Friday, March 30, 2012


Three stories, three strangers...the memory of my encounters today will forever change the way I see a stranger.

Story #1:

I kicked back in the elevator to enjoy a rare, peaceful moment once the “Elevator-Button-War” ended as my children and I rode down after an appointment.  That peaceful moment was really more like a nano-second because as soon as the doors opened, all hell broke loose.

My pokey four-year-old was the last to exit the elevator doors.  He was holding a beloved sticker he had just received (for "good behavior") when the slight breeze from the doors closing snatched the sticker from his hands.  We all watched helplessly as the doors shut and sealed us from Judah’s little “precious”.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth ensued.

I frantically pressed the button but the elevator was already ascending to new heights while my little boy was descending to a pile of tears.  I instructed my other children to remain in stand-by-emergancy mode while I knelt by Judah and tried to negotiate with a grief-stricken boy.  

The elevator doors reopened to reveal...nothing.  The sticker was M.I.A.  While I was racking my brain to come up with something that would be as incredible as a fire-breathing dragon sticker so that Judah would be distracted long enough to get him to our car without causing even MORE of a scene, an angel appeared.  

Enter into the scene Stranger #1:  He was a tall man wearing a baseball cap and a hooded sweatshirt with lots of wrinkles around the corner of his eyes when he smiled .  

“Are you looking for a little sticker?”  He asked me and when I nodded, he grinned, “I saw it up on the fifth floor, I’ll go get it!”  Before I could stop him (because I’m sure he had NOTHING better to do during a work-day than ride elevators to rescue little stickers!), the doors closed and he was gone.  He reappeared, his halo shining brightly, holding that blasted, I mean, blessed sticker.  Judah promptly grabbed the sticker and mumbled a "thank-you" while I resisted hugging him as he waved off the noble gesture then disappeared.

Story #2:

Our next stop that day was to pick up some photographs that we had taken of the children.  I had browsed through the extra photos they offered and although I loved them, I knew it would be more than we could afford so purchased only the original package.  After I left and took out the photos, I noticed all the pictures were in my bag.  I was shocked.  We hadn’t paid for the extra pictures; how did they get into our bag?  I hurried back to the shop to return the other photos certain that there had been a mistake when Stranger #2 appeared.

“There is no mistake,” The lady with bright, blue eyes said with a smile, “I am giving all those pictures to you.”  I tried to refuse but she waved off the gesture and crossed her arms, adamant about me keeping all the photographs.  I thanked her for the gift, watching her return to the photo studio with a flash of her angel-wings.

Story #3:

My last errand was to a department store to “quickly” grab a few items we couldn't make it to the end of the day without them.  Of course, by the time we were exiting the store, “quick” was a distant memory and my five-year-old was pushing the extra cart (nevermind that he couldn’t actually SEE over it!) with our “few items”.  Just as I was attempting to help Gideon steer (after sending yet another person to the hospital with “cart-crash-injuries”) while steering my own cart towards the parking-lot, Stranger #3 suddenly showed up.

“Here, let me take this cart and help you!”  She had an easy laugh that filled my frazzled heart with joy as she boldly stepped in to help us out.  She smoothed a wrinkled sweater as she looked us over and commented with a knowing smile, “You must be a Christian.”  

I wasn’t exactly sure why she thought that but figured it was either because I hadn’t yet (yet is the key word here, ha!) used any expletives in our given situation or because it was apparent my hubby and I were breeding like bunnies.  Either way, it was true, so I nodded and smiled back.  

She was practically glowing while she chatted my ear off on the way out to our vehicle.  Once there, she insisted upon loading all the bags into the back while I loaded up the kids and I reluctantly gave in (accepting help is not my strong suit!).  While I was strapping in my little girl and before I could even get her name or express my undying gratitude, I heard her call out “good-bye” as she too, with a pinch of angel dust, disappeared.

Another stranger.

Another angel.

I reflected on our busy, ordinary day that, because of encountering three angelic-strangers, had become rather extraordinary.  You never know who has a halo hidden under a baseball-cap or a pair of glowing wings concealed beneath a wrinkled sweater.

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.   Hebrews 13:1-3

Friday, March 23, 2012

My Disease with NO Human Cure

Don’t you love those “cold sweat” moments?  I’m not even sure what that means (isn’t sweat, by its very nature, HOT?!) but I have definitely experienced fact, I just had such a moment the other night...

The scene was our hometown grocery story and the setting started oh-so-serene: I was lazily strolling through the aisle, shopping at my leisure as I only had ONE child (yep, count ‘em-JUST one little angel, how hard can THAT be, right?!) in my care that day.  The girls were off to the grandparent’s house to have a lovely day and the older boys were living it up in the city with the other set of grandparents.  So I had no distractions and no excuses to NOT have a peaceful and joy-filled day...or did I?!

I had just set the first grocery item on the check-out line when my sleeping angel suddenly woke up and decided he was STARVING and wanted to eat NOW.  His blood-curling screams filled the air as I vainly attempted to shove “the silencer” (aka, a pacifier) in his cute little mouth.  After it was spit out for the hundredth time, I gave up and frantically chucked everything from my cart onto the conveyer belt, wishing the cart were lighter so I could just lift it up and dump the whole thing on the belt and get this miserable moment over with.  Meanwhile, a sweet friend pulled up behind me and I (lamely) attempted to chat with her while all I could think was “MUST FEED BABY!!  CRYING BABY!!”.

It must have been a year later when the cashier finally gave me my total and I threw her my debit card, which, NATURALLY, wouldn’t work on the machine as the strip was worn off.  

Groceries piling.
Friend chatting.
Card not working.
People staring.

This was definitely turning into a COLD SWEAT moment.

I sped home (“MUST FEED BABY!!”) and didn’t even take the time to get the melting ice-cream into the freezer.  I hurriedly got Daniel out of his car-seat then bumped into my unsuspecting husband as I raced towards the nursery.  For some reason, that moment seemed like a good time to him to bring up a sticky topic.  He left the nursery five minutes later...without his head.

I collapsed into the rocker to feed my baby, grateful Daniel was now happy and no longer crying...but now his mama was NOT happy and crying her eyes out!

My heart felt like a dish-rag that had all the water squeezed out of it.  Where was my joy?  If I was brutally honest with myself (and with God), then the truth was it wasn’t just a bad day or a cold-sweat moment that zapped it from me.  There had been a small leak in my heart for quite some time and the joy I once had was...gone.

I felt short of breath as it hit me: I had a disease with no human cure.  The joy-less heart symptoms were all there; snapping at my husband, short with my kids, basing my happiness on circumstances (peaceful baby, a fun outing, healthy children, money in the bank, a clean home) instead of having true JOY no matter WHAT was going on around me (screaming baby, cancelled plans, sick kids, tight budget, a messy home).  How had I been so blind to the disease of joy-lessness that was slowly eating away at me?!

I felt my shoulders slump in defeat.

I used to think I could conquer the world and now I now felt I could no longer conquer a pile of laundry.

Okay, God, I get that my heart is joy-less...but how do I get my joy back?

I felt as if I were standing before a fork in the road and each road before me was marked with a different sign. One direction had a huge, flashing sign marking a well-worn road, it read “Keep Striving”, and I knew that path was the one I had been traveling for too long.  If I chose to continue in that direction, I would just “keep striving” on my own, trying to “do it all” with my own strength and never have "enough" (time, money, grace, patience, etc.).

The other sign was faded and I could tell the road had been less traveled, it seemed quiet and at first I wondered what the simple hand-painted sign meant, “Cave”.  Then I smiled: If I chose that road I would need to “cave in” to the One who had created me and “...knows the plans He has for me: plans to prosper me and not to harm me.  Plans for a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)  The fact is I’m created to be in a crazy-love relationship with my Saviour and if I’m not spending time with Him, then...I’m just going CRAZY!!

There is no better time to take my first step back in the right direction than the present. 

That evening while Daniel slept in my arms, the sound of spring-time, singing birds wafted through the nursery window and the ice-cream melted outside in my truck, I caved.  I started back on the path with NO promises of a happy, care-free life but with a 100% guarantee that IF you travel with your Creator, joy unspeakable can fill your heart.

Even in cold-sweat moments.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Springtime Flowers with Dirt & Worms! (and Butterfly Snack-Dudes)

These flower-cups were the idea that "bloomed" when I was trying to think up a fun little treat for my boy's to bring for school snack that would celebrate our early and lovely spring season!  The best part is: they are SIMPLE (well, a little more complicated when made WITH the kids...but fun nonetheless!)

These are the only things you will need for the "flower-cups";
*pipe-cleaners (any colors)
*paper cups
*scissors, pen, markers if desired
*foam flowers (I found a package at a dollar store)
*plastic spoons

Things you'll need for "dirt & worms";
*2 boxes (or more, this makes about 6 semi-full paper cups worth) of chocolate pudding
*4 cups of milk (to make pudding)
*bowl, mixer
*12 or more Oreos, crushed up 
*gummy worms, any kind

Step One: trace the top of the paper cup on a flower then inside of that, sketch a smaller circle and cut this out for your "stencil" for all the flowers.

Trace and cut away...

Step Two: Make the pudding so it can set up while you finish the flowers.

 Chocolate, of course, so it will look like "dirt"!

Step Three: 

Decorate the cups!

The boys are ready to roll with their art cups!  (But Mama lent them some colorful permanent markers which work better on paper cups)  Decorate the cups any way you want...

Or, if you are so inclined as my one-year-old, feel free to tear up the cup instead...

 Step Four: Push the flowers on from the bottom of the cup up to the rim of the cup, they will stay on their own.  Then using 1/2 of a pipe-cleaner, poke a hole in each side and make a small handle as seen below.

Step Five: If pudding is set, fill those babies up!!  

 This may be the time that things become messy-fun!!

 Lastly, top pudding with crushed up Oreos and stick a few gummy worms into the "dirt" mix.  Go on, eat a few too!
Oh, and don't forget to stick a spoon on the side for easy eating later!

Step Six: Realize this is a messier project than originally planned...

 ...and laugh about it and thank God for swivel-sweepers to vacuum the new layer of "dirt" on the kitchen floor.

The kids were great helpers!

Well, this is all Daniel did the whole time...thanks, bud!

 And Gabby "helped" to eat the extra pudding and worms...she approved.  Kid-tested, kid-approved.

 Happy Spring, dear friends!!

P.S.  Here's another little fun snack we made this week for the boy's school, "Butterfly Snack-Dudes".  

My friend, Jessica, gave me this neat little idea!  Just paint some clothespins, add pipe-cleaner antennas and clip a snack-sized Ziploc in half (use two different treats, any work!).

We also attached them with a pipe-cleaner (gotta love pipe-cleaners, they come in handy!!) to a juice-box and ta-da, a healthy snack with the drink included is good to go!

Butterflies in a line, ready to be eaten up!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Lions and Tigers and...FIRE!

“Family meeting kids!  Everyone on the couch!”

Maybe it was the tone that this was said, the look it was said with, or the smoke coming out of my ears but when that announcement rang out, all people measuring under three and half feet wasted no time jumping onto the couch with expectant little faces.

“Here’s the deal, guys,” I began, my face somber, “When I am upstairs rocking your little brother and sister to sleep, please don’t make enough noise down here to be heard in the neighboring galaxy!  And PLEASE don’t come upstairs every minute that I’m up there, because every time you do, the babies wake up.  The only reason you should come upstairs during the SHORT time I’m putting Gabby and Daniel to bed is if it’s an emergency.”

To be on the safe side, I decided I better define emergency.

“Emergencies are anything involving blood or fire.  Got it?”

The three kids stared at me, wide-eyed and attempting to mirror my own serious expression.  My four-year-old shot his hand in the air to ask a question,

“Oh, and we can come up if there is a lion out of his cage too, right?”


“Yes, that would be okay.”

That idea got my five-year-old thinking, “What about if a tiger is out of his cage AND inside our house, then can we come up?”

BIG sigh.

“Yes, if a tiger or lion is IN our house, that would be an emergency too.”

My two-year-old’s lip jutted out and began to quiver, “Pink princesses no like tigers and lions!!”

“It’s okay EvaLee,”  I assured her, “More than likely, a tiger or lion will never be inside our home, don’t cry, okay?”

And with that, everyone began talking...and crying at once.  There was talk about lions and tigers ...and fire!  I was so busy reassuring EvaLee that tigers couldn’t get into our house and confirming with Gideon that one should stop, drop and roll if their clothes caught on fire that I totally forgot why I had even called a family meeting about in the first place!

Later that evening, after my little fire-safety and anti-tiger kids were tucked in their beds and fast asleep, I couldn’t hold back a chuckle at the memory of my pathetic attempt of a family meeting.  I wonder sometimes how much of what I am teaching (or trying to teach!) my children actually makes it through with all the distractions that pop up along the way.

Sometimes I think I have it backwards when I review my day and consider what I DIDN’T accomplish because of the many distractions caused by the kids.  What if I considered my children the priority and all the OTHER stuff (dishes, phone calls, laundry, projects, errands, MY agenda) the distractions?  

Then I wouldn’t be so disappointed if, at the end of the day, there were still dishes in the sink but art projects drying on the counter.  I’d care less about stains on their clothes and care more about the good memories made in their hearts from sharing a messy banana split!  I’m working on working a little less so I can be “distracted more”...even if it means I get interrupted while rocking a baby to sleep with a missing Hot-Wheel’s car “emergency”!

I think another family meeting is in order.  This time I’m going to sit everyone measuring under three and half feet down with a serious look to tell them something very important.  They should know their momma is never too busy or doing something so important that they can’t interrupt every now and then.  There’s no need to wait for escaped lions, tigers or FIRE to get my attention!