26 February 2011

How to Plan, Part 2: Dont Lose Your Focus!

Dear Lissy,

We've put a foundation under our home management by planning our week.  Each day now has a few minutes dedicated to working proactively on the tasks that can create crisis, chaos, and emergencies if we leave them until they have to be done.

Daily planning requires three dimensions of management skills.

2D:  A day without at least a basic written plan is liable to get squandered.  Your weekly plan is one piece of the puzzle.  A Calendar, routines, and a tickler make up the other three sources for writing out a daily plan. I'll cover these in your next letter.

3D:  A home that doesn't have well-defined, well-maintained storage swims in clutter and the time required for basic maintenance is overwhelming.  I'll cover this in a letter, but most of my practical knowledge comes from Julia Morgenstern's book, Organizing From the Inside Out and Deniece Schofield's Confessions of an Organized Homemaker.

4D:  A homemaker who isn't able to focus and complete tasks in an orderly fashion frustrates herself either by being busy all day without accomplishing a normal amount of work or getting caught up in leisure time and not leaving enough time for managing her home.  I want you to get focused before we cover paper planning because learning focus cuts your lists by about 80% over typical homemaking systems.

4D management consists of finding tools and techniques that motivate you to stay focused.   For many homemakers focus, not planning or organization or hard work is the real problem.  I personally struggle with ferret-brain. I work haphazardly from room to room, project to project without ever completing one, stopping to look at the computer every time I walk by.  Soooo....

I use the timer.  I like working, and don't need to reward myself for it.  If you have a task or routine you despise, consider bribing yourself!

If you know you have a tendency to lose focus, set a timer for each room you tidy that only leaves enough time to clear and clean the surfaces.
For routine tasks (wiping down the bathroom, for example) I set a time (7 min in this case) that forces me to work very quickly and not get sidetracked.  7 minutes is the exact amount of time it takes me to wipe down the tub and shower walls, clean the mirror, the sink, the commode, doorknobs and lightswitches,and straighten towels and rugs.  That doesn't give me time to re-organize the medicine cabinet, clean out the overflow holes in the sink, or mop the floor.  It also doesn't give me time to run your hairbrush and barrettes on the side of the sink back to your bedroom.  I have to put them in a pocket or caddy and take them with me AFTER the bathroom is tidied.

If you have a big project, set the amount of time you have to work on it for that day, and work JUST ON THAT PROJECT during that time. 

  1. Almost no one has hours to work on a big project like an attic, basement, or even an over-run closet.  Setting a timer for 25 minutes and taking a bite of the elephant is almost always do-able, though.  
  2. Kids respect timers.  If they know you have a set time you're stopping and can help them or play with them, they'll generally leave you alone while you work.  Honor your word and stop to help them when the timer beeps, or this effect will quickly fade.
  3. This greatly reduces the tendency to leave the work site for a drink, e-mail check, social network fix, or a phone call.
If you have time set aside for leisure or research, set a timer to remind yourself its time to get back to work.
Good books, computers, television programs, sewing projects can all cause a time-warp effect that puts us into emergency mode for the rest of the day.  

If you have an all-day project, break your work into a minutes on/minutes off pattern.
When you were little, I worked a 45 on/15 off so that you weren't deserted on days I was baking for the freezer or spring cleaning.  As you got older, I switched to a 55/5 to give myself a chance to get a glass of water and check e-mail or just sit for a few minutes.  Right now in 2011 the Pomodroido app on my phone is set up for this system.  Whether or not that will still be available when you read this, there should be something similar.

Learning to focus and completely tidy a room before you leave it, clip away at a portion of a long term project, control your leisure time or crank on an all-day work-a-thon will take your home management out of crisis mode and into cruising mode.

My timer's just gone off.  I'll write more about the daily plan in the next week or so.

Focus on Christ!

25 February 2011

OTC Relief for Sinus Congestion

Dear Lissy,
It's snowing hard again, and we're growing weary of  the looooong winter.  I'm reminding myself of all I have to be thankful for and putting on cheery music to keep our spirits up.
Matt has a bad sinus infection that set in over the last two days.  Because our family is prone to upper respiratory problems, I wanted to make sure you have the steps I use to give relief.  These are not a "cure", they simply relieve much of the pain and discomfort.  For you children, I call your pediatrician at the onset, and she usually wants to see you in 72 hours if the infection hasn't cleared on it's own.  My RNP encourages me to use natural/herbal relief for several weeks before starting antibiotics.  My body has been able to fight most sinus (and uti) infections on its own for years.

Sinus Congestion

1.  Prevention:  Begin at onset of cold/allergies

  • Nasal Decongestant. Continue to take minimum dose on a regular schedule until cold or allergies have completely cleared up.  Pseudoephedrine works best, but is not appropriate for children and may not still be available by the time you're an adult.
  • Saline rinse 2-3 times per day.  Drops or spray for children, neti pot for an adult. 2-3 drops of grapefruit seed oil can be added to a neti pot to give additional anti-bacterial, anti-viral support.
2.  Treatment options
  • Nasal Decongestant:  Continue to take minimum dose.  Be sure to read packaging as most decongestants cannot be taken long term without the body becoming dependent.
  • Ibuprofen:  Minimum dose.  Ibuprofen can be taken around the clock to relieve pain and swelling for up to 10 days if you don't have other health contraindications.  Past 10 days, consult a doctor.  Tylenol can also be used sparingly along with the ibuprofen to help alleviate pain.  Dose the acetaminophen on an opposite schedule so the pain killing effects peak as the ibuprofen is wearing off.
  • Saline rinse 2-3 times per day.  Drops or spray for children.  For adults, add a couple of drops of grapefruit SEED oil to the pot.  Grapefruit seed oil has natural antibiotic and antiviral properties that are stronger than Rx antibiotics.
  • Smear a thin coat of Vicks Vaporub on mustache area and chest.
  • Steam Tent.  Cuddle your infant or small child in the bathroom while running a very hot shower to steam up the room.   An older child or adult can place their head over a boiling quart of water to which 12 cloves of minced garlic, 10 clove buds, 1 Tbsp of ginger, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, and a tsp. of Vicks Vaporub have been added.  Tent with a towel.  Breathe steam for 20-30 minutes 3-5 times a day.  Keep your eyes closed.
  • Drink Jasmine green tea with 5 drops of grapefruit seed oil.  Only sweeten with honey.
  • Feed patient nourishing soups.  Egg drop soup is a powerhouse when you're fighting infection.
  • Use a vitamin C supplement appropriate to the person's age and weight.
  • Remove all sugar from the diet.  Sugar is inflammatory and increases pain considerably.  If sweetener is absolutely necessary, use honey sparingly.  Additional relief can usually be given by removing any white flour (including pastas and breads) from the diet.
  • Be sure patient is consuming at least 1 oz of water or herbal tea for every 2 lbs of body weight in a 24 hour period, and that they are getting adequate sleep.  Often a straw will make water more palatable when sinuses are packed full.
  • Heated gel mask.  Heat a gel mask until very warm to the touch and place it on the patient's forehead/eye area.  Be very careful not to overheat and burn the patient.  Alternatively, fill a sock with about 1 cup rice and a TBSP of flax seed, close with a rubber band, and microwave for 30 second intervals until rice is quite warm.  If you know that you will be treating sinus congestion regularly, you can easily sew a mask-shaped rice pack that will be more comfortable.  An elastic band that fits around the back of the head will keep it from shifting.
  • Time.  It takes 2 - 6 weeks for an infection to completely clear even if the patient is on antibiotics.  Fatigue may persist after the pain has passed.
  • Caution:  If patient is running a fever, see a doctor.  
  • Chronic rhinitis/sinusitis is usually caused by a yeast infection.  If this isn't cleared up first, the acute bacterial infection will persist.
There are herbal and over-the-counter relief formulas for all of the normal aches and pains of life.  If you learn to patiently treat your everyday problems with these, antibiotics will be much more effective when they're truly needed.  I am fortunate to have a pediatrician that prefers for me to use herbal and natural remedies for you children before hitting the problem with prescription drugs.  My own RNP was the one who encouraged me to get off antibiotics for my semi-annual sinus and UTI infections, and I haven't had problems with either since.  

Obviously if there are pre-existing conditions that cause routine sickness to degenerate quickly into life-threatening illness, you need to see a doctor right away.  Also, if you're on a prescription drug, make very sure that none of your herbal or OTC treatments will interfere with the efficacy of that medication.  Love, gentleness, and longsuffering are the most valuable tools you possess as a wife/mom/nurse.  It is tiresome to serve a whiny, cranky family member for days or even weeks, but God can and will do mighty things in and through your own heart and life during this time, too.
May your health and soul both prosper,

24 February 2011

Marking in Your Bible

Dear Lissy,
One of the joys of your young heart is highlighting the verses in your Bible that you've memorized.  I also let you underline the verse numbers in pencil that you've read.  Right now, that's all I let you write into your Bible.

My Bible from Jr. High and High School is filled with sermon notes and large passages of underlined text.  My college Bible from when I first started inductive study is so colorful and annotated I can't read many of the passages.  I've since learned to print out a "working copy" of the book or passage I'm studying to mark up while studying and then transfer just the highlights to my Bible.

You love to look through my Bible and ask me about all the little notes, circles and underlines you see.  As you grow older and learn to study the Word faithfully, I'll show you how to mark enough in your Bible to help you remember what you've learned without making the text unreadable.

I'm attaching a workshop that I taught on Bible Marking a very long time ago.  I hope I'll be able to teach you this one-on-one in your teens, but I want you to have something to refer to as well.  You can tell how nervous I was since I wrote out my ideas word-for-word!

Love you scrunches and bunches,

P.S. 5/19/14:  I've put up a whole tutorial series on how to mark your Bible.    Start here

Don't miss our selection of favorite Bible Marking Tools in the Dear Lissy Shop 

Bible Marking Workshop

Annotating a Bible is an intensely personal project.  Some people choose to underline or highlight verses that they particularly like, or that have had an impact on their lives.  Others choose to take copious notes in their Bible, afraid of losing valuable teaching.  Many write things the Holy Spirit lays on their hearts as they read a particular verse or text.  For some, they seek to have information at their fingertips for counseling, personal work, and preaching.   A few serious students of the word may read through a book, or even the entire Bible searching for one particular theme, marking and annotating only that one idea on their journey.

My personal feeling is that I want six main things marked in my Bible(s)
1. Definitions/translations of words that give additional meaning to the text.
2. Markings & notes that indicate the structure and relationships within the text.
3. References/notes that link this passage to others in the Word.
4. Chains of references for witnessing and counseling
5.   Brief (!) explanations of difficult/controversial passages.
6.   Memorials: a date and 2-3 words that bring to mind how the Lord used that verse in my life in a special way.
I am adamant that my Bible still be readable – I tend to make fewer marks rather than more.  I generally journal my thoughts and feelings as I read a text elsewhere.  I also tend to file sermon and class notes, choosing to mark items from the sermon that fit the above criteria.  Following is the system I have used for about a decade after years of marking up Bibles haphazardly.

1.  Determine why you are marking.  This may seem a trifle obvious, but the fact is if you don’t know why you’re marking, you’ll probably end up marking far too much.  There are three main reasons for marking, and you may, like me, choose to focus on primarily one purpose per Bible.
Marking to illuminate the text for future use.
Marking to assist in personal work with another (i.e. witnessing, counseling, debating)
Marking to assist in teaching or preaching.

Marking to illuminate the text for future use.
The goal of most marking should be to cast light on the text so that items that have been studied, defined, and brought to light through sermons or personal study can be remembered.  If too much is marked, nothing stands out.   I will also give hints on marking verses that have deep personal meaning without highlighting and underlining willy-nilly.

Marking to assist in personal work with another person.
My large (and expensive) study Bible rarely leaves my home.  I chose instead to purchase a plain, well made Bible for taking to church and carrying with me in a tote or briefcase.  I have marked the smaller, plain Bible to assist in personal work as follows:
salvation:  children, unchurched, Catholics, Jews, Latter Day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
comfort and counsel:   These include helps in areas such as depression/loneliness, marriage & motherhood, and financial/time management.
conflicts & convictions such as eternal security, election, divorce, and so forth

Marking to assist in preaching and teaching.
Many men ordained of God to the ministry choose to keep sermon outlines, quotes, and even brief illustrations in their Bibles so they are ready to minister at a moment’s notice.  For the vast majority of Christians, this isn’t an issue.  Yes, it’s tempting to write the notes from a great sermon in your Bible, but think twice before you do.  Very often if you write the sermon down in a notebook as you listen, you will be able to use standard marking notations to place the information in your Bible without filling every available margin.    Those who wish to keep copious notes with the relevant text should strongly consider a wide margin or interleaved Bible.

2.  Determine the tools you’ll use for marking, and remain consistent.
A clear, flexible 6" ruler for underlining and marking lines.
A pencil/pen that doesn’t bleed through for notes and marking.  HB rather than 2B pencils work well.
Crayola colored pencils in 8-10 colors. (Pentel makes a large pencil that has several different colored leads in a single pencil.  This is quite expensive, and I don’t usually mark more than one color at a time.  I owned one in college and found it convenient because of space limitations, but find the Crayola pencils much easier on my limited budget.)
A case for the above items.  I keep my Bible and all of my marking materials together so I’m never tempted to grab something different “just for this once”.

3.  Learn a simple system of annotating marks, and use them judiciously.
I ask myself the simple question: “What is the least I can mark and still have the information I need?”  The idea is, as much as possible, to keep the simplicity and integrity of the text for future use.  Let’s start with the use of a plain pen or pencil.  I prefer a blue pen since it shows up but doesn’t stick out.
1.  Mark a word or phrase that brings out the meaning of the verse or passage instead of underlining an entire verse or passage.  Jot a brief definition of the word if necessary.
2.  If you wish to mark an entire verse, box it, rather than underlining.  This will allow you to highlight particular words in the future.  Dad simply circles the verse number.
3.  If you wish to mark a passage, draw a vertical line beside it in the margin.  Again, this will allow you further markings in the future.
4.  If there’s a passage you refer to frequently, color a ½” long and 1/8" wide dark bar right at the edge of the page.  It is very easy to see, even with the Bible shut.
5.  Don’t rewrite information.
•  If a pertinent cross reference is already printed in the reference column, simply underline or circle it rather than re-writing the reference in the margin.
•  If you are pulling a numbered list or progression out of the passage, number in the text or margin rather than re-writing it.
•  If you are placing sermon/class notes into your Bible, write as few words as possible, using cross references and circling important words within the text as much as possible.
6.  Very often a verse is precious because of present circumstances.  Instead of simply underlining a verse, make a note of the date and a one or two word memory jogger in the margin.  Rather than being distracted by underlining, when you come across that verse again you will instantly be reminded of the occasion when the Spirit made it precious to your heart.

Using Color
I strongly advocate a very limited use of color.   It is difficult to read a Bible that is heavily colored or marked.  There are, however, times when a colored pencil can do far more than a simple pen/pencil.
1. Don’t use a single color through the entire Bible.  Instead, if you are following a theme through the entire word of God, draw a simple symbol either beside the verse, or at the top of the page after circling the verse number in the matching color.   When I am following a Bible-wide theme I typically pick a colored pen and use it during the entire study.  Since I normally use blue for annotation, I’ll pick black or red for thematic work.   Bible-wide themes lend themselves very well to simple symbols – save the color coding for book studies.
Example: I want to do a study on music as worship, a theme that spans the entire word of God.  I can choose a color (purple) and underline every verse on music as worship that I read.  But what if that verse becomes important in a study I’m doing on another topic at a later date?  I’ve already marked it as music - worship.  Instead, either draw a small treble clef beside the verse, or even better, at the top corner of the page.  Then circle the appropriate verse number in the same color.  When I want to look it up quickly again, I simply thumb through my Bible for purple treble clefs.  If it later comes into a study on depression, I can draw my little black cloud in the margin and circle the verse number in black, too.
2. Colored pencil or drylighters are best used within a book.  For example, it can be very powerful to underline each occurrence of the word “joy” in Phillipians, or “exceedingly” in Jonah, or “altars” in Genesis.  Again, don’t underline the whole verse, just the one word or phrase you’re trying to remember as a theme in the book.  Be sure to write a small note beside the book title to remind you of your marking system.  In this way, the same color could be used for joy and altars, even though the topic is entirely different.  This especially comes into play in a book like Proverbs that addresses a whole host of practical topics.  If you’ve designated colors for Bible-wide themes, you’ll be hard pressed to come up with little symbols for all the separate topics in book studies.
3.  Highlight verses you've memorized by very lightly shading them.

Writing Notes Into Your Bible
Occasionally I want to place notes from my personal study and meditation or a sermon into my Bible because they so illuminate the passage I don’t want to forget them the next time I encounter the passage.  I also don’t want to have so much writing I get distracted by my notes.  There are a couple of solutions available...
1.  It’s nice to have notes for difficult and controversial passages directly in the text.  Often these are best illuminated by cross-references, but don’t be afraid to write notes.  I prefer to write in an orator font - all capitals with larger capital letters for true capitals.  I find it neater and easier to write in a straight line!  If a book from my library deals with a particular passage, I’ll jot down the title and page (Holiest of All, 17)
2.  I never, ever take notes directly from a sermon into my Bible.  Instead, I write on a piece of paper, and then carefully condense the information into as few words as possible.  For expositional sermons, I need very little room.  For topical sermons, I often choose to simply create a chain of references, circling important words or phrases.
3.  I rarely forget a passage that I have meditated on deeply.  A few words or even just circling the word that caught my heart will usually bring it back without fail.  An exception to this is when I am referencing to several other passages, in which case I write in cross-references.
4.  Occasionally in passages that are heavily taught I will run out of room around a group of verses.  If there isn’t a logical place to write additional notes, I use onion skin paper and a repositionable glue stick to make a very thin “post it” note.  I try to make this note as small as possible, often by typing it and running the thinner paper through the printer.  This same method can be used for items like diagrams or charts that you wish to have the next time you study the passage.
5.  If you faithfully study and meditate on the Word, you will amass a huge store of “thoughts” and personal applications.  Consider a journal or other way to record these if they don’t cast light on the passage and are simply a record of your thoughts and feelings at the time.  Use these journals to lift your heart during dry or dark times.
6.  Drop class, sermon, or seminar notes into file folders.  These are easy to store, and can be given a coding system that allows you to reference the set of notes in your Bible without placing extensive notes into the text.  I code my note sets by the first letter of the book or topic and the date.  Romans class notes from college become R92 for example.  If I want to refer to a particular page in that set of notes, I simply use a dash (R92-17)

Marking Grammatical structure
There are many Bible study books that advocate marking grammatical devices by drawing arrows and lines through and around the text.  I did this extensively in my college Bible, and find there are passages I can hardly read!  Instead, consider the following ideas.
1.  Have a simple symbol for  relationships of ideas.  For example, if you want to bring out cause and effect, have a C→E in the margin rather than arrows interrupting the text.  If you are studying the forms of Hebrew Poetry, create a simple code to stand for the various devices. AP indicates Antithetic parallelism and so on.
2.  If you are showing a progression, circle/underline the affected words, and jot the reference of the next portion of the progression beside the verse rather than making large lines through the text.  Within a verse, simply circle the affected words and leave out the arrows.

Use Blank Pages in Your Bible to Their Best Advantage
Finally, make use of the flyleaves and endpapers of your Bible in an organized fashion.  In the Bible I use for personal work, I divided up the pages and recorded the references I had underlined for each subject with a one or two word explanation.  I can add new verses as I come across them without any trouble.

In my study Bible, I have one page set aside as a legend for symbols I use Bible-wide as well as the first verse in the topic.  I have another page that keeps a list of verses that I can use when I am battling a particular sin, or during times of trial.  Another page keeps a list of verses for which I have learned tunes that can be sung.  If I reference a book in my Bible, the complete info for that book is recorded in the back of my Bible.

I have chosen the Life Application Bible for the following reasons:
1.  The paper is heavy enough to prevent show-through with the pens I use.
2.  There is an enormous amount of space around each individual verse as well as in the margins.  Because they chose to use a single column format, I actually have an easier time fitting my notations where I want them than I did in a Wide Margin Bible.  This is especially nice where I am trying to fit in a definition right with the word.
3.  Maps and study helps are in the text - I save a great deal of notation just not having to refer to helps in other places.
4.  The concordance, positioned next to the binding on both right and left hand pages,  actually lines up with the verse it’s referencing, so if I underline a cross reference, it’s right beside the verse.
5.  A fairly large bottom margin of notes(which I rarely reference) at the bottom of each page gives me a place to put home made “post-it” style notes from onion skin paper without obscuring the text.  This allows me to place lengthy notes and charts right where I’ll use them.

Mom's note:  The Life Application Bible is no longer available in verse-by-verse format.   I now recommend the Trinitarian Bible Society's Windsor Text Bible.  

However, seriously consider a Wide Margin Bible if you regularly...
1.  Write class or sermon outlines into your Bible.
2.  Journal in your Bible
3.  Are in a ministry where you receive regular in-depth expositional preaching which essentially allows you to create your own study Bible with very little work.
4.  Like to include a great deal of cross-referencing to sources other than the Bible.

The key to marking a Bible you wish to use for many years is to keep it simple and clean.  You need to be able to instantly recall information that will give better understanding, but you shouldn’t have to read through copious markings and colorings.  Ideally, if you have purchased a good quality Bible, and take reasonable care, a Bible should last for 25 years.  Rebinding can extend the life much further if necessary.  When you obtain a new copy of the Bible, take a year to read through the Word, transferring any pertinent notes and markings as you go.

Taking the time to make a few markings will "sharpen your sword" as well as creating a record of your Christian walk.  You'll begin to find that many of the passages you've taken the time to clarify through study will aid you greatly as you simply read through larger portions.  I'm also amazed at how often a verse my Pastor preaches on ties into and further illuminates a passage I'm already studying and meditating on personally.

22 February 2011

She's got WHAT in her pocket?

Dear Lissy,
We are nearing the end of winter, and I'm enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun streaming into the house.  I heard my first chickadee mating call this morning when I walked Harley.  Both of us perked up our ears to that distinctive "swee-tee" song!  The buds on the maple tree are just starting to blush and swell, too.  The tap lines will be going up this week for the annual maple harvest.

As you well know, your grammy grew up on a dairy farm.  I'm sad you never got to meet my grammy, your great grandmother, Pauline Boodey.  She would have loved you dearly!  One of her funny habits was sewing a little pocket onto all her work pants to hold her pocketknife.  Whether it was cutting the twine from a bale of hay, or fixing fence, she used it constantly.

I like carrying a pocketknife, too.  I used to carry a knife that had several different attachments:  tweezers, scissors, etc., but now just carry a single blade.  Your dad gave me the Opinel Garden Knife, a variation on the famous No.8, that I adore.  It's slim size fits my hand exceptionally well, and it's the perfect size for a myriad of little tasks.  It slips easily into pockets or my handbag, and I have a clip-on sheath that allows me to still carry it if I don't have pockets.  I don't know if 3-1/4" blades will still be legal to carry by the time you read this, but Opinel makes similar knives in much smaller sizes, too.

Choosing a pocket knife

  1. Choose a knife that has a handle that is the same length as the width of your palm up by your knuckles.  For most women this is in the 3" - 3-1/2" range.  The blade should also be about the width of your palm.  The little Swiss army knives are cute, but their small size makes them hard to hold onto securely.
  2. Make sure you can open and close the knife easily, and that it locks securely when open.  There's a reason Opinel is my favorite knife maker!
  3. Look for a slim, comfortable handle.  Many knives are designed for men's hands.  A rounder handle that tapers at the end is generally more comfortable than a flat or chunky design.  
  4. Generally speaking, stainless knives are easier to care for and hold an edge longer, but are more difficult to sharpen.  Carbon steel knives have to be kept absolutely dry, go dull more quickly, but also are much easier to put a nice edge on.  I like stainless, Dad likes carbon. 
  5. A good knife shouldn't break the bank.  My everyday knives are under $20.  If I lose or break it, I want to be able to replace it quickly.  Some of the knives in my collection are very expensive, and I'd be heartbroken if I lost them.  One of the knives, my Grohmann, is actually in the MoMA.  
  6. Consider your wardrobe.  If you generally don't wear clothes with pockets, try to find a knife that has a clip that can slide over your waistband, or find/make a nice sheath.  As cute as your gram's knife pockets were on a 70 year old, they probably won't be the fashion statement you want to make!
  7. Dad's good enough at making knives that he can regrind a blade into a more useable shape or change the scales if you want something particular.  I know he'd love to do that for you, so never hesitate to ask.  When you're ready for a custom fixed blade camping knife, just let him know, and he can fire up the forge!

36 Uses for a Pocketknife

  • Opening boxes
  • Opening letters
  • Opening bags/packaging from DVD's to dog food
  • Trimming threads
  • Cleaning out gunk in crevices
  • First Aid:  Cutting tape, bandages, etc.
  • Paring/Cutting fruit or veggies
  • Cutting cheese
  • Making tinder for a fire
  • Scraping a windshield
  • Stripping wire
  • Trimming zip ties to length (or removing them)
  • Spreading pb, butter etc.onto crackers or bread
  • Cleaning & paring broken fingernails
  • Cutting store tags off of garments
  • Scraping stickers, paint, rust, & sticky stuff off of glass/metal
  • Pruning houseplants
  • Clipping a coupon or article
  • Tightening a screw
  • Cutting rope/twine from clotheslines to trussing roast chickens
  • Digging weeds out of garden beds
  • Cutting thorns and vines out of flower beds.
  • Shaving soap into flakes
  • Transplanting
  • Harvesting veggies
  • Harvesting wild edibles
  • Cutting or pruning flowers and herbs
  • Cutting old clothing into rags
  • Removing a splinter
  • Cutting Fishing line and field dressing a fish
  • Sharpening a pencil
  • Sharpening a stick for s'mores or roasting over a campfire
  • Sharpening sticks for garden uses (support poles, etc.)
  • Scraping mud or other undesirables off shoe soles. 
  • Whittling.  Kids will sit transfixed and watch you transform a branch into any number of little toys.
  • Impressing guys. Just watch every guys' eyes in the room light up when you pull out a knife and sharpen a pencil or tighten a screw.
5 Rules for Pocket Knives
  • Keep it sharp!  A dull knife is a dangerous knife.  A piece of glass or plexiglass with silicon carbide (wet/dry auto) sandpaper affixed to it with spray adhesive makes an inexpensive sharpener   Generally speaking 600 grit to start and 1000 grit to finish are all you'll need unless you get a big nick in your blade.  The extended version of this method is called Scary Sharp and is primarily used for woodworking tools if you want to search for it online.  Dad is a master at sharpening and would be happy to teach you how to keep your blade in top condition.
  • Keep it scrupulously clean and dry.  Before and after using it for food or first aid, wipe with alcohol.
  • Don't ever use a knife as a prybar.  It can damage your knife (or you!) too easily.
  • Know knife carry laws.  I can't bring my knife to Boston or into a public school, for example.
  • Store it safely.  Kids are fascinated by knives.  They should be kept on your person or in a secure location.
A pocketknife is a forgotten tool.  Once you get used to it, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.  A good knife becomes an extension of yourself, and hardly feels like a tool at all.  You may never collect knives like I do, but I hope you'll have one or two that serve you well as you work in your home and garden.

Keep yourself sharp!

19 February 2011

How to Plan, Part 1: Weekly Schedule

Dear Lissy,
As I sit and sip my morning coffee, I'm planning a busy two days for myself.  I've realized that this is a skill I wouldn't have had when I first started homemaking.  I need to reiterate that I don't expect or want you to do things "my way" for the rest of your life.  I'm not writing a housekeeping Bible. But these are methods that work, and work well.  Start out with a tried-and-true method, and you'll soon develop your own systems and routines that fit your personality and lifestyle.  I have my weekly template, so I just fill in a few blanks.  You're welcome to ask me, and I'll e-mail it to you.

The foundation of a productive day is a Weekly Plan.

During moments of insight, when life is quiet and calm, I know that I have certain tasks that have to be done on a weekly basis in order to keep our home running smoothly. During the “game” however, those items are usually far less urgent until they become bona fide emergencies. So, in order to give myself margin, I discipline myself to accomplish the weekly routines over the course of the week so that I am not left with emergencies or the Day of Unending Housework. Some people like to have a particular weekday off. I'm more motivated by splitting my housekeeping up into about 90 minutes a day so no one day is a killer.

All rooms go! I do not do bangerang!or tidy on Sunday. Monday morning I spend about 45 minutes going through the whole house and setting it straight.

Menus, Shopping List, Fridge/Freezer, Pantry: I spend about another 45 minutes getting together a great shopping list so I only have to shop once during the week. I'll jot out my menus and put those items on the list. After straightening and cleaning out the fridge, freezer, and pantry, I go through with a master list and make sure I have everything I need for the week. I usually peek ahead at my Junior church lesson to make sure I have all the little doo-dads I need for their lesson. 

Mom & Dad Laundry: This is the second half of my “no load left behind” philosophy. I do a load a day as habit every morning. On Monday, anything left in our hamper, or clothing that needs to be laundered coming out of storage is done. By Monday afternoon, our hamper should be completely empty.

Tuesday: Errand Day
You will give yourself hours of margin if you plan one day to do all of your errands. Most husbands are thrilled to help you out in this area by giving you lists/items to be taken care of if they know about it ahead of time. I like to e-mail Dad toward the end of the previous week to ask for any errands, and then follow up on Monday morning. (As Dad's personal assistant, I keep my schedule flexible for him. If he needs three bags of mulch Friday afternoon, I don't whine about Tuesday being errand day – I go get the mulch.) I find that if I take just 5 minutes to list where I'm going, I can make one giant circle instead of running all over town. Pack a snack and drinks and take a break either at the park or in the car at the halfway point if you are bringing kids.

Household Laundry: All the household linens are laundered on Tuesday. Fresh, sweet beds are one of the big three for any wife/mom. (Clean clothing in drawers and closets and nourishing meals are the other two.) I only do comforters and mattress covers once a month. They can be done seasonally if no one in your house has a deathly dustmite allergy.

Wednesday: Desk Day
I need an extra dose of grace on Wednesday. This is one of those “I can put this off” items unless I just make myself sit down and do it. I don't mind paperwork, it just is so easy not to do. So I pay the bills and file paperwork for taxes, prep my Junior Church and Cub scouts, and write thank you notes or a note of encouragement to someone in our ministry. I can often psych myself out by getting a special treat on Tuesday for while I work on paperwork Wednesday.

Water Plants: Does this need an explanation?

Thursday: Weekly Cleaning

Dry Rooms: On Thursday, I take about 90 minutes to “Speed Clean” the bedroom and living areas. If you haven't ever read Jeff Campbell's little book, it's worth its weight in gold.

Kids' Laundry: All of the kids' clothing has to be washed, dried, folded, and put away by the 4 pm “Transition”. They are old enough to do much of this themselves. Again, with my “load a day” habit, I rarely have more than 1 extra load to do.

Friday: Weekly Cleaning

Wet Rooms: Friday I clean the kitchen and bathrooms thoroughly. I usually plan about 15 minutes for each bathroom and 45 minutes for the kitchen; but I can zip through the jobs in half the time occasionally. I purposefully keep Friday's housework light so I can double up and do Saturday's work if we're going on a family outing.

Saturday: Weekly Cleaning and Lord's Day Preparations

Entryway: I give my porches and entry halls a thorough cleaning on Saturdays.

Car: I clean out and vacuum my vehicle every Saturday. I also check all the fluids and the tire pressure. A lot of husbands do this, so you may not need to even have this on your list.

Manicure: Last thing on Saturday, I give myself a manicure so my hands look nice on Sunday. Vanity, vanity  *grin*
Sunday Dinner Prep: Sunday mornings are a lot less hectic when the meal is mostly prepared on Saturday.
Sunday Clothes: Clothes are set out for everyone in the family so I have no “surprises” on Sunday morning.

Sunday: Day of Rest
Want to start a fight? Ask a roomful of Christians what are acceptable Sunday activities.
The first group feels justified in engaging in any activity, provided they are reasonably faithful to church services.
The second group will argue that only “restful” activities are acceptable, and only before or after church services.
The third group will contend that Sundays are to be “set apart”. They are God's, and are given to him as the “firstfruit” of the week. Only activities that are specifically designed for worship or fellowship are acceptable to this group.
If we truly desire to give the Lord the first day of our week, are we even seeking his will for that day? Do you ever pray and ask the Lord how he would have you spend the Lord's Day? 

A Weekly Plan is the foundation of a productive and well-run home.  We'll build the four "walls" later:  Using a Calendar, Using a Tickler File, Establishing Routines, and The Daily Plan.  The roof:  Good old-fashioned, callous-making, backbone-breaking WORK!  
The simple fact is even a homemaker with no plans or routines can keep a simple "roof of protection" over her family if she's diligent.  The converse is also true:  A homemaker with great planning and organizational skills won't be able to protect her family from even the normal wear and tear of life without a good bit of labor overarching all of her carefully made plans.

Your dear Aunt Tori has been ministering in Zambia for many, many years now, and most people cite her work with the AIDS orphanage and school.  The truth is much of her work for the Lord has been through her hospitality.  God hasn't chosen marriage or children for her (at least not yet!) but she still depends heavily on her home and her homemaking skills to fulfill God's plan for her life. 
You're a hard worker and love being busy.  I know wherever God has placed you, you will use your home to bless and serve others.  

I love you, my little French horse!

    16 February 2011

    Disappearing Drop Biscuits

    Dear Lissy,
    This recipe is by special request...from you! For this recipe, I combined Never Fail Biscuits from allrecipes.com and Kate's Biscuits from American As Apple Pie, switching the flour to whole wheat.  They're super easy for a weeknight supper since there's no rolling required.

    Disappearing Drop Biscuits

    2 cups (9 oz) white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    4 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 tsp cream of tartar
    2 tsp sugar
    1/2 butter, chilled and diced
    1 cup milk

    Place rack in top 1/3 of oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Grease 12  3" round spots on an insulated or foil-lined cookie sheet.  Whisk together dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture resembles oatmeal.  Pour in milk all at once, and beat until mixture forms a thick paste.  Drop egg-sized pieces onto the greased spots on the prepared cookie sheet, flattening slightly.  Bake 8-10 minutes until just barely golden.  Serve hot.

    Love and hugs,

    15 February 2011

    Dangers of Deep Cleaning!

    Dear Lissy,
    I'm on a mission to rid this house of dust and grime this week.  Two years ago I spent almost 12 weeks fighting a sinus infection that sapped my energy and left me in extreme pain.  Last spring the Lord had other work for me -- heart work -- so the deep cleaning didn't get done.

    This February vacation week I'm focusing on just the cleaning.  Decluttering and re-organizing are going to have to be done piecemeal throughout the spring, or not at all.  And that is the number one danger inherent in deep cleaning:  

    Disappointment:  I will only be happy with perfection.

    The fact is, the Lord has given me the strength, purpose, and time for a nice thorough cleaning of every room, top to bottom, and time to re-seal the floors and oil the woodwork.  That's it.  There's a LOT more I'd like to do, and a lot more that needs to be done.  But you know what?  I'm thrilled I have the time, health, and energy to do that much.  My health was poor two years ago.  My time was short last year.  This year I have both in abundance, and I will rejoice!

    The second danger is one I didn't expect, and it broad-sided me yesterday:

    Discontentment:  God hasn't given me the house I need, want, or deserve.

    Martha Stewart couldn't clean this old stove!  I hate it!  It doesn't even have all the burners working!
    I've had these same stupid kitchen curtains for 15 years!
    If I don't get a new floor in this kitchen soon, I'm going to snap!  They have better kitchen floors in CUBA!
    These rooms HAVE to have a new coat of paint NOW!!!!!
    Why can't we just replace these three panels around the shower?  That isn't rocket science.  They're broken down, nasty, and a bear to clean!
    How am I supposed to clean a wall WITH A HOLE IN IT????  How hard is it to fix this?  We've got 17 partial buckets of sheetrock mud booby-trapping the basement, let's just pop ONE of them open and get to work, shall we?
    When this barrage of  thoughts comes, only the Word of God will suffice:
    I Timothy 6: 6-10
    6 ¶  But godliness with contentment is great gain.
    7  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
    8  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
    9  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
    10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
    Your house -- your home -- isn't about the walls, floors, and furnishings.  It's about the ministry of love that you are using to encourage your husband and friends, nurture your children, and reach out to a lost and dying world.  Not one of those groups really cares what condition your kitchen floor (or walls, or light fixtures) are in if your home is clean, warm, and welcoming.

    You and your brothers have been wonderfully understanding as I've ripped apart every room for cleaning.  You've played together, kept the laundry running, and even helped with a few of the big projects.  And that brings us to the third danger of deep cleaning:

    Selfishness:  This is my time and my project.  Help or stay out of the way. 

    Funny thing, husbands and children still expect food to appear three times a day during spring cleaning.  They fail to see the fun in bobbing for laundry.  They actually want it folded and in their drawers!  They demand to use the toilet and shower you JUST cleaned.  Argh!  Your husband and children are obviously selfish barbarians who have no appreciation for a home that sparkles and shines.
    Remember, this is something you are doing to serve them.  This is still their home.  And while it may send you flying around the room on your broom when you see them spill a bag of chips on the floor you just polished,

    You do not get a pass to speak in clipped, angry tones during cleaning week.

    The fruit of the Spirit in word and deed are required now more than ever.  Don't soil your heart with ugly thoughts and words while you wipe the dust and fingerprints off the walls.  Use the time to meditate and pray and ask God to do a little spring cleaning on your heart while you spring clean your home.

    Love you lots,

    12 February 2011

    Crockpot Sweet Chili

    Dear Fliss,
    This is one of my favorite meals for busy or church days.  I like it best served over rice or a baked potato, but the rest of the family enjoys it plain.  I usually serve it with cornbread muffins and a salad.

    Crockpot Sweet Chili
    Serves 6-8
    at least 1# leftover cooked meat (roast, pulled pork, meatloaf, taco meat, meatballs, hamburgers, or any combo thereof), broken or pulled into small pieces.
    1/2 tsp minced garlic
    1 envelope Lipton Beefy Onion Soup mix
    1 (28 oz) can Pastene ground tomatoes
    2 (28 oz cans) baked beans, or 1-1/2 quarts homemade baked beans
    1 Tbsp vinegar
    3 Tbsp brown sugar
    1 Tbsp ancho chile powder, optional
    1-2 tsp chipotle chile powder, optional

    Pop it all in the crockpot until hot and bubbly, about 4 hours on low.  Move to the warm setting until ready to eat.  Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, and saltines or oyster crackers.

    Love ya, Hot Stuff!

    11 February 2011

    God's Best Secrets, part 3

    Good Morning, Sweet One!
    I'm up a bit earlier than usual this morning, and decided to take the quiet time to finish up my thoughts on...quiet time.  Very fitting, somehow.  I've already written you about Jesus first, Jesus always, and followed that up with a couple of key thoughts on obedience, humility, and surrender which are absolutely essential for a vibrant relationship with Christ.  We finished off the last of those thoughts with encouragement to become a woman of the Word so that the power and presence of God would fill every waking moment.

    We took a brief detour, because I needed you to remember that not only are you flawed and still in the process of sanctification, so are the people you live with whether that's Dad and I, roommates, or a husband and children.  God isn't just sanctifying you through the bumps and bruises of living with others, he's working on them through you at the same time.

    Now we're going to take a few minutes so I can remind you how to take all that you've read and heard from the Word of God and apply it to daily life. How do you respond to the roommate who "borrows" your things, the emotional rock tumbler of raising toddlers, the boiling ache of a friendship gone awry?  How do you connect what you've read and studied with what you're actually living?  Go from Driver's Ed to driving a car at 65 mph on a three lane highway?

    2 Peter 1:3 holds the answer in a nutshell:  According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.  The rest of this passage goes on to paint a picture of a mature Christian who has grown into the image of Christ.  But the key is right here:  We have every answer to every situation when we know Christ.  We know people when we spend time with them.  Listen to them.  Talk with them.  Not at them, with them!

    Meditation and prayer are the practices which allow us to apply the mind of Christ to our daily life, and bring our daily life to Christ.

    George Mueller, a 19th century hero of faith, expressed it this way: "I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament...early in the morning.  The result I have found to be almost invariably this...though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately into prayer."  They flow into one another so intimately, that it truly becomes a conversation with your heavenly Father.  My favorite method for meditation is a series of questions that I modified from Jim Berg's book, Changed Into His Image,  and Steve Petit's book, How to Pray 30 Minutes a Day.  Every time God talks one on one to a person in His Word, he asks a question.  Questions are powerful tools in the human mind.   

    So here it is, my sweet one.  This represents almost a decade of work and thought.  I've tweaked it a dozen times, and probably will tweak it a dozen more.  This is my heart, my passion...for myself, for you and your brothers, and for other women that God has chosen to place in my path over the years.  I started out with a glossy PowerPoint presentation and carefully designed booklets.  I quickly learned that this is best shared life to life, not in a large group.  I hope that we've spent many hours together and this is second nature to you by now.

    First Light:  The LAMP Method of Personal Quiet Time

    Look:  Begin by reading a passage of Scripture carefully.  Look for Jesus Christ.  Don't stop reading until He is revealed.  Re-read the passage if necessary.  I recommend starting with the passage of Scripture your Pastor preached on last Sunday.  The book of John is another good starting point.
    What Does This Passage Reveal About Jesus Christ?

    Ask:  Keeping the passage in context, ask yourself...
    What is one attribute of God  revealed in this passage?
    A mutable attribute is one that you can share, like compassion.  An immutable attribute is one you can't, like omnipotence.  For your first meditations, choose a mutable attribute...something you should share in common with Jesus Christ.

    Meditate:  After you have defined the attribute you have chosen, spend time to think through each question.  It is not uncommon to spend more than a day on one question.  Smaller, richer passages will bloom like a flower.  Larger passages will usually boil down into surprisingly sweet truths.  Some passages are as beautiful (and hard!) as a jewel and will reveal their beauty as you gaze on each facet.
    What is the biblical definition of this attribute?
    What else do I know or does this passage show about this attribute of Christ?
    How does the world display this attribute?  How is that different from Jesus Christ?
    Who in the Bible experienced or demonstrated this attribute of Christ?
    Is there another of Christ's character traits that seems to be in opposition to this one?

    Personalize:  As you meditate on a passage, your heart will naturally flow back and forth from meditation to prayer.  A few key questions will help you search your heart.
    How have I seen God demonstrate this attribute in my own life or in the lives of others?
    Have I allowed Christ free reign to demonstrate this aspect of Himself in my life?
    If this attribute has been lacking in my daily contacts with people, what have others been seeing in me instead of the ___________ that would have demonstrated a Christ-filled life?

    Those questions will probably take the better part of a week to go through, but I like to start each morning praying through what I've been thinking about.
    Praise:  What characteristic of Jesus have I been meditating on  for which I can bring adoration?
    Repent:  What areas in my life do not exhibit the attributes I saw in my Lord's life?  Do I have sin that needs to be confessed?
    Ask:  Who (including myself) particularly needs the attributes I studied today?  What situation or persons are heavy on my heart today and will pull my mind away from communion with the Lord?
    Yield:  What situations do I know I'm going to face today that will tempt me to walk in the flesh instead of the Spirit?

    This letter is already too long, but I wanted to end with the summary I wrote for the First Light booklet:
    A morning quiet time is not simply a chance to glean a few choice words of wisdom to help you through your day, but rather an opportunity to spend time with your precious Savior.  As you faithfully look for Jesus Christ in the Word, meditating on His person and works, the Holy Spirit will illuminate the Scriptures, enliven your prayer life, and reveal Christ to you.  This morning time will eventually grow until your prayers and meditations are "all the day," and Christ's constant presence is a joyful reality in your life.  If your time in the morning is limited, prepare the Scripture passage ahead of time [or use the passage your Pastor preached] so that the few moments you have before you begin your day can be spent in meditation and prayer.  Actively seek to streamline your morning routine so that you can enjoy a time of fellowship with the Lord before you meet the trials and temptations of the day.

    Love and hugs,


    08 February 2011

    Redwall Candied Walnuts

    Dear Lissy,
    It's almost Valentine's Day, and I usually make your dad a box of candies as a gift.  These candied nuts were a recipe my step-grandmother, Martha Cline Mundy, shared with me.  Daddy is especially fond of these, and I plan to fill a drawstring ditty bag of them for his 40th birthday winter camping trip next month.  They probably won't last that long, but the recipe is so simple a refill is no problem!

    "From a small bag slung about his neck he selected a candied nut; not one of the big, smooth ones, but a small wrinkled nut that had lots of sugar in the cracks.  Chibb liked them better that way."

    Mossflower, p. 105

    Candied Walnuts
    1 cup sugar
    1 tsp grated orange rind (I use McCormick's, but fresh works, too)
    1/4 tsp salt
    6 Tbsp. milk
    1 lb walnut halves
    1 tsp vanilla

    Combine sugar, salt, orange rind, and milk in a heavy medium saucepan.  Cook, stirring frequently, until candy thermometer registers soft ball stage (234 degrees F) or until a teaspoon full of glaze dripped in a saucer of cold water forms a taffy-consistency ball when rolled.
    Remove from heat and add vanilla and walnuts.  Stir until grainy, and then turn out all at once onto waxed paper.
    Dad especially likes the nuts that clump together, so I don't spread them out too much.

    Nuts about you!

    Sometimes He Flops

    Dearest Fliss,

    Inside every woman is a little girl who just wants someone to wrap their arms around her and love her like he loves nobody else.

    You've found the man who is absolutely gob-smacked with you.  He loves everything about you...your hair, your eyes, even those pesky freckles you've been trying to get rid of for years.  You light up when you hear his voice or catch a glimpse of him, and he gives you that look that sends you into cardiac arrest.  This is what you've been waiting for...dreaming of...

    and so you marry.

    The honeymoon is so much more than you've even imagined.  You're the center of this amazing person's universe!
    You move into your first apartment.  He goes off to his job, and you eagerly plan for the moment you'll see him again.  He twirls you around and smothers you with kisses.  He praises your cooking, and does dishes with you.  You go for long walks together.  Wake up snuggled in his arms.  Life is good.

    A few weeks (or months) go by...

    He works.  A lot.  Even when he's home.  And you wonder if he still wants to spend time with you, or if he wishes he were single again and had more freedom.

    He forgets.  A gallon of milk here, a dry cleaning pickup there, your 17 month anniversary.  But you imagine you're not quite as important as you once were.

    He's selfish.  He plays on the computer while you clean up dinner, leaves dirty laundry and whiskers all over the bathroom, and never takes off his shoes when he comes in the door.  You get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.  Did he ever love you?  Or was he just looking for someone to replace his mommy?

    He's lazy.  He flops half-dead in front of the t.v. at night, and forgets about family devotions.  He sleeps through Sunday School, and you're late for church.   Now you're mad.  He's neglecting his responsibilities before God.

    It's time for The Silent Treatment,
    The silent treatment is a form of bloodless murder in which you don't actually kill someone, you simply pretend they don't exist.
    Nothing is wrong, dear.  (Be sure to clench your teeth, or this may sound sincere.)
    Eye contact is strictly forbidden.
    If you can stay out just a little too late with friends so he worries, that gives you bonus points.
    Be sure not to let the ice queen facade melt until he has completely come around to see how right you are.

    or maybe The Tantrum.
    You're going to have to shed a lot of tears.
    Be sure there are plenty of accusations and that you explain in detail each and every time he's wounded your tender, loving heart.
    It's only really worked if you get an apology and a promise to do better.  If he's still making excuses, you haven't done your job very well.  Hyperventilating and hiccuping may bring him around.
    Be sure he holds you tenderly until you drift off to sleep.  You get extra points if he kisses away the tears.

    and now YOU'RE in control.  And you're miserably unhappy.  You've never felt less loved and more alone in your whole life.

    It's easy to respond in loving submission when you're treated like a princess.
    He takes from the money he's been saving for a new racing bike to cover your overdraft, and simply hugs you as you sob an apology.  Twice.
    He stays up after you've gone to bed, and does all the dishes from your first dinner party.
    He drives 17 hours after working a 14 hour shift so you can attend your sister's graduation four states away.

    But what about when he flops?
    When he spends the money you've been carefully saving up for summer vacation on a hunting blind?
    When he "forgets" to take out the trash or walk the dog before he goes to bed? Every. single.  night.
    When he stops having devotions, or finds a million excuses to skip church?

    It's hard to submit to someone who isn't earning your respect.  Very hard.

    And this, sweet daughter, is where God wants you to bring you:
    Marveling at a love that sacrifices.  Tasting eternity. Glimpsing a glint of His love.  Disappointed.  Angry.  Hurt.

    God knows HE is the only one who can love you the way you need to be loved.  In His lovingkindness, He gives you someone who will help you draw closer to Him, not replace Him.

    You need the sunlight moments, when you would be willing to live in a tree house on breath mints and love, just to spend the rest of your life with this man.

    You need the shadow moments, when you choose to obey God and respectfully submit to a man, utterly human, who has failed you.

    Because somewhere in between those two, and yet beyond them both, you will learn Christ in a way you never dreamed possible.  
    You will experience a tiny fraction of His love fleshed out, and it will take your breath away.  
    But you will also have to drink deeply of His humility and daily obedience to know Him as never before.  

    As you grow into an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, you'll understand that your marriage is the tool God has chosen to use to accomplish that in your life .  You'll finally learn there aren't "good" and "bad" times in a marriage, there are times you see Christ, and times you learn Christ.  You need them both.

    And you will be happy -- not just joyful -- really, truly happy.   And loved like nobody else.

    May you be cherished as much as you are now for your whole life,

    P.S.  Out of respect for your Dad, all the situations mentioned above were borrowed or altered.  Except the driving to my sister's graduation. Daddy really did that for me!

    07 February 2011

    Sometimes They Fail

    Dear Lissy,

    I'm watching one of your brothers cry.

    It is a difficult thing to see your child make a decision you know they'll regret.
    It is a difficult thing to see your child overwhelmed by a school assignment or chores.
    It is a difficult thing to see your child neglect their responsibilities, knowing the consequences will be painful to bear.

    But the hardest thing?
    Lettting them fail, letting them fall, watching the tears and frustration.

    I could step in and force them to make the right choice...they're still young.
    I could cut back the school assignment, the chores...I'm the one who gave them in the first place.
    I could remind them to put away the bike, pick up the room, walk the dog...the consequences will affect me, too.

    But where do I want my children to learn about the consequences of bad decisions?  about how to handle a heavy load? about responsibility?  

    I don't want their first bad decision to be the person they marry.   I want them to have learned over the years to go to someone older and wiser when they have a big decision to make.  To search the Word and pray before making any decision, large or small.

    I don't want to see them overwhelmed by the responsibilities of adult life and escape into a fantasy world inside their computer or in their basement workshop.  I want them to learn NOW to eat the elephant in bites, and to lean hard on the Lord for a heart to work.

    I don't want to see them lose a job because they've neglected responsiblities at work.    I want them to learn now, under the umbrella of our love, that being a part of a family, a work or community team, a church, gives both rewards and responsibilities. That if you don't fulfill your part, everyone suffers, and that you aren't always the one who suffers the most...it may be someone dear to your heart that you hurt.

    It is a hard thing to hold back when I could keep everybody happy.  After all, couldn't they learn this an easier way?  Won't success be a better teacher than failure?  Maybe they could simply watch and read about the bad decisions and failures of others.  

    We humans learn more from our own personal failures than from either our successes or the warning of others' failures.

    Your brother has reached the age where my parenting is morphing into a coaching, mentoring relationship.  He's in the game right now, overwhelmed by a lot of schoolwork for the week. Last year, I sat down with him every week and we divided up the work together.  This year I'm giving him the whole week's worth all at once, and he's discouraged.   
    Sometime this evening, we'll talk again about how to handle a heavy workload.  About dividing up the tasks by the time and faithfully plugging away at them.  About bringing our fears to the Lord.  Tomorrow, or maybe Wednesday when the work is more than half done, he'll gain a new sense of confidence.  We'll talk about that, too.  And the next time I hand him a heavy load, I'll be watching.  We may go through this many times, and that's o.k.  I can't pull him aside when he's 32 and help him plan his week so that he can serve and bless his family, his church and his co-workers.  These few short years are all I have.

    So I'll let them spend their hard earned money on a silly souvenir even though I've reminded them that they've been saving for a new computer for over a year.
    I'll keep doling out homework and chores that stretch their abilities mentally, physically, and spiritually.
    I'll let them go a few days without a bike, or computer time, or wait an hour for their dinner when they forget to feed the dog.

    I won't let them jump off our second story porch with a sheet for a parachute.
    I won't crush their spirits week after week with homework and chores just for the sake of keeping them busy.  
    I won't sell the bike or give away Harley.

    My heart is longing to prevent every failure and hurt, to take away all the burdens that overwhelm, to be God.  And that is when I realize that I've overstepped.  That if I choose that path, I am pushing God out of their lives.  They'll run or rebel at any and every hardship they face as adults, rather than submitting to a loving Father's omniscient plan.  

    So I ask for more wisdom & grace.  Because there is only One who knows their hearts.  Because there is only One who knows my heart.  And there is One who wants us all to be men and women after His heart.

    Wishing I could still kiss away all the bumps and bruises,