Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do Everything

This is my new favorite song for this summer. It is hitting me right where I live (plus, it's really fun to sing, too!) The album will be out in August.

Here's Steven Curtis Chapman, telling about the inspiration for the song:

And here's the song (it's so new that there aren't many videos of it on youtube yet). I think you should turn it up loud, too, of course.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hey! It's My Birthday!

I'm 42 today. I kind of skipped my birthday last year, but that is NOT happening again. My pastor did this cool thing on his birthday where he wrote a corresponding number of things he is thankful vis a vis how old he is. I'm gonna do that, too. Some are huge, some are small, some are serious, some are silly. And they certainly aren't in any order, and I also know I've got way more than 42 things for which to be thankful. Anyway, here goes.

1. Right now in my quiet time, I'm reading Warren Wiersbe's Jesus in the Present Tense. I'm thankful that Jesus is everything to me, and He never changes.

2. Darren. He's an awesome husband and father. He never says that he wanted a son. He patiently reads Nancy Drew books to the girls at bedtime. The only thing he doesn't do is fix hair.

3. My firstborn, Lucy--who, multiple times a day, throws her arms around me and says, "I love you, Mom!"

4. My spunky monkey baby, Elaine--who gives me bear hugs and cat kisses. She's kind of like a friendly dragon who just wants to say hi but ends up catching your braids on fire.

5. PG Tips tea.

6. My dishwasher.

7. Sunglasses.

8. My job--I get to talk to a captive audience about books and writing. It doesn't get better.

9. PBS--home of Masterpiece Theatre.

10. Peacocks--the most beautiful bird in the world and robins--the most cheerful bird in the world. Really, I'm thankful for birds in general. Except crows.

11. Vintage shops and courtyard gardens.

12. My two cats--Yo-Yo and Tuppence. Love those pets.

13. Lipstick.

14. Lizbet Denisse--our lovely Compassion International 17-year-old in Ecuador.

15. Mary--our beautiful Compassion 11-year-old in India.

16. Gleramil--our darling Compassion 9-year-old in the Philippines. These three girls are our extra daughters, and I love hearing my little girls pray for their "sisters" each day.

17. My crockpot.

18. My favorite stores, "the T's": TJ Maxx and Target.

19. Libraries.

20. The incredible array of Bible studies there are out there for me to do: Beth Moore. Kelly Minter. Kay Arthur. Priscilla Shirer. Anne Graham Lotz. God's Word is like a garden or like deep-sea diving (not that I've ever done that, but...)--the more you look, the more treasures you discover.

21. Flip-flops. The ultimate in footwear.

22. Ebay.

23. Cadbury caramel eggs.

24. So many good mystery novels.

25. The awesome school where my kids go.

26. The best friends in the whole world. I've still got friends I made in pre-school, grade school, high school, summer camp, college, grad school, and each job I've worked and church I've attended, and friends I keep making, including online. Plus, and here's the key thing: my friends are nice. Some people are all, "My friends are so honest! Iron sharpens iron, you know." Whatever. My friends all have the good sense to tell me what I want to hear. Can't beat that. (I'm being slightly tongue-in-cheek; I know, Proverbs and all that. Still. They're super nice.)

27. My bed.

28. Victoria magazine--a little piece of serenity that drops in my mailbox every other month.


30. My Swiffer and Lysol wipes.

31. Church. Currently we attend the Red Brick Church, and I am so thankful for it. But over the years I've attended any number of churches I've loved and that have served as bricks in my character. Wheaton Bible Church. College Church of Wheaton. Chicago Fellowship of Friends. Calvary Memorial Church of Oak Park.

32. Cool Whip.

33. Door County, WI.

34. As Our Own. Right now as my wallpaper, I have a picture from As Our Own of a group of little girls, coloring. It makes me smile every time I see it--that these tiny little ones were rescued from prostitution and are now coloring out of Hello Kitty coloring books, just as little girls should.

35. Lilacs.

36. Monical's pizza, even though you have to go downstate to get it.

37. My extended family--dad, brother, sister-in-law; a great in-law family; and cousins who are like extra siblings.

38. Netflix.

39. The Art Institute of Chicago. My happy place.

40. Keats' House. My other happy place (not that I'm there often, but still).

41. K-Love radio. We took the 30-day challenge in January and have been listening ever since. It has made a noticeable difference in our family.

42. I'm at 42 already?! I could keep going. I am thankful for this truth I discovered in my 42nd year--that when I am going through trials, Jesus prays for me. Blows my mind. Jesus Himself prays for me. I can't get over it.

So, happy birthday to me, I guess! If you are in my neighborhood, stop by and have a piece of cake. Otherwise, I will eat it all myself. Also, here is the song that is really speaking to me right now, on my birthday and this year:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day 2011

This year, the girls and I decided we wanted to make something special for Father's Day. We saw this picture in Family Fun magazine: a mosaic birdbath.

What better gift for a dad who loves birds? Last week, we headed to Michael's and Lowe's to pick up supplies. We also decided that a birdbath for Daddy was not enough. We also needed a birdbath for PaPa, Packa, and Tio.

The fun part was setting out the designs and glueing the mosaic pieces.

Let me reiterate: That was the fun part.

The not fun part was grouting not one, but four, mosaic birdbaths. It was too difficult for the girls, so I did all the grouting. With a toothpick and a Q-tip. Did I mention it was not fun? I lost most of my sanctification in the process. But I did it.

Then after letting it cure for 48 hours, I put the sealant on them. Darren, Lucy, and Elaine took PaPa his birdbath on Friday.

On Sunday, we had lunch at our house for Packa, Tio, and Tia.
Here is Tio's finished birdbath. It does not look like the magazine picture. But it was made with lots of love. The girls chose sea glass and shells for it because Tio loves the outdoors. They also chose a flat rock for the center because he loves to skip rocks. You probably can't tell from the picture, but they spelled "Tio" in colored stones, too.

Here is Packa's. His has a sun in the middle and a cross of blue stones. I like the bright colors on this one.

Here's a side view:

And here is Daddy's. His is made with a different style of pot/saucer since, in Lucy's words, "We need something extra special for Dad."

For lunch we had pork steak, potato salad, fruit salad, Mrs. Fischer's potato chips (Darren's favorite), ice cream pie, key lime bars, chocolate chip cookies, and Arnold Palmer to drink (ice tea/lemonade for those who aren't familiar).

It was a great day to celebrate a wonderful grandpa...

a wonderful uncle...

...and a wonderful Daddy!
Happy Father's Day to all!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Riding on the Clouds

One of my favorite songwriters and worship leaders, Robin Mark from northern Ireland, wrote a song about 15 years ago called "Days of Elijah." This is the song that is most requested in our car--with the girls getting out their pretend microphones, clapping, doing the hand motions, singing, and generally going bananamonkey over. And it has to be repeated at least three times, if not more. This is the song that every Sunday, Lucy and I scan the church bulletin to see if we're singing, then high five each other if we are. I've been known to take Elaine out of the nursery so she could come in and sing with us.

Robin says the idea for the song came after watching a year in review on TV--conflict in Ireland, genocide in Rwanda--and wondering what kind of days we are living in and if God is still in control. As an answer, God gave him "Days of Elijah," which he wrote in 30 minutes.

The first verse says:

These are the days of Elijah
declaring the word of the Lord
These are the days of your servant, Moses
righteousness being restored
And though these are days of great trial
of famine and darkness and sword
Still we are the voice in the desert, crying,
"Prepare ye the way of the Lord!"

And the chorus is:

Behold, He comes!
Riding on the clouds
Shining like the sun
At the trumpet call
Lift your voice!
It's the year of jubilee
And out of Zion's hill salvation comes!

Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my mom's death. We all drove out the two hours to the cemetery in Wisconsin. It's a small, quiet, sweet cemetery, filled with all sorts of my ancestors and relatives, along with their friends and neighbors.

The day was almost an exact carbon copy of one year ago--sunny, warm, blue skies with puffy white clouds. Last year we stood under the canopy provided by the funeral home and gathered around my mom's casket. It was just our family, and we said a few words and sang a song or two. All the while we stood there, I didn't cry, I just kept thinking, "She's not here. She's not here." I couldn't bear to think of doing the regular tradition of throwing a handful of dirt on the coffin, so the girls and I scattered handfuls of rose petals over it instead, and as I scattered mine, I whispered: "Mama: released!"

Yesterday was much the same, though there was no tent or hearse or casket, just grass and trees and sunshine and quiet and peace. We put down flowers on Mom's gravestone, which now says "June 16, 2010" on it. Dad said, "I know these flowers won't last a day, but your mother wouldn't like anything but the real thing," and I said, "Exactly. I can hear her voice saying, 'Please don't put any artificial flowers on my grave. It's tacky!'"

We all stood around for a bit, and Dad read a short letter. Instead of putting down small white stones as is the custom for the first year, we laid white seashells on her tombstone since she loved the beach and collecting shells. As we left, with the wind rustling the grass and blowing the trees and the June cottonwood swirling around us like summer flurries, I kept hearing "She's not here. She's not here."

The girls and I walked around the cemetery for a little bit, looking at Civil War veterans and WWI and II veterans, mothers who died young, grandmas who lived into their 90s, unnamed infants, and 4-year-old children.

Lucy said, "Mom, it's hard for me to imagine how Manga's up there, with just her spirit, but not her body."

"Me too," I told her. "But when Jesus comes back, then our souls will be reunited with our bodies again."

"And we'll come busting up out of these graves!" Elaine added excitedly, hopping over a stone.

Over the past year, I will admit--I've had a hard time picturing my mom where she is now, in heaven. What is she doing? What is she thinking? Can she see us? Does she know what we're doing down here? Does she miss us?"

I have a much easier time picturing her as she was, washing up after dinner or buried in a book. I look out our guestroom window and hope to see her car in the driveway, or I open up the closet door, see her coat and purse hanging there, and imagine for a moment that she's just in the next room. I can hear her say, "Let's put the kettle on and have a cup of tea." I can picture her that way much more than as some celestial-type of being now. And I miss her. Oh, I miss her. She's not here.

However, I have no problem, especially when I'm listening to "Days of Elijah," imagining that trumpet sound and one day seeing Jesus, riding on the clouds, shining like the sun, returning in glory and getting ready to bust us out of those graves. For though I have not seen Him, I love Him, I trust Him, and I'm filled with "a glorious, inexpressible joy."

Somehow, I think that's just how my mom would want it anyhow.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Movie

I am so excited about this; I can't wait until August.

I still stand by the statement I made two years ago when I wrote about the book--it's the best one I've read in the last five years. And seriously--Allison Janney's in the movie? I will be there on opening day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Lucy is 8!

Eight years ago today, we got in the car at 5:00 a.m. and drove to the hospital in dense fog (stopping at Dunkin Donuts for Darren's coffee first). By the time we got there, the sun was rising, the fog was disappearing, and it was going to be a beautiful June day in the Midwest.

I was scheduled for an induction, but before they got started, my water broke right there at the hospital, which I thought was pretty considerate of my baby to do. That ushered in several hours of the most intense pain and nausea I have ever known or hope to know, until finally an angel disguised in green scrubs came with a great big needle for my spine.

"Hi, I'm Tim," he said as he jabbed me. "This pain is going to go away in just a few minutes," he added as he helped me lie back down.

"If this baby's a boy, I promise I'm naming him 'Tim'" I told him and fell asleep for the next few hours.

Somewhere in there, I think every member of the hospital staff, including the gift shop employees came to "check my progress" if you know what I mean and I think that you do, until at 4:00 in the afternoon my doctor came in and told me it was time to get to work.

And at 5:20 p.m. on Saturday, June 7, 2003, there was this:

My first born baby girl, Lucy Nan.

Here she is, less than 24 hours old with her godmother, Aunt Jennie:

And here we are at home, on Tuesday. How do I know it's Tuesday? My sister-in-law Denise gave me the cutest baby shower gift--a sleeper with The Hungry Caterpillar all over it, plus Hungry Caterpillar bibs for every day of the week (you know, "On Tuesday, he ate two strawberries...but he was still hungry). Anyway, being the new, first-time mom that I was, I made sure every time she wore the bibs that they were on the proper, matching day of the week.

Here is Darren with his new daughter. Oh, and our dog Gatsby, who I found as a stray in our yard a few months earlier. He was a wonderful dog. I know he's waiting for me at the door of my mansion in heaven.

OK, back to Darren and Lucy. Look how tiny she is!

And now it's eight years later, and I've got my grown up Lucy who wants roller skates and yellow hightops for her birthday. She loves to write in her journal, will do arts and crafts projects for hours on end, and reads Geronimo Stilton books and laughs out loud at them. She's a swimmer whose goal this summer is to beat all the boys on her team. Her favorite show is "Fetch!" on PBS--it's a game show where kids race to research different topics. She adores butterflies and peace signs, is growing her hair long for Locks of Love, and can't wait for summer to be over so she can start third grade.

For as long as I can remember, she's said she wants to be a cook when she grows up, but the girl is a born teacher for sure. Her teacher this year thinks so, too. I told Lucy the other day, "I know you always say you want to be a cook, but, man, Lucy, you would make an awesome second grade teacher! You are creative, you love learning, and you love people."

"Really?" she asked me. "A teacher?" Then she thought dreamily for a minute and said, "You know what I'd do for my classroom? I'd have an under-the-sea theme."

See what I mean?

This morning she's at VBS, and then just she and I are going out to lunch at her favorite Chinese restaurant. This afternoon we're going to have a cupcake party--just our family--and she'll open her presents. Then she and Elaine are going to watch "Tangled," which is Elaine's present to her and that she could not wait until later to give her so Lucy opened it at breakfast. Darren's going to take them out for supper and maybe to pick out an inexpensive MP3 player that Lucy is planning to spend any birthday money she gets on. (My baby is buying an MP3 player! I can't take it in.)

So, happy birthday to my darling, big-hearted, easy-going, always-smiling, loving, caring 8-year-old girl. I love you, Lucy!