One sigh

And in one sigh, I released a thousand regrets. Maybe a thousand regrets is an exaggeration. But after months of lamenting, months of undue pressure, months of carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, I asked the simple question, “What is the point?”

I mean seriously, so many of us spend so much time trying to get life exactly right. As if today is tomorrow’s dress rehearsal. It’s not. It is our one guarantee for the day, actually not even the day, for the moment. Worry is such a waste of energy. And sometimes it has a partner, fear.

Worry and fear come visit us for different reasons. They have been my companion of late. I haven’t physically felt at the top of my game and I invited worry and fear to the party. Together they have mixed for one unpleasant cocktail.

But when I seriously think about it, what are they doing for me? When I stopped long enough from my potent drink to stop cowering and really answer the aforementioned question- life became a little clearer. They aren’t adding to my life; they are detracting from it. Worry and fear make you miserable. So much wasted energy combating an enemy that is in your mind.

I don’t think this realization is going to cause me to feel better overnight, but it did cause me to exhale a sigh of relief, which brought a measure of peace. I can’t go back and change decisions, small or not, that I regret and I can’t spend the future on the what- ifs. I really can only rest in the now. The clicking of my computer keys, the warmth of my home, the rocking of my chair, the assurances of my Savior.

Worry and fear cause your brain to get stuck like a cog in a wheel. It takes work to snap out of it and retrain your brain. Once you start convincing your brain the world is an unsafe place and someday you are going to die, it is more than happy to go into overdrive. This world is not perfect and I am far from perfect, but I do have a choice. A choice to live life and for it to be abundant.

If you are struggling with worry or fear, spend some time watching someone who lives in physical pain daily, who has a terminal illness or debilitating disease. Watch them as they smile. Watch them as they wake up every day still choosing to live out their days, not awaiting some unexpected doom, but joyfully looking towards the future. They are not allowing their circumstances to define them. They are living in the very precious present.

Life has its hard days. If you have been overwhelmed by fear and worry as I have, don’t make it worse by continuing to beat yourself up. You have a choice. It won’t change overnight necessarily, but it will make a difference. So, I haven’t felt well lately- this too shall pass. I have a choice. Drink the bitter, soul-permeating libation of fear and worry and allow it to rot my gut or choose to swallow the sweet nectar of faith, hope, joy and love. I choose the latter and I choose it now.

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Teach your children to be vigilant

In today’s world, it is such a fine line between teaching your child to be vigilant so they stay safe and robbing them of the innocent joys of being a care-free child. It is a balancing act and the fine line seems to be moving further and further away from innocence as the sickness in this world grows more prominent.

I was reading a friend’s FB status about a child in her neighborhood who had gone missing for an hour. Thankfully, she was found and the incident was a result of childhood forgetfulness. But as I first read her status and could hear the shrilly laughter and gleeful screams on our neighbor’s trampoline of my own children, a small panic began to well up inside of me. It was starting to get dark and I should make them come in. But I resisted the urge and allowed them to play. After all, aren’t those first few warm, spring nights made for staying up just a little too late? The wonderful teaser of the summer to come. Fears would not rob their childhood fun.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had run a few errands leaving Lilly, our 18-year-old, in charge. Phoebe, our 14-year-old, was out front reading a book as our new puppy weaved in and out from under her chair to end up a furry, tangly mess sitting on her feet. Phoebe began to notice a man walking up and down the sidewalk. He had his cell phone out and was pacing. He would periodically stop by our neighbor’s driveway which gave the appearance of hiding behind a tree. After about ten minutes the three littles (my youngest) came out to play. When his odd behavior continued for ten more minutes, Phoebe called Lilly out to assess the situation. They were all promptly brought inside and we were called.

Fortunately, we were only four minutes from home and we cut short our errands. The children greeted us and told us he had just left a minute before we pulled in front of the house. David headed the direction they pointed he had taken on foot and I loaded the children and the puppy in the car and followed. David caught up with him at the park, a house and a patch of woods down from us.

He was walking with a woman. As I pulled up he was making excuses and claiming he didn’t really walk in front of our house that long. The woman he was with quickly made it clear she had not been with him and didn’t know what he was up to and understood our concern. David told him, “Don’t ever do that again. It was uncool and unsettling to our children. You should have more common sense then to appear to be stalking or staking out a group of children. And furthermore, don’t even walk in front of my house, ever. Don’t even use the sidewalk in front of it. I don’t want to ever see you near my house again. Got it?” At this point, for good measure, I rolled my window all the way down, leaned out a little and made sure he saw me give him the stink eye. I mean, the Momma stink eye- full and direct- with a hint of a snarl lip- I will jack you up buddy, I-am-a-Momma-bear stink eye.

I hope it worked. The next day we observed him walking down the street and just as he hit the edge of the park’s woods, he crossed the street and walked on the other side of the road. It does bother me the incident occurred at all. I can pull a thousand newspaper articles from the recesses of my brain to imagine his intent and spend my days paranoid. But I can’t. I have to live and I need to let my children play and have fun. So what if while they have their fun, Momma has a hidden baseball bat behind the chair on the porch.

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Summer Reading List

Warmer weather is within reach in a lot of regions of the country, or at least the word “spring” brings visions of the next season- summer. Summer means many things to each of us- vacations, pools, water sports, cookouts, late nights catching fireflies, lakes, beaches, lemonade on the porch and so many other summer activities come to mind. Reading a good book often seems to be on many people’s summer to-do list. Bookstores have entire ad campaigns around the notion that summer is the time to unwind, lounge and catch up on a good read. So I thought I would compile a list of books I recommend and would love for you to please share your recommendations, as I would read morning, noon and night in all seasons, some days if I could. 🙂

Children’s books (an adult would enjoy or if you read it and don’t, then I am just a big kid) worth a read if you missed them or even a second review if you have read them:

The Bronze Bow (a favorite), Calico Captive, The Witch at Blackbird Pond and The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Just David by Eleanor H. Porter
Those Miller Girls (humorous) by Alberta Wilson Constance
The Mitchells (series) by Hilda Von Stockum
The Giver, Gathering Blue, The Messenger by Lois Lowry (I just discovered there is a book #4 in this series I have yet to read, Son)
Escape from Warsaw (originally published as The Silver Slippers) by Ian Serraillier
The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
The Misty of Chincoteague series by Marguerite Henry
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers by Jean Fritz
And I did thoroughly enjoy The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Popular Reading:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloots
Cold Sassy Tree and Leaving Cold Sassy Tree: The Unfinished Sequel by Live Ann Burns
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Stones from the River by by Ursula Hegi
Rita Mae Brown, author, her mystery series co-authored with her cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, featuring Mrs Murphy, a feline heroine. The first in the series written in 1990, is Wish you Were Here. Many of her books are set in the great state of Virginia. They are lighthearted and a breezy read.

Christian books about missionaries:
To the Golden Shores: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson (hang in there through the first few chapters, it is a riveting book)
The Lives of the Three Mrs Judsons by Arabella W Stuart
Mimosa by Amy Carmichael Gladys Aylward
Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Journey in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Diebler Rose
Things As They Are: Mission Work in Southern India by Amy Carmichael

Christian Fiction:

Any book by Francine Rivers, but a few favorites: Redeeming Love, the Lineage of Grace series and The Mark of the Lion Series
Beverly Lewis (author) I enjoy all of her books but I like her Heritage of Lancaster County series and The Amish Country Crossroads series
the Russians series by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella
the Refiner’s Fire series by Lynn Austin, set in Richmond, VA during the Civil War

Christian Non-Fiction:

The Cross of Christ by John Stott
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
Radical by David Platt
The Cross Centered Life by CJ Mahaney
Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper
Parenting in the Pew by Robbie Castleman

Please share a few of your favorites 🙂

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Do I have to eat it?

Cooking for a large family can be a challenge some days. Trying to figure out not only what recipe to create but how many different palates in my family will actually appreciate it can be quite the conundrum. When our house was full of with all eleven of us, it was a lot of mouths to delight.

I know food is supposed to sustain us and all, but I am a believer in it should taste wonderful as well. Every night may not be a home run, but I want to sit around the dinner table and feel like I at least got on a base. So I do enjoy planning meals whether it be making faithful tried-and-true recipes or experimenting with new culinary creations.

In our house we don’t make everyone eat everything or every single bite. I personally detest cooked peas or liver. I could muddle through liver with a bucket of ketchup and mind over matter, but if you made me eat a spoonful of cooked peas, the experience would be just as unpleasant for you as it would be for me. The gagging, the choking, the noises and distorted facial expressions would be just awful. So everyone tries what we are having for dinner, but if a family member truly just doesn’t like the taste of something, they can pass on it. I don’t think it is an obedience issue, or an issue of disrespect or even being ungrateful or somehow misconstrued as evidence of a sad spiritual walk. I really believe it boils down to texture, taste or smell and we all experience the world through our own senses.

Age five seems to be a magical age in our house when their appreciation for the food we are eating seems to really kick in. We should have bought stock in Cheerios for Joshua when he was little and Lydia could be queen of Stonyfield yogurt. I know they are getting a balanced diet throughout the day and so it just isn’t worth a battle at dinnertime to me. Don’t read me wrong, I am not a short order cook. If they really don’t like our meal, then fruit and yogurt or good old pb&j it is. It doesn’t happen every night and the older they get the less frequently.

I think because we have not made food a forced issue my children have learned to be adventuresome with eating and willing to try new things. All my children appreciate a good meal and each one has a fairly seasoned palate. They love Greek, Italian, seafood, Thai, Chinese (even sushi), and Indian food, just to name a few. They will eat curry chickpea mushroom burgers with a Greek yogurt condiment, vegetable terrine, salads, vegetables (including brussel sprouts), any fruit under the sun and the list goes on and on.

So for my family, cultivating my children’s interest and trust in our dining experiences has aided in growing them into well-rounded, healthy eaters. Sure, they like pizza and nuggets, but they would choose a pesto chicken sandwich over chicken nuggets any day. So if you come to my house for dinner and a child under five is having an alternate meal, don’t worry. It won’t be too long before they will be asking for second helpings of citrus-seasoned tilapia with a parmesan citrus noodle blend with squash and zucchini.

I would love to hear your thoughts, theories and methods of how you encourage your children’s love of good food.

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Butternut squash soup

If a baby needs to eat, feed it

I have breastfed all of my children, typically in length from four months to two years. The last four were all around two years. Over the years I have encountered numerous reactions and opinions about my choice to breastfeed. I have always tried to be respectful of people around me while nursing, especially strangers, but definitely became more comfortable nursing everywhere during my 23-year nursing career. Hey, it’s a job- a full-time job. I mean, you are using your body to literally grow another person.

Over the years I became adept at nursing just about anywhere. Sitting on the toilet in a restaurant’s bathroom. I did that once, never again. Walking on a trail following my daughter’s preschool class on a hike. Playing the card game Hand and Foot while a colicky baby could only be soothed laying flat across the dining room table while nursing. In the middle of the wedding reception for the vow renewal on my 19th anniversary – yes, I was the bride. In the middle of the night on a marathon roadtrip home from Florida leaning over the car seat to nurse because I was determined not to stop and wake anyone else – no, I was not driving.

My daughter Phoebe was born in early November 1998. She was not quite a month old when my dear friend Donette and I went on our annual Christmas shopping day. It was one of those unseasonably warm, December Virginia days when the outside temperature reached a balmy 75. Seriously, I looked it up in the Old Farmer’s Almanac to make sure I wasn’t exaggerating. Someone forgot to give the memo to the mall management and the heat was on and it was uncomfortable and draining.

We were just about finished with our shopping when we entered Sears for one last thing. Donette was in line and I was looking for a comfortable chair to nurse baby Phoebe. I spotted it right behind the cashier. I raced to the chair with visions of needing to get there first before an elderly person beat me to it. I know, desperate and deranged. I settled myself down into my prize of a cushioned chair with metal arms to snuggle and nurse. Just as I was placing my light baby blanket over her head and she had attached and let-down had begun, the cashier turned to look at me.

Her mouth dropped open, she stuttered, she stammered and finally said, “You can’t do that here. I mean, are you feeding a baby under there?”

Resisting the urge to say, “No, we are playing hide and seek and the baby is it, ” I held my tongue and said, “Yes, I am nursing my baby. I am hot and tired, she’s hungry and this chair is great.”

“Oh, you can’t do that here. Um, um, you can go sit in the dressing room and nurse her,” she suggested hesitantly.

“Oh, no, I don’t want to go in the dressing room. I really like this chair. Plus she is already latched on.”

“Well, you can’t feed her here. We can carry the chair into the dressing room for you. But you can’t feed the baby out here in public, for everyone to see.”

Frustrated, I replied, “That is really kind of you to offer to take the chair for me, but I don’t want to go sit in the dressing room with the hot lights shining down on me. I am comfortable right here.” She stared. She looked panicked. She was frustrated.

“Well ma’am, you are not able to sit…” were the words she began to say as I interrupted her and said, “You know what, forget it. Just forget it. I will go out to the mall and find a hard, backless bench and finish nursing the baby. You know, out in the middle where everyone can see me.” I stood, baby still attached and covered, told Donette where to look for me and began to make my way out of the store.

The cashier must have noticed I spoke to Donette because when Donette reached her turn at the front, the cashier leaned in and whispered, “Was she going to cover?”

Puzzled, Donette answered, “She was already covered.”

“Yes, yes, I guess you are right. But can a woman do that? I mean is it legal?”

Without hesitation, Donette replied, “A baby has gotta eat, if a baby has gotta eat.”

I know nursing in public and the various ways women choose to express breastfeeding has been a hot-button topic for all of my 45 years and longer. But seriously, Donette’s response is priceless and simple. For me, the bottom line is if a baby needs to eat, feed it.

I love this Luv’s ad that supports breastfeeding. Click the link if you would like a giggle- I think it is hysterical!

What letter are you missing?

Yesterday’s post was about singing out loud. As I was sharing the video clips with my four-year-old Lydia, she wanted to watch more. We began to search YouTube for more kid-friendly musical clips when we stumbled across one by Sesame Street. Nora Jones was singing soulfully and beautifully about missing her friend, the letter Y. As the different words scrolled across the screen that couldn’t be spelled without the letter Y, I began to ponder, am I missing any letters from my life?

I think we all go through seasons of our life dropping letters from words and living without them. For example, the letter J. Where would we be without it? Joy would become oy as in oy vey, the Jewish interjection for woe. Without the J in our joy- the feeling of happiness, great rejoicing- becomes the word that literally means great sorrow or distress.

Or what about the word trust? Trust is defined in Merriam Webster dictionary as an assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. Trust without its T becomes rust. We don’t even need to pull out a dictionary for this word. We can all conjure up a picture of something with rust. It is decaying, flaking, a blight, corroding.

I know you can’t drop the first letter of every word and have such a dramatic opposite effect of the original word’s meaning. But what I do know is I need joy and trust in my life, along with a lot of other words. Hope, happiness, fun, faith, patience, rejoice, love, family, marriage, God. So even though the clip that started this line of thinking was a silly Sesame Street spoof, it made me grateful today for letters and the words they help create and my desire to aspire to live out words in my life.

Are you missing any letters from your life? Can you think of any other words that, when one letter is dropped, its meaning changes dramatically?

In case you want to see the video clip, here it is, Nora Jones, Don’t Know Y

Sing, sing a song

There are just some days I can’t bring myself to do anything but sing, the kind of day when you want to crawl back in bed, hang out the “Do Not Disturb” shingle on the front door, well, actually on the bedroom door. But then I realize, succumbing to that feeling isn’t really living. And life is definitely for living.

Some days when I am feeling overwhelmed or just like my brain is on overdrive with the to-do list and other concerns of life here on earth, I sing. For one, it really is hard to hear yourself think when you are drowning your sorrows in song.

There is something liberating about singing. It must release natural endorphins or something. Try it. But don’t just try it at home – go big. Okay, start at home around the family. Then start singing in the car, in your cubicle at work, in the grocery store, in line at the movies, in the doctor’s office, in a public restroom while washing your hands. Okay, you’re a little nervous? Just hum to begin.

It is amazing to watch people’s reactions – from smiles, bewildered looks (at this point, it only eggs me on) to yes joyfully joining in your now no-longer-private songfest. I mean, we need only pull up YouTube and see all of the flash mob videos all over the world to know we all really dig it – the singing together.

Some days, I just envision life like the old Coke commercials where a group of people are singing together- teaching the world to sing.

Check out this video on YouTube:

And then, twenty years later…

Check out this video on YouTube:

One of my all-time favorite memories is at Sesame Place, the amusement park. Several years back my mom and I took Phoebe, Joshua and Caleb for a visit. We were sitting waiting for one of the shows to begin and one of the characters came out to entertain the audience. We started singing. When my eyes met my mother’s eyes, we both had tears brimming over our lashes. The singing was everywhere, through all the generations , arms locked and swaying together and we were united by memories and that song. Sing, sing a song…

Check out this video on YouTube

I know you are singing with me now or at the very least humming in your head. So the next time you are feeling a little low or even when you are happy, start singing and before you know it, you won’t be singing alone.

As a funny aside, I was taking a shower and chatting with my husband as he stood in the bathroom. As I told him about this post, he replied ” You mean you took a video of yourself singing in the shower and you are posting it?” I am not sure which tickled my funny bone more, envisioning me actually making a video of myself singing in the shower or the fact that he actually thought for a moment, I would make a video singing in the shower and post it!