Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hottest. Birthday. Ever.

So my oldest siblings kindly called me today to remind me I am now closer to 50 than 40. Charming.

It topped out over triple digits in Chicago today. The heat index was 105 when I left work. You know the kind of heat, where you step out of the air conditioning and abruptly gasp as the humidity steals your breath away.

But it was still a very good day. I was off to an early start with a rare Caribou coffee treat on the way into work. It was a relatively calm day allowing me a chance to begin to catch up on two weeks worth of unexecuted action points. My lovely mother took me out for lunch at Corner Bakery where I ate an entire chopped salad and sampled the lemonade, strawberry banana smoothie, chocolate brownie and cinnammon cream cake.

And they didn't even know it was my birthday.

I was equally spoiled for dinner at Lou Malnati's. A family favorite and a key reason why I have a family, as it's where I met Dan. Later, at home, my adorable family sang Happy Birthday to me while I blew out a single candle in the midst of five peanut butter cookies. Dan also brought me a shake from Steak-n-Shake. Miraculously it didn't melt on the way home.

I received a multitude of cards, texts, and phone messages from those I love dearly and felt very blessed. There was also a wonderful present waiting from containing the member's only release of a new double CD set of 22 live tracks from their most recent tour. Fifteen years ago today they were singing "Happy Birthday" to me at Soldier Field on my 30th. Okay, so the birthday song was just in my head, but "All I Want is You" was pretty amazing.

But the best present today was the ladderlike welcome I got from my three teenage children when I arrived home from work and they ran to hug me while staggered on the stairs, leaning forward one at a time to embrace me (and consequently whoever was between them and me), eventually forming one side (and the filling) of a double-stuffed oreo with me on the other end.

God is good and continually increases my joy.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Feast and Famine

My husband and I are fortunate that a good chunk of both our immediate families live within a ten minute drive of our home. By the way, if you're not from Chicago, you should know we measure everything in terms of time, not distance. Because the 30 miles to downtown Chicago can take anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on a lot of things, not the least of which is whether or not they've closed the Kennedy for the President's motorcade on his third visit in as many weeks. Yeesh.

But I digress.

When we were first looking at houses in Elk Grove, I thought this was a bad thing, being so close to 80% of Dan's family - his parents and one brother were in Elk Grove, another brother just over the border in Schaumburg. The first time I went to pick up a prescription at Osco they tried to give me various remedies meant for other family members. Walmart's photo shop was always giving me my sister-in-law's pictures. I quickly learned to screen before paying. My complaining stopped when I realized two weeks after we moved in that I was pregnant with twins and had extremely accessible back-up in the wings.

My parents are a quick jaunt down the expressway, halfway between our house and where I work. My brother is less than an hour away. So we all get to see each other a decent amount. The other members of the family are much farther away.

Dan has a brother in Florida and I have one sister in Colorado and another in Sydney, Australia. Literally the other side of the world. So we don't see much of them. But when they come, it's non-stop.

Non. Stop.

Last week was one of those visits. Ironically, both Dan's Florida brother and my Colorado sister came the same week to visit. It ended up working out very well in that we got to spend a lot of time with both of them. They each had lots of other people to visit and often did that when we were spending time with the other one. We were grateful for that. The hard part was the week also included two baseball playoff games for Dan and Ryan (not to mention All Star weekend), our participation in a neighborhood garage sale, the launch of a summer Bible study at church where I lead a group, and a very busy work week with no vacation time.

Except for the day I hosted a dinner for 16 and the garage sale day, I was leaving the house by 7:30am and not returning until between 9:30-11pm. We packed a lot in. We feasted on both food and company and enjoyed the time, the conversation and yes...all the stuff we ate!

In the past a week like this would have sent me right over the edge, stressing me out and keeping me so busy preparing for the mini celebrations that I wouldn't have stopped to enjoy them much. Last week, that wasn't the case. It's true I was completely exhausted at the end of each day but that just made the pillow all the sweeter.

The experience reminded me a little of Joseph (for the non-Bible readers think Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). Joseph suffered a great deal, but God had a profound purpose for him. After faithful service, wrongful accusations, a prison term, several dream interpretations and the gained trust of Pharaoh, God used Joseph to save up seven years worth of plenty to sustain the people during the seven years of famine that followed. Joseph, full of wisdom and discernment, sought God out, listened to His voice and gave credit to God alone for the favor shown. (Genesis 41:16, 39)

I guess the principle is kind of the same. To store up all the time we can with our loved ones while they are here to carry us through the drought when we lack their company. Last week was a feast.

I'm still pretty full.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Our Father

Here in the final minutes of Father's Day I find myself reflecting on all the things it has meant to me this year.

When I woke up early today before anyone else began to stir, it was a quiet time to collect my thoughts and write in the card I'd bought for my husband. This being his 15th Father's Day I was wondering how much I've repeated myself over the years with words of appreciation and affection for the Dad he has been. This year was no different, except that time deepens the memories that come to mind of board games played in the middle of the living room floor, baseball games coached to both victory and defeat, and pool babies hanging on his shoulders.

I am increasingly grateful with each new phase for the husband and father he has been.

At church I sat next to my dad and laid my hand on his shoulder while we prayed for all the men carrying the privelege and burden of fatherhood. I knew how fortunate I was in that moment to be sitting with him, in church, worshipping our heavenly Father.

Later in the day we visited Dan's dad in the hospital. He's been in some medical facility or another for eight months now and still has the courtesy, patience and kindness to thank every person who walks into his room for whatever little favor they may have done. That includes taking his blood pressure, suctioning his treach or making funny faces at him while wishing him a "happy" Father's Day.

I thought today of friends who are celebrating their first Father's Day without their Dad, including three brothers aged 12-16, two of whom have been on Ryan's baseball team for three years running. That's too young to stop having a father around.

I thought of a young couple at church who recently suffered a miscarriage and how that young man's longing must have been heightened while so many other men were wished a good Father's Day.

More pondering brought to mind others in my life who have shared stories of dads who abused or abandoned and find little reason to celebrate them on this "Hallmark" holiday.

I am painfully aware of how quickly time passes and that there is no guarantee both our fathers will still be with us this time next year. For that reason I celebrate them all the more today.

But tonight, I'm most thankful for our heavenly Father. The Father who fearfully and wonderfully knit all those other father's together in their mother's womb's and then created their children to make them fathers. I'm so grateful for those precious lives, but I'm so much more grateful for the life He's given beyond that first birth. The eternal life promised through faith in His Son and His work on the cross. That is what reconciles us to Him so that we may be adopted into His family as sons and daughters of God.

Our Father is in heaven, but He's also with us who believe in Him.
His name is greatly to be praised.
His kingdom will come and His will certainly done. I invite them to come quickly.
I trust Him to give me everything I need, including my deepest need for forgiveness.
I must forgive those who've offended me before asking God to forgive my offenses.
I know when I follow Him, He is faithful to lead me beside still waters, away from all temptation and evil.
He reigns with all power - and is due all glory - forever.

Monday, June 11, 2012

School's Out

It's officially the first full week of summer vacation for my kids (though poor Caitlin starts summer school on Wednesday).


I let them sleep in today (some later than others) after a long weekend of activities including a final regular season baseball game, the family birthday party for the twins and a gathering of our small group from church at our house. I think I've cleaned my kitchen eight times in the past three days.

It was hot and humid today and perfect weather to use the new pool, which they happily did. The upside of the muggy weather is that the pool temperature went up at least ten degrees in the past couple of days. I was so glad to have it for the party. We ended up with almost 40 people here. It was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun. There were many times I found myself consciously struggling between the Mary & Martha tendencies. I'm referring to the passage in Luke when Martha is distracted with much serving and none too happy with her sister Mary, who was parked at the Lord's feet captivated by his teaching.

I don't know why it's still such a temptation to spend more time and energy preparing and serving people than sitting down and fellowshipping with them - enjoying the conversation - engaged in the celebration. I actually struggle with the serving part less than a lot of women I know, but there is always this hostess pressure lurking about.

I did manage to spend a decent amount of time sitting among the "guests." I use the term loosely because on Saturday it was all family. It's not lost on me how blessed we are to have such wonderful family and friends who could seriously care less what my house looks like or how clean it is (aside from a clean toilet or two).

God provided in so many ways throughout the weekend. On Sunday I was reminded of how Jesus miraculously fed thousands by multiplying a couple of fish and loaves of bread as one of the couples in our LIFE Group brought over the leftovers from their Saturday party and supplied enough food to feed more than a dozen of us! Which was a good thing because we were short on leftovers ourselves and I was awfully close to calling Jimmy Johns for that freaky fast delivery.

The celebrations were great and after today we are fully recovered. But I'm also ruminating a bit and wondering how I can move further from the anxiety and trouble of the Martha approach and closer to the good portion that Mary pursued this summer.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10: 38-42

Monday, June 4, 2012

teen·ag·er (tnjr) n.

"A person between the ages of 13 and 19; an adolescent." That's the definition of teenager on

There are now three of them in my house.

Thirteen years ago today God brought two new lives into my world. One of them was pink and small with a perfectly shaped little head. The other was purple and large and made quite a few grunting noises.

Little has changed.

But then again, so much has changed. The 2 & 1/2 year old big sister is now 15 & 1/2 and finishing her freshman year of high school. The girl twin - who arrived first and never lets her brother forget it - is now two inches taller than him and thrilled she is just hours away from summer break. The boy twin has not yet outgrown action figures or superhereos (can you blame him with The Avengers movie?) and would live outside if possible. The mom and dad are a little grayer, a little heavier and a lot wiser.

We think.

We are beyond the days when we choose their friends, their clothes or even their activities. And yet these two kids are in no hurry to be counted as independent, young adults. It seems the time is going by a little too fast even for them and they wouldn't mind a few more years of what is often referred to as "innocence."

They are by far the most counter-cultural kids in our neighborhood and quite possibly their school. All three teenagers share one cell phone with limited texting. They don't go to dances, they've never driven a vehicle (not even for a couple of blocks in Arcadia) and they don't date. They have never, not once, said they hate me, that I'm stupid or they wished they lived somewhere else. At least not to my face.

So they are already much better teenagers than I was.

I know the reason they are so amazing has very little to do with me and very much to do with the abundant grace of God. I am so ridiculously grateful for the genuine faith they have and the fruit of the Spirit I see in their lives. And I know there is so much more to come. I do sometimes wonder who they will become as adults. What will they do for professions? Pet shop owner and professional ball player are still at the top of their lists. Who will they marry? I can hear, the "Ewww, gross, Mom." Ryan, typical Eder, can't be bothered with girls at this young age and Maggie only smiles when certain celebrity heartthrobs are mentioned. Caitlin prefers not to discuss it at all.

There are many decisions in front of these children and my hope and prayer is they will make those decisions with humility and complete trust in the Lord. Come to think of it, that's my hope and prayer for Dan and me too. O Lord, equip us to equip them!

Tonight we will celebrate all three of our teenagers, though we'll put more emphasis on the newest arrivals to the teen years. I would not exchange a moment spent with any one of them for anything. I know there are many more challenges to come, but I wouldn't trade those experiences either. I do not wish to ever get a little time off from being their mom. I cannot imagine my life without the wonderful blessings that are Caitlin, Maggie and Ryan.