Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bug!

Look at this handsome fellow! Here is the guy who keeps us young and gives us grey hair all at the same time!

Your first sentence was "I am SPEED!" (from the movie Cars) and it could not be more apt. If you are not sleeping, you are climbing, running, dancing, clapping, smiling, MOVING! It is more entertaining watching you watching a movie than it is to actually watch a movie. You are a sparkling delight, my son.

When I was discouraged during my pregnancy with you, I distinctly remember driving in daddy's Jeep, telling God all of my woes and sorrows. It was not an audible voice that I heard, but just as clear when God said, "Let me BLESS you with this son." You are only two, but God has truly blessed our family through you. As you lie in your crib each night, I pray over you blessings in return. I pray that God will reveal His path to you early in life and that once you set your foot upon it, you will never stray. I pray that you will be a young man after God's own heart, and that you will continue to grow healthy and strong. You are challenging that part! Only two and the only one of the kids to visit the ER twice and the only one to have ever gotten stitches! Such a boy. . .

Your name means "son of my right hand" and is so appropriate and God-breathed, it is as if you could have been given no other name. The story behind this is highly personal to our family, so we will tell you one day when you are older. Just know that you hold a special place in both my and daddy's hearts. And while you will always be a little brother, I envision the young man you will someday be and my heart already swells with pride. Defender of Your Sisters. Right Hand of Your Father. Heart of Your Mother. You are my son. May God richly bless you always, Bug.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Bear!

Happy Birthday, Bear! It was four years ago today that I called Daddy at work after he had only been there for about twenty minutes and said, "I think you need to come right now!" Sure enough, it wasn't too long until you were born -- right at lunch time. You had the most hair of all three kids and when you were a baby it went everywhere. No matter what we did, you looked like Einstein so we called you "Bear-Bear Crazy Hair" for a long time.

You are named after my grandma who was an amazing woman. She was a tiny lady with a strong spirit and passions for Jesus, baking, gardening, taking care of people and loving her grandkids. She has had an incredible impact on my life and who I have become. We so wanted to honor her by naming you after her. She had a short name, so instead, we gave you a longer version of that name with the intention of calling you the shorter nickname, just like Grandma E. The summer after you were born, we went to a family reunion where we brought out the old family Bible. Right there was written your name, the longer version we had given you, as Grandma E's real name! Even Grandpa, who had known her since she was five years old, had not known that her real name was the same as yours! I still get goosebumps when I think of it. Your name was meant to be!

Your first name can mean "light" or "God is my strength." We think this appropriate for a lovable little person who we call "Iron Fist in Velvet Glove!" You are quite the character: funny, sweet and smart. Also stubborn, opinionated and not easily swayed (or bribed with "stittas" stickers)! Your middle name is the same as Bean's because as she is, you are a "precious and undeserved gift from God."

Before you were born, I worried, "How could I possibly love anyone as much as I love my little Bean?" (Especially after I was so sick for most of the time you were in my tummy!) It sure seems silly now to have ever worried about that. Of course, we love you like crazy!! We are so excited to see what adventures your life holds. In your four short years, you have amazed, delighted and entertained us just by being YOU. You have expanded the love in our hearts and our family. You are an awesome little sister to Bean and a loving big sister to Bug. Happy Birthday, Bear!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Prayer for America

I couldn't let election day pass by without comment, but I have promised that I would only write the one political post, so I want to be a person of my word. So this post doesn't specifically address the current election, but it is a good representation of true conservative beliefs.

Actually, Paul Harvey read a version of this prayer on air, and it has circulated as an email for a while, but this truly is "the rest of the story." The email is not entirely accurate, so I looked up the official source. (As an aside, do not pass on emails without checking them on Snopes. Snopes is a very reliable source of information regarding the veracity of all those emails that circulate!)

Back in January of 1996, the Rev. Joe Wright, senior pastor of the 2,500-member Central Christian Church in Wichita, was invited to offer the opening prayer at a session of the Kansas House of Representatives. The prayer he offered was this one (which differs somewhat from the version being circulated on the internet):

"Heavenly Father, we come before you to ask your forgiveness. We seek your direction and your guidance. We know your word says, "Woe to those who call evil good." But that's what we've done.

We've lost our spiritual equilibrium. We have inverted our values. We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your word in the name of moral pluralism. We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We've exploited the poor and called it a lottery. We've neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. In the name of choice, we have killed our unborn. In the name of right to life, we have killed abortionists.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem. We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it taxes. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, oh, God, and know our hearts today. Try us. Show us any wickedness within us. Cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of the State of Kansas, and that they have been ordained by you to govern this great state.

Grant them your wisdom to rule. May their decisions direct us to the center of your will. And, as we continue our prayer and as we come in out of the fog, give us clear minds to accomplish our goals as we begin this Legislature. For we pray in Jesus' name, Amen."

The prayer Rev. Wright used wasn't of his own crafting; it was a version of one written in 1995 by Bob Russell who offered it at the Kentucky Governor’s Prayer Breakfast in Frankfort, Kentucky. Either way, it is a prayer that would serve us well, these thirteen years later.

"If we ever forget that we're one nation under GOD, then we will be a nation gone under." -- Ronald Reagan
God bless America.

Beautiful Hands

I have ugly hands. I was waiting in the car the other day, looking at them and noticed the raggedy cuticles, the scraggly edges of my fingernails, the redness of my knuckles and the overall roughness of my hands. "Wow, I could really use a manicure!" I thought to myself. But as I mulled it over, I realized what a hopeless cause it is. I am really hard on my hands. I garden without gloves, wash dishes in scalding water without gloves, strip furniture, do craft projects, lift heavy loads of books at work, repair materials with harsh chemicals and glues, all without gloves. Not to even mention all the times in a day I wash my hands while cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, taking care of pets, children, and household. Yes, a manicure would last unchipped for about, oh, maybe fifteen minutes. And you know what? I don't care if my hands are raggedy, scraggly, red or rough! (Poor El Guapo!) And here's why:

This will make me sound like I am eighty-seven years old, but I used the McGuffey's Eclectic Readers as one of my main literature books in primary school. For those of you not familiar with McGuffey's Readers, they are what hundreds of thousands (if not millions!) of Americans grew up reading in school since the 1800's. They are aptly called "Eclectic Readers" because they contain a whole host of reading samples from poetry to expository selections on animals and natural history to stories and fables with moral lessons. A little selection in McGuffey's Third Eclectic Reader is called "Beautiful Hands." I must have been about ten or eleven when I read it, but it has stuck with me ever since. In the conversation that is the story, Daisy walks home with her teacher and comments on the course-looking hands of classmate Mary. But Miss Roberts tells Daisy that Mary's hands are the prettiest in the whole class. Miss Roberts goes on to explain that Mary's hands are rough because of all the hard work she does around her house and lists all of the grueling chores that women and girls performed in the late 1800's. And besides work, Mary's hands are used to be kind to her younger siblings and those less fortunate. Miss Roberts goes on to say that, "They are full of good deeds to every living thing. I have seen them patting the tired horse and the lame dog in the street. They are always ready to help those who need help." But my favorite lines are the last two. After Daisy hears of Mary's many good works, she feels remorse at having said that Mary's hands are ugly. Her wise teacher instructs, "Then, my dear, show your sorrow by deeds of kindness. The good alone are really beautiful."

I remember reading that story for the first time, and purposing in my young heart that I wanted to have the kind of beautiful hands that are set about meaningful work. This is not to say that caring for oneself or even having nice, manicured hands is a bad thing. For me, though, my hands are a visual reminder of what is truly important. That the outward appearances are much less important than the inward spirit and attitude. So if it takes having ugly hands to remind me that setting about kindness and goodness in my daily life is my goal, than I will keep them as they are and be content.

Often our bodies show the stories of our lives. Sometimes we reveal poor habits or unhealthy living. Other times we hint at our obsession with the superficial and the temporal. We can reveal if we have a low opinion of ourselves or too high of one, if we are modest or proud, if we are scared or confident. When you see people who bear the scars of hard work or hard knocks or hard living, how do you judge them? Think of the etched face of Mother Teresa. She was no beauty by earthly standards, but the lines on her face, the stoop in her walk, the cracks in her hands were testaments to the principles by which she lived her life. I think of One whose body most showed the way He lived His life -- all the way to His death on the cross. Jesus bears the scars of sacrificial love. I am so not even close to living out my love that way. But I'd like to move in that direction more and more every day.

Lastly, I have thought about this little story many times over the years. It has literally been woven into the very fabric of who I am and has impacted how I see the world and others. And it was this last time reflecting on it that something new was driven home. Oh, how the little things can impact who we become. What are my kids filling their minds with? How will those things shape who they become, how they see others, how they view world? What careless words do I say that will burn into their brains? What do we value enough to impart? What are they being "fed" each day to help them grow? So excuse me now. I have to go attend to Bear and Bug -- and turn off Sponge Bob!