Monday, May 30, 2005

more from Doug on messing up your life

More great thoughts from Doug Giles....ruining your life is easy. Get it out of your mind that this is difficult stuff. Success is what is difficult. You have chosen that which is easy, so . . . let’s get busy fleshing out your failure with Habit #2 of Decidedly Defective People. Here are his latest insights.

decoration day

Typically the day would be very hot. We put on our scratchy wool band uniforms, the shiny bottoned jackets and neatly pressed trousers, the stiff chin strapped top hats, fluffy plumed and tilty, the spatted shoes and white gloves. Because I played the E flat contrabass clarinet, much too large to be carried and played for several miles, I became part of the percussion section on those days, cymbals or bells in hand.

The parade began in front of the now-empty high school, wound down Vernon Street, past the junior high and on down, down, into Oak Ridge Cemetary, through the old iron gates where the drum cadence changed to the mournful beat, beat, beat of a lone muffled snare.

We followed the Legionnaires, pot-bellied men in tight ribboned and medaled uniforms, whose waists supported flags perched on leather straps. Duke Stranz, the only man I knew personally who smoked a cigar, led the group, solemnly carrying Old Glory. This was their second treck to the cemetary that day; they had already been there as the sun came up to place small flags on the graves of veterans who had served in various wars, many of them their comrades in WW II.

In perfect step, we marched past the place where the indians had been buried, long-ago moved from their eternal resting place at the sight on Fort Hill to the grassy knoll near the railroad tracks, all silent now but a tribute to westward expansionism.

In harmonious step, we passed the first grave, that of a baby, the old headstone tilted in the May heat, the words still readable, "Here in the woods and all alone, my weeping parents laid me. The owls and the wolves howled all around but my grave securely hid me."

We stood at parade rest in front of the Civil War monument, our Yankee town's tribute to the Union Men who bravely fought against slavery. The graduating senior girl with the best voice sang The Battle Hymn of the Republic and a senior boy read the poem Flander's Field. We played America the Beautiful, The Washington Post March, and The Star Spangled Banner,our band director wiping his eyes from the tears and the sweat.

During the six years I was in junior high and high school, the Vietnam War was raging and many of the boys standing near me in band already had their draft cards. During my senior year, some of them had already been drafted and were heading out to boot camp soon after graduation that next week.

It was called Decoration Day back then, instead of Memorial Day, called so because everyone decorated the graves of their loved ones. It was an innocent time for me. I knew no one who died in a war and my grandfather, my mother's father, was the only family member I vaguely knew who was buried in Oak Ridge.

The small flags, twisting and swooping in that May heat, waved to us as we left the cememtary, the pulse of the drum again changing to the intense tempo of a marching band as we rounded the turn through the gates and headed back to the school building.

If I marched that route today, I would see many familiar names, many grave sites of those I have known and loved...the boy in study hall who died in Vietnam, my grandparents, my dad, his stone bearing the name of my mother, her date of death reading 20--. I would see the burial place of the boy who took me to the 8th-grade-freshman dance; he was killed when another classmate, in an LSD frenzy, shot him in the head. He is buried next to his little brother who was hit by a car on the highway in front of their home. I would walk past the indians, the tiny baby in the woods, my Uncle Paul, the Politio brothers who ran the fruit store, Wally, our neighbor who got drunk and drove his motorcycle into an embankment, the prom queen who died of leukemia.

Today we will drive to the cemetary, my mother will gingerly make her way out of the car, her 83 year old legs struggling to get to the grave stone. She will place live flowers on my dad's grave. And she will cry. We will both cry. We will read the back of my father's stone, their stone, that says "for he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them."

We will remember those who have gone before, those who died either to assure our freedoms or because we all live under the curse of the fall. We will decorate the graves of our loved ones, we will remember and honor that memory. Bands will play, students will march, boys in uniforms will think about carrying M-16's rather than trumpets. And life will go on.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

...Lt. Col. John Macrae

Friday, May 27, 2005

making memories of us

My friend, Martha, introduced country music to me a few years ago and I love so many of the wonderful songs that say it all about being married and raising children. This song by Keith Urban is the latest one she shared with me. Thanks Martha.

"Making Memories Of Us"

I'm gonna be here for you baby
I'll be a man of my word
Speak the language in a voice that you have never heard
I wanna sleep with you forever
And I wanna die in your arms
In a cabin by a meadow where the wild bees swarm

And I'm gonna love you like nobody loves you
And I'll earn your trust making memories of us

I wanna honor your mother
I wanna learn from your pa
I wanna steal your attention like a bad outlaw
I wanna stand out in a crowd for you
A man among men
I wanna make your world better than it's ever been

And I'm gonna love you like nobody loves you
And I'll earn your trust making memories of us

We'll follow the rainbow
Wherever the four winds blow
And there'll be a new day
Comin' your way

I'm gonna be here for you from now on
This you know somehow
You've been stretched to the limits but it's alright now
And I'm gonna make you a promise
If there's life after this
I'm gonna be there to meet you with a warm, wet kiss

And I'm gonna love you like nobody loves you
And I'll earn your trust making memories of us
I'm gonna love you like nobody loves you
And I'll win your trust making memories of us

Monday, May 23, 2005

gentle reminder to me

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

You can listen here while you read.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

How to mess up your life

Interesting thoughts on how to mess up your life from Doug Giles, whom I have just discovered in the past 6 months or so. It never hurts any of us to examine ourselves in light of his following list:

"For 90 days . . . that’s just 90 days . . . commit to living out the proven loser principles below, and I can almost promise you that you will be well on your way to no where. This philosophy will work at anytime, anywhere and for anyone who desires an asinine existence. You can do this. You must believe that the Disaster Driven Life© can be yours. It needn’t just be the acquisition of the few. You too can have one hell of a mess. Are you psyched? Well, then, let’s get busy with the fundamentals of The Disaster Master Mind© points one through ten. Here they are.

1. Be a slacker.
2. Blame others.
3. Embrace hopelessness.
4. Follow others mindlessly.
5. Be a wet blanket.
6. Hang out with morons.
7. Be a self-obsessed me-monkey.
8. Stand for nothing.
9. Have an “it’s not my job” mentality.
10. Quit when the going gets tough."

Here's the rest of the story.

Friday, May 20, 2005

behind the wheel

After nearly 4 months of behind the wheel time, Ben got his driver’s license yesterday.

It has been our family policy since our first child drove….. we do not allow our children to have a license until they turn 18. Of course they have all complained and appealed and cajoled and bargained but to no avail. Some people think this is cruel. We think it is wise. By the way, it is those same people who think we are cruel for not having our children in public high school where they miss prom. I rest my case.

So since February, Ben has been driving everywhere with a responsible adult, and sometimes his mother, and a learning permit. We have been in and out and around Peoria too many times to mention, too many miles and gallons of gasoline to count, too many intersections to navigate.

He has done a great job and so yesterday morning I told him that when he was finished with his schoolwork, we had an errand to run. And I announced that we were getting the license because I knew it was time since I was no longer clutching the door handle when he turned from War Memorial Drive on to University Street.

Now I have someone to run to Wal-mart for toilet paper and shampoo and milk when the needs arise. This makes me happy, as does the fact that we now drive the only car we have ever owned that has air bags. It also makes me happy that I believe in God's sovereignty.

I took driver's ed and behind the wheel when I was in high school. My instructor was Mr. Grebe, who was, at the time, about 108 years old. My driving partner was Bruce who is now in prison. The driver's ed car had an extra brake on the front passenger side and Mr. Grebe showed it to us and told us he didn't want to have to use it.

One day while I was in the back seat and Bruce was driving, it seemed like we were moving awfully fast. I peered over the seat and saw that we were going 90. And Mr. Grebe had fallen asleep. I started coughing frantically so he would wake up, though I suddenly thought of that brake. Thankfully, he did wake up and said, "Bruce, I think you need to take it down a little." He did not use the brake.

I didn't think I would survive driver's ed to have my own child behind the wheel but I did.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

on repentance

I came across this wonderful old quote again today and wanted to share it.

"Repentance is necessary: 'except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish' (Luke 13:5) There is no rowing to paradise except upon the stream of repenting tears. Repentance is required as a qualification. It is not so much to endear us to Christ as to endear Christ to us. Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet."

Thomas Watson
The Doctrine of Repentance

Monday, May 16, 2005

true quote

Found this morning on a friend's blog....

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” Ronald Reagan

Indeed, 'tis true!

Illinois Karen and raiders of the tossed ark

You gotta love America. I mean, where else can you drive down the street, actually on the loveliest street in Smalltown, USA, and see a microwave oven lying in the gutter? Ah, yes, America. Land of the free, home of the discarded microwave!

This past weekend was big trash weekend. It is never called that. Instead it is called "Gabby Days" which makes no sense so I call it big trash weekend. Once a year the city agrees to pick up large items that are placed by the curb...for free! They agree to do this because they know that they will not have to haul away much that is left there because people from across town from wherever you live will come and take your junk and you will drive across town and drag off their junk. It is a great deal for everyone involved.

Except my husband.

He longs to have a clean basement, a woodworking shop where tools are displayed in neal and tidy form, waiting for the careful hand of a weekend project engineer. So, on big trash weekend, there he is, our boys lined up like professional trash disposers, cammoflage pants, pocket knives, boots, lugging things out of my basement and to the curb.

I, on the other hand, have already scouted out the good trash piles on the other side of town. I know where there are stacks of old drawers, leftovers from dressers and pantries of a by-gone time. I can tell you the street address of the endless pickle jar supply. I have plied these same boys with chocolate chip cookies and have sworn them to secrecy.

I call down the stairs to them, "I'm going to Hy-Vee. Do you want me to bring home Mountain Dew?" Of course they do. So off I go. I take the "short cut" to the store, stopping to load in an old granite wear pot, a worn shutter, a box containing 1950's picture frames, and a section of garden fence, now green with age and weather.

A couple hours later as I return with the groceries, I see an old door from my basement moving toward the curb. What is this? It has arms and legs that look mysteriously like those belonging to my tallest son. "Oh, why is this going to the curb? I need that door," I hollar. "It is an original."

"Dad," I hear him say, "Mom is back and you ought to see the junk in the back of the van!" The traitor. And after I baked him those cookies!

They say it is all trash but it is not. One year I found 2 dozen gallon pickle jars and after they passed through the dishwasher they were perfect for filling with cookies and giving to friends at Christmas. Another time I came across the top of an old library table that is now absolutely beautiful with new legs and and a golden red cherry finish.

Some people have no shame and root through my trash in broad daylight. Others come under cloak of night, flashlights scanning and probing the darkness, not wanting us or any neighbors to see them as they get back into their SUV's and drive away. We live in the historic district so I guess they think we have better, more historic junk. When I have shared my stories of big trash, the inevitable question is "what was your best find?" The reply goes something like this:

One year, the summer of Mollie's wedding, she and I were up late at night sewing her wedding dress. As we headed out to the store for a midnight snack, to fill our cart with frozen egg rolls and Cherry Coke, we realized that big trash weekend had come upon us and there sat a perfect pile of trash.

Now, Mollie was directing "The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer" that summer at the playhouse and she had been looking for a round table for the infamous restaurant scene. There, right in the midst of the seatless lawnchairs and wet cardboard boxes holding an old awning, sat a round, white patio table.

I whipped the car to the side of the road and we detangled the table from the old mower parts, trying not to wake the homeowners. We carried it to Mollie's car and opened the trunk. Alas, the table would not fit unless we tied the trunk shut.

Inevitablly, I was faced with a dilemna. I could leave my daughter beside the road while I drove home and got the van. Not a good idea at 11:00pm. I could stay myself while she went home. Also not a good idea. We could leave the table. Not an option at this point. We rummaged around in her trunk but found nothing that would work. "If only we had something, something elastic," I heard Mollie say. Then we looked at each other and she said "We will have to use yours, mine isn't as stretchy."

So I huddled as far down onto the floor of the front seat as possible, removed my unmentionable, and handed it to her. Laughing hysterically, Mollie tied the trunk closed and we were own our way.

Harrison Ford has nothing on me.

favorite women bloggers

As promised, I am giving out my first list of women bloggers I have discovered in my online trek through bloggerdom. This is a nice sampling...there will be more later.

You do not want to miss the wonderful Mollie. This blog features the thoughts of a young mother who passionately lives for her Lord, her husband, and her children. Not only is the writing delightful but the pictures are of the most beautiful little boys you could ever see! Oh, did I mention this is my one and only daughter?

When Mollie first introduced Tulip Girl to me, I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information and encouragement that one woman had to offer in one spot. Reformed and gentle in her approach (something rare I think), she is someone I would invite into my home for tea and not be disappointed at where the conversation led. Her Biblical worldview is combined with the thinking that comes from living outside of the U.S. and makes for many great insights.

Kristen is a new online "friend" whose thoughts are also refreshing and always well-timed. I have gotten to know her through a mom's forum and love her stories and her thoughts as she seeks to raise Godly children and to be a Godly wife and mother. Her reading list alone is worth the frequent trip to her spot on the web.

I hadn't read Barb Harvey until the R.C. blogger controversy popped up. Now I am hooked and see why so many people, men and women alike, enjoy tapping into her insights. Again, she is a great resource for Reformed thought from a Biblical woman's perspective.

I have enjoyed reading Sallie and her wonderful thoughts on simple living and on life in general. When I read on her blog, I feel like we have much in common and she, too, finds God's grace in the ordinary in life!

Sunday, May 15, 2005

a quilt and the providence of God

I mentioned my grandma a few weeks ago and told the story of eating fried chicken at her house. Today there is more to tell.

She was an amazing woman, my grandma. Born in Missouri in 1897, at the age of 16 she traveled to a tiny little place in the middle of Illinois called "Uniontown" to become a hired girl for the Tasker family. Each morning she would get up with Mrs. Tasker and together they would fry bacon and eggs, peel and boil potatoes, stir up and roll out biscuits, and bake a half dozen or so pies. While the Tasker men were busy milking cows, shoveling out the barn, and watering the livestock, my grandmother was preparing breakfast, dinner, and supper for not only the men who lived in the household but for the farmhands who would be there for the day.

Once the men were fed, the kitchen was cleaned up for the morning, and the wash was run through the ringer washer and hung to dry, Mrs. Tasker would sit my grandmother down and teach her how to sew and mend the clothing. Overalls were worn until there was nothing left but seams and pockets so there was a never-ending parade of clothes to sort through and repair. All-cotton shirts and dresses were sprinkled and ironed and the womenfolk had to wear a fresh apron each day, a habit my grandmother kept even past her "in the kitchen" days.

On Sundays, my grandmother went along with the Tasker family to the Uniontown Baptist Church. As one of the Tasker boys rang the old bell, calling all of the community into worship, my grandmother was preparing for the two most important events of her life.

My grandmother had not come from a Christian home. She had not known of the wonderful story of creation, where an intimate, Creator had, from the dust of the ground, made man and woman in His own image. She had not heard the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of mankind into sin. She had not been told of the most miraculous event of all human history, of God becoming man in the flesh through His son, Jesus, so that man might be redeemed and restored to a right relationship with his Creator. These were marvelous truths to my grandmother and by God's grace, she trusted Jesus Christ as her Savior and Lord.

God's sovereign plan for her life was revealed as she faithfully attended church every week and also went to prayer meetings and Bible studies. During this time, she met a dashing young man, five years her senior, and after a sweet time of courtship, they were married. Over the years they were blessed with three sons, 9 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and, to this date, 6 great-great grandchildren! God's plan for the life of one hired girl was not so unusual but also not ordinary.

As I was growing up, every time I visited my grandmother, one of my greatest delights was seeing the latest quilt in the quilting frame in her front parlor. She belonged to a group called the "Busy Stitchers" and each month they would travel to one member's home and have a quilting bee. I was intrigued by the beauty of these quilts, these works of art that were at the same time so random and yet so intricate. Looking closely, you could see the variation in stitches, as each woman had her own touch, her own signature upon those quilts.

One day, when I was 18, my grandmother asked me if I would like to see all the quilts she had made through the years. With much anticipation I watched as she pulled out one glorious quilt after another from her cedar chest. I gasped with delight as each one was tenderly unfolded, each more incredible than the previous. There was a Lone Star, Embroidered Daisy, Nine Patch, Ribbon, oh, too many to name!

When the last one had been presented, she asked me which one I would like to have one day. Without hesitation, I chose the appliquéd flower pattern. Each block was pieced together with a tiny rosebud print and a scalloped edge finished off the blanket on all four sides. It was exquisite! Excitedly turning it over, my grandmother proudly showed me my own name already embroidered on the back in her handwriting! Of all the 20 or so quilts, she knew which one I would want!

On my wedding day, she presented me with this wonderful family treasure and one day I will give it to one of my grandchildren. Because my grandmother knew me intimately, she knew what would delight me.

And so it is with God. We serve a powerful Creator who has a plan for each of His own, a plan He has had since before He ever made the world. Like my name embroidered on this beautiful quilt, God's mark is already on each of His chosen children. To think, my own name written on the palm of His hands, even before creation! In Ephesians 1: 3-4 we have this wonderful assurance:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before him in love."

But God is also like those Busy Stitcher's who took old, worn, torn bits of fabric from a scrap bag and turned them into awesome works of art. Though sin has ravaged creation and though each of us, even those who are believers, are sinners, God takes the broken pieces of our lives and makes us a new creation, a glorious work that, by His grace, will be used for His glory. His redemption of us is not only for our future life in heaven but is also for today. He has redeemed every aspect of our lives so that we may live for His glory alone.

What an awesome God we serve!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

something wonderful

A distinguished linguistics professor once told me that babies cannot think before they can speak.....balderdash.

Today I have sweet Jude signed "grandmama" to me this morning.

So much for distinguished professors.

mercy at the heart's door

Jeannie was a young single mother raising three girls when she was first referred to me for post-abortion counseling. Everything about her said “I have no life purpose.”

During our first session, Jeannie told me her story. In her early twenties at the time, she had met the man of her dreams. A handsome and charming firefighter, Dan swept Jeannie off her feet and before she knew it, they were living together. When they discovered that Jeannie was pregnant, Dan suggested that they were not ready to be parents. Jeannie knew in her heart that abortion was not the right thing to do but she agreed to have one. On the day she aborted their child, Dan waited in the car, emotionally detached and angry.

In the following days and weeks, an “invisible elephant” moved into their home with them. The abortion was at the center of every argument they had. Jeannie was depressed and had lost any motivation for living. Dan suggested that they get married, hoping they could erase the past and start over.

Now Jeannie sat across from me, telling me of the bittersweet births of their children, a cruel divorce, her adultery with a married counselor, and her lost dreams of becoming a teacher. Would I help her? Could she trust the Bible to help her through her depression? Could she ever be used of the Lord in ministry to others?

Jeannie was like most of the women I have talked with who carry the secret of a past abortion. As a Christian, she felt unusable in the body of Christ. Self-condemnation and overwhelming regret visited her daily leaving her unable to live a full and abundant life in Jesus Christ.

In your church there are many women just like Jeannie. Did you know that:

- 43% of women who are 45 or older have at least one abortion in their past?

- 80% of these women suffer from what is known as post-abortion trauma that results in depression, anger, sexual dysfunction, drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, guilt, and many other behavior problems?

- 250,000 born-again evangelical women make the choice to abort every year?

- 1 out of every 3.5 women in your church have had an abortion?

- On the day of her abortion, each woman has 60 other people who are affected by that choice, including spouses, children, parents, co-workers, and fellow church members?

Charles Spurgeon once said “The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of the heart upon the black horse of affliction.” I know of no other affliction in someone’s life where this is more true than the burden of carrying a past abortion.

During the years I have spent listening to men and women tell their abortion stories, the one thing that I have noticed is the pervasive nature of abortion. The cloud of it seems to hang over ever area of life. It is the invisible elephant in every room of the house, always present, always in the way, always there to stumble upon, though never mentioned. While other sins are forgiven and forgotten, the sin of abortion, even when confessed and forgiven, seems to cast a shadow that brings a quality of sadness and grief over its owner. How often I have wept over this fact.

If you are a Christian who is suffering from the choice of a past abortion, I hope that you will recognize this shadow for what it is….Satan’s attempt to rob God of His glory in your salvation! If this is your story, it is God’s desire for you to place this burden before Him. He wants you to live a life free from the burden of this sin, free from the pain of the consequences that it has brought into your life.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:22-24

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

the artifact

The instructions seemed so simple….

Assemble the following:

3 cans baking powder
3 boxes baking soda
Lots of freezer bags
Paper towels
Rubbing alcohol
Plastic gloves
Lots of salt
Scented oil
Various spices
Water, white glue
AND, strips of white linen fabric,

Oh yes, and one chicken, pre-plucked.

I had finally joined the ranks of the HCHSM, also known as, Hard Core Home School Moms.That morning we would begin a project that was to be my crowning moment in home education…

We were about to mummify a chicken.

We had spent days reading detailed accounts of people with names like Hatshedsoot and Nephrotitti, and Ramses, and other Egyptian notables who had been embalmed, their internal organs neatly and precisely removed, spiced, wrapped and stuffed into little jars. I figured that if guys who had never even heard of a microwave could do it, why couldn’t I?

I looked at my children. There they were: three boys with rubber gloves on their hands, peanut butter and jelly on their mouths. I heard one whisper, “Do you think she knows what she’s doing?”

“I’ll bet she never even did this in college,” his brother said.

“Ssshhh, said my oldest. “This is cool. Maybe she will let us do this to the cat when it dies.”

Well, first, we washed down that bird. I mean to tell you, by the time we were done,that was one clean capon. Mohammed Ali should have hoped for such an alcohol rub down.

“This bird had pimples but I rubbed ‘em off.”

“I’m telling mom!!!”

“Those aren’t pimples, dummy, those are chicken pox.”

I placed the chicken in a freezer bag and held both the bag and the chicken open while the boys poked the salt and spice mixture inside the bird, inside the bag, inside their pockets, everywhere you could place it. And when I thought that chicken had had enough, I sealed the bag.

We set the chicken on the back porch, where my cat sat, Sphinx-like, guarding it. We checked it every single day for the first week. On days when it seemed wet,we repeated the salt down process. On other days, we simply opened the bag and reverently looked at it.

Week two went by. Weeks three, four, and five were uneventful. We continued our study of ancient Egypt. We stacked cereal boxes and built pyramids. We made a miniature Nile River in the backyard. Our neighbor lady thought we were crazy to dig up perfectly good sod but she was slightly interested when she saw the plastic reeds growing on its banks in November. (Just so you’ll know, she hasn’t liked us very much ever since we made the paper mache to-scale replica of Mount Rushmore on the garage door and a big wind blew up, sending Teddy Roosevelt rough riding through her tomato plants.)

Finally, after six weeks, we were ready. We cut inch wide strips of cloth and soaked them in the water and glue mixture. The directions said that the Egyptian priests used scented oil. But for some reason that morning, I couldn’t find any kind of oil whatsoever, no vegetable oil, no olive oil, not even any baby oil. I rummaged around in my kitchen cupboards and finally determined that our chicken would have to go on to his eternal rest swaddled in lemon-scented furniture polish.

At last, we open the bag and took out what was now one really stiff chicken. He was starting to look like a big pink beef jerky. Then each of the boys carefully positioned strips of glue-soaked fabric around and around the chicken.

“How will we know when we are done,” someone asks.

“I don’t know, dude, probably when we are out of fabric.”

“Are you sure this is what we are supposed to do? I don’t think the real Egyptians would have used left-over Christmas stocking material.”

I had to admit he was right. Somehow that chicken had lost his exotic edge the minute Rudolph’s red nose was wrapped around one wing.

Finally we were done. We stood back and examined the handiwork. It was beautiful! We put it on display in the middle of the dining room table where it sat for a few weeks until the preacher and his wife came for dinner one Sunday.

We then moved it to the top of the piano. But I noticed that for several days no one wanted to practice, there was just something a little creepy about that bird and besides, the cat growled at anyone who came near the piano bench. So when my cat wasn’t looking, I placed it on a shelf in the schoolroom where it perched, surveying its golden kingdom. We had mostly forgotten about it, though there were days when I swear I could feel his little beady chicken eyes following me around the room while I drilled the boys on multiplication facts.

More months went by and we were studying the great explorers of the western world. We made swords and battering rams from old plungers. The boys wore real animal skin vests from Wal-Mart. And then, suddenly, I had a thought, a profound poultry epiphany. We were going to give our chicken a real Viking funeral. So we made our chicken a little Viking helmet, placed him in a miniature Viking ship, took his lifeless alcohol soaked form, lit him on fire and sent him sailing down the Spoon River. And as we stood there with our hands over our hearts, I wondered to myself what do you suppose you could do with a glue gun and the charred remains of a mummified chicken?

(This was the speech I gave for Toastmasters Humorous Speech contest in the fall of 2004, taking it all the way to District 54 competition and winning first place. I brought it here for your homeschooling enjoyment!)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Peter Parker and R.C. Jr.

I woke up this morning to something truly awful… no coffee whatsoever in the house and me with a blog entry to write in response to the iron-sharpening-iron discussions on women bloggers during the past two weeks. Not a good combination when a morning mind needs afternoon words!

A couple weeks ago Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. wrote a blog entry that began much online discussion and dismay on the part of women who were personally and publicly offended by him. I wrote a response which was referenced by other bloggers as did many other women and everyone, reformed and not reformed, men and women, weighed in. Last night Dr. Sproul made a public apology.

First of all, I want to publicly thank Dr. Sproul for not only having the grace to admit that he, personally, has learned many things from women in his life, not the least of those being the ones who challenged him about his blog essay, but the grace to apologize to his sisters in the Lord for offending them. As a woman blogger, apology accepted.

Dr. Sproul goes on to make a case for discernment, challenging his readers to measure the writings in online journals by the only standard that matters, the Word of God. He is correct and this is an important lesson for all of us. Christians must maintain a Berean spirit when we read and learn from others, trusting that the Holy Spirit will lead us to truth, be it coming from a renowned author and teacher or your garden variety hobby blogger.

This is a lesson, too, that must be learned by the die hard R.C. blog watchers, especially those who affirmed him without challenging his statements.

For you see, the saddest thing to me in this entire experience was to watch those who are strong supporters of R.C. not parse out his words, not hold them up to the light of God's word, not pause and question the accusations and observations about their sisters in Christ, but rather, to insist that if R.C. said it, we should not challenge it. Some of these people were elders and pastors, men who ought to be able to have written the solid Biblical responses I read, many of them penned by women. There were exceptions, one of the best being written by Pastor Bob Bixby from Rockford, Illinois. His words were a balm to the soul and a port in the swirling storm of online put-those-women-in-their-placers.

I have learned something very important as I have entered the season of older womanhood and grandmama-dom. Words matter. And words spoken by someone who has been married for a long time to one man and has raised grown children who are walking with the Lord, often carry with them a power that we do not realize. One kind word, spoken gently and bringing encouragement can go far to soothe the troubled days of a young woman facing struggles with a teething baby or a difficult marriage situation. A warm smile or a hug can mean the difference between seeing a day of diapers as a joyful service to the Lord or a waste of time. I once greeted the young, pregnant cashier at our Hy-Vee grocery store with a “you sure look cute now that that baby is popping out!” and watched as her whole face lit up! All this to say that there is power in the positive, in being the Titus 2 cheerleader.

But, as Peter Parker was admonished by his Uncle Ben, "with great power comes great responsibility."

I have felt that responsibility this week on my blog and in the personal notes I have received. My suspicions have been confirmed that younger women are looking to those of us in the older women category not only to be that word of encouragement as they have babies to toddle and children to homeschool, but to challenge them to think and live as believers and to fulfill our Biblical mandate of one anothering. It is humbling and also frightening. It makes it even more important that the women bloggers who challenged Dr. Sproul did so.

Part of my original premise was that there are many people who are looking to Dr. Sproul for guidance and direction on any number of things which makes it even more crucial that his writings are evaluated and held up to God’s Word. Not a week goes by where I am not touched by words or thoughts that came from his hand. Hopefully Dr. Sproul realizes that he carries this responsibility as well. His apology today seems to be an indication of this.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

top ten things I wish I had known about being married....

.....before I was.

This was our 30th anniversary year. We had a glorious celebration...several days at The Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago, an evening at the Chicago Lyric Opera listening to Puccini's Tosca , lunch one day at Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill, a day at the Chicago Art Institute, the surprising and beautiful gift of an anniversary ring.

We spent alot of time laughing and sharing stories, remembering the details of meeting in Dr. Ryder's Puritan literature class, of our wedding during the blizzard, of learning what it means to be a mom and dad, talking of where we will be in the next 30 years, relishing God's goodness to us in all of our life together.

6 children and nearly 6 grandbabies later, I have recently been thinking about my life, rewinding in my mind "Clay and Karen: The Early Years." The first few years were challenging...we moved alot, eventually ending up in Germany, me having babies and Clay jumping out of airplanes with 10th Special Forces. It was the best of times, the worst of times.

So, I was thinking, wondering what I wish I had known that would have been helpful. Here is my top ten list:

10. Husbands like to fix things, stuff in the house as well as stuff in my life. If I had wanted someone to commiserate with me about feeling fat or having a bad hair day, I should have kept my college roommate. A husband will never take you to Baskin-Robbins to listen to you drown your cellulite troubles in a triple dip Rocky Road sugar cone. Husbands do not understand that your bad hair can be fixed by browsing through Nordstrom's online shoe department.

9. Husbands don't want to watch girl movies or anything where Johnny Depp looks dreamy. He will promise to take you to a girl movie, however, and when you get there you find out that Star Wars is now a girl movie because there are girl aliens on the starship.

8. Husbands don't need to own red shoes, they don't understand that every day is a good day when you are stepping out in red shoes.

7. Husbands think a perfect meal is lasagna, cheesecake, and salad topped with finely grated parmesan cheese. Husbands like cholesterol.

6. Husbands are not born with the inward knowledge that a woman's hormonal balance is directly related to the amount of chocolate she consumes. This they must learn.

5. Husbands think that the statement "We need to get these boys ready for bed" means "These boys need to watch a few episodes of The Three Stooges and then wrestle to get ready for bed.

4. Husbands are not from Mars or Venus afterall. They are from Best Buy.

3. Husbands need a territory, a place to conquer, and wives need a home.

2. Husbands need to be honored and adored. Wives need to be cherished. Husbands will know they are honored when their wives tell them every day that they are the best. Wives will know they are cherished when they are helped with the dishes, vacuuming, and diapering. This is not rocket science.

And, the number one thing I wish I had known about being married before I was....

Husbands and wives are both gifts to each other from God, made in His image and declared righteous by His perfect sacrifice. Christian husbands and wives are to "one another" each other. In so doing, we fulfill the law of God and are obedient to Him. When both a husband and wife purpose, by God's grace to love and serve each other, marriage becomes a picture of Christ's sacrificial love to His bride, the Church. It is a simple, perfect plan.

Friday, May 06, 2005

the awesome andre

We had spent the day sight seeing in the nation's capitol, working our way through the crowds at the Washington Monument, standing in long lines at the National Archives, along with the 500,000 boy scouts who were jamboreeing for the week.

At the end of a very long day, we collapsed on the steps of the capitol building. The balmy breezes from the Potomac calmed our bodies, the music from the U.S. military band calmed our souls. "A Night in Vienna" was the theme for the evening and the strains of Strauss filled the night air as darkness came on the city. That night I fell in love with Strauss.

I had not heard live Strauss for nearly 16 years....until last night. My friend, Renee, and I had tickets to hear Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss orchestra. It was a tremendous night....not only Strauss but Italian opera, "Memories" from Cats, Celtic tunes played on a tin whistle, the evening held it all.

Perhaps the highlight was watching tiny, white-haired couples gingerly making their way out of the bleacher seats to waltz to the lilting echoes of "The Blue Danube." In another time, these dancers, these old lovers, would wear tuxdoes and floor length dresses that swish to the beat of the orchestra. Last night they donned polyester and pink was wonderful.

Andre himself held everyone in the palm of his hand. Flowing tails and curls, he made his violin weep, sing, and fly. Leading his musicians and standing audience as we sang the "Hallelujah Chorus" and thanking American for liberating Europe 60 years ago, his violin cried out "America the Beautiful."

It was a grand evening.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

70's flashback

Every once in a while I would like to echo Nancy Reagan and scream "Just say no", to check myself in to a mom's rehab, some place where no one had to be driven anywhere, thus propelling me straight to the gas pumps. It is not to be...there are guitar lessons to be taken, church services to attend, orthodondist appointments to keep, miles to go before I sleep.

The other day, as I drove away from the BP station near my house, still in a fume-induced stupor and shock at actually paying OVER $50.00 to fill my gas tank, I had a major flashback. Quick, give me some John Denver. I need more than sunshine on my shoulder.

My kids demanded an explanation for the dilated pupils and the drool running down my chin. In my mind, it was 1971, I had just graduated from high school, and had my own set of keys to the 1968 Ford wagon, the avocado green model (no wood panels) with the extra set of seats in the rear. It seated 10, me and 9 friends at the Hillcrest Drive-In. It was cool, except when I had to parallel park.

I could fill the tank of that tank for $5.00...that is an evening of babysitting in exchange for driving back and forth from Farmington to Canton a couple dozen times.

Sometimes, especially when I go to the mall, I think I am back in 1971...bell-bottom pants, hip-huggers, paisley fabric, jute sandals,large hoop earrings. I suspect that Farrah Fawcett and her feathered hair will be making a come-back any day. I hope she brings along retro-gas prices.