but when I'm well into 3 digits on an expense it's always good to get agreement beforehand.

The snow plows didn't make it down our street until 11 am. One foolish neighbor made a sad attempt to get out onto the main road before then. His car is still stuck on the side of the road.

One of the photos above is of our neighbors house (ours is the split level in the background) because, honestly, it's more impressive footage of the damage. The other photo is one I've titled "The Hero Brigade" - it's Dan and two of our neighbors who, after clearing out their own driveways went on to an older couples' next door and then ended on the driveway of a widowed woman across the street.

A wonderful response to James 1:27.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Awards Season

It's the end of January and we are midway through Awards Season for all things entertainment. Last week we watched the Golden Globes on TV and tonight they televised the SAG awards. In about four weeks it will be the Oscars.

I'm not sure why this is still appealing in any way since I haven't seen 90% of the TV shows or movies nominated, and many of the acceptance speeches lack anything that expresses true gratitude. The whole premise is so out of control. There are hours of coverage before the cermonies to see what people are wearing and it's always a little sickening when they feature some actress' earrings that would pay off my mortgage and then some.

So it was a wonderful reality check when my daughter Caitlin came home yesterday from her first competition for Science Olympiad this year. She's been practicing after school twice a week for months getting ready for the invitational in Lisle this past Saturday. She woke up at 5:30 am (did I mention this was a Saturday?)because she had to be at school at 6:30 am so all the car poolers would arrive in time for the 7:30 am start. The dress for the day consisted of $10 team T-Shirts with science related slogans.

Caitlin competed in four events, including ornithology (study of birds in case you were wondering) for which she was most pumped, even asking for Peterson's Guide to Birds of North America for Christmas. Yeah...that would be in the non-fiction genre case. The competition consists of testing in each event and usually lasts all day.

I said this was a Saturday, right?

The awards ceremony began just shy of 5 pm and lasted less than an hour to honor dozens of kids.

Caitlin, who was not sure if she would even be able to compete because she was sick last week for the third time in two months, took first place in three of her four events.

To celebrate Dan took her out Lou Malnati's, because in Caitlin's mind that's better than any Hollywood soire with Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen. She returned home beaming and clanking (all those medals were crashing against each other as she walked) as she strolled across our less than red carpet and after ten minutes of recap for her brother, sister and myself, set herself down in the dining room and began working on her homework for Monday.

That was more inspiring than any acceptance speech from any seven-figure entertainer.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Lately I've been grabbing some old CD's and keeping them in the car to listen to when there isn't anything good on the radio. You know how all the stations you like seem to have commercials going at the same time?

I know I could use my ipod, but I still feel like something so small that carries over 1200 of my best loved songs on it shouldn't leave the house unless I know it's going to be on my person the entire time. Anyway, I realized I miss listening to an entire CD, 12 tracks in a row, compiled by one artist with an actual theme in mind.

Don't get me wrong, I love being able to download one song I like without having to buy 10 other songs I don't like that happen to be on the same album. But when you take only one piece of a greater whole you miss out on some stuff.

This month I've listened several times to U2's first album Boy. It was a great debut released in 1980 and it captured all the promise of this young band out of Ireland. Some of the songs on that album are still among their most popular, including the first track "I Will Follow." There was a coming of age theme on the album that is lost on anyone who grabs a single track, throws it on a playlist of various other songs and moves on to the next selection in the itunes store.

I love that some of the songs are richer for having followed or preceded another song that touches me and how hearing them all in sequential order brings back memories from when I first listened to the album. When I hear one of those songs randomly, it's still a great song and it might even play really well on it's own. But there's a context in which the song lives and from that place it truly sings.

I was thinking about all this during my devotional time the other day. It's good to grab a single verse out of the Bible sometimes and focus on just that verse. It's good to read one verse mixed in with other verses on the same topic from time to time too. But there's something special about reading the verse in context of the whole chapter and even the whole book. It's more meaningful knowing the verses it precedes and follows.

I discovered that while there's nothing necessarily wrong with approaching the Bible like the itunes store, randomly looking for 30 second snippets of things I'd like to hear at the moment, that I often find it more beneficial to get the whole message.

Because then it truly sings.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I am always amazed how quickly six to eight hours can pass when they are the only hours I have off a week while my kids are in school and my husband is working.

Today they passed in the proverbial blink of an eye. But, I did manage to; exercise, spend time in God's Word, pray, cook and eat breakfast, buy a gift for a friend's new baby, visit the new mother and gorgeous infant son, have lunch with a dear friend, stop by the resale shop and pick up a few items, grocery shop, wash dishes and do two loads of laundry between 8:30 and 4:00.

I also checked email for 30 minutes in there somewhere and talked to my sister in Colorado while on the road (mostly in parking lots as I try never to drive while on my cell phone).

I used to work at the store where I bought the baby gift and a woman I used to work with rang me up at the register. We talked a bit about how our kids were and both of us marveled at how old they had become.. Evidently we forgot when we age five or six years, so do they. Talk of homecoming dances and college. I'm sooooo not ready.

A couple of days ago, this was the conversation I overheard between my twins Maggie and Ryan:

Maggie: "Ry, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
Ry: "A football player."
Maggie: "Really?" Pause. "Because I think you'd make a really good clown."

Maybe they aren't ready either.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tree of Life

Well another Christmas break has come and gone and tomorrow the kids return to school after two weeks off. Dan and I both have one more day off of work and we might sneak in a breakfast or lunch date before taking down all the decorations we didn't manage to put away over the weekend. Including the Christmas tree.

Our pastor used a great analogy in church this morning about getting rid of the real tree. Dan and I have always had a real tree for Christmas. I've always enjoyed picking it out, first just the two of us and then as a family with the kids. Though some years it was done hastily in frigid temperatures (spy first tree in line - YES -THAT ONE! Can we GO now?) We've never had a tree I didn't think was "perfect" when we put it in the stand and decorated it at home. I love the smell of pine in the house. I even love the smell in the vacuum cleaner in mid February.

Our pastor was talking about the limited life span of the tree once it's been cut down. How when it's in a stand in your home in January it's anything but "Evergreen." Pine needles fall by the dozens with a mere brush near the outer branches and many ornaments dangle far lower to the ground than where they were first hung.

All because the roots are gone.

Once the roots are cut off the tree stops drawing life from its source and begins to die. Its the same way with the Christian. If our roots are not firmly planted in the Word of God we stop drawing life from our source. We stop growing.

It was a short but meaningful point. In fact, I'm making it my new year's resolution. To be firmly planted with deep roots in God's Word.

And I hope to produce an aroma pleasing to the Lord. 2 Cor. 2:15.