Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

How do I thank You oh Lord
For taking my place on the cross
And how do I thank You oh Lord
For all of Your mercy and kindness
For calling me to You
For letting me hear You
For opening my heart to the gospel

As long as I have breath I will praise You
As long as my heart beats I will sing
As long as life flows in my veins
I will bless Your Name

How do I thank You oh Lord
For all of the love in Your eyes
And how do I thank You oh Lord
For how You have changed me forever
For giving me power
A hope and a future
With favor and gladness and every good thing

As long as I have breath I will praise You
As long as my heart beats I will sing
As long as life flows in my veins
I will bless Your Name

-"As Long As I Have Breath" by Mark Altrogge

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Table Manners Tuesday


Cute, aren't they? Oooh, but it's amazing how difficult these little people can make it to have a sane family dinner. Recently Dave and I found we were spending almost the entire mealtime correcting their aberrant behavior. In response, Meg and Matthew seemed to want to ramp up the rudeness. It was not fun.

So I decided I would make table etiquette an official part of our school curriculum this year. (I'm doing some very simple preschool/pre-k work with Matthew and Meg this fall.) I spent some time online, trying to figure out what others have done, but in the end I decided to do my own thing. This is a small but fun creative challenge for me, and it also allows us to address the specific issues we encounter with our kids in a proactive way. Thus was born "Table Manners Tuesday."

Every Tuesday morning, we learn one new rule. I make up a little couplet to teach them about a concept (like not talking with your mouth full of food). We read the little poem together until they're able to recite it on their own. Then we practice. Meg and Matthew each get a plate filled with small pieces of food, and a fork. (Confession: sometimes I've done cut-up fruit, but the last couple of weeks I've used mini-marshmallows, which makes Table Manners Tuesday one of the highlights of the week!) We recite the rule together, then they get to take one bite, being very very careful to practice the new rule. We recite it again. They get another bite, and I sometimes issue reminders. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Now we're to the point where we have a small collection of rules, so we start with review, reciting all of the old rules, one at a time, taking a bite in between each one, and (theoretically) practicing all of our rules at once. I try to make it fun (marshmallows, gently teasing them when they do something wrong) and formal all at once. They seem to be enjoying it. And I think it's having a positive effect on our family dinners. Not instantaneously, mind you. But we've been able to have something resembling conversation lately.

Here are the rules we've learned so far:

1. After it delivers the bite that you ate,
Your fork goes right back on your plate.

2. Please do not show us the food you have chewed.
Keeping your mouth closed is much less rude.

3. Interrupting someone is shocking!
Please wait until others are all done talking.

4. Conversation has its own sweet ring;
The table is the place to talk, not sing!

And a peek at what's ahead for future Tuesdays (remember, I make these up based on what I observe in our real-life dinners):
I don't poke or play or lean or flap;
The place for my hands is on my own lap.

(Whoa! Branching out into quatrains!)
First we pray and then I wait
Not a single bite will leave my plate--
Whether bread or beef, pudding or pork--
I don't eat until my hostess lifts her fork.

There you have it--a glimpse into one of our little family challenges and how we're attempting to solve it. Anyone else have good ideas about teaching table manners? I'd love to hear any thoughts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Drowned in Mercy"

Looking through the GirlTalk archives on Thanksgiving, I came across this captivating quote from Spurgeon:

"The fear of a man who really knows the love and goodness of God, will be somewhat of this kind: He will fear lest he should really be, or should seem to be, ungrateful. 'What' he asks, 'can I do? I am drowned in mercy. It is not as though my ship were sailing in a sea of mercy; I have been so loaded with the favour of the Lord that my vessel has gone right down, and the ocean of God’s love and mercy has rolled right over the masthead. What can I do O Lord? If thou had given me only a little mercy, I might have done something, in return, to express my gratitude. But oh! Thy great mercy in electing me, in redeeming me, in converting me, and in preserving me, and in all the goodness of thy providence toward me;--what can I do in return for all these favour? I feel struck dumb; and I am afraid, lest I should have a dumb heart as well as a dumb tongue; I fear lest I should grieve Thee by anything that looks like ingratitude.”

I am drowned in mercy. The thought makes me weep--it is so profoundly true.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
-Robert Robinson

Truly, it will take a heavenly hymn to express the smallest part of the gratitude that I owe my God. But Father, let my heart and my mouth never tire of trying, until the day when I have an angel's song in my mouth and a crown of blood-bought jewels to cast at the feet of my Jesus.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Call Me Immature, But...

I can't help laughing when my dainty, little girl-baby lets out a belch that would take out an entire frat house.

Good one, Esme Rose.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Underneath Us

"Underneath are the everlasting arms." -Deuternomy 33:27

God--the eternal God--
is Himself our support at all times,
and especially when we are sinking in deep trouble.
There are seasons when the Christian sinks very low in humiliation.
Under a deep sense of his great sinfulness,
he is humbled before God until he hardly knows how to pray...
Well, child of God, remember that when you are at your worst and lowest,
even then "underneath" you "are the everlasting arms."
Sin may drag you ever so low,
but Christ's great atonement is still under all.
You may have descended into the depths, but...
He saves "to the uttermost."

Again, the Christian sometimes sinks very deeply
in sore trial from without.
Every earthly prop is cut away.
What then?
Still underneath him are "the everlasting arms."
He cannot fall so deep in distress and affliction
but what he covenant grace of an ever-faithful God
will still encircle him...

This assurance of support is a comfort
to any weary but sincere worker
in the service of God.
It implies a promise
of strength for each day,
grace for each need,
and power for each duty.
And finally, when death comes,
the promise will still hold good...
We will descend into the grave, but we shall go no lower,
for the eternal arms prevent our further fall.
All through life, and at its close,
we shall be upheld by the "everlasting arms"--
arms that neither flag nor lose their strength,
for "the everlasting God... does not grow faint or weary."
-C.H. Spurgeon

What have I to dread?
What have I to fear?
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near.
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
-Elisha A. Hoffman

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A Hard Day... with Thankful Sauce

Today was one of those. I woke up and started fighting almost right away--fighting lies, fighting my sin. Anxiety, selfishness, irritation, judgment, anger. I was praying, talking Scripture to myself, working hard to obey the Lord. But before 8:00 a.m. rolled around, I knew I needed extra help. I emailed some friends--please pray! Here's how! And I know that God answered my prayers and theirs. I did experience grace in many ways. But I also blew it and sinned against my kids in anger. I called my husband, who prayed and cared for me. Then, back to work, with an additional set of temptations to fight--condemnation, discouragement, fear. Fight, fight, fail, repent, fight, fight, fight.

So... yeah. That was my day.

But you know, when I got to the end of it, and we were doing our Thanksgiving Tree at dinner time, I was almost overwhelmed with all that I had to be grateful for. How to choose just one thing to write on my construction-paper leaf?

I narrowed it down and made my decision, but all of that other good stuff needs to go somewhere. God's goodness is a flood even on my hardest days, and it's real grace that He opened my eyes to that this evening. I don't want to let it go without a commemoration. So here, without further ado, are some of the things I'm grateful for today:

-Sarah, who responded to my email right away to say she was praying

-Seanna, who sent me Scripture and--through the Holy Spirit--breathed new life into Psalm 23 for me, giving me fresh joy in God's Word

-a boy who loves his little sister, almost to a fault!

-books, and that my kids love read-alouds at lunch time

-Jess, whose email to me opened with this line: "I love praying for you." I don't think I digested the rest of her email at all. Love... praying... for ME? What?? Don't deserve, don't deserve, don't deserve, don't deserve, don't deserve. I DON'T DESERVE THAT!

-1 Peter 2:20-24. I fail to live this Scripture out every single day, but I find great joy and hope and motivation in it nonetheless.

-that everyone took a nap today! Me included!

-Jess again, who called to check in and see how I was doing and prayed for me. It was a turning point. Not sure how much longer this list would be if not for her prayer.

-this sweet moment with my girlies

-that God made food beautiful, as well as yummy

-a baby who grins and wiggles and lunges for Daddy when he walks through the door each evening

-family dance party in the kitchen during dinner prep. Song? "Celebrate Good Times" by the Village People. Kids wanted to hear it three times in a row.

-This exchange at dinner--
David: What are you thankful for tonight, Matthew?
Matthew: Thankful for Mommy and Daddy going on dates.
Dave and Cara: !!!
Cara: That's great, Buddy. Why are you thankful that Mommy and Daddy get to go on dates?
Matthew: Because I love you.
Dave and Cara: (melt into puddles on the dining room floor)

-an extra moment to pray over my Meg at bedtime

-a lovely, long email from an old friend. Yay for rekindled friendships with kindred spirits!

-and lastly, the promise of mercies that are new every morning. I don't have to fear tomorrow. My God is already there, waiting with a fresh flood of undeserved kindnesses.

I can't wait!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Guest Photographer

My dad took this picture of Meg when our kids stayed with him and Mom a few weekends ago. Dave and I think it's a keeper.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


The other day I was doing some straightening/cleaning in the living room. Our couch, like all of our furniture, is second-hand and has seen some better days. Its ugly, blue-and-cream checked upholstery is covered up by a deep blue slip cover--one of those "one-size-fits-most" numbers that has to be endlessly tucked and tugged and scrunched and rearranged to keep it looking decent. (Which is why ours never does.)

Meg and Matthew had been "sledding" on the couch that day (new game!), so the slipcover was even more than usually disheveled. I gave it a big yank, and out of the depths of the seat cushions emerges... a whole lot of junk. I took a picture of it.

I even made a list of it.

-1 plastic star from the bouncy seat mobile
-a fake penny from the toy cash register
-4 broken pieces of pretzel
-5 Trio block connectors
-a fake quarter
-a torn piece of a fake $1 bill
-a Memory card
-2 teething rings
-a foam letter Z
-1 hair clip
-1 friendship bracelet
-a fake nickel
-1 doll's shoe
-wooden spatula from the kids' kitchen
-one of my nice place mats
-a gum wrapper
-a fake dime (Why don't we have any real money in our couch, like normal people?)
-about 4,000 crumbs

Some of you are thinking that I'm completely nuts to inventory the miscellaneous trash from underneath my couch cushions, and you're probably right. But I just find it so hilarious that all of this stuff was there and I had no idea. It makes me wonder what other hidden messes are lurking around my house in places I never think to clean. And it makes me smile, because this mess points to the healthy, active little people who live here, play here, eat here... and turn my couch into a land fill.