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“What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” ~ George Eliot, Adam Bede.

The oldest son walked in first, into the hospital room that Saturday in late February. I’d been admitted just long enough to have IVs placed. The antibiotics hadn’t even been started yet. I was septic with double pneumonia. My husband had gone home to bring back what I’d need for a stay. The second son and his wife came with my two youngest about 30 minutes later, followed by the 3rd son. I couldn’t talk; it wasn’t worth the effort, but, like any time all the boys gather, there is more entertainment to be found in the listening than by trying to add my 2 cents worth. It was an unanticipated gathering where love doesn’t need to invite, love just comes.

2016 was a year of unanticipated gatherings. I call them grace gatherings.

Gatherings: fellowship, belonging, inside the circle, storytelling, listening, laughter, tears, highs and lows, memory-making, engaging authentic caring, maybe just a just-holding-hands, sharing, quiet or loud, praying, believing, forgiving, hoping, choosing love, a just-being-there kind of gathering.

You see, there are the on-the-calendar gatherings with cakes and candles and a year added to someone’s count. There are holiday gatherings with feasting, thanksgiving, sparklers and fireworks. There are Soli Deo Gloria gatherings reminding us of God’s love and faithfulness in the birth, crucifixion and resurrection of His son. There are back porch gatherings, kitchen counter gatherings, breaking bread or sharing a cup of tea gatherings. People arrive either through formal invites or the casual, southern-styled, the-door’s-always-open invitation to stop by, sit long and talk much over a glass of sweet tea or lemonade.

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Ben and Katrina’s June, 2015 Wedding

Then there are the big-moment, still-planned gatherings like weddings and graduations with suits, ties and starched shirts. Or planned family gatherings in flip-flops, sand with a dab of beach soccer. Last summer,  35+ members of my husband’s family gathered at the beach. We’ve done this since 2009. This was the first year all my boys (with their family) have been together like this since 2008. It was a memory-making gathering.

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Family, June 2016

. . . and then there are the unwanted gatherings where grace just brings you to stand with others in the hard moments when illness threatens or death comes . . . . unwanted gatherings redeemed by grace.

Grace:
1. 
Favor; good will; kindness; disposition to oblige another; as a grant made as an act of grace
2. Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. ~ 1828 Noah Webster Dictionary

Twice this year, Grace gathered and lined up, gave hugs, shared stories that touched our hearts and brought smiles.

Grace always makes time to love.

Those memories we’d all gathered?  Memory stories overflowed with more than enough grace to pour on aching, loss-sore hearts. Nanny had sowed enough love to bring grace to every one of our hearts when she went home to heaven in November. Those memories we’d gathered? Whether 6 or 66, we each had within us a lifetime of memories gathered to pull out when we miss her, to pull out to comfort in her absence.

It’s hard when a beloved character in your story leaves your story. It’s like when Beth dies in Little Women. The gatherings are never the same kind of sweet as when she was there, and it leaves the reader poignantly homesick for earlier chapters, even though the story continues on, fulfilling the designed hope for each character remaining in the story.

Yes, I would have preferred only the birthday sparkle and back-porch kind of gatherings in 2016. Who wouldn’t? But I find myself humbled by a loving God who instills in the hard gatherings grace that redeems through His unfailing love, a love so big that not only does he seek a one-on-one gathering with each of us, but manages to give each of us what we need in the table-packed, porch-packed, house-packed, beach-packed easy or hard gatherings.

2016 was a Grace-in-the-Gatherings kind of year. I don’t know God’s design for 2017. I do know there will be birthday gatherings with cakes and sparkle. When Spring comes, the back porch will open up again and sweet tea and lemonade will taste mighty fine with those who come to sit long and talk much. My 4th son graduates in May, a new grandchild will come in July. The one thing I can rely on is my reliable  Father-God who always shows up, whether I’m alone or in an easy or hard gathering – and brings His abundant grace to share with all who come.

Praying grace in your gatherings in 2017!

“Remember: He WANTS your fellowship, and He has done everything possible to make it a reality. He has forgiven your sins, at the cost of His own dear Son. He has given you His Word, and the priceless privilege of prayer and worship” ~Billy Graham, Hope for Each Day: Words of Wisdom and Faith.

 nannylegacy

 

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It’s just not Halloween without this post!
oldwomaninshoeI used to think moms with just sons were pretty scary, until I became one of those moms.
When you’re a mom with 5 sons, no matter how big, those boys gotta think you can still take them down-no matter who’s around.

You gotta be able to call their bluff.

One day, one of my sons walked through the kitchen on his way to his room buck naked after showering in my shower.  At the same time, the oldest one strolled into the kitchen in his boxers.  I’d had it. I was tired of all this male non-challent nakedness. There was a girl in the house after-all, even if she was just “Mom.”

I started un-buttoning my pants.  I said, “Well, if you can do it, I can, too.”  They high-tailed it out of the kitchen. I didn’t see a naked butt for about 6 months. I must have been pretty Scary-Mommy! (BTW, I only started unbuttoning my pants.  That’s all it took)

It gets pretty scary in the house when I do my “Mad Mad Madam Mim” immitation from The Sword and The Stone or the Lady in the Portrait from Harry Potter when she can just break a glass “Just with My Voice.” The threat to do those immitations in front of their friends pretty much makes them toe the line.

Then, I get pretty SCARY MOMMY when I create visual lectures on relationships and stuff, like “You’re a Cake” and “Hubba Bubba” and “Are you Man Enough?”  And then I share them over S’Mores and Pizza when they bring  BFFS over or I get a chance to hang around their “girl” friends at soccer games or church. It’s so scary, they almost like it.

witchcatA truly SCARY MOMMY makes sure Santa stuffs stockings for the older sons with things like Payne’s Common Sense, Tocqueville’s Democracy in America or C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. However, for every Scary Mommy high moment, there is an equal Scary Mommy low moment, like when I reviewed every Def Leppard song with my son who disagreed that every Def Leppard song is about sex.  We were trying to eliminate the sin-with-a-good-beat music choices.  All Scary Mommy had to do was raise an eyebrow.  My son conceded victory, but Scary Mommy was rather red-faced. Def Leppart no longer blared at the house.

I am probably SCARY MOMMY when I lose my temper, my keys, and when I drive (not quite all at the same time).

SCARY MOMMY loves enough to risk pride, respect, and affection in order to be the mom my son’s need me to be. SCARY MOMMY can be meaner, but SCARY MOMMY gives Volcano kisses that slobber all over their cheeks, bear hugs that can lift the biggest one of them all off the ground, and say, “I’m sorry. I really missed it” when I handle mommy-ness wrong.

SCARY MOMMY has a pretty scary sense of humor.  When one son, whom we call “Bear” got in the car after soccer practice all cold and shivering, I asked him,” What’s the saddest sight in the whole wide world?”

“I don’t know. Your cooking?” he answered. I almost forgot my joke.

“A hairless bear shivering with cold,” I answered.  Now readers, you need to visualize that before you can truly appreciate the SCARY MOMMY humor.

momboysbarn.jpgThe boys would really think I was SCARY MOMMY if they knew what I was like without God in my life giving me the strength, the courage, the inspiration, the never-give-up-ness to believe in their innate goodness when it’s on sabitacal, to believe they are walking in God’s plan for their lives when it seems like every plan has been thrown away, to believe they have generous hearts when they are tight-fisted with their brothers, and to love passionately and unconditionally even when they don’t want to love me back.  SCARY MOMMY drops to her knees in prayer when life is scarier than she is!

SCARY MOMMY? Bring it on! Sometimes I just plain scare myself!

See also Socialism or Capitalism: Trick or Treat or Halloween is. . .

Wishing you a day of celebrating family!

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“How’s it going? – A New Year? A New Day?” – question asked.

“Oh the same old, same old,” comes the cliched same old answer.

And it sounds so glass-half empty – so not new – so already faltering outside the New Year gate.

Sometimes, even on a shiny New Year day, that’s how I feel.

Laundry still piled up. Hungry mouths to feed. Teens still angsting – just maybe over different things. Trying to grow where I’m planted, though I find myself sometimes surprised about exactly where I am.

There’s a lot of same old, same old in my life . . . . I might be living in a same old, same old 24/7 world – but I am learning to live it with a mercies-renewed-each-morning attitude. Not like a one-time gift that we have to make last – with crazy glue and duct tape.

Won’t you join me over at  The Mom Initiative for the rest of this post. I am so excited to start my New Year there today!

 

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In that blueberry path, on a hot July day, I thought how faith grows when one realizes the possibility that we do not know it all, when we concede there might be more to God than we know – and we are willing to step into those paths that speak of a closer relationship with God – believing what Faith said about God, causing Hope to leap in expectation, focusing on the goodness of God, trusting, having confidence that there is more to God, though we may not know what that more truly is.

“Living in Him” reminds me of when I so loved my husband that we married and we moved in together – and when I don’t see him, eat with him, walk with him, talk with him multiple times daily, I miss him, get a little wigged out because that kind of commitment is the grafting together of two people into one, changing who they were before.

Yet, though my husband completes me, it is not as powerful a grafting, as being grafted into our Lord and living in Him.

According  Leonard Hertz in his article, Grafting and Budding Fruit Trees,  “Fruit trees cannot be reproduced “true” to the original cultivar from seed. They can only be reproduced by grafting.”

There is a difference in the fruit we produce when grafted into a relationship with the Father. We can only bear the true fruit from the Father by being grafted into Him. Being good alone, then, just won’t work. The fruit is not quite the same. Only when we are grafted in to that intimate relationship can we truly bear the fruit of God.

Hertz also said, “Grafting is useful, however, for more than reproduction of an original cultivar. It is also used to repair injured fruit trees or for top-working an established tree to one or more different cultivars.” Through this grafting “in Him” a spirit crippled and abused can be repaired, healed, made whole.

God wants me to have that kind of “Living-in-Him” type of relationship, to be grafted into Him – and that is the only way to produce God’s true cultivar, fruit selected for desirable characteristics that can be maintained by being grafted into Him:  love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

What is love without God? What is joy without God? What is peace, forebearance, kindness, without God? Goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – without God?

They are different fruit cultivar without God.

Maybe, if I can find that kind of message in a blueberry patch, just maybe, I can introduce that kind of relationship to my sons, and just maybe one day, maybe they will have a blueberry patch moment, other than a whining, complaining, are-we-done-yet moment. Just like the tree-farmer passes to his child the craft of grafting, fruit trees and harvesting, so, too, do I want to pass to my sons the knowledge of being grafted into an awesome God.

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Ha Ha Wall

Shell at Things I Can’t Say said the sweetest thing on JDaniel4sMom’s blog, “I wish I could hear her calm words in those moments when my boys are driving me totally bonkers” (Shell, JDaniel4sMom Comments).

Even The Empress said, “From my first visit to her blog, I loved her tranquility” (Empress, JDaniel4sMom Comments).  Other bloggers have made similar comments – and, well, I feel like such a hypocrite!  Ladies, – it is all a sham.

The oldest 3 boys would laugh hysterically if they heard someone say, “Your mom is so calm.”

There is nothing more annoying than having one of your children tell you, “Calm down, Mom” – especially when I do not feel calmed up.

I just could not let you go on thinking that I live in the Beulah Land of Calm.

If you are like me – you can handle the first stressor great – it is the consecutive ones piling up behind the first one that light the match launching internal chaos that starts seeping outward, threatening a gusher (Yes – there are mixed metaphors there – but chaos even mixes up metaphors).

Going into someone else’s chaos is always more calming than hanging out in your own. Take my laundry room, for example. It stresses me out. Like God’s grace, it is never-ending – (but God’s grace does not stink). If I came over to your house, well, your laundry room would not stress me out at all.

I am going to go out on a limb here – and I am going to assume. Yes, I realize that is a dangerous thing, but I am going to assume that all of us have things that wig (I just love that word) us out. I would also bet that incidents that threw you with your first born hardly phase you by your 3rd born because you now have more appropriate expectations – not because you have given up – but because you are wiser now.

This 2 year journey I have just returned from – well, there were harrowing challenges, hurts, emotional up-heaval, soul-shaking moments. One son does not want to go by the rules, another does not want to do school work, one no longer thinks we have it together. Some days it is like living in a battle-zone, and I am the target.

Out-building at Locust Grove

I have discovered the ability to roar like a lion, growl dangerously like a grizzly bear whose cubs are being threatened, and hiss like an irate cat – thankfully, no flecks of white foam at the corners of my mouth yet. Women who can handle some of these challenges with calm grace – you are my heroes. 

My husband is always reminding me, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Being reminded in the midst of chaos to take the good road, in the midst of chaos, when you are hanging on by the tips of your soul, well, for me, sometimes that just creates more chaos – because people on the outside do not see how hard you are trying on the inside.

I try to wrap myself with the shield of faith  – and through the prism of  that faith – I remind myself of how God sees my sons, how God sees me – I hold on tight that I really do have angels protecting me – that God knows my heart –

“faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

What I see in a moment of teen rejection, rebellion or disrespect – is not the story. It is just a moment in the journey. The story does not end there.

And, when I succumb to the chaos, and my temper flies? It is an opportunity to show my sons how to repent and to understand that God knows we will miss it – He created us human, fallible.

“But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Nehemiah 9:17) 

My sons need to know that at the time when their eyes are opened to their sin – and they see it for what it is – they need to know that God is a loving God who forgives.

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed” (James 5:16)

If I were perfect, could I teach them about repentence? No – this is not an excuse for sin. It is coming face-to-face with who we are – a fallen people made perfect through Christ Jesus, a stumbling people given grace.

We teach our children to read, to write, to pray, to dance, to give, to love. Maybe in addition to showing our children a great love of a Mighty Father – we need to show them how to repent also.

When you come by – and you feel calmness, a little peace – do not be deceived. Maybe it is the sweet aroma of faith rising from the pile of chaos – because chaos is plentiful.  Maybe it is because someone else’s dirty laundry is less stressful than your own.

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A couple of friends in the blogahood left a couple of sweet gifts in my mailbox over the holidays!  What a sweet pick me up when I was down over the holidays, trying to walk the faith walk about our move but having difficulty talking that faith walk. Well, God picked me up, dusted me off, and filled me with hope and vision, but that is really a whole different post.  Today, I want to share that encouragement – to pick someone up who is maybe down, so I thought maybe it was time to express that appreciation!

The Circle of Friends Award was a wonderful Christmas Gift passed to me from The Red-Headed Riter!  The blogahood is full of wonderful women who share their faith through stories, challenges, and messages God has put on their hearts.  It is amazing how these women’s moments with God brought forth messages I needed to hear.  Because of their boldness in sharing, they served as messengers from God to help me on my journey. Now, that is the best kind of circle of friends!

The rules for this award are:

  • Grab the award
  • Post it on your blog along with 5 things you love to do
  • And 5 other bloggers you want to recognize

The five things I love to do?

1) I love watching the snow fall outside (I’m doing that now)!

2) I love coffee dates,whether with my husband, my sons, or my friends! (This is my favorite coffee shop where we used to live)

3) I love cooking for people!

4) I love watching old movies with my husband – any movie is better when he’s there with me! I love his laugh and humor! No movie experience is complete without him.

5) I love reading – and I love it when my sons love reading.  Another perfect Christmas present I gave was the play and the movie The Devil and Daniel Webster – my 14 year old had asked for both since the summer! I guess I felt like Lionel Barrymore did when he discovered his children loved acting or how Billy Graham felt when he discovered his son wanted to go into ministry!  When your children embrace what you value, it is a testament that something you planted,  cared for and nurtured stuck. Like when my oldest son prayed about his wife – seeking God’s will in his marriage. As moms, we talk it (which can be quite exhilarating, frustrating, or confusing), but the greatest moments are when we see our children walk it!

Now, to the important part of this award – the ladies who have become a circle of friends (The Redheaded-Riter included) that fits my definition above – and that I would love to throw a party for – cooking and coffee (two of my favorite things)! Each has been a sweet blessing to me this year!

1) Lidj at  Crown of Glory

2) Christy Rose at The Secret Life of an American Wife and Mom

3) Teresa at Too Many Heartbeats

4) Lemonade Makin’ Mama (Who I hope does NOT change her title – I could write a post on why that is such a great name! – The gauntlet is thrown down Sasha!) 

5) Deb at He Gave Me a Dream

6) Mocha Mama at Life Be In It

7) Kelly at My Front Porch

I received The Gorgeous Blog Award From Alisa at Faith Imagined.  What an award – as a mom with 5 sons, anyone using the word gorgeous in reference to me I accept with girlish delight (interpretation – I am raising sons, meaning words like gorgeous are not used in my house unless by me and then I only get blank stares or raised eyebrows)! I am passing this award to Genny at My Cup to Yours – elegant, wise, and a blog wonderfully put together.  She is a mom who knows how to turn a disaster into success! You should see the cupcakes her daughter made!

 The Splash AwardThe Red-Headed Riter passed this award to me before Thanksgiving. It is given to alluring, amusing, bewitching, impressive and inspiring blogs. The blogs below definitely fit the bill here!  They have inspired, amused, and impressed me continually with their humor and individual blog sparkle magic!  The rules for this award are:

  • Put the logo on your blog/post
  • Nominate and link up to 9 blogs which allure, amuse, bewitch, impress or inspire you.
  • Let them know that they have been splashed by commenting on their blog.
  • Remember to link the person from whom you received your Splash Award.

 1) Sarah and the Gentlemen

2) Helene at  I’m Living Proof that God has a Sense of Humor

3) Raising My 4 Sons

4) RCUBES in Off the Beaten Track

5) Corrie in Just Because My Pickle Talks Doesn’t Make Me an Idiot

6) Tina at My Lipstick Life

7) When Did I Become My Mom

8) A Blonde Duck at A Duck in her Pond

9) The Pioneer Woman

10) Alisa at Faith Imagined

11) Jennifer at Our Fruitful Vine

12) Mummy McTavish at Samster.com

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superior scribbler awardHow many times do you do something wonderful, and your children, whom you think sparkle like the moon and stars, do not appreciate your Sparkleness?  Sometimes that attitude can dull your sparkle, though it is not supposed to.  I guess that is the humanness within.

Zeemaid from In the Mommy Trenches, sent me this wonderful award that definitely shined up my inner Sparkly.

The Rules for this one are:

* Each Superior Scribbler I name today must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
* Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
* Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
*Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visitThis Post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
*Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

heartfeltShirley at A Mom After God’s Own Heart sent me The Heartfelt Blog Award.  It is such a blessing to be able to share what is in our hearts whether it is just telling a story because it makes you laugh – and telling it just once at home just is not enough! OR maybe it is a crusade against injustice or frustration at valueless marketing in our stores that encroach on your values or just needing someone to say, “I know how you feel.”  To be the Heartfelt Award is about one person’s ideas resounding in some positive, encouraging way in another’s heart.

  The Rules for the Heartfelt  Blog Award are:

1) Put the logo on your blog/post.

2) Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside.

3) Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

4) Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog.

5) Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award

So without further delay, here are my nine picks for the Heartfelt Award:

DaffycommentsawardAnd then the amazing RedHead Riter bestowed upoon me the My Comments Rock Awards because it is not just about taking.  A good neighbor always gives, too.  When we were making our move, I bemoaned my “Peeps” – Yes, I said Peeps.  You do realize that if you use the slang of youth, they will stop using that slang.  I am on a quest – but I digress – I bemoaned the loss of my “Peeps” – My Kroger Peeps, my Wal-mart Peeps, my coffee shop peeps at Cafe Dolche and Poets, Sweet Sallies Yum Homemade cakes and cupcakes – people I have done business with for 18 years, seen me drag my boys through the check out aisle, brought in for a cup of JoeMy sons  where I’d ask how they were and mean it.  And they’d stop and talk about their lives, too.  My sons (all 5 are in agreement on this) and my husband laughed and said it wouldn’t be long before I made friends.  They swear I knew everyone, so it never phases them when I found out information and said, “I have my sources.” However, making friends is hard work.  It means risking rejection by extending friendliness.  We do that with our comments.  We can either give cruise-through comments or really sit down and have a dialogue.  Yes, I am interested in what you have to say.  I was never to appalled in my life when my journalism teacher in college was talking about cliches, saying, “People don’t really want to know how you are.  They just ask.”  This Award, to me, symbolizes what a blogahood needs to be healthy.

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