Category Archives: Parenting

Caleb

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Twenty some-odd years ago, John and I met an energetic, mischievous, fun-loving, God-fearing, smiling young man named Clay, and a beautiful, serene, generous, kind and gentle young woman named Joanna. In 1998, the Lord merged those two personalities and Caleb was born, followed by Faith, Jenna, and Audrey.

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Our lives have crossed and intersected and merged now and again and we occasionally were blessed to hug their necks and laugh about things that happened when they were in college (like the fact that Clay taught Jordan and Jacob – when they were toddlers – to say “hey, chicky baby” when girls walked by.) We loved seeing their growing family.

Last summer we spent a weekend with them and their church family at a retreat in New Mexico. On our way there, we met them for a bite to eat and from the moment he bounced over to us, it was evident that Caleb was someone special. He peppered me with questions about Micah and talked about basketball.  He affectionately rubbed his baby sister’s head and smiled all the way through eating his sandwich. I teased him all weekend as he suddenly grew tongue-tied around some pretty girls. I noticed how he was comfortable with all ages and consistently wore a smile. He made such an impression on me!

Last Saturday, August 24, 2013, Caleb left Clay and Joanna, and went home to his Heavenly Father.

Several times today I’ve watched the slide show from his memorial service and as his baby pictures flashed by, I wondered – what if Clay and Joanna had known that they would only have him for fifteen short years? As a parent, I can’t imagine the dread that would create; the panic to hold on tightly as the time approached.

Caleb’s death and Clay and Joanna’s pain have made me think even more about the kind of love that God has for us. Losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare and we would do anything – give anything – to prevent it from happening. But then I remember that oft-repeated verse that I might not really pay enough attention to, because He knew all along what would happen to His Son – “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

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I’m thankful for precious Caleb’s life. I’m thankful for my Father’s sacrificial love. And I’m thankful that one sweet day there will be a joyful reunion.

 

 

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Camp

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When Micah was little bitty, he and I stayed home while John took Jordan and Jake with him to camp. Not being much of the outdoorsy, adventurous type, I preferred to stay in the relatively bug-free air-conditioned comfort of home. I never quite “got” why John and the big boys seemed to be so changed – on a higher plane, if you will – when they returned home.  But I get it now.

By the time Micah was about five years old, John and the big boys were begging us to come along and make it a family experience. My choices seemed to be (1) have another baby in order to stay home from camp, or (2) go to camp. Since the first option seemed a bit extreme, I decided to bite the bullet and spend a week at Camp Hensel.

Hensel, for those of you who haven’t experienced it, is not quite a five-star resort. It isn’t the Marriott. It’s not the Holiday Inn Express. It’s not even Motel 6. It’s more along the lines of the Bates Motel. Let’s just say Hensel has been around for a long time – so long, in fact, that I think some of the bugs stuck between the windows and rusty screens of Cabin 2 have been there since before I went as a child in the 70’s. The shower house for the boys is something straight out of the House of Torment: rusty nails, scary spiders and all. The Road House has a raccoon family in residence.  So I am firmly convinced, every year that our group returns relatively unscathed from a week at Hensel, that God has kept His protective hand over us.

Yes, there is heat. Oppressive, humid, sweaty heat. And bugs. And dirt – lots of dirt.  Shower shoes are a must. People tend to smell a little musty during their week at Hensel. We may occasionally get a teensy bit irritable. And maybe it’s because we only get about four hours of sleep each night.

BUT! There are the absolute best people in the world. A week spent away from the cares of the world and focusing on what is truly important. Lessons rich from the word of God, from men who have a gift for imparting His message. Meals eaten side by side with some of our best friends in the world. God’s beautiful creation evident all around us.

There are little boys (most likely wearing the same clothes for three days straight) whose ratty bed-head is absolutely adorable . Little girls who run around hand in hand, like these two:

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There is time to bond with young men and women – away from their telephones and iPads and any other electronic device. I  find it fascinating that they often come into the cabin on Sunday afternoon with a reserved demeanor (and sometimes downright distrust,) but by the end of the week they run to you with open arms, because the powerful word of God has entered into their hearts, and because we have been given the opportunity to show them that we truly care about them. These were most of mine and Denise’s girls this week – how I love each of these young women!

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There are times to pray, alone and together. Times to catch a glimpse into the sweet relationships between mothers and daughters; fathers and sons. Time to reflect on how blessed we are to be able to minister to others and for them to minister to us.

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And the singing! Can you imagine nearly 250 (dirty, sweaty) people crowded into a medium sized (un-air-conditioned) dining hall, windows and doors closed (because the acoustics are better) and singing for an hour? Andy Baker always encourages and reminds us to concentrate on the words of the songs and remember to Whom we are singing. This must be what heaven sounds like.

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The most beautiful sight was to see the compassion and care from so many when an individual had the courage to step forward and ask for prayers. They were immediately surrounded by so many – and not just their closest friends, but people they may not have known so well. What an amazing group of tender-hearted young people we spent the week with! I saw God in their compassionate, sympathetic tears.

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If you haven’t been, it’s hard to explain, and I hope someday you’ll know. I know we aren’t alone with our experience at Hensel – other camps provide the same experiences as well. I only wish that everyone could spend a week away, digging deep into God’s truths and retreating from the world.

Some of my favorite quotes from the week:

“When God uses you as His instrument, it doesn’t matter if you’re outnumbered.” Todd Crayton

“The Bible never gives us something to subtract from our lives without giving us something to add in its place.” Andy Baker

“If you’re against God, who can be FOR you?…Going to heaven is not easy, y’all, but going to heaven is worth it.” Mike Bonner

After a young lady had responded, Wayne Jones said that “her tears are a reflection of her heart.” What a beautiful statement.

When we arrived at Hensel, a dead feral hog was discovered in a stand of trees near the creek. Each time we walked to the creek for a baptism, the odor was overpowering. But John pointed out, in yet another teachable moment, that it was the “smell of death – and we don’t bury living people. In baptism, we die to our sins, are buried, and raised to walk in newness of life.” 2013-06-12 002 2013-06-12 011

I overheard Michaela Bonner comforting a fellow camper (whose grandmother is near death,) saying “You’ll see her again someday, and you’ll be even happier than you are now!”

We laughed a lot, too. A LOT.  Gretchen said “If you tried to stop some girls from talking, their heads would explode!” There are too many funny things that our girls said this week for me to record – and anyway, they’re just between us girls. 🙂

Coming home from camp is so bittersweet. I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. Not have to stand in the sun with 250 people before I eat. Not have to wait in a line of 100 people to eat lunch. Sit with my elbows on the table. Have the bathroom to myself.

But I’m going to miss my brothers and sisters. Back to living in the world – a world that needs Christian light. And hopefully we have all better prepared ourselves, and those with whom we spent the week, to reflect the light of Jesus to a lost and dying world. I’m praying for those young people who have to face reality again. I’m praying that they’ll remember the strength and encouragement they received at camp when they’re faced with inevitable temptation.

I’m glad my boys all encouraged me to experience camp with them. It’s been life changing. I hope you’ll someday have your life changed, as well.

Do Nouns Make You Happier Than Verbs?

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I just got an email from eBay that said “Carla: still looking for a handbag?”

Hmmm. Is someone watching me? I’ll admit, I do have this tiny problem with handbags: I like them. And cute dishes, and Tervis tumblers and Yellow Box flip flops. And I like it when John takes me out to dinner. I don’t really like being the center of attention, but I don’t mind – on a small scale – when it’s “all about me!”

But – the world doesn’t revolve around me.

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Shocking, isn’t it? Here’s more: it doesn’t revolve around you, either.

We all want to be happy. I want to be happy. You want to be happy. Our kids want to be happy. We want to make them happy. “Happy, happy, happy!” (Thanks, Phil.)

Here’s the problem, though. Where does our happiness come from? Nouns, or verbs?

Recently, while preparing a lesson about ways to influence and teach teenage girls, I was thinking about how we tend to use NOUNS (people, places, and things) to make our girls (and GUYS, for that matter) happy. Did someone hurt your feelings? Let’s go buy you a new pair of shoes. Bad day at school? Let’s go to the movies. Your friend got a new purse? We’ll get you a more expensive one. This will make you feel better, baby.

It’s sort of like the drain in the bathtub with no stopper…we keep trying to fill it up. But something else will always come up…a new want, another bad day, and the THINGS just keep pouring down the drain.

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But what if we used VERBS to make our kids happy? What if we used verbs to make US happy? Did someone hurt your feelings? Let’s stop right here and ask God to soften their heart and also to open our eyes to our own insensitivities. Bad day at school? Let’s go by and see how we can help this hurting family in need. Your friend got a new purse? Let’s go through your closet and see what we can share with someone who REALLY needs it.

Believe me, I’m talking to Carla, too.

This isn’t anything new. God said it centuries ago.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:1-4

“The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS, for they shall be satisfied…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:6, 16 (emphasis mine)

Nouns make us happy, but it’s a temporary happy. We are always going to want another new pair of shoes. But verbs – now THOSE will really make a difference. Not only in my life, but in the lives of those I am helping! Our kids might balk at first. They might drag their feet (or we might have to drag their feet for them…) 😉 but given plenty of opportunities, they (and we!) will see the lasting happiness that comes from being a servant of God.

Then, instead of a draining bathtub, we can be like those beautiful infinity pools we see in magazines…the kind of pool that spills over and shares beauty and flows out with God’s living water. Who wouldn’t want to be there?

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Come On, People!

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Monday night, we went to a 7th grade girls basketball game. It was held in a gym where Jordan and Jacob played in high school. I wonder what it is about the squeaky floors, uncomfortable wooden bleachers and sweaty, basketbally smell of a familiar gym that can send you spinning into nostalgic overload? Those years of watching basketball in that gym were fun. And cute little Micah with his chili-bowl haircut would shoot baskets during halftime at his brothers’ games.

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Watching the boys (especially Jordan – yes I did just say that – sorry, Jake and Micah) play basketball ranks right at the very top of my list of favorite things to do. (I enjoy watching their football games too, but spent most of my time cringing behind my hands.)

But I digress.

Back to Monday night. We sat near a man we did not know, and he was quite vocal during the game.  He did not hesitate to voice his loud irritation with his daughter when she did not perform as well as he thought she should. Over the years, we’ve heard a lot of parents complain and yell and gripe. They got mad at their kids. They were furious with the coaches. They yelled at the refs. (Sometimes I had to tell John to pipe down. Sometimes he had to tell ME to pipe down. Sometimes I had to pinch him.) I remember one man who was thrown out of basketball games with regularity because he was so obnoxious. I’ll never forget the near-brawl that took place at one of Jordan’s 5th grade little league football games. 

Get a grip.

It’s a game.

They’re just kids.

I think we need to remember why we want our kids involved with youth sports. Is it because we want them to win at all costs? Is it because we want our son or daughter to be athletically superior to the next kid? Even if we have hopes for a college scholarship, does that justify rude behavior, angry outbursts and the stress we put on our kids?

Here are the good things about youth sports: our kids learn teamwork and responsibility. They learn that hard work and practice pays off. They learn that life isn’t always fair. They learn that not everyone is easy to work with. They (hopefully) learn how to lose gracefully. They learn self-discipline. And if we do our parenting job right, they learn to put God before all other activities, even when it’s tough.

Come on, people. Remember what’s important.

No Regrets

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While digging through cabinets looking for our missing Christmas DVD’s, John discovered our old video camera and some tapes. They contained footage of old Christmases, Jacob’s *stellar* performance as Daddy Warbucks in his 8th grade musical, and Jordan’s summertime 7 on 7 football games.

Plenty of laughs. There were Jordan and Jacob in 1998, with their arms around each other, standing on the hearth singing “Joy to the World, ‘cuz Barney’s dead…they barbecued his head…” (Wow, really? Where did they come up with such violence??) Micah’s statically-electrified bedhead hair flying around on Christmas morning as he pushed his new Fisher Price Toddler Trike around the living room. John and me, both at least 50 pounds heavier, which didn’t exactly make us laugh but DID give us extra incentive to head to the gym tonight. 🙂 And there was my Dad at one of Jordan’s middle school basketball games, with considerably more hair on his head.

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I found myself swallowing tears too, and wondering why. It’s just so bittersweet. At the time, you might not think much about your little boys throwing their arms around you with unrestrained happiness and unfeigned love. It’s easy to take little things like that for granted.

But I got to thinking about how much more “sweet” we have than “bitter” – and how thankful I am that God gave us a handbook to guide our steps. Thankful for a husband who led our home spiritually and emotionally – and in every way. Thankful that our memories are a blessing and not a curse. And thankful that we don’t have serious regrets about our boys.

Food log….been kinda iffy on that for the last week or so, for obvious reasons. I think I’m going to start posting a screen shot of my Weight Watchers log instead of re-typing it here. Starting tomorrow. Because I’m regretting the food choices of the last week. 🙂

Missing Information

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I found myself a little miffed tonight because several days ago, I sent a certain son of mine who shall remain nameless (but whose name starts with J and ends with acob) a picture asking his opinion about a gift he is supposed to give his aunt. He never responded. Which isn’t all that unusual, but I thought to myself “Well, I guess I’ll choose HIS gift for her MYSELF and he can pretend to be all PROUD when she OPENS it and says oh THANK you Jacob I LOVE it how did you EVER pick this OUT and know what I WANTED?”

Scowl.

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Then tonight scrolling through my messages I saw a red exclamation point next to that picture, which meant, of course, that the picture failed to send.

Oops.

Just another reminder of the times I’ve been miffed over something, only to find out that I didn’t have all the correct information. Maybe I better do a better job of remembering there’s always more than one side to every story.

What does that have to do with losing weight? Nothing, really. But that’s what was on my mind tonight.

Food log today: Back to my usual 2 oz Boar’s Head ham, 1/2 cup cottage cheese AND 1/2 of a small Kerbey Lane pancake, no syrup. Lunch – big spinach salad with 2 oz diced grilled chicken, boiled egg, 2 tsp sunflower seeds, 1 tbsp La Madeleine Caesar dressing, and some pita chips with hummus. I could probably lose weight a lot faster if I didn’t eat pita chips and hummus. We went to dinner with Robert, Tracy, Ally & Katy tonight at Texas Land & Cattle. Unfortunately, they had a 2 for $25 special which included an appetizer. I confess to eating some onion strings and some steak nachos. Not too many, but more than I should have. I also had some bread, a salad with some ranch dressing on the side, about 4 oz of lean sirloin, and 1/2 of a baked potato. Not the best eating day – but not the worst, either.