We’ve Had Green Plastic Monkeys in Our Purses All Year Long–Let’s Celebrate!

I dearly wish I had some cake right now, because we need to celebrate. Did you know that it’s been a whole year since There’s a Green Plastic Monkey in My Purse was published?

A publication date is very similar to a due date when you’re pregnant. You spend a lot of energy getting ready for the big day. There are long emails from the editing team, meetings with the marketing department, and phone conversations that require you to put on your big girl panties and act like a professional for consecutive minutes.

It’s not unlike those weeks that lead up to the part of pregnancy where the baby has to come out–lots of long conversations with your spouse, lots of planning sessions, and–if you’re lucky–a big party where everyone celebrates by feeding you cake and buying you gifts.

I can’t speak for all pregnant women, but when I was enormously with-child, both times I fixed my eyes on that due date and focused with all my strength. I added two weeks because babies are notoriously late in our family, begged the doctor to make sure the kid was out by my extended calculations, and then strained to make it.

I was focused on the delivery because that seemed like a good spot to end all that hard work and discomfort. What I did not understand was that the ending was really just another beginning. One kind of work was traded for another kind–the kind where you get to stay up all night rocking a tiny human who does not understand the concept of “night.”

Giving birth isn’t the only example. Weddings punctuate the end of months of planning, but are really just a way to celebrate a new beginning. Graduations are a way to applaud years of hard work at school, but they’re also a nice way to say “Hey, why don’t you go ahead and get a job now and then keep at it for sixty years?”

The publication date for Green Plastic Monkey was just the same. I thought the work was over, but I was wrong. Wrong like an exhausted woman covered in spit-up at 3:30 in the morning. It was just the beginning of connecting with readers, of getting used to reviews, and of marketing the book.

Did you know that marketing a book feels slightly like beggary and slightly like egocentrism, all bundled up together in a tidy 200 page volume? It’s delightful. (Insert eye roll and massive headache between eyebrows.)

It has, however, been a wonderful year, and I have you readers to thank for that. Thanks for the kind words, for buying the book, and recommending it to your friends. Did you know that word of mouth sells more books than any fancy marketing plan ever can? Donald Maass, a writer and literary agent, reports that a book sells when a friend grabs you by the elbow, drags you across the bookstore aisle, and says, “You have to read this book! It’s so good!”

Many of you have done that for Green Plastic Monkey, and I cannot thank you enough. Thanks for spreading the words God gave me to write. You play a key role in this ministry, and I appreciate you more than I can say.

If you haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, here’s where you can order it:

  • Click here to buy it directly from DHP, the ministry that publishes it
  • Click here to buy it from Amazon
  • Click here to buy it from Family Christian Stores.

If you have read the book, I’d dearly love it if you’d take a second to review it on Amazon or GoodReads. Thanks again!

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-10)

Green Plastic Monkey's First Birthday

Top 10 Things to Buy at ALDI

Is everyone familiar with ALDI? I hope so, or this post isn’t going to make a lick of sense. Hopefully you have an ALDI market near your home and after reading this post you can rush out for all these delicious things I’m about to recommend.

I can feel some of you hesitating from here. Especially if you’re American, because ALDI isn’t like our usual supermarkets. First of all, you have to put a quarter into the grocery cart so you can free it from its chains. That feels a little weird, I know.

And then we walk into the store and we think, “Where’s the rest of the food? I see chocolate chips over here, but where are the rest of the chocolate chips? Where are all my brands?” We hunt around and realize ALDI offers only one choice for most foods. Instead of eggs from ten different companies taking up fifteen feet of cooler space, we see one brand of eggs.

Just one.

And then we panic for a minute because we wonder if we’ve really just wandered into the USSR under Communist rule. Before we have a full-blown anxiety issue and rush back out to the haven of the supermarket we know, we see the prices on those eggs and calculate the savings. We think maybe pretending to be Communist for just a few minutes might be worth it, so we stick around.

But then we wonder if these brands are worth any money at all. If I get these groceries home and they all taste terrible, I’ve just wasted $90 instead of saving $30. Not so smart, even for a faux-Communist.

That’s where this post comes in. Here are the top 10 things that I love at ALDI, and these will give you a good place to start. I think the taste is great and the savings are big enough to make it worth the effort of going to a store where you have to bag your own groceries.

top 10 things to buy at Aldi

 

  1. Milk, half-and-half, and heavy whipping cream. Delicious!
  2. Cheese. ALDI has a great selection on all kinds of cheese, from shredded cheddar to fancy goat cheese. Pick up an extra package of string cheese for the kids.
  3. Eggs.
  4. Butter.
  5. Spaghetti sauce.
  6. Frozen green beans. ALDI sells a green bean that’s much thinner than usual. Sauté them up with some almonds and kosher salt. You’ll weep a little at the deliciousness.
  7. Fruits and vegetables. Check the quality carefully, but the prices are worth the extra couple of seconds.
  8. Flour and sugars (regular, powdered, and brown).
  9. Cooking oils.
  10. Bread.

There, that will get you started. Excellent quality and excellent savings. But I know some of you are wondering the obvious–what didn’t make this list? What is not so good?

We’ve run into a few things we do not prefer. Ice cream, for example. Also their version of Kraft singles (or flat cheese as we call it in this house). I bought a package and the kids were both fussing at me, telling me the cheese was terrible.

I told them it was fine and they were being too picky. But then I ate a piece myself and realized they were right–the fake pasteurized cheese is not so good. And my husband isn’t so excited about the granola bars, either. But give them a try and see for yourself.

What do you think? Do you shop at ALDI? Do you even have one near you? What is your opinion?

 

Thoughts on Sledding and Other Miserable Ways To Spend an Afternoon

So, I think everyone is aware, but just to make sure everyone is caught up–we’ve had a lot of winter weather the last…oh…forever.

I feel like I’m stuck in a horror novel, where you think you can’t stand any more terrible, gruesome events but it doesn’t matter what you want. Miserable things just keep happening without your consent.

In our case, just substitute the words horror, terrible, and gruesome for winter, snowy, and cold and that is our life. In fact, even though we have drifts taller than mailboxes, six more inches of snow is predicted tomorrow whether I allow it or not.

Snowy Mailbox

The kids returned to school this morning after four snow days and one record day off. They’ll be in school for a total of seven hours this week. Seven hours. I’m not the kind of mother who can handle all that free time, cut adrift from our usual schedule and then trapped in a house.

Snowy little hill

Yesterday we had no choice but to go grocery shopping. I had one last nerve, worn down to a tiny, frayed nub. The kids followed behind me in the grocery store, grabbing at each others’ coats, pushing each other, and working the word poop into their conversation as frequently as possible. I steered through the booze aisle, quietly muttering to myself, “You are a grown woman. You don’t need wine while you shop. You don’t need wine, you don’t need wine.”

I managed to continue the shopping without liquid encouragement, but somewhere around the egg section I did have to turn around for the fourth time and glare at them. They stopped short because at that point I could have hunted for wild game with the angry lasers shooting from my eyeballs. I said, “I am tempted to thunk your heads together like coconuts. But that’s probably child abuse, so I won’t. But I want to, so knock. it. off.”

They caught the note of desperation in my voice and did, indeed, knock it off. Luckily for all of us we only needed two more things and then we escaped Meijer, no head thumping or tippling.

Snowy back door

By the afternoon it finally warmed up enough to go outside for more than thirty minutes. The kids had been begging me to go to the big hill in the woods to sled for days, and I had been refusing. The wind chills were just too dangerous and I have distinct memories of the year my brother went sledding and forgot his hat. Have you ever seen what frostbite can do to an ear? Not pretty.

Also, for the sake of honesty–I just did not want to go. I knew it was going to be cold. I knew the snow was going to be deep. But the wind had died down some, and the air temperature was in the 20s. We were all in serious need of some fresh air and exercise. So out we went.

Things started out okay but quickly hit the toilet.

The wind was still brisk enough to make our faces ache before we got to the trail. The snow on the trail was thicker than we had guessed, so it took a lot of energy to get into the woods. By the time we reached the hill, we were already frozen and had stopped twice to dig snow out of boots.

I took the lead and started up the hill. The snow started out deep, but quickly became obscenely deep. I’ll take a break from my usual exaggeration and hyperbole to give you actual data–the snow was four inches above my knees at the top of the hill. And I am not a short woman, nor do I have stumpy legs.

I dragged myself up the hill, wondering if a St. Bernard was available to grab me by the back of the coat and help me along. I started muttering to myself again– “Greater love has no mother than this, that she goes sledding with her kids. Greater love, greater love…”

Somewhere in my muttering I heard a desperate gargle out of one of my kids. I turned around and found them both lying on the snow, their sleds hanging listlessly from their mittens. “Mom…I’m so cold,” Caleb begged. His face was red, his nose was running. Audrey looked only slightly less miserable.

Because we had made it that far we did take a few minutes to sled twice down the hill. Then, we dragged ourselves to the top of the hill one more time to take the “shortcut” out of the woods and back into the neighborhood. We made it into the house, we drank up some hot cocoa, and we settled back into our normal winter routine of reading, watching TV, and fighting.

But at least we were warm.

The end.

Let’s Chat With Heather C. King–An Author You Need to Know

One of the perks of working with Discovery House Publishers is that I get updates on new books coming out, then I can email the publicity department and request those books. A few weeks ago I saw a book on the publishing list that caught my eye, so I ran to the computer and emailed Anne the Publicist and she ran to the mailbox with the book and the post man (I mean–postlady) drove her little truck very quickly to my house and…

then I read the book very slowly.

Oh, I tried to read it fast. I did. I have a stack of ten or ninety-nine books on my table to read, and it behooves me to whip through them so I have time to parent, write, and cook dinner.

But I found I could not read Ask Me Anything, Lord very fast. It didn’t do it justice. It’s a book that needs to be ingested piece by piece, with thoughtfulness. Preferably with a delightful hot beverage, which you will note they have put right on the front cover. You will absolutely want your Bible right next to you so you can look up the references and make notes. If you’re looking for a book for your quiet time or your small group study, this would be a great choice.

Ask Me Anything, Lord

The book is written around the questions that God asked His people in the Bible–  “Where are you going? Or–What’s that in your hand?” The questions are still relevant to our modern lives, and the book helps us see the connections.

I emailed Heather C. King, the author, and asked if she would like to make an appearance on the blog so you can all get to know her. She agreed!

Heather C. King

First, I asked her several probing questions about herself:

Q. Tell us your dessert of choice after all the children have gone to bed and you need a little reward for surviving the day:

A. I firmly believe that if it isn’t chocolate it doesn’t count as a dessert.  When my oldest was still napping, I used to reward myself right there in the middle of the day with a Coca-Cola and some Hershey Kisses.  Then she stopped napping and I didn’t want her eating chocolate and hyping herself up on caffeine, so that’s when the sneaking began.  “Here, honey, play with these blocks while mommy dashes to the back of the house and eats her secret stash of chocolate heaven.” Now, most of my kids don’t nap, so pretty much my only chance to eat chocolate in peace without having to share it (and who wants to share chocolate?) is after they go to sleep at night.

Q. Speaking of children, how many do you have? Girls? Boys? Ages?
A. I have three daughters (Victoria-9, Lauren-7, and Catherine-4).  I thought God designed me to be a girls’ mom.  Then He gave me a baby boy, Andrew (4 months), and I’m loving it! 

Q. What kind of minivan do you drive? Do you love it?
A. I drive a Dodge caravan and I do love it.  I’ve never been the kind of gal who mocked the minivan life or tried to stay cool with an SUV or by cramming kids into a sports car.  I have four kids.  I wanted to have four kids.  I love my minivan.  Plus, ours came with built-in child restraint seats and that’s pretty awesome.  Or, at least, that’s awesome to me.  But then, I get jealous of other people when they get a new vacuum cleaner, so….

Q. How do you find time to write with kids that young?
A. People ask me all the time and I always say, “It’s a God-thing.”  And it is.  For starters, I grew up in a family with 5 kids and I did my homework at the kitchen table with the radio on, the dishwasher running, and people talking non-stop.  Typically, quiet is way more distracting to me than noise.  I also worked as a stay-at-home mom right from the beginning so all of my children learned very young how to play independently or together without me.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep it all in balance and I’ll find myself crying over the pot of spaghetti at night because I’m exhausted.  But, all in all the system works for us.

Q. What is your least favorite mom-chore? How come?
A. Vacuuming.  Or maybe putting the laundry away.  Dishes?  Seriously, do I have a favorite mom-chore?  Okay, wait, I know—scrubbing the shower.  That’s definitely my least favorite chore.  Our well water turns the shower orange over time and I hate scrubbing that.

Q. Did you always want to be a writer, or is this a surprising plan of God’s?
A.  When I was an English major in college, a random guy in a second-hand bookstore asked me, “So, what do you want to do?”  Typically, I stuck with ‘safe’ answers like “teach” or “edit.”  But I blurted out, “I want to write.”  I had no idea where that even came from.  He said, “Well, writers write and writers read.  That’s what you need to do.”  I didn’t set out to publish a book or make money writing or anything.  I started by just typing things out in a Word document on my computer because I felt God called me to write, even if that never meant getting published.  He took it from there, one step at a time, and all I had to do was obey along the way.

Q. What authors do you like to read? (Fiction or non-fiction)
A. I’m addicted to books.  I have ten or so I’m currently reading and I seriously get withdrawals when I finish a book and don’t replace it right away with another good read.  It’s crazy hard to pick favorites. Right now, I’m reading a little Beth Moore, a little Gary Thomas, a little C.S. Lewis, a little E.M. Bounds, a little Joanna Weaver, a little Steven Furtick, and, for fun, a biography of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet.  I majored in British Literature for my undergrad, so for fiction I incline more to Jane Austen (Emma is my favorite) or Charles Dickens (I have well-worn copies of Bleak House and Little Dorritt on my shelves).   

Q.  Any ideas on what you hope to write next?
A. I’ve completed a project on contentment and how to overcome the push to covet what others have or compare ourselves with others and compete with them.  Something as simple as planning a kid’s birthday can send us modern moms into Pinterest-breakdown and Facebook-envy.  It’s hard to be content when the world tells us to do more, be more, have more all the time.  While I’m working on the publication journey for that, I also post devotions about finding God in the midst of the noise, mess, and busyness of life on my blog: heathercking.org

Now here is a little information about the book itself:

Q. Why should God’s questions to people in Scripture matter to us?

A. In any room at any time, I am usually the one asking the most questions. I’m the same way with God, perpetually asking Him questions and sometimes monopolizing the conversation, always talking and rarely listening. One day, I felt Him search my heart with a question that He asked in Scripture and that dug deep into my motives and the attitudes of my heart.  That’s when I realized that God is a question-asking God.  It’s His consistent method of drawing His people closer to Him throughout Scripture, just as He did with Adam and Eve, Sarah, Elijah, the disciples and more.  Allowing Him to ask us these same questions helps us to know Him better also.

Q. What makes this book different?

A. There are so many great Bible study books that use the metaphors and lessons from the lives of the men and women in the Bible to teach us today.  But I wanted to know what lessons God taught them directly and what happens if we let Him search our hearts in the same way?  What did He specifically say to Moses?  What question did He actually ask?  If God asked me those very same questions, how would I answer?  This book lets God’s very own questions direct the study and the personal application.

I hope you’ll pop over to Heather’s blog at heathercking.org. You’ll be glad you did!

I Can’t Think of Anything Worse Than Teaching You Life Is Fair

As I sit here, gathering my thoughts for this blog post, our cat is looking at me with wide and frantic eyes from the front window sill. I’m pretty sure he just ate the ladybug he’s been chasing all morning. I’m pretty sure that ladybug is now crawling around the inside of his mouth, and the cat is not pleased with this turn of events.

This ties into today’s theme quite nicely. Life isn’t fair for the little tiny ladybug who is about to get digested, and it’s not fair for the cat who now has a not-quite-dead breakfast problem. (Captain Kitty understands the hunting part, but not the killing part.)

If life was fair the entire world would be 75 degrees and sunny right now. But here in southwest Michigan it’s been snowing since, I don’t know, HALLOWEEN I SWEAR, and now we have snow banked in all our windows and two foot drifts between the front door and the garbage can.

At 5:00 this morning my husband dragged himself out of bed and went to work while I slept for two more hours. Life is just not fair.

Right now our son is home while his sister is at a friend’s house, and he has informed me that it’s not fair that he should have to do his chores or feed the cat or get out of his pajamas because his sister isn’t home to have to do any of those things.

And part of me agrees that if his sister is off gallivanting, he should get a break too. Maybe I should do all his chores and feed him buckets of ice cream and let him watch TV until his eyeballs roll out of his head. You know, to even up the score.

But I’m not sure there’s any lie more cruel than to teach my children that life is fair. It’s just not. In fact, if most adults were honest we’d say that this is the one thing that puzzles us about God. If He truly is all-powerful, why doesn’t He even up the score?

Why do I get to have two healthy children while my cousin Jim’s children all suffer from the same terminal illness? Why do we have a home with heat and running water while some families live in a garbage dump?

Why doesn’t every family get the same blessings?

I don’t have any answer for that. But I can tell you that my cousin and his wife, who are about to bury their second precious child this weekend, who have every right to yell it’s not fair, are still seeking and praising God even now.

That spirit of trust is what I want my kids to learn more than anything else on earth. Life will never be fair, but we can praise and trust our Heavenly Father even in the most unfair circumstances. I have a feeling that nothing I will ever say will teach my children this; it’s something I must live.

Trust prayer

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT).

How to Pray for an Anxious Person. A Worrywart. A Nervous Nelly. You Get the Picture.

Some of us know and love worrywarts. And some of us are worrywarts. And some of us are worrywarts married to worrywarts who gave birth to baby worrywarts, thereby ensuring generations of people who have mastered stewing, fretting, and agonizing.

Not that I have any personal experience in this matter, of course.

I have simply no idea of what I’m talking about.

Delusions aside, there’s a better way. There’s a way to take those anxious thoughts, stop them in their tracks, and focus on something better. Jesus came to bring us life, and bring it to the full (John 10:10). That full, abundant life does not include waking up in a cold sweat at 3:00 a.m. because another worry is attacking you. (Or me.) That full and abundant life does include prayer and Bible reading. And, even better, we can combine prayer and Bible reading by praying Scripture directly.  

We discussed this a few months ago when I wrote How to Pray for a Crazy Person, but since then I’ve had more time to put Scriptural prayer into practice. I’ve had more time to see God work miracles on my behalf.

This works, my friends! We can turn away from our anxiety and focus on something better! We know that prayers work when they glorify God and seek his will. Praying according to passages of the Bible does exactly that. What could be more in-line with God’s will and glory than his written Word?

There’s a passage of Scripture that couldn’t be more perfect for exactly what we’re talking about here. These verses lay out a perfect plan for handling our fretting and edginess. Here they are:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me–everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:6-9)

Let us take a moment to summarize, lest we have glazed over at the familiar verses of Scripture:

  1. Do not worry. (Stop yourself as soon as you recognize the fretting. If you can’t do anything about it other than run it through your negative mental processes, it’s worry.)
  2. Instead, pray over the matter. Take it right to God’s throne.
  3. Then, fix your mind on good things–true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things. (Seriously, just pick something better and think about that instead! Don’t let your brain create negative ruts.)
  4. Practice peace by actively doing the loving, serving, humble things that Jesus did and Paul taught. (Wash some feet! Go chat with your 95 year old neighbor! Spend time with your kids! (Okay, technically neither Jesus nor Paul had children. But you see what I mean, here.))

Perhaps you are praying for a loved one who is choking with anxiety, or perhaps you yourself are the one choking. It doesn’t matter; we can pray this for someone else or ourselves. We can pray it for the whole family at the same time.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I hope it blesses you, and I hope you give this a try. Really. There is nothing more powerful than taking God’s Word to God’s throne. The next time anxiety grabs the steering wheel of your mind, take it right back over. It will fight you back. It will try again. Don’t let it win, my dears. Just take your thoughts right back to prayer and start all over again.

Philippians 4:6-9
Philippians 4:6-9

 

How to Discuss Modesty with Pre-Teen Daughters. (If you’re brave enough…)

modesty-with-pre-teen-daughtersIs the battle over modesty raging in your family? Moms, take heart. We can help our daughters feel beautiful AND help them learn about modesty.

You may have noticed a firestorm of controversy recently over pants, and tights, and whether or not tights are pants. And even if you haven’t noticed the controversy, surely you’ve noticed women wandering around town without proper pants applied to their persons. Wal-Mart, the bank, church–all these places are now frequented by women who have forgotten to put something over their very tight leg coverings. Things like a very long and blousy shirt, or a skirt, or something. Something!

Other far wiser and wittier women have written blog posts about modesty (I’ve included a link at the bottom), so I won’t recreate the whole argument for pants. I would, however, like to address it from the perspective of a mother of a ten year old girl. A ten year-old who loves fashion. Naturally attracted to anything fashionable, Audrey can go to her closet and pull out individual pieces to assemble an entirely adorable outfit.

But recently we’ve had several rounds of “No way, Jose. Go back and find something else to put over those leggings.” And she huffs at me and then claims she has nothing to wear and I hold up a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and her eyes roll back in her head like I asked her to wear a Pilgrim outfit.

Pray for me.

Monday she came home from school with big, serious eyes and informed me that the middle school has a new rule: Tights are not pants. Yoga pants aren’t even pants. Anyone caught wearing them (without an appropriate bottom-covering) will go to the office, call a parent, and have proper clothing delivered to school.

I’d like to give a small clap of recognition to the staff members that laid down this little law about modesty. (Clap clap clap clap.) ((That is not sarcasm. I am truly overjoyed.))

I love it when other adults enforce sensible rules. Because, let’s face it, ten year old girls aren’t exactly ready to understand all the reasons we have rules for modesty. Am I ready to traverse through the male mind to explain what a tightly wrapped set of legs will do to a boy’s thoughts?

Just typing that sentence gave me the woozies. I have no idea of how to explain this to a girl. What little I know of men’s minds is vague and fuzzy for a very good reason. It’s scary in there, my sisters.

modesty

Not only do I not want to wander around in the wild world of what men find attractive, I don’t really have any basis for understanding this personally. For example, when I was a teenager my friend’s mother took us both to a professional ballet that came to Kalamazoo. I was nearly scarred for life at seeing that famous Russian ballet dancer in his tights. Baryshnicov? Gorbachev? I can’t remember which is which.

(I’m fairly certain one of those men was a dancer and one of them was the leader of the Soviet Union. I’m quite certain all history teachers are banging their foreheads on their desks right now and deploring the American educational system.)

Back to our point–as women, we don’t generally find it attractive when men wrap themselves in lycra. We tend to gravitate towards things like steady incomes, deep voices, and the ability to grow a decent beard. Because of this, I’m having an even harder time explaining why we have to be very careful when we dress.

At this point, I’m leaving it at that. We just have to be very careful when we dress. As she gets older we’ll start adding in the why’s and wherefore’s. Hopefully by then the foundation will be set and firm and we’ll be able to have some honest, age-appropriate discussions about sexual attraction and why it has no place in math class. Or the bank. Or WalMart. And the very specific ideas about where God does think it’s appropriate.

Until then, tights are not pants. Not here, not at school, not at church. Modesty is a thing that this family will teach, and I will die trying.

And here’s the link I promised you from Bridgetteraes.com: Tights Are Not Pants, Ya Hear? It’s worth it for the flow chart alone, I promise.

Have a great day, and thanks for wearing pants, dear readers.

The woman approached him, seductively dressed and sly of heart. She was the brash, rebellious type, never content to stay at home. She is often in the streets and markets, soliciting at every corner…He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter…

So listen to me, my sons…don’t let your hearts stray toward her…Her house is on the road to the grave, Her bedroom is the den of death. (Proverbs 7:10-12, 22, 24, 27.)

 

Hearing from God: Simple, but Not Easy

I don’t know if it’s the weather or the fact that we’ve run out of all the good Halloween candy, but this rainy, cold November afternoon is sucking the life out of me. Last week I would have run to the kitchen and three Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups later I would have been blogging like a fiend. But now all we have out there is the kind of candy that isn’t worth the calories.

Since all that chocolate isn’t surging through my system and giving me the energy I need to write, I guess we’ll have to make do with whatever is going on inside my head at the moment, and that is a precious small amount. Mostly I’m thinking about one thing: listening to God. Listening and then responding to God, specifically.

Of course I’m getting ready to work on my next manuscript, and the book is all about listening to God. I’ve been interviewing friends and looking up verses and researching different authors’ thoughts on the matter. It makes sense that this is on my mind.

But also, there’s a decided upswing in the amount of conversation between God and myself. The more I listen, the more He talks. I’ve gotten an earful. This is the verse that is stuck with me this morning:

Isaiah 31:21

It’s a beautiful verse, isn’t it? The thought that God will give us exactly the directions we need comforts me. I hope it comforts you, too! But if there’s one thing I learned from Howard Hendricks’ book (Living by the Book), it’s this: you cannot take one verse out of its context. We must consider the whole passage. So here it is, Isaiah 30:19-22:

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!” 

Other than being totally embarrassed about that last part there, and setting aside the fact that I don’t actually live in Jerusalem, I see a couple of important things. First of all, God is very involved in our lives if we let Him. He cares for us, He responds when we call for Him, and He wants to give us the directions we need.

But I also see that we have a responsibility here. If we want God involved in our lives, we need to respond. We need to get rid anything we’ve made more important than God. We cannot keep our idols and expect God to overlook them when He gives us directions.

Easy to type; hard to live. Now, on this rainy, freezing, dark November day, we are all excused to go and think about what idols may be in our lives and what we need to do with them.

Please feel free to nap, as well. All this spiritual work can be exhausting!

How to Pray For Your Middle Schooler (Without Them Seeing Your Panic)

Oh, how I love the first day of school. I love how excited the kids are to get out of bed. I love how they eat breakfast without any complaining. I love how they grab backpacks and get in the car before I have my teeth brushed.

This happens once every year, and I relish each moment. Then everything falls apart and we have Apocalypse Mornings from here on out: weeping, yelling, crying, and begging for mercy from 6:45 from 7:52, Monday-Friday.

We’re nothing if not consistent in this house, I tell you.

At any rate, I took advantage of the calm and tried something new this morning. We prayed at breakfast. I can’t really explain why this is, but Eric tends to be the parent who prays with the kids at night and I tend to be the one who reads the Bible with them at breakfast. I know we should both do both with both of them, but there are only so many hours in the day. We’ve got to divide and conquer where we can (parents of more than two children may roll their eyes at me here), and apparently this theory works its way into our biblical instruction.

But. This morning was Audrey’s first morning of middle school, so I felt that we needed an extra layer of prayer for the day. Now here’s the thing: I wanted Audrey to leave the house feeling loved, confident, and excited. I did not want her leaving the house in a state of panic and fright like I was feeling. So I prayed some things out loud, and a lot of other things in my head. Quietly. Shhhhh.

Here’s the prayer. (And the stuff in parenthesis are the things I didn’t actually say out loud.)

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this first day of school. Please help Caleb as he starts third grade today. Please help him to listen. Please help him to be a good friend.

Please help Audrey as she starts middle school today, Lord. (MIDDLE SCHOOL!! Dear Jesus, what just happened to our lives?!?!)

May both kids be safe. (And please don’t let any of those bigger middle schoolers come anywhere near my precious baby girl.) ((And if an older BOY comes anywhere near my daughter, may he be rendered mute, mentally dull, and also blind.)) (((And if these safety features fail and he does come somewhat near her, may you give her the strength to kick his manly bits so hard that he is rendered unconscious until Thursday afternoon.)))

Please be with the teachers, Lord. (Please help them to watch carefully for any druggies, pimps, or rednecks who may inflict damage on my sweet girl.) May they teach well.

Please help Audrey to get her locker open. (Because you know we all tried getting it open at Orientation last week and that thing isn’t going to open without a crowbar and the only people who have those at school are the kids who make bombs in their basement. Oh Lord, maybe I’ve gone too far now.)

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

And then we all hopped in the car and were at school on time in good moods, for the first and last time of the year. Yay for us! And then I prayed at the school. And then I prayed on the way home from school…

Seriously, readers. This is important stuff. The educational system needs us to intercede for them. The teachers, the kids, and the administration need our prayers. The world is a dark place; our prayers help to get God’s presence and light into that darkness. Even if you don’t have kids in the school, please remember to pray for them. Stop over this evening and walk around for a few minutes. Pray while you’re there. Repeat throughout the year.

Our children’s futures depend on it.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes fur us with groans that words cannot express. (Romans 8:26)

 

prayer-for-middle-schoolers

Mama Is Hiding Under the Bed Because She’s an Introvert, and It’s August.

introverted-parentingI can tell it’s the end of August because I’ve been eyeing the space under my bed, wondering if I could fit under there to hide from the kids. Just for a few minutes–that’s all I need. A few minutes of quiet.

Have you seen all the information going around about introverts lately? Just this week I’ve found all kinds of good posts about my people. (I’ve included links for them all at the bottom.) It has me thinking about the challenges of being an introvert and a parent, which is a challenging combination.

First of all, as a point of reference–introverts are those people who need a lot of time to themselves to refuel emotionally and mentally. (Extroverts, of course, gain more energy and life the more they are with other people.) The challenge for an introverted parent is that children don’t naturally give us a lot of space. We never get that chance to refuel.

Just last night at dinner I had one kid squashed up against me in the middle of the prayer and then 57 requests for something or other during the meal. It makes me jumpy and cranky. Multiply that times 70 days of summer so far, then add in all the wonderful-but-draining social events we’ve had, and you can probably hear my brain buzzing. Seriously, there’s a circuit somewhere in my skull that is kicking up an alarming sizzle. I fear for my mental health in the 12 days before school starts.

It gets even trickier when an introverted parent is raising an extroverted child. Our daughter is the extrovert. She loves to be with people, and she loves to be in constant contact with those people. So, it’s not enough to be in the same room together. She has to be talking with them and playing with them and sleeping right next to them. (As she gets older this is easing up some, mercifully. But the tendency is still there.)

A few weeks ago I blogged about how Audrey was at camp and Caleb and I were hanging out at home. I was enjoying the lack of chaos that comes with only one kid. It occurs to me now that Caleb is also an introvert, so we hang out in the same room and that’s good enough for us. I have a book, he has a fleet of tiny metal cars, and we each do our thing. I might look up after an hour and say, “You doin’ okay over there, kid?” And he looks up and grins and gives me a thumbs-up. We then go back to business as usual.

Honestly, I do fear that my introverted nature is short-changing my kids. But I also know that I’m working hard against my instincts to hide. I’m doing my best. (Most days. Sometimes I just hide so I can survive the day.) But more importantly, God placed these two kids in this family for a reason. He knows what they need, He knows what I need, and this must be working out some kind of good for each of us. It takes all kinds of mothers in the world, introverted and extroverted.

No parent can parent perfectly all the time. We all have quirks and shortcomings, just like our kids. But those characteristics are how God made us, because we’re made to work together. We’re part of a family, part of a body. No one part of a body can claim to be able to do it all.

As a mother, I know I can’t do it all. There’s no way I can meet every need my children have. But I serve a God who can, and while I’m hiding under my bed I will be praying that He’ll be making up for my shortcomings. Amen and amen.

“But our bodies have many parts and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part!” (1 Corinthians 12:18-19, NLT)

The links I promised you:

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