Apart

You can’t imagine the depths of my inward groaning as I realize that it is this Miley Cyrus debacle that has propelled me back to my little blog after such a long break. Shameful.  Can it possibly be that there’s been nothing worthwhile in the interim to inspire or ignite?

Much has been written about her performance (?) earlier this week at the Video Music Awards.  One had to be living under a rock or engaged in vigorous worthwhile tasks (I was neither) to miss the social media and news frenzy recapping her raunchy performance that apparently included moves that make this long married lady blush and found me locked in the privacy of my own bathroom to look up the word “twerking.”

There must have been a collective gasp from parents across America who saw the clips the next morning or made the extraordinarily poor decision to let the VMA show enter their homes and assault the eyes of their tweens and teens. I mean, let’s be real — this is far from Disney fare in the first place (and I’d even go as far as to argue that Disney is no longer Disney).

And those sighs were drowned out by the corporate pat on the back of parents as they congratulated themselves on raising sweet little Hannah Montanas in a Miley Cyrus world.  Because, wow!! The gap, the difference, the giant chasm that separates one from the other is like…so big you can hardly measure it, right?  “At least my kid isn’t like that!!”

But the slope is slippery and the reality is this:  Without Christ in our lives and the lives of our children, the chasm measures the same frightening distance.  Apart from God is Apart. From. God. — whether onstage in front of millions or in the pew going through the motions.

Certainly I’m thankful that my kid hasn’t sold out to the purveyors of Hollywood scuminess, trading a God-given talent for an unharnessed hunger to be more…do more…go bigger…shock.  I’m not Billy Ray or his wife watching from a front row seat (literally or figuratively) as my little girl degrades herself with a married singer and in front of hundreds of thousands of people looking on, or worse…applauding.

No, I have my own front row seat at Melody Drive and unless I exercise my responsibility to point my children to Christ and  the true riches found in a personal relationship with their savior, Billy Ray and I could have more in common than I care to admit. There’s a gratuitous and  inherent danger in comparing ourselves, our children and our sin to others.  When God is removed from the ultimate equation, we fool ourselves and believe that the only measuring stick is our neighbor.

But put God in His rightful place as the true benchmark, then the distance remains a Miley Cyrus-sized void that promises the same darkness.

No good deeds, church attendance or missionary trip can compensate for a heart that does not belong to the One who wants it most — and all parents, this parent, must stand guard against equating benevolence and good works with a repentant heart that understands its need for a Savior.

Screwtape shared similar thoughts with his nephew Wormwood in C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters:  “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,…Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.”

My cousin weighed in on Facebook, lamenting the attention to Miley’s moral demise instead of the horrific unrest in Syria and Egypt.  In a way I agree, except that the spillover from political unrest won’t meet me at the end of my driveway (yet) in the questions of my children as they get off the bus.  The Miley poop will — forcing me to address it with the same nausea and sadness I feel as I type this post.

Address it I will, and while calling out Miley’s actions for what they are — I will remind my kiddos that we all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.  And darkness is the same color in Hollywood and Newark, Delaware.

But there is Good News — Christ bridges that chasm, fills the darkness.

I still don’t want my kids heading to Hollywood — but I’d rather have them there with a heart that belongs to Christ than here with a heart that doesn’t.

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Vacation…or rest?

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The kids and I have a little game we play, revolving around a single, simple question:  Chincoteague or the Cabin?   Usually we ask it when we’re doing something mundane, boring and repetitive like dishes or homework, folding laundry or schlepping to yet another after-school activity.  This week, we volleyed it back and forth over trash cans, damp cloths and thermometers, as a stomach bug took the kids down one by one.

Chincoteague and the Cabin are our standard family vacation spots.  And for a moment, the person posing the question is simply asking: If you could immediately be whisked away to one or the other, which would you choose?

The Cabin

The Cabin is the very essence of all that its name suggests — a rustic home nestled in the gorgeous mountains of central Pennsylvania.  Could it be more enticing?  Did I mention the winding creek that runs in front with a clear view to the rocky bottom? We catch fish, swim, and sit on boulders mostly submerged in the deeper parts of the water. The house is old, with a big stone hearth, creaky floors, and warped glass windows.  There are stunning views and a wrap-around porch dressed with mis-matched rocking chairs.  Inside, there is no television, a shocking variety of games, and more than 60 years of family history and memories that whisper to us from within its walls and under the canopies of the trees.

Chincoteague Island, Virginia

Chincoteague Island, Virginia (Photo credit: Dave Govoni (Va bene!))

The Chincoteague house is on the water in a little seaside town.  We catch crabs, kayak, or bike to the ocean.  The vibe here is different — coastal  — and for some reason more active, as summertime invites an invasion of out-of-town renters and pony seekers.  No mountains, but oh, that ocean.

Neither belong to me yet I am blessed — we are blessed beyond measure to have them in our family.  To have access to them and to be on the receiving end of the generosity of family members who offers them up for us to enjoy as regular memory-making vacation spots.

But here’s the thing.  Most of the time, we’re not at the Cabin or at Chincoteague.  Most of the time, we’re at home — doing dishes, folding laundry, working on homework, schlepping.  And the last week of February found us taking temperatures, holding the hands of sick children, groping for an extra cup of coffee (because a stomach virus almost never strikes during daylight hours) and worrying that the kids would fall behind on their schoolwork.

I love our vacations, and they provide much-needed respite from our regular schedules.  And while our silly “Where Would You Go” game is harmless fun, I know that God’s true destination spot for me is with Him.  And in the meantime, He’s placed me right HERE.  I seek vacations but God has given me something better — something that a winding creek, wrap-around porch or ocean view simply can’t match.

He gives me rest.

And so I’m committed to changing the game, so to speak — in my heart and with my kids.  Because the “here and now” is a blessing, too.  It is purposeful, it is real, and my Savior is the same Sovereign, mighty God whether I’m relaxing on vacation, or stressed over my hectic schedule or vomiting children.

This rest is an objective truth gained for me by my Savior’s work on the cross. I don’t have to travel to get it –it’s here in the midst of this crazy, hectic life.  And ironically, it’s the challenges of the day-to-day that point me to this rest and make me grateful for the promise of a an unimaginable destination spot already prepared for me.

Baked Oatmeal

The wind is howling as I type this, and two sweet girls are home sick from school.  The Christmas decorations have been put away for a week now and we’ve sufficiently recovered from the heart-pounding pace of the holidays.  I’m groping for balance as winter pushes us inside, makes us hunker down, and sets a slower pace.  The downside of this, is that January through March can dole out an unwelcome helping of the winter “blahs.”   You know — nothing’s-necessarily-wrong-but-things-aren’t-great-and-man-I-just-want-to-hang-out-in-my-worst-looking-pajamas kind of blahs.

One answer?  Comfort food. (Actually it’s not really an answer — probably more of the problem).  Specifically, Baked Oatmeal.  I first tried this at the home of sweet friend (and Aunt) Amie, and I was hooked.  We’re moderate oatmeal eaters — preferring the sweet packaged variety to the healthy oats cooked in a saucepan.  I would say this version sits in the middle, and chocolate chips give it a whole other delicious dimension.  You can add them, if, like me you believe that unless it’s fish, chocolate goes with just about anything.  Or, stick with raisins.  Or add both.

Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon powder

1 tablespoon baking powder

3 cups quick cooking oats

1/2 cup raisins (and/or a giant handful of chocolate chips)

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Beat together oil and sugar.  Mix in eggs, milk, salt, baking powder and oatmeal.  Beat well then stir in raisins (or choc. chips).  Pour into lightly greased 9×13-inch pan.  Sprinkle with additional cinnamon.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 35 minutes.

It’s wonderful served warm for breakfast and even better with cold milk splashed on top!  In this house I can barely keep up with the demand.  We make it at night and take the guesswork out of our morning breakfast routine.  Enjoy!

I’ve linked this post with Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Just Popping In…

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Christmas and home improvement projects have me thinkin’.  I’m thinking that my hyper-focus on the stuff, the busyness and the hype needs an abrupt detour.  And I’m grateful that the Lord forgives me of my silliness, re-ignites my heart, and reminds me of the redeeming grace of the Christ child.

Otherwise, my prayers and concerns might forever look like this sad (tongue-in-cheek) number:

Dear Lord,

Just popping in to say hi and to thank you for your patience and understanding.  Please forgive me for not giving you some more of my time, but honestly, you just can’t imagine what this Christmas season’s been like for me!

By the way, I see your Word sitting in the corner, and I promise I’ll get to it.

You see, we’ve got out-of-town guests coming and hubby and I got the bright idea to do a last-minute gut-job of the hallway bathroom.  They haven’t ever seen the house and I do so want them to be impressed with my eye for design and attention to the smallest details. Anyway, the work guy put his foot through the ceiling, there’s drywall dust everywhere and paint color decisions to be made (“Dew Drop” or “Contemplation”). All that to say that most of my time is devoted to decorating, trips to home improvement stores and worrying about what I’m going to feed this crowd!

Speaking of which, I’ve got an amazing menu planned for Christmas Day! (If you could arrange it so that I get in and out of the supermarket in a jiffy Christmas week, that would be great.)  Baked ham, mashed potatoes, gorgeous sides!  By the way, I know that I’ve neglected our early morning “me and you time” but I DVR’d some Food Network shows and that’s the only time I had to review their Christmas specials. I’ve got a riff on a sweet potato casserole that’s gonna be a hit.  Can’t imagine a better feast.  Can you?

Yes, I know your Word’s sitting on the shelf in the corner.  Soon…I promise.

Anywho, the kids’ list this year is ex-ten-sive!!!!  The oldest gal wants the latest boots, the next one music for her i-pod.  There’s a ridiculously pricey jacket that’s become popular (I’ll have to order that online).  You can’t imagine how expensive it is to try and keep up with what the kids want these days.  And it really is a must if they’re going to fit in and keep up with their friends.   We just want them to be happy.

We did get a great headstart on the decorating, though.  Santa and his reindeer are just precious on the front lawn.  I wanted to get latest blow-up number that has Santa peeking out of the out-house, but it’s not in the cards this year.

Then there’s all the shopping left to do.  Between fighting traffic, trying to keep everybody’s list straight and finding the “perfect” give for extended relatives, my head is pounding.  But really, what is Christmas without presents?  Lord, if it weren’t for the gift exchange, I’d really have nothing substantial to offer these people.  I wish you could tell me what they need.

While we’re on the subject, I don’t know that I’ll be spending time with you in church on the 25th.  INCONVENIENT!  I can’t believe Christmas Day actually falls on a Sunday!  With the guests, breakfast, and the presents to open, it just really won’t work for us.  But, I’ll probably be there the next Sunday.  Oh, poop, that’s New Year’s Day.  Don’t worry, we’ll make it work.

Lord, let’s make a deal right now.  The new year’s coming, and I promise that 2012 will be different.  We’ll spend more time together.  I’ll thank you more, pray harder and volunteer more at church (except in the toddler nursery — too much snot and tears and I don’t do “partially” potty-trained kids).

And, since I’m starting off the new year with a gym membership and a real commitment to getting healthy and thin, I’ll have a lot more energy and motivation to get up early and spend time with you.  I promise.

In your precious name,

Amen

P.S.  Lord, I spotted your word again…waiting in the corner.  Didn’t want to spill anything on it so I moved it to the bottom shelf out of the way…just ’til Christmas is over.  Hope you don’t mind.

Regarding Cell Phones

Texting on a keyboard phone

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It just seems wrong that I’m hitting mid-life and its hints of mental decay while social technology is advancing faster than I can reach for my magnifying readers.

The truth is, I’ve become my mother.  Twenty-five years ago my brother and I lamely watched as mom kept jamming down the receiver button to answer an incoming call via our new “call waiting” system.  She’d inevitably hang up on both calls and ask in frustration for us to stop chortling and start helping.

Today my own kids have mastered my cell phone, changing the ring tone to hip-hop or a high-pitch screech that I’m sure must double as some sort of homing device for small animals.  Doesn’t matter, because even when I set the ring tone, I seldom recognize that it’s coming from my own phone.

And when I do, chances are, I can’t find the darn thing.  I race through the first floor like a teen tween who’s hoping for her first call from a boy.  For me, it is— a grown one known as my husband — who mutters in frustration as he leaves his message and wonders out loud why we agreed that I should have a cell phone in the first place.

I have no apps, no clip thingy to attach it to my waist band (like I’d want to add anything there), and limited understanding of how to text.

And unlike most of society who sucks up the latest cell phone crazes like Lady Gaga to strange costumes, I’m okay lagging behind.  Yes, it’s a little like sitting on the beach with my toes in the water while everyone else is having fun in the deep end.  But there’s a lot to be said for this wide quiet strip of sand, where there’s no splashing or background noise, I’m always sure of my footing and things are well…simple.

I could write a lot about what we’re losing as we “gain” in the world of social media, particularly cell phones.  Face time, listening skills, patience, letter writing (one grabs a hand-held writing instrument and records their thoughts on a sheet of paper),  social and interpersonal politeness, attentiveness, intentional interest.

The rub, of course, is teaching these things to my children who are growing up in eye of the technology storm.  How do I convince them that face time will never adequately be replaced by texting?  That  “reading” someone doesn’t mean interpreting their text symbols via a tiny screen but studying their face and listening to the smallest nuance of their voice?  That this is how you know how a friend, or even an acquaintance, is really doing, and it’s worth the small investment.

Besides, shouldn’t my up-and-coming teens experience the same “rites of passage” I did? There’s character building in the “he-said-he’d-call-me-tonight-so-everyone-stay-off-the-phone” drama.  And hubby and I don’t want to be cheated out of gleeful parenting moments like “Daddy’s-gonna-answer-the-phone-because-he’d-just-like-to-say-hello-to-this-young-man.”

There’s an ongoing debate whether Jesus would use cell phones or social media to spread His love and truth.  I can’t say.  But it’s a safe bet that he’d never use lame texting symbols, he wouldn’t text or call while in the presence of others, and if you tapped him on the shoulder, he’d turn the whole thing off and put it away.

And He’d be okay with that because the face in front of Him would surely be His most important contact.

Drawing Lines

Davis Park, New York

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I recently went through a bad break-up.   It was unexpected and painful, and for days I languished on the sofa letting the tears hit the microfiber, consuming Kit-Kats and babbling about the “good times”.  Luckily, I had my hubby to lean on. (wait…you didn’t think?…no!!)

My favorite department store and I had parted ways.  At an impasse over what I deemed a “capitulation to the sexualization of tweens”  and they saw as a “marketing strategy,”  the proverbial line in the sand had been drawn.  In the aftermath, I was left tearing up my stash of considerable store coupons and wondering at how such tiny grains of cultural influence produce the beach on which said line is made.

I had contacted the store’s headquarters, and in a timely fashion received a phone call from the top brass who listened to my complaints regarding the dressing/lounge area of their Junior Department.  There, grandmothers, children, and young girls trying on clothes are treated to a selection of videos.  The one that generated my complaint included a sultry number featuring a barely dressed singer grabbing a drink in one hand, her man in the other, and “dancing” provocatively together to lyrics my girl has no business hearing.

The lifestyle it glamorized had little to do with my 14-year-old who had simply popped in to buy a pair of shorts.  Much like the risqué magazine covers at the supermarket check-out lane have no relevance to our family or our cart piled high with groceries. But we nonetheless manage to find ourselves “boxed in” as we wait our turn — customers on either end, us and the raunchy titles in the middle.

As I puzzled out loud to the nice gal on the other end of the phone regarding just what it was her store was now selling, I also lamented that not only was it not an appropriate video for a young teenager, we resented being held hostage to this type of marketing ploy.  (Anyone who’s schlepped five kids to the clothing store knows what a true hostage situation is.)

From her tone, I knew she thought I live in a bubble.  She’s right.

Our household has fashioned a comfortable “bubble” for a reason.  It is not to render my kids ill-equipped to live in real world some day.   It’s to prepare them so they can.

The bubble is a safe place for us to love our kids apart from worldly influences, to pour God’s word into their hearts — the full and beautiful measure of His love, mercy and faith.  So that one day they’ll know that they are different and set apart — not by their parents — but by a Savior who gave all just for them and for all who believe and who is fiercely protective of their eyes, ears and hearts.

Under the protection of this bubble they will drink it up, understand it, and be ready one day to face the dressing rooms and check-out lanes of life.

Because the expansive tide of popular American culture is strong and relentless, and much of it seeks to erode all that I hold dear, and what I know to be true.

And these kids need to hear the truth.  Lots of it.  All the time.  Because one day they’re going to stand on the beach of popular culture.  And they’ll draw their own line.

Hello, Friends!

Musings about the high, the low and the off-key notes of a family of seven may not hold the interest of many, but it does provide this mother with an ongoing journal of the small and big events from our lives and the “music” we make as a family.

As a stay-at-home mom for nearly 15 years, I’ve seen it all.  Remembering it all is another story.

Because when I’m old I want to know that this time was about more than the chauffering, cooking, cleaning, homework help and referee madness.  I want to remember that the hug and word of encouragement on the stairway mattered to the teenage girl with “stuff” on her mind.  I want to capture the feel of tiny hands on my face while staring into the big brown eyes of our littlest girl as she sings me a made-up song about Jesus.

The ball games and family vacations are sure things — they’ll snag permanent spots in my memory for a long time to come.  But oh, these whispers from God captured in such fleeting family moments are the things I strain to hold onto.

The journey is already prepared by a sovereign God who loved me enough to send His only son to die on my behalf.  I didn’t earn it, but He did it for me anyway.  And every day I think on this — sometimes at the kitchen sink, sometimes standing by a child’s bedside, or even as I wait in the car for a practice to end.

Before you get sucked in (dare I hope?), I must confess that the original title of this blog went something like, “Type ‘A’ Dreams in a Type ‘Zzzzz’ Body.”   Big ideas and depleted mental and physical energy produces, well…just ideas.  Writing and marketing are my background and DIY projects are my hobby.  The hubby and kids claim center stage in the day-to-day busyness, and with five kids, it’s all I can do to keep up with my family and my home.  “Big things” in the form of essays may occasionally spring up on this site, hopefully offering some humorous respite for you while feeding my ongoing cravings to write.

In the meantime, I’ll stay busy.  As you can see from the picture in the header above, dusting, vacuuming and polishing consume large chunks of my time.  (kidding…picture came with site…I’ll update it later.)

Looking forward to our time together…

Christi