Category Archives: Family

Staying Connected issues focusing on the family units

Three Crazy Things That Happen When She Becomes the Initiator

My husband and I do marriage seminars, in a few flavors to meet the needs of the local audience. But no matter what style of seminar we are presenting, the facts are the same. In general men initiate sex more than women. Men everywhere are having a moment of silence for this sad fact. In general, women will be shocked that it even matters. At the end of the day, it may not matter much as long as sex happens. On the other hand, most men get a thrill out of being the one pursued once in a while. It’s not without danger and risk though. Some crazy things can happen when women initiate sex.

1. She often becomes a dictator. When a woman initiates intimacy, she sort of skips that gentle flirtation mode and goes straight for the “we’re doing it right here and right now” mode. It’s a good thing that this is usually a turn on for men, after they catch their breath from being surprised.

2. She stands her ground. Sometimes a couple will agree to an intimate encounter out in the beauties of nature, but women generally crave security and privacy. This means she will decide where she feels safe and she won’t budge. If she decides a nice soft spot in between some trees is perfect, she may not be seeing your view – looking over the cliff’s edge. But she’s going to stand her ground for this safe place for her and you’ll never forget it.

3. Her “rules” don’t apply. Basically, she exercises the right to redefine previously set sexual boundaries when she is the initiator. Perhaps he has been wanting to try a new position, but she won’t budge until the day she takes over and initiates. Then she decides it’s worth a try. At this point, guys can get frustrated that the rules don’t apply to her, or be grateful that it happened. The good news is that sometimes after she rewrites the rules for herself, she’ll sometimes rewrite them for him as well.

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How My Co-Worker Got Three Heads!

Myself and two other ladies manage the front desk for six physicians. We try to be that friendly face behind the counter when you check in to see the doctor. But sometimes….

In actuality, its really quite simple. We just need a simple form filled out – front and back. The first dirty look comes when the patient doesn’t want to have to fill out the form. When we kindly point out that they missed the back side – they look at us as if we had two heads.

But today was the winner. One patient’s caregiver jerked the form back from my co-worker and glared at her – for merely indicating the back side needed to be completed. It was clear to see that this woman thought my co-worker was a three headed monster!

Being sick isn’t fun, and we try to serve with compassion the patients that come our way. Please don’t hate us for doing our jobs. You see, you may have had a relationship change and have a new emergency contact instead of your ex-boyfriend. If your test results show a major issue, we want to contact you right away! It’s a good thing your paperwork is up to date so we call your new emergency contact if we can’t reach you – instead of your estranged ex-boyfriend.

What if we quit treating people that ask a little from us as if we were banished to a penal colony? What if we respected people who did their jobs with thoroughness, instead of cheap, low quality work? What if we didn’t get angry with those who greet us warmly and connect us to vital healthcare?

Truly, we are not three-headed monsters!

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The Heretofore Underappreciated Value of a Complete Sentence

I had considered being a doctor as a child, but never a nurse. I just wanted to come into the room with all the answers and knowledge. I was never interested in giving shots or sponge baths. But somewhere along the way I fell in love with words and decided to explore writing and communication.

So when my mother-in-law, Edrine, broke her ankle and I was the only relative in near proximity and with a more flexible schedule, I ended up paying a visit to Georgia to assist her a little as well as my father-in-law, Klaus, (both are in their 70’s) in their primary caregiver duties to Edrine’s aunt.

Aunt Luella is 101! That’s quite an accomplishment. But age has taken its toll on her and she struggles with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some days when you walk into her private wing at the end of my in-laws’ home, you never know what to expect. She’s latched on to a few words that are repeated over and over again along with a sprinkling of intelligible words. You have to understand that sometimes a gibberish word is standing in place of the other word that her mind can no longer get her mouth to say.

It took a couple of days for Aunt Luella to get used to me in the room assisting with care instead of my mother-in-law. I tried my best to follow instructions and keep to the exact same routine so as not to aggravate her. She spoke mostly to Klaus, but sometimes she would look at me and say a string of gibberish.

One day, as I cleared away her morning meal and brought her a nutritional supplement, Aunt Luella suddenly looked up at me and said, “I really like that shirt.” I was stunned and overwhelmed. I finally smiled and thanked her for her kind words. To hear that 101-year-old woman speak in a complete sentence was uncommon, but especially to someone new she was still getting used to. That simple sentence, a compliment about what I was wearing, is something I will treasure forever.

So here I am, full circle, realizing that I never wanted to be the one to do the sometimes nasty jobs of personal care on someone who couldn’t do it for themselves, yet that’s exactly what I was doing for Aunt Luella. Was it fun? No! I got peed on once and in one of her dementia aggravated moments, she thrashed and tried to get her diaper off – leaving quite the mess for us to clean up. But having that one interaction with her made it all worthwhile!

When someone speaks to you, take the time to listen. It may not be evident on the outside just how much it is taking them to speak in a complete sentence to you. Maybe it’s a child that is afraid to admit that they broke something. Maybe it’s a relative that has been distant for some years and is struggling to say that they want to be involved in the family again. Take the time to appreciate the value of a complete sentence.

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7 Ways to be a Better Santa Claus

So there is going to be a lot of gift giving during the Christmas season, right? Some will be doing so out of a sense of obligation, others out of love and connection. There are still others who just get caught up in the holiday spirit and shop till they drop. God bless their hearts.

Most of the time, we make a really lousy Santa Claus. Why do you think there are so many “Ugly Sweater Parties” at Christmas? The secret to being a better Santa? Well this is a blog about staying connected, so yes the answer is being connected. Take the time to know people and be a better Santa Claus. Here are 7 suggestions.

1. Get to know your neighbors better. They may not like fruitcake. Their house is already full of calorie laden gifts. Maybe they have a son in college that they miss very much. Stationery and stamps may be the best gift.

2. Get over the gift card. First of all, you’re paying taxes twice. You get taxed when you purchase the gift card and they get taxed when they buy something with it. If you must get a gift card, at least find out what their interests are and get one they’ll absolutely love!

3. Find the reasons they “don’t” do something. Have an aunt that used to bake all the time, but doesn’t anymore? Assumed she just got bored with it? Ask her way. Maybe it’s her arthritis, and mixing is difficult. Get a standing kitchen bowl mixer for her. You’ll be giving her two gifts in one, because she’ll also be getting back her love of baking.

4. Stop avoiding scrooge! Have someone that just isn’t into the Christmas spirit? Find out why. There could be a painful memory associated with the holiday season and each year they are reminded of a great loss or never ending battle. A gift that pays tribute to a lost loved one or a gift that says “I’m on your side,” could change everything this Christmas.

5. Give yourself. Time is one of the most precious gifts we have to give. Invite a friend or family member to spend time with you in a way that both of you would enjoy – a sports event, a concert, manicure, local community theater – and throw in a meal to make it even more meaningful.

6. Touch the saint’s heart. Is your family’s hippie driving you nuts about all the consumerism and commercialism at Christmas when people are going hungry? Pick a charity, pick a need and take them shopping for items for those in need. Not the shopping type? Visit http://www.adra.org and their really useful gift catalog. You can buy a goat for an impoverished family that will change their way of life, and you can have it done in the name of your friend.

7. Support and Encourage. Don’t know what to get that coworker for Christmas? Go to their kids’ school Christmas program and present a small gift to the child for a job well done. Grandma always works so hard to put on the great big family Christmas dinner, consider a personalized serving platter, “Grandma’s famous Christmas Dinner.” Give gifts that encourage people in what they love!

All these tips have one thing in common – taking the time to connect with people. The best way ever to be a better Santa!

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The #1 Enemy of Being Connected

Relationships require connection. You may pass the same newspaper guy on the street every day on your way to work, but there is no real connection, no relationship. However, if you always wave when you walk by, even if you don’t purchase a paper, there is some connection. Something is happening. Some form of recognition and awareness between two people.

Connection is important in all relationships from coworkers and distant, extended family to your best friend or your children. Because we are human, there are so many ways we can break that connection. We fail to stay involved in our kids’ lives then hit the roof when the principal calls and says little Susie is part of a bullying clique at school that caused another student to drop out of school. We don’t take the time to ask our coworkers about their families or how their weekend went and then wonder why they don’t invite us to their get togethers with other coworkers. Then there are the really horrible ways we break connections, like abuse, neglect and slander.

Painful as all of these are, they’re really not the #1 enemy of being connected. That “honor” is reserved for a false sense of security. Some may argue with me and say that couldn’t possibly be a contributor to broken relationships, but that’s their opinion. When you screw up, you pay the consequences. But what happens when you don’t even know you screwed up because you’ve been floating on the “I have arrived” cloud and stopped investing in your relationships?

It sneaks up on you like the iceberg on the Titanic. You’ve worked hard on your relationships and that hard work has paid off, so you just sort of check out and think, I’m done. I can just rest on my laurels now. I’ve arrived and now all I have to do is coast. Reminder, when you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.

The experts say that no fad diet is going to help someone lose weight, it has to be a lifestyle change. It’s the same with relationships. No little relationship booster is going to fix it for all time. Investing in your relationships is a lifestyle. This sneaks up on spouses the most. They think all is fine and suddenly they realize they don’t feel connected anymore. They stopped investing in their marriage.

This can be overwhelming to think about. You mean I have to invest myself in all of these relationships, from coworkers to my kids? Yes. That’s too much! It can be. That’s why you have to prioritize and decide which relationships you will connect with at a bare minimum level and which will you connect with at a much more involved level, such as your spouse or your children. You value what you invest in. Don’t stop investing in relationships. Make it a lifestyle and stay connected!

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Why I Spend More for Less Ice Cream

I’ve been accused of being from out of town. After all, who else would have an app for all the local grocery store chains and be able to shop savvy in the middle of the only incorporated town in all of Marion County, Texas? Yes, I’m that kind of person. I like to save when I can.

Am I an extreme coupon clipper? No! I did research on that and found out that part of the way they get their coupons is by getting online, finding coupons that are being used for a particular market for introduction and evaluation and changing their zip code to match so they can download that coupon. In other words: that $2 off coupon is only good in the Northeast where they are doing some market research, but if you change you zip code to a northeast zip code, you can get one of the coupons. My ethics won’t allow me to do such things. So, I save where I can and budget and do my best. I play the balancing game between how much my time is worth, how much gas would be spent going to different stores compared to the amount of savings I would get. It’s what you have to do when you’re on a budget!

So when in the world do I spend more for less ice cream? The answer is simple. I love my daughter.

Greta is going through that puberty phase where some girls get rail thin and others get pudgy and round. She’s going for pudgy and round. She’s also emotional, thanks to ADEM, so she gets attached to foods she loves and is sometimes a stress eater. Let’s see, her brother left for college and we are relocating to Mississippi. Nope, no stress in this household. On top of it all, Greta is dealing with habits and appetite binges she developed when on a huge dose of steroids to save her life during ADEM. She’s got a lot of things going against her right now. She needs all the help she can get. So I buy more expensive ice cream.

I’m not talking about buying the generic store brand versus those that claim to be the best ice cream in the country. I’m talking about spending more to buy those prepackaged ice cream cups. Greta loves ice cream! It’s a love language for her and it helps to calm her down in the middle of one of her ADEM mood swings. But I can get much more ice cream for my money if I just buy a half gallon of it and everyone scoops their own. That’s the problem. Greta scoops out way too much. Actually, we all do!

So I’ve come to the point where spending more money, to get the smaller and already packaged cups of ice cream is the best thing I can do to help Greta learn portion sizes with the treat she loves so much and gives her so much comfort. If you’ve ever been through a life threatening situation that leaves you emotionally scarred, you’ll understand how important it is to have a comfort item in your life. So yes, that’s why this budgeting and saving mom spends more for less ice cream. I look at the heart of the matter – a little girl going through so much at one time and I decided she’s more than worth it!

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Filed under ADEM, Family, Parenting

What Tools Should You Have in Your Toolbox?

If you hang around neuro-psychologists long enough, you just might pick up a couple of their phrases. Going through the evaluations, various testings including follow-up MRI’s and so forth with Greta’s Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), we’ve spent some time with a great neuro-psychologist. One of her phrases that we love -Tools for your Toolbox!

Basically, this doctor, who is a favorite among all the kids and parents because she is just so awesome, says her goal is to make sure Greta has enough tools in her toolbox to handle dealing with ADEM in day to day life. Now nearly three years after that terrifying ordeal of seeing my little girl hospitalized and hooked up to all kinds of things, I realize that tools in the toolbox can apply to any of us. I’ve also seen that we’re a lot happier when we embrace this.

I’m getting ready to send my firstborn off to college. He has his own issues that he deals with, like being an intense introvert and being addicted to his routines. Seeing him being forced by circumstances to change his routine is like watching ants that have lost the line. So yeah, I’m a little nervous for him, but I’ve taken on Dr. Harder’s mantra and I’m doing everything I can to make sure that Michael has the tools he needs in his toolbox to deal with life as a college student hundreds of miles from home.

So what tools should you have in your toolbox? That’s easy, the ones that help you cope and deal with life – in addition they should be legal, moral and ethical. That usually helps. While there will be similarities, there will also be tools that will be different for each person. Greta, being very literal now and decreased math skills due to ADEM, needs tools to help her remember to ask people to help her when she doesn’t understand something. She needs to tool of asking others to slow down and help her until she gets that joke, because she’s so literal.

Michael, the extreme introvert, knows he would rather do just about anything before talking on the phone to anyone. So a tool in his toolbox is going to be a good friend willing to make a phone call when he can’t.

What tools should be in your toolbox? Find those things that help you cope with life and deal with the day to day stresses that living on planet Earth serves up on a regular basis. The amazing thing is, you’ll usually find tools for your toolbox in your family, church, community and friends.

 

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The Four Piles for the Prospective College Student

Denial.

I think the first phase of grieving my oldest son’s leaving the house for college is beginning with denial. I’m way too young to have a child leaving for college, or at least I’d like to think so.

In the process of helping Michael clean his room (which he shares with his younger brother) and sort out what’s what, we had to come to an understanding. I told Michael there were four piles for his stuff and he needed to made decisions and put things in the right pile, and these piles have different sizes as well. They are as follows.

Largest pile – toss that junk!

Next largest pile – pass down to younger siblings or donate to charity

Medium pile – stuff he’s actually taking with him to college

The smallest, tiniest, almost microscopic pile – things he’d like us to store for him while he’s getting his first degree

Of course when I was telling Michael the parameters of the piles, I made sure that he realized the last pile was only out of the goodness of our hearts and he needed to be extremely grateful. I know he’s going to miss my sense of humor when he’s gone.

As we gradually filled up one bin of stuff he’d like to keep forever, just not take with him to college, I saw once again the importance of memories, milestones, and souvenirs. I also saw how personal they are and the sentiment attached to these things are only understood by the rightful owner. You can pass down a favorite old toy, but you can’t always pass down the sentiment as to why that faded, beat up old thing is so special to you.

Things that stood out: DVD’s and t’shirts from his class at church, notes from his sister (they really do love each other!), and a page that represented the most awesome semester of history class he ever experienced. It was very interesting that some of these precious things were buried under a layer of clutter and multiplying dust bunnies. Thanks son, for teaching me that there are great things to hang on to in life and I need to get rid of the junk that’s covering them up. I wouldn’t have traded helping you clean out your room for anything, because I needed to go through this journey along with you. It would be expected for me to say that the experience will soften the blow of losing you around the house each day. But can anything really make this transition more bearable?

One late night, when my eyes are puffy and red from crying from missing my firstborn so much, I’ll probably sneak into the space we’ve allocated for his keep forever box, open it up and spend a few moments with things that are treasured by the one who took a piece of my heart with him.

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How Perspective Defines the Unthinkable

One of the things my husband and I enjoy presenting at our marriage seminars is the fact that the differences men and women find fascinating about each other at the beginning can become frustrations after they are married – but there’s hope! We teach people how to reignite understanding their spouse and give them tools to turn those frustrations back into fascination about the person they love!

The funny thing about these principles, and many others, is that they can be applied to many relationships, not just marriages. So we found ourselves having yet another discussion with the oldest regarding the youngest of our offspring. Here is the scenario.

Greta was told to wash her hands before handling a book. She went to the kitchen sink that was full of the dishes I had just used to make breakfast, instead of either of the other two sinks in the house that were completely free. Michael was dumbfounded. Why would she choose the  most difficult sink to wash her hands in? That’s easy. For Greta, she just wanted it done so she could move on to the next thing and the kitchen sink was the closest to her. She went for it.

After discussing it further, we came to the crux of the perspective problem between the two of them. Michael finds it unthinkable that someone could care so little about a situation. We then assured him that it was equally unthinkable to Greta that someone would care so much!

We interact with other people on a daily basis and perhaps we even judge them because of something they have done that we find unthinkable! But we must bear in mind that the unthinkable is molded by our perspective. Let’s give others some grace that their perspective may be different than ours and therefore their actions may not be as unthinkable as previously thought.

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The secret to my super duper peanut butter & honey sandwich

I just didn’t get it. Why did Matthew only want peanut butter and honey sandwiches that I made? How in the world did very simple and straightforward a+b=a peanut putter and honey sandwich become so much in demand?

Karl didn’t get it either. He knows how practical and “let’s just get this done,” I am and he was also bewildered. He had technique in making a sandwich and he took his time with the attentions to detail, but my sandwich got the ranking of super duper and only mine was good enough for Matthew. How could this be?

Then one day I ruined it all. I showed them how I made the sandwich.

I think at this point, there are not enough words in any thesaurus to convey the amount of disappointment, let-down and “really, that’s all there is to it?” As far as technique goes, Karl’s scored way more in the artistic area. Me – I just slapped down two pieces of bread. Put peanut butter on one. Squirted honey on top of the peanut butter, so that I didn’t have to use a knife or anything to spread it – too much fuss – then slapped on the top piece of bread. Done. Eat. You’ve been provided for.

After the “great disappointment” as to my secret method, we were able to ascertain that since I didn’t blend the peanut butter and honey together artistically with a knife like Karl did; and since I didn’t put the honey on its own slice of bread like most amateurs (it starts soaking into the bread immediately and losing its potency) that somehow my simple method allowed for light airy layers that tantalized Matthew’s taste buds.

But it was no longer called the super duper peanut butter and honey sandwich.

Since when did something, simple and perfect just the way it is, deserve to be ostracized from the super duper? Why does something have to have tons of steps, like Common Core math, or lots of bling (lifeystyles of the rich and famous)? If something is good, perfect even, and simple – why can’t it also be super duper?

It’s not the first time. We human beings have a way of rejecting the simple and perfect, because we’re expecting something spectacular and flashy. If we like it, if it’s good, well then of course it has to be over the top – right? It couldn’t possibly be simple.

I still make peanut butter and honey sandwiches the same way, even if they’ve lost the title of super duper. Nothing has changed in the sandwich itself. It is just the preconceived ideas and expectations of the recipient. Time to do some inventory. Are there things I’ve been given that are perfect though simple, that I refuse to call super duper just because it’s not super flashy? Time to call all the blessings, gifts, people and things that I love what they are: super duper!

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Scrapped Rights and Duties

Everyone wears a seat belt. That was the rule laid out by mom and dad. When my sister and I were driving the family car, everyone riding with us had to wear their seat belt. Failure to follow this rule would result in loss of driving privileges. Pretty simple and straightforward.

A lot of life and living took place between my young driving days and my oldest son turning 16 years old. Let’s get Michael his driver’s license! Rite of passage just like I went through at that age. But it wasn’t that easy in the great state of Texas for a 16 year old to get a driver’s license. I had visions of Michael driving himself and his two younger siblings to school each day. That would take a load off of Karl and I. We were looking forward to it. But someone told us that wouldn’t work and we looked into the rules about driving in Texas. Things had changed a lot since I was sweet 16 and driving the family car!

Somewhere between my parents and their rules and my son being of age for a driver’s license; there were a whole lot of parents that began scrapping their parental rights and duties. Instead of being their child’s parent, they gave in to the popular notion of the time (that is still floating around out there) that their primary objective was to be their child’s best friend. Really? So if your parent is your best friend, who do you go to when you need a parent? Look no further, big brother is standing by.

This is how it works. Parents put restrictions on their offspring when new privileges are granted. As the young person proves trustworthy, the restrictions are gradually lifted. Parents have been parents. Young people have learned trust and accountability and the roads are safer. When parents quit parenting, the government steps in. It may be local, state or even federal, but when parents stop parenting someone has to be come the parent. So now the state of Texas is the parent for all young drivers. There is no way to determine if they have been trustworthy or not, so specific ages are set down. Regardless of how wonderful your little darling is, the law has specific restrictions and limitations until they reach a certain age. It’s what happens when you govern the masses.

It was so much easier and more gratifying when parents held those duties and responsibilities. It was intimate, something you achieved under the watchful eyes, cheering and support of those closest to you. Now it’s a number in line and the same rule applies to all universally – no matter how safe of a driver you are.

Will parents ever take back their rights and duties? I’m hoping so.

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Movie Bites

We took a family walk this evening and I gave the order to my youngest son – nothing that comes from a movie please!

I noticed it this morning and commented on it; that everything he said was little sound bites from various movies, TV programs or computer games. Was it cleverly done? Of course! Was he right on the mark? Absolutely! But I wanted to be able to have a conversation with him without having to visualize the movie he was pulling bits and pieces from.

This led to the family challenging each other to various levels of “screen-free” days. Matthew’s response was, sure, but you need to give me something interesting to do instead.

Isn’t that the problem? You have a bookshelf full of great books, shelves full of great science project games, art supplies, science gadgets, games, challenges and Legos. And you need something interesting to do?

And so it begins.

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I Am NOT Cute!!

I love it when you do that, it’s so cute.

I’m not cute!

Karl and I had this argument many times in college during our dating years. To me, cute means it made me go mushy – completely unable to resist. Karl would accept any other words, but not cute. He did not give me a reasonable explanation other than “guys aren’t cute.” So I learned to avoid using that word, even though I never understood why.

Flash forward 22 years and my 12-year-old son is able to put into words that make sense why this evil label of “cute” is so demeaning to a man. Matthew explained that cute is usually something that is helpless, like a newborn kitten. It is so adorably cute because of how much care it needs (just saying that sometimes men do behave like they need a lot of care). His tween wisdom was given, full of passion and determination, more than his father, to never be called cute.

Dealing with two generations of Leukert men, I finally understand why the word is so offensive to masculinity. While it is still true that women don’t limit the word “cute” to the helpless and needs care definition that men do; I will refrain from using that word to describe in any way the men in my family. I respect them enough to appreciate their definition of the word and use it appropriately around them.

Today, I’m grateful to finally have the mystery solved. To finally know “why” the word is so offensive and to make sure my words always express to my husband that he is “the man” in our house!

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Saving Supper

For the past 13 months, pain has been a way of life for me. During that same time period, picking up the slack and taking care of me has been the way of life for my husband. But it’s nothing new. I picked a winner.

Karl and I attended a small Christian college in central Texas where the cafeteria hours were unmovable – even if it conflicted with a class. Seeking a bachelor of arts degree, I had to take foreign language and I chose French. It just so happened that French class got out five minutes before the cafeteria closed – and it was on the opposite end of the campus. Enter the hero – my boyfriend who became my husband.

Karl would eat supper then go back through line and get a tray for me, he arranged it with one of the cafeteria workers he had befriended. The entrance door would be locked, but I could knock on the exit door and Karl would let me in and I got to eat supper. For someone with digestive problems caused by Crohn’s Disease who has to eat three regular meals a day – no snacking – this was a lifesaver.

My husband continues to be my hero. I am grateful.

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Filed under Crohn's Disease, Family, Marriage

Considering Your Destiny

One of the fascinating sequels in the Bible is the book of Jeremiah, followed by the book of Lamentations. The first book is all about Jeremiah’s pleadings, on God’s behalf, for God’s people to come back to Him. The book is full of recollections of God’s many attempts to get their attention and remind them that they had a covenant. He would be their God, provide all for them, and they would be His people, faithful to Him only. But they didn’t listen. To put it delicately, they pretty much decided to flaunt their unfaithfulness in God’s face. So then comes the book of Lamentations. All God’s warnings ignored, the desolation came. Now begins Jeremiah’s laments over how none of this would have happened, if God’s people had just been faithful.

Tucked in the first chapter of Lamentations is an interesting concept in verse nine. God’s people didn’t consider their destiny.

Think about that for a moment. They were so wrapped up in the here and now, instant gratification that they forgot about their ultimate destiny as God’s people. Remember that ultimate destiny? They were never to lord it over others. God simply chose them to be the ones to share His love with all the rest of the world. They lost sight of that destiny and became an exclusive club for snobs instead. God’s original plan was to save every single person on Earth. The people He blessed to share that good news with others – they failed, because they didn’t consider their destiny.

What is your destiny? Are you so caught up in the here and now, hand to mouth, daily grind and all of that – have you lost sight of your destiny? Is your marriage something you’re just surviving today, or does it have a destiny to be great? Can you hardly wait until the kids are of legal age and out of the house, or does your parenting have a destiny?

Life isn’t just about today. God created you for greatness. You have a destiny – don’t lose sight of that. Today’s decisions affect tomorrow. A score of tomorrows becomes your destiny. Have you considered your destiny today?

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Sex Begins in the Kitchen

Karl and I find ourselves on road trips often, so we take advantage of the time on the road and talk, listen to music, share dreams or listen to a podcast. We’ve started investing in various marriage ministry materials to peruse and share on our marriage website. Check it out at http://www.unashamedmarriage.com.

Dr. Kevin Leman’s “Sex Begins in the Kitchen,” is our latest audio book we are enjoying. I like the way they start it, with a snippet of one of his live presentations so you can see what a dynamic and humorous speaker he is. It helps to set the tone as he reads through the chapters of this book. He covers personalities, birth orders and just the most logical thing ever: timing. He’s right, sex often does begin in the kitchen, if it doesn’t die there.

Karl and I could laugh as we remembered going through the stage where we often killed sex in the kitchen. If we had it to do all over again, there are many times he would have walked in the door, seen what I’d been through that day and said that’s it – we’re going out to eat. You need to get out of the house!

If you are looking for good books for your marriage – regardless of whether you are desperate to save it or wisely investing in your marriage – please consider Dr. Leman’s book. You’ll be glad you did.

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Engineering Hug

I saw this meme on Facebook about this being National Hug an Engineer Week. Hilarious! I can laugh because my oldest son plans to study engineering in college this fall. The grimace on the engineer’s face in the picture says it all. You are in my space!

Thankfully, Michael gives and receives hugs from most members of the family. His little sister is still questionable as she is way too “fun country” for him and her hugs end up being a total invasion of his personal space. I recently learned more about how much Michael protects his personal space when I confronted him about his apparent fear of rain. “It’s only water,” I would often say. “You take a shower after all.”

Michael’s response? “But I know where the shower is aiming and I can control it. Aha! Breakthrough in understanding my son. It’s not the water itself that bothers him, but that he’s not controlling where it’s going and he can’t control it getting into his very defined personal space.

I do plan on hugging my future engineer, but I also accept him for who he is and what he needs – personal space.

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Home Alone!

We have entered “that stage” of parenthood. Depending on which way you look at things: it’s either a foreboding warning of things to come or a brief oasis just in time in a barren desert. That’s right, the kids are all gone this weekend!

Matthew and Greta took off this afternoon with their Pathfinder Club for the Bible Experience competition this weekend. Michael leaves early tomorrow morning for two days of choir performances. Their laundry is still here. Their places at the table are here, so it’s not a truly empty nest by any means, but Karl and I are home alone for the weekend!

Truthfully, we will both miss all three of the children, terribly. But equally true will be the welcome of the time alone together, no distractions and interruptions from the offspring. Schedules have been crazy with the kids lately, especially Michael as a senior this year, so some alone time to catch our breath will truly be a blessing.

I do plan to learn from the experience, however. If I find myself bored or not sure what to do, I need to start making a list of some of my hobbies and so forth that I have gladly set aside while raising children was top priority. It’s our first foray into all three children being gone on outings at the same time, without us. There is a little pain, actually, that this is an experience they will have that we won’t be a part of, but it is as it should be – some day. But not yet.

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You Never Know

Karl picked up a sale item the other day – a paper airplane kit. He thought the kids would enjoy it. It has an instruction booklet and designed paper so you can make a “shark plane” that reminds you of the ferocious paint jobs on WWII planes. Those fighters were serious!

It sat around for a couple of days until it was finally utilized, by Greta and two other girls from the neighborhood. It wasn’t the boys that went after it, it was the girls! They were making plane after plane and testing how well they flew, correcting any errors they may have made. I mentioned they needed to save some of the papers for the boys, but Karl just shook his head and said he could always buy another one if needed.

Maybe the one little neighbor girl, who made the most planes and was the most fastidious about the whole process, will grow up to be involved in designing planes. No one at this house told her she couldn’t do it because she was a girl. You never know.

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Tag! You’re It!!

There are days as a parent when you just need to hand it off to your spouse. You give them that look that says, you take over or this child will end up grounded for three years. Greta does more than any of the other children to cause us to keep passing the baton back and forth. But what if there is no one to pass the baton to?

I know some recent single parents with young children. They have a lot going on. Suddenly they are responsible for everything to a much greater magnitude than ever before. They also desperately need that “Tag, you’re it” moment to pass the baton to someone else for a little while.

Single parents work hard and sacrifice a lot. If you know a single parent, especially of younger children, why don’t you find out if you can provide one of those moments where they can pass the baton to you for a few minutes? Offer to take their kids to the park for an hour. Find out their favorite treat and take them to get it. Find out what their parent is really struggling with right now, and find a way to reinforce and support the parent to those children during your outing.

By the way, it doesn’t matter why they are a single parent. Death, divorce, never married; it just doesn’t matter. Those kids till need mentoring and that parent still needs a moment to tag someone else to take over for a while.

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Co-Sleeping

I found this great video on YouTube about a dad that tries to comfort his infant daughter during the night by climbing into her crib with her. It works. She settles down. Then he’s trapped. I shared it with the kids and they all laughed along with me as we watched the antics of this father with his now sleeping daughter that he doesn’t want to disturb – but he wants out of the crib and back to his own bed!

As I got the kids out the door for school, I told Matthew that we solved that problem when he and his siblings were babies. I told him that we often just grabbed them and stuck them in bed with us. His quick wit response – smart choice.

Eventually the kids learned that the love and comfort of their parents wasn’t going to disappear should they suddenly awake during the middle of the night. It’s that whole “object permanence” lesson little people have to learn, which is why the game Peek-A-Boo is so popular. I teaches the baby that just because they can’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I agree with Matthew, it was a smart choice. Starting the little treasures in their own little cribs let them know there was a special place for them, but comforting them and reassuring them with our presence the rest of the night also showed the kids that they could count on mom and dad. Glad we didn’t mess that one up too badly as young parents.

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Whoonu?

Last night I was the only parent in the house as Karl was out of town for a meeting. This is a big job. Speaking of our family and our personalities to some colleagues at a conference once caused them to look at us with pity and admiration. Through their laughter they exclaimed, “You must have a high energy household.” That would be an understatement. This household is hard enough for two parents to run. So I was in running in safe mode last night. Just the basic operations to get through to bed time, no extras.

Then Greta.

Then Greta asked me to play a game of Whoonu with her. I didn’t feel like getting on the floor and playing a game. I had some other projects to work on as my day before the kids got home didn’t go as planned. But somehow a game of Whoonu slipped through my safe mode. Sure, I’ll play a game with you.

You are the best mom in the world.

The rest of the evening went better because of the togetherness and fun we had as a family playing that game. Whoonu? Should have known. The family that bonds together works together. Take some quality time with your family tonight and see what happens. You might be saying Whoonu too!

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Why Should I?

One of the principles we’ve learned over the years in our experiment with this thing called parenting is to pick our battles. There may be a hundred things you wish your children would do differently, but in the end, there are just a handful of things that you would really invest all of your parenting resources into that you might correct them.

Greta made it easy for us this morning. Her defiance and the fire in her eyes as well as the attitude that seemed to resound with every inch of her, from her hair to her toenails, made it quite clear. This is a hill to die on. With how strong willed she is, this is going to be a serious battle.

Greta didn’t want to admit she was wrong. She struggles to admit when she is wrong. In her defense, the control part of her fun/control personality makes this difficult. Just as some folks have trouble speaking in public or being patient enough to pay attention to endless tiny details, control country personalities (with a touch of perfect) can really struggle with admitting they are wrong.

When we told Greta that we had observed the incident ourselves and saw that she was wrong and needed to admit it, she challenged us. Why should I? At the moment I felt like I was the smallest horse rancher ever facing the largest herd of wild mustangs bent on staying wild. The stubbornness that exuded from her could build an insurmountable wall to rival the Great Wall of China. Oh yes! This was an issue we had to meet head on.

It isn’t easy explaining to a 10 year old lives for the  moment girl that conquering her inability to admit wrong now will serve her for the rest of her life. I have a feeling that this issue will return for many more conversations. Things that seemed to be issues yesterday now pale in comparison. But Greta’s personality has set her up to be a great leader. If she can conquer this hurdle – admitting when she is wrong – she will be a beloved leader and not an arbitrary tyrant. The world needs great leaders. Greta is fearless. The world needs fearless leaders like Greta. We are currently accepting any and all prayers on our behalf as we tackle this challenge. God help us. He created Greta this way and He has great plans for her life. He must have much faith in us that we can raise her to be the great leader He had envisioned.

 

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Redemption Chocolate

This weekend I came back from the marriage seminar that Karl and I presented, to find an absolute mess in the kitchen and two boys still in pajamas. Lovely. The girl was nowhere in sight. She went to hang out with friends on the block instead of hanging out with her brothers that were doing nothing but living in pajamas all day. Can’t blame her for that one.

Last night, I was presented with a box of my favorite chocolates by the oldest. Michael made a big deal of it. I told him he had redeemed himself. The funny thing – he got the chocolates to say that he knows I’m going through a lot physically right now and he can see it’s really rough on me – yet I still do all the mom stuff. He smiled sheepishly that it wasn’t apology for the mess in the kitchen.

To me, it doesn’t really matter. Just the thoughtfulness of getting the chocolates for me. How often does a teenage boy go out of his way to buy expensive chocolates for his mom – when it’s not Valentine’s Day yet or Christmas or birthday or anything like that? I consider myself blessed. I savor every bite of my collection that includes Ferrero Rondnoir, Raffaello and Ferrero Rocher. Sweet!

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He Gets Me, He Really Gets Me

We are checked in at our hotel, relaxing before we do our marriage seminar presentations tomorrow. We do the normal hotel evaluation and the Leukert traveling curse is back. Hotel pool & jacuzzi is out if order.
My husband pointed to the chair by the lamp – that’s the perfect place for you to have your worship. Oh yeah, he really gets me.
I’m grateful for a husband that is not intimidated by my spirituality. It’s to his benefit. The more my spirituality is acknowledged and unhindered the same goes for sexuality.
He gets me. He really gets me.

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On Our Own

Karl and I have been working through a large organization for a couple of years now, presenting marriage seminars that are man friendly and fun! We’ve enjoyed the ability to send big stuff to headquarters and we’ve been content (somewhat) to follow the corporate rules. There were a few times where we felt we ought to go off on our own at some point, but it was just a thought in the background.

Everything changed in November when we got a phone call saying the corporate program was completely done away with and now all of us trained “local” presenters were either on our own. Now that thought in the background was right in our faces. Time to get cracking on putting our own program together! It’s a good thing we’d been working on it, piece by piece, for a few months. It will still be some time before our own presentations are completely ready.

In the meantime, we have permission to keep using the material we used before, just without the usual support from headquarters. But the game is all changed. We are having to pay the sales tax. We are having to make sure we are licensed to do business in our state and we are the ones opening a business checking account.

The process of setting up your own business really makes you appreciate being under the umbrella of a large organization. Funny how we appreciate things more after the fact. Everything is different now. But one thing has stayed the same. We are still in ministry to not only save marriages, but make them awesome!!

So, please check out our website, still under construction, and our Facebook page – Unashamed Marriage.

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Connecting the Dots

Few things foster bonding amongst a group of people that know each other at varying levels of intimacy than a road trip. The longer the trip, the greater the capacity for bonding. Hopefully it’s all good. No one likes that trip remembered for the one miserable soul that made the whole event miserable for everyone else as well.

We started off with 9 passengers in the van, heading to a youth convention, before dropping off our two youngest at my in-laws’ home. The seven of us continued to our destination of Orlando, Florida – family destination extraordinaire! By the time we got to Orlando, I was so the kids weren’t in the van.

Between Gainesville and Orlando, there is an adult establishment. Billboards attacked the eyes every few feet and sometimes from both sides of the highway at the same time. Silhouetted images and bold phrases that told exactly how far they go left very little to the imagination. The only other billboards blanketing that stretch of highway as much as the adult establishment’s advertisements, were for a facility that helped those with unwanted pregnancies.

After the adult establishment was long behind us on the highway, I kept seeing billboards to help those who were in a situation they weren’t planning for. It didn’t take long to connect the dots. All the way down to family destination extraordinaire, were signs of a society that boldly advertised that which destroys individuals and families and those dedicated to restoring hope to those caught in a culture of anything goes. What we reap, we sow. I’m thinking that if I ever decide to take my entire family to Orlando, Florida, I’ll go out of my way to take a different highway, hoping this one is safe for families on their way to one of the most popular family destinations in our country.

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What She Found in the Closet

Personality. My daughter has it. In fact, she has so much personality she has little time for things like cleaning her room on her own. Personality people love group activities and let’s face it: cleaning your own room isn’t a group activity. Greta loves to help in groups and will be the first to volunteer and she’s great at cheering on the team. That’s why we love personality people.

But her room is still a mess and the boys don’t wan to make it a group activity that Greta will love and help their little sister out. So we bribe them. Matthew is paid to work in the room for a while. Greta is thrilled to have company on doing a chore and the room gets cleaned. We gloss over the arguments and chalk them up to simple sibling rivalry.

The next morning, Greta came out with a huge smile and one of her recently rediscovered treasures, found deep in the recesses of her previously hideous closet. It was an envelope full of homemade cards from the kids at her school – from when she was in the hospital. She came out waving the envelope and shouting to the world:

See mommy, people do love and care about me.

Of course I responded that I never had any doubt and smiled, and tried not to cry, as Greta read card after homemade card from different schoolmates expressing that she get well soon and how much they loved and missed her. It’s been two years since our lives changed and ADEM came to our home, but those words of love and encouragement still found loving reception in Greta’s heart, and mine.

I told my class at church – I wish everyone could go clean their closet and find an envelope full of the love and encouragement folks have given them when they went through a difficult time – and remember that people still love and care about them. Go ahead, right now. Go clean out the closet of your memories. Don’t dwell on the obstacles and hurts. Remember the love and support of those who stood by you and perhaps even carried you through that time. Like Greta, hold those precious memories high and say to yourself that it’s true! People still love and care about me!

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Information Overload

It doesn’t happen very often, but I saw my oldest son go through information overload this weekend. Perhaps it comes from being a senior in high school and having in less than two months time the following: SAT, ACT and semester final exams. The finals start tomorrow. I’m hoping Michael recovers from the ACT in time to switch gears to finals.

There comes a point where you’ve pushed yourself too much, too far, too fast and you have to disengage. We tried all sorts of things to help Michael relax from the test so he could get back to regular homework assignments due Monday morning, but it was laughter that finally eased the tension. As the wise man said, a merry heart is like a good dose of medicine!

Overload is easy to experience, especially around the holiday times. Before your natural instincts to shut down and disengage go into autopilot – make sure you take some time to laugh. Watch some kids playing at a playground. Read a corny joke book. Watch one of the “Thou Shalt Laugh” presentations or post a joke on social media and ask others to keep it going.

The people around you want to stay connected, so take a moment to laugh instead of having to disengage. Enjoy the holiday season. Laugh!!

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When Heinz 57 is a Good Thing

There was always one answer missing. No matter how hard I looked on those multiple choice forms, there was never a “Heinz 57” on the list. So I grew up filling out Iowa Tests of Basic Skills forms with resentment each year (as well as many other forms) with the plain old “white” or “Caucasian” because I don’t have enough of any one thing in me to be predominant. But then again, that’s a good thing. Like last night.

Last night was our church’s annual International Christmas Festival. We celebrate all of the cultures represented in our church as well as this special time of year. Folks are invited to dress in a way that reflects their heritage, if they so desire, and bring a food dish representative of their culture. Last year, Karl and the kids went as the Germans they are (I have a little in me) and I went as a Native American. Karl took Streusel Kuchen, and I took Native American Fry Bread. But because of our varied heritages, we were able to choose a different culture to represent at this year’s festival. Last night we went with the English-Welsh side of the family (Karl’s mother and who knows where it comes from in me).

We dressed in lady and knight costumes and served English scones with preserves and tea. Evidently English scones are hard to come by in East Texas. The leftovers were claimed, with quite a bit of demand, actually. Even the peach/apricot preserves were victims of kidnapping by the church media director. We also got to enjoy guacamole made by our Honduran friends and cassava cakes by our friends from the Philippines. What a night!

What culture will we represent next year? Well, since my DNA test came back 19% sub-Saharan African, it might be time to represent the soul side of me. This is what makes being a regular Heinz 57 of races and ethnicities so much fun. I want to proudly celebrate each and every part of my heritage. Why limit it to only one? Things have gotten better over the years on those dreaded forms demanding to know my race and ethnicity. They haven’t figured out “melting pot American” yet, so I click the best answer I can which is finally now available. “Prefer not to answer.” If I can’t claim every single part of my ethnicity then I’d rather not say anything at all.

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Perfect Country

Everything has to be done in a certain way and there is always only one way to do it that is right. Getting the job done isn’t important. Getting all the details perfect first and doing it right (even if it’s late) is of most importance. Yes, my oldest son resides in Perfect Country. I, on the other hand, reside equally in Fun and Control countries. This really messes with Michael’s favorite vacation spot – Peace Country. I wouldn’t know much about it as I rarely visit there.

So what happens when I need something done a particular way? I humbly admit that I will get it done. That’s what control country residents do, but it may not be as precise as the job requires. I don’t ask my daughter to do it. She lives in Fun and Control countries as well. The request is made to Michael. Here, perfect country, please cut this into many pieces all exactly the same size with no crumbs. And he gets the job done, precisely.

Learning where our kids function best, what countries they are from, has helped us tremendously in knowing how to connect with them and knowing how to draw out their strengths. It seems a far more regular occurrence for parents (and teachers) to expect all children to behave in a certain way and move around in our world in only that one way. What a blessing we miss when we fail to see who they really are. What a blessing we miss in being able to focus them on their strengths and applaud them for a job well done!

Take the time to study your children. If you need some help, visit the Flag Page website where you will find more about the four countries: Fun, Control, Perfect and Peace. You can find it at http://www.flagpagetest.com.

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My Best Set of Towels

My father was very logical and therefore practical. This combination didn’t preclude him from appreciating quality however. Logically, after all, if you bought a higher quality item at the outset and didn’t have to replace it several times over with cheaper imitation items, you were better off. He was usually right. The $60 dress he bought for me when I was a mere girl of 16 still hangs in my closet, because it was of high quality.

But when dad made up his mind to do something, practical and logical trumped any preconceived ideas. He displayed this many times, including the time he used my best set of towels. Mom and Dad were visiting us at our home in New Mexico. Dad determined that before they began their trip home to Oklahoma, he needed to wash the car. The next thing I knew, my father was using wash cloths from my best set of towels to wash the car.

When I expressed my disappointment over the matter, dad looked confused. He simply said something like he didn’t think it was my best set of towels. Dad was right. I was wrong. I wish he were still alive today so I could explain my silliness and thank him for delivering me from a life of constriction inside a self made box.

You see, I only had a few real “sets” of towels. Most of our towels in our early poor stages of marriage were old ones gathered from “the barn.” This was a family kept repository of things grandmothers had at one time owned. These rounded out my linen cabinets, but this one set, it was actually a real set, not hand me down old things. The problem was, that this set of towels had seen quite an amount of use and were looking older than many of the hand me down towels. Of course dad was right, it didn’t look like my best set of towels, because it wasn’t.

Don’t worry, we eventually got new towels and there are no longer any vestiges of the relics from the barn. But there are two hand towels from my best set of towels, that have now been set at a position of elevated rags. They remind me of how I got caught up on “a perfect set” of something and failed to realize it was worn and good for nothing more than washing a car. It was certainly not worth any damage I might have done to my relationship with my father.

Hopefully I’ve been freed from seeing “perfect sets” all the time and can be honest with myself and with others when something is old, worn and needs to be replaced. Hopefully I’ve learned to always see people as more important than things. Hopefully I’ve gotten at least a little bit of my father’s logical and practical wisdom. I’d take even the smallest amount and be grateful.

 

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Three Widows

I was in the kitchen at church, helping out where I could, but I felt out of place. The other three ladies in there were all widows. There was something they could share between them that no one else would understand. They could encourage and sympathize with each other better than anyone else ever could.

My heart ached for these women, yet I couldn’t deny the beauty of their shared grief turned to shared comfort and encouragement with one another. One woman had been a widow for more than a decade, the youngest of the ladies. The oldest had just become a widow and the woman in the middle had lost her husband a couple of years ago, but just recently lost her oldest child. So different, yet they found ways to strengthen and encourage each other.

The Bible has a lot to say about social justice – mostly about caring for the orphan and the widow. If you have widows and widowers in your church, your neighborhood or your community – reach out to them. Don’t forget about them. Especially reach out to younger widows. They have a heavy burden to bear. Their married friends begin to fear that this grieving widow will try to steal their husbands. She slowly gets left out of things she had once always been included in.

Seeing three widows minister to each other and encourage each other was a moment of reverence, but I was grateful that none of these women had been rejected and forgotten by her church family. May we never forget.

 

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Who vs How

I’m reading and enjoying Ed Dickerson’s book, “Grounds for Belief.” He writes about some of his coffee shop style meetings with young adults and how they share their faith. Early in the book, Ed makes it clear there is a difference between faith/belief in God and religion. He calls faith in God the “Who” and religion is simply the “how.”

When it comes to a worship service, the Bible has little to say about the how and a whole lot more about the Who. While it is true that “how” can give us structure and so forth to help us function better in order to reach more folks about the wonderful “Who” we serve, our faith loses something when it becomes primarily about the how.

One of the things my husband would love to change about the church worship service is what he calls the “pontifical entrance.” He explains that the Bible doesn’t record anywhere that Paul told all the people to sit down and then wait for him to go behind the door and then march in the room in a very solemn like manner to indicate church was now about to begin. Reverence, yes of course we need reverence. Just read a few stories about people that got a tiny glimpse of God and fell flat on their faces. He is awesome! But if we get hung up on church can’t start because it takes three men to have the pontifical entrance and one is gone on vacation – we are more worried about the how instead of the Who.

I think of it this way: our little family of five – we’re in this together. We often say we live and die as a family. So we have chore charts, menus and schedules to keep track of what needs to be taken out of the freezer and put in the oven and who needs to be where at what time. But that’s not our family. Those things help our family function, but it’s not our family. They make getting through life each day easier, balancing everyone’s schedules and dietary needs – but the people are the family. When the chore chart, menu planner or weekly schedule become more important than time for a tickle or reading a story together – our focus is off.

If God intrigues you, but religion turns you off – you might want to consider worshiping with a group of folks that focus on Who instead of how. It could make all the difference.

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Flash!

I was at a wedding shower recently. I love these more modern events where both the bride and groom are present. There weren’t any games planned, but we did go around the room a couple of times sharing advice for the young couple.

There were several other young, newly married couples there and they had some really good advice. I was glad to see such wisdom coming from these young ones. They were really going to work on their marriages and make them something to enjoy and be blessed in.

One of my final words of advice was to the bride. Every once in a while, just lift up your shirt and flash him.

The room exploded in laughter, surprise and one woman shaking her head no. She later explained it almost got her in trouble when she was prepared to flash her husband when the truck came up the driveway, but it was one of his workers instead. Yes, caution is advised, but don’t forget to flash your spouse. Keep that spark alive and let your lover know his needs.

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True Romance

This is put so well, I just had to share it!

Please don’t wait for one airport moment, when you could have a lifetime of devotion, romance, and amazingness!

http://lisajobaker.com/2013/07/when-you-think-your-love-story-is-boring/

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Oh Where is My Hairbrush?

I suddenly find myself able to relate to the animated cucumber singing about his missing hair brush. Larry, I feel your pain. Mine recently got a free ride to school and back, borrowed by my daughter as she frantically tried to get out the door on time while simultaneously be obedient to her parents that she brush her hair!

Did you know that my daughter has at least three hair brushes? She took mine because she couldn’t find any of hers. One of those brushes had a cute floral pattern on it and a ribbon that I strung through the handle myself. I showed Greta how she could hang the brush by its ribbon on her door knob, that way she would always know where it was. Obviously, misplaced hair brushes were already an issue. Now there is no sign of that hairbrush or the ribbon.

I will take Greta on the great hair brush hunt today. We will probably listen to music while we search her bedroom for signs of bristles. It will most likely be “Glory Battle,” by Michael W. Smith playing on her stereo. The CD was a gift to me from my husband as he knows how much I love music. Unlike a hair brush, when I hear my music playing, I can at least locate it.

The hair brush is frustrating, but the music is different. I’m glad my children have learned a love of music from their parents. Unlike the hair brushes that keep disappearing, I always know where my music is – because someone is playing it, even if they don’t know who the real owner of the CD is. I tried to remind Greta yesterday that the CD was mine. She looked at me with shock and surprise. It’s still in her stereo.

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Short Circuit

Like it or not, once you start messing around with all that amazing stuff inside of your skull, you are going to have some consequences. With our daughter, we are glad the lesions in her brain are no longer growing, that it is the one time ADEM episode, but the fact of the matter is there are still after effects of the lesions in her brain.

Greta is one of the many sufferers of a disease or disorder that no one can easily see on the outside. There are many issues, some chronic, some acute, but all leave a person feeling isolated to some extent. They look “normal” to most, but those who know them best know the more of their daily struggles.

Most kids that suffer from brain injuries/lesions, try so hard to hold it together at school. They let it all out at home, full force. Lucky us. At least Greta gets to experience a mostly normal day at school with friends. At home, however, when her will and our wills clash – it can be a nasty battle. The last one left Karl and I on the wounded list for hours. Greta recovered in a matter of minutes – cheerful as ever.

After debriefing over the latest explosion of anger and emotions from our daughter, we discovered something. She has a short circuit. Perseveration – latching on to something and not letting go – is one of her issues. If you try to change Greta’s mind on something she is latched on to – let the battle begin! What we learned is we try to go to step 1 of reasoning out a solution agreeable to all. Greta immediately launches a nuclear strike and takes no prisoners. She no longer has the ability to follow reasonable conflict resolution patterns in areas where she is experiencing perseveration.

Our task now: figure out how to help Greta develop a new circuit so the battle doesn’t start off immediately with a missile crisis – will she or won’t she? On this journey of ADEM effects, we learn more and more about the amazing brain and how our bodies cope. My prayer is that we learn enough to make a difference in Greta’s post ADEM life and the lives of others that suffer due to brain injuries and illnesses.

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Scramble Leadership

My oldest son goes to a small Christian school, where he is a senior this year. The first Saturday night of each school year, there is a Junk Scramble. The four corners of the gym are stations for the freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors respectively. There they set up camp, students bringing whatever they could find and whatever they think might be called for.

More than just the fun of seeing which class can be the first to bring “something reptile” to the center of the gym to the scrutiny of the awaiting judges, is the awareness of the classes getting to know each other better. In Michael’s class, I saw several times where seniors had the chance to do a little more preparation, and some of them just played basketball. In fact, it was quite obvious since each class wears a different color that night, that only seniors were messing around while all of the other classes were busy at their stations, organizing their junk and trying to be ready to quickly grab and run once the game began.

Michael reminded us that the junk scramble comes just before the election of class officers. I mentioned what I had seen and gave him some advice. Those seniors that were goofing off and messing around, don’t elect them to leadership positions. They didn’t show they were there to help and prepare. They didn’t take it seriously.a

I think the school is very wise to give the students such a fun and “ice breaker” type of activity at the beginning of the year to give students a chance to see what kind of personalities are in their classmates and who can they really count on. Perhaps more businesses and institutions should have junk scrambles for adults. Does a supervisor need to know who is up for a promotion? A junk scramble just might reveal who is working and who is not taking things seriously.

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Why Connect?

Why connect? It is actually a two phase question. Why should we connect? And if you are already in the habit of connecting with people – why? What is your motivation?

Dr. John Townsend talks about folks that connect with an “unlikely” person, just so they can mold them into something better and really enjoy them when they have finally left caterpillar stage behind and embraced butterfly. The problem is, most folks want to be connected with for who and what they are right now. If changes happen in their life, so be it, but right now they need to know you accept them as they are.

Think of it as in incoming college freshman. Every dean on the university campus sees bright minds that they can’t wait to have as distinguished graduates of their program. But the professor that accepts you for who you are now and makes one of those amazing connections that help a student feel safe to share their hopes and dreams and why they came to college in the first place – that is a true connection for the right reason.

Parents – we especially have to make connections with our kids right now – yes, even when they’ve gotten sent home from school or really messed up your kitchen floor. We need to connect with people in our lives right now, right where they are. If our only reason to reach out is to change someone to where we will really like them later on; the truth is that we will have a shallow connection now and a shallow connection later.

Take the time to make connections, real ones and really enjoy them. There may be someone in your neighborhood today that just needs to know someone cares, right now, at this phase of their life.

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Vanilla Spice!

My husband and I administer a Facebook page, Unashamed Marriage. One of my husband’s latest finds that he shared on the page is about scent and sexuality. Evidently part of Cleopatra’s appeal to get two world leaders in her arms was her arsenal of aromas.

In my experience with the wonderful company, Discovery Toys, I learned about the power of scent even for children’s playthings. Vanilla is actually the scent that most closely resembles mother’s milk. So DT found a way to produce a soothing, textured ball with a light vanilla scent. The answer is yes, it was a hit among babies. It was comforting and reminded them of being at mother’s breast.

Getting any ideas here? There are many perfumes that feature the vanilla scent, in a variety of packages, formulas, and prices. Husbands, bring home some vanilla scented perfume for your lovely wife. Ladies, wear the perfume and drive your husbands crazy! If vanilla just isn’t your thing, take the time to learn what scents you enjoy.

God didn’t limit flowers to just a few scents. Neither are pleasant aromas limited to coming only from flowers. There is quite a lot of variety out there. Enjoy exploring all the things designed for our pleasure.

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Input and Output

I’ve sensed it for years, but now I’m going to openly come out and say it. I’ve allowed some input in my 40 some years of life that I certainly wish I hadn’t because now when I really don’t want it to, it becomes a part of my output.

I remember working at a Christian summer camp and one of the books in our campfire songbook was called, “Input, Output.” The song told the simple story that your mind is like a computer (yes, we had those back then) and what you put into it is what you get out of it. Catchy little tune and true little message. Wish I had been true to it more.

I’ll heartily agree that there are some folks on the fringe out there who try to over spiritualize everything, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes a song is just a song and a joke is just a joke and a movie is just a movie. That being said, there are songs, jokes and movies out there that taught things I now wish I had never learned. Perhaps it is my age and maybe there are more 40 somethings out there that find things from their 20’s, give or take, are coming back when they least expect it.

I’m more determined than ever to pay attention to the input I’m receiving. From experience, I’ve learned how important guarding your input can be. I just hope I can teach this lesson to my kids in such a way that they don’t have to learn the hard way, like I did.

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Rules for Dating My Son

In that great source of intellectual wisdom known as Facebook, I ran across a list of “Rules for Dating My Son.” As a mother of two fantastic boys, I was glad to see this end of the picture finally getting some attention. Since I have a daughter as well, of course I appreciate the Dad’s Rules for Dating my Daughter. But for once, it’s nice to focus on our boys.

The one that got me the most was that if you show up looking like a stripper, I will make you go away. So many young ladies are selling themselves short. The media has done a good job of pounding out their message that sex sells. In some instances, they are right. But the people that sex sells to, aren’t necessarily the ones you want to hang around with.

So, young ladies, if you show up to my house looking like a stripper and you want to date my son, I promise you, I will make you go away! But I probably won’t get a chance. My boys will ask you to change before I do. My sons already tell me how girls trying to show their cleavage and so forth bothers them and makes them uncomfortable. If you show up to my house looking like a stripper – you don’t even know my son well enough to date him!

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Bugs!

There are three “men” in the house, yet I’m the one that has to vacuum up unwanted bugs. If I’m in a humane mood, I will trap a stray cricket (we have lots in Texas) and release it outside. I’ve done this for wasps and bees as well.

Karl has hated bugs for as long as I’ve known him. Our oldest, he is not so fond of bugs, but he can at least look at them. It is spiders that really freaks Michael out! Matthew doesn’t mind bugs, unless it is time to get rid of one. Then he has a difficult time being the one to hear it go suck up into the vacuum.

So that leaves Greta and I to rid the house of the occasional stray bug, like tonight. Bless her heart, even Greta had to call in the expert. Mom to the rescue. It’s a good thing I’ve accepted the fact that the men in the family hate bugs and I’m okay with it.

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In All Fairness?

I rather like being a clear cut it is either right or wrong kind of person. The cop out answer of “It’s complicated,” more often than not is an excuse to do what you want to do anyway because you’ve spent some time rationalizing it.

Yet as a mother of three children, with different personalities and ways of doing things, it’s not always easy to show them that I’m being clear cut with the principle of the issue. Perhaps it is because they, as children, appear to us adults to be always on the lookout for any amount of unfairness. It is as if they go to special training to hunt out any possibility that their brother or sister may have gotten away with something that they did not.

My son got out some roast leftovers (which I managed to incorporate into breakfast this morning) for lunch and I told him no, because we were going to use some of it again at supper time. My daughter pulled out a biscuit from this morning and he was upset that she was getting away with it. I gently reminded him that biscuits weren’t on the menu for tonight, but the leftover roast had appeared at breakfast this morning and would again at super tonight so he didn’t need it at lunch as well.

I look at how some adults, as individuals, corporations and even nations interact with each other and it seems to me that many of them never outgrew that childish phase of hunting for ways where they were being treated unfairly. I wonder what would happen if they spent the same amount of time volunteering and making a difference in their community?

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The Drag Test

When I worked at summer camp, not revealing how many years ago, we had a swimming pool. Lifeguards did the work they needed to do. Camp Yorktown Bay, where Michael worked this summer, has a nice lake and therefore they had to practice and perfect the Drag Test.

During training week, the staff were required to find the “dummy” drowning camper nicknamed Luke Skywalker within a certain length of time. As with all drownings, every second counts. Assuming the camper was underwater for two minutes prior to the alert being sounded that a child was missing in the lake, the staff now have only 2 minutes left to find the child before permanent brain damage and so forth takes over.

Michael described in detail the work of the staff divided into three groups: divers, swimmers and walkers. Staff were assigned to their appropriate group based on their skill level in the water. Michael, of course, ended up as a walker. His description of the walkers linking arms and going through the shallow part of the lake step by step searching for Luke Skywalker definitely made me feel like I was there experiencing it for myself.

The precision and efficiency the staff is required to achieve before campers actually arrive is impressive. What if we put such practices into our parenting? When was the last time your family did a fire drill – and took it seriously? If you live in Tornado alley, or even if you don’t, do you know what to do? We expect summer camps to protect our children and to hire competent staff before we entrust our precious offspring to their care. Is there a need for a “drag test” in your home?

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The Lost Tickle

Missing one of your children is an interesting experience. My husband moped around the house for a few weeks. He missed Michael greatly. I certainly noticed that my right hand in cooking was gone. We all missed Mr. Witty and random fact spiller. But Greta’s reaction was one of the most endearing.

As I tucked her into bed one night and we discussed her missing brother, dutifully working at summer camp, she wondered about the most important part of their relationship as siblings. “Will Michael forget how to tickle me?”

I assured her that Michael wouldn’t lose his ability to tickle her and they would still have a lot of fun when he got back. The simplicity of childhood – and yet the most vulnerable and intimate. Here we were, adults and so mature, thinking about surface level areas of missing our son. Greta went straight for the heart of the matter, to a very personal level, and she wasn’t afraid to do so. She also seemed much more at peace once I had reassured her of her biggest most personal fear about her brother being gone.

Perhaps we, like Greta, should open up about our deepest fears to people we can trust instead of dwelling forever on the surface level ones. The sooner we are assured – the sooner we have peace.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T

“Sock it to me,” from Aretha Franklin’s classic rendition of R-E-S-P-E-C-T has new meaning for me as it will now be permanently linked with – laundry.

I love church youth groups! I especially love church youth groups that aim to grow character and teach responsibility. Matthew had an opportunity to earn a Pathfinder honor recently and it was in – laundering. To receive this honor, he had to be responsible for the entire family’s laundry for one full week. Sorting, washing, drying, folding. The whole works! Thankfully, he chose a week where I was very busy with VBS, so it was most helpful to have him in charge of the mountain of clothes.

“I have so much more respect for you now mommy.” Thank you. I’m hoping he remembers that aura of respect the next time he eyes his neatly folded stack of laundry that mom did for him. If not, he may be forced to slave over folding and mating the socks forever. No R-E-S-P-E-C-T, then you will be stuck on sock duty. Sock it to you! Matthew admitted folding was what he hated the most. He says he will help more with laundry in the future, but first he wants to not have to see it for a while. Can’t blame the poor kid.

So now I’m a firm believer in every church having a Pathfinder youth group that encourages kids to get their laundering honor. Love it!

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The Two Reasons

Squash bugs have decided to invade my little garden box of squash. Yuck.

I have given the 11-year-old the task of using his pocket knife to destroy these pests that will rob us of our produce. He looked at me stunned, his eyes revealing his thoughts of “I can’t do that.” So I looked him in the eye and told him the two reasons.

There are only two reasons why a man ever kills. It is to protect his family or to provide for his family. He got it. He understood that getting rid of the bugs protected our garden that was to provide food for the family.

It is somewhat ironic that we had this conversation this morning. You see, Matthew has been declaring his childhood is over in various ways. He no longer picks up children’s offering at church, instead he brings his own money to pass out to all the “little kids.” And so it has gone for the past few weeks. In his rush to leave the innocence of childhood, he has stumbled upon the harsh reality of adult responsibilities. Perhaps indeed this summer will be the boy’s “coming of age.”

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Cookies and Juice

We agreed to conduct one of our marriage seminars this past weekend, even though it was our anniversary. It was the only weekend the church had available. We stayed in the home of the associate pastor and his family and did our presentations. After the first night, we returned to our room to find a special treat in our room – and one of the pastor’s little boys anxiously awaiting to see if we liked it or not.

It was a simple homemade card that said happy anniversary and a plate of lemon cookies along with two glasses of delicious apple juice. Did I mention that lemon cookies are one of my all time favorites? After the seminar, we pass out evaluations for couples to write down what they learned and how much they enjoyed the presentations. One couple wrote down that they have hope and see a light at the end of the tunnel.

It wasn’t our first choice to do a seminar on our anniversary weekend, but a plate of lemon cookies and a child’s happy face as well as a couple’s renewed hope in their marriage certainly make it worth it!!

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