Saturday, December 29, 2012


Six months.  It's been six months since Bryan died.  While I can't believe it's really been that long, in so many ways, it seems much longer than that.  Is it possible for six months to feel like a lifetime?  Apparently so.

Over the past six months, I have come to know the grieving process in a way that only a grieving person can.  I've also seen the process working itself out in my children, all of whom have different personalities and are at different stages of maturity.  The thing that has, perhaps, surprised me the most is how much better the kids- especially the younger ones- have handled Bryan's death than I have.

Kids are resilient, both physically and emotionally.  When the Pilgrims suffered through their first winter in the New World, about half their number died.  Most of the children, however, survived.  Some of this could be attributed to the sacrificial care of their parents, but these kids demonstrated the amazing ability of little people to overcome and keep going.  These were the children who grew up and built the nation we know today.

What makes children so resilient?  What's the secret that makes them so able to carry on?

They live in the moment.

We adults obsess about the past while we worry about the future.  Kids just live.  They exist in the present, and they take each moment as it comes.  If the moment is sad, they grieve, and then, they move to the next moment. They accept life for what it is.  They may not always be happy, but because they only think about the present, they don't have to be oppressed by depression or anxiety.

As children get older, they start to think more like adults.  I suppose they learn by example.  It's a shame that we forget how to live a moment at a time, because that really is the only way to live that makes any sense.  We can't change the past, and we can't control the future, so we should focus on the present and do and feel whatever is called for at the moment.

I love Jesus' words in Matthew 6.  He tells us to look earnestly for God's kingdom and not to worry about earthly things.  He gives us two reasons not to worry about the future.  First, because God is taking care of everything.  He's in control, so there's no need for us to be anxious.  If we really trust Him, we can rest peacefully knowing that He will provide, He will work it all out.

It's the second reason, though, that I like the most.  "Because each day has enough trouble of its own."  What an intensely practical statement!  I can almost imagine the Son of God, in all of His glory, saying, "Really?  You don't have enough problems to take care of today?  You need to be all worried about the future too?  How about you just work on today and let me handle the rest?"

It's my desire to become like a little child, focusing on each moment that the Lord sends, committing the future to Him, being grateful for His provision in the past.

And a little child shall lead them...
for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

(Isaiah 11:6 and Matthew 19:14)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

McKinney Falls State Park

We may not have much "winter" here in Texas, but, boy, do we have gorgeous weather this time of year!  Sunny, 60s and 70s.  It's weather made for being outdoors.

So, outdoors we went!  I took the kids north to McKinney Falls State Park.  Hiking is difficult with little ones (anyone under 5), but the beautiful day made it worth the effort.

We started out with one of the paved trails, but my little adventurers quickly dismissed that as lame:  too much like "walking in the neighborhood."  Well, we certainly didn't drive 75 miles to walk in the neighborhood!  We turned around and headed for Rock Shelter Trail.

We stopped first at the Falls.  Not much falling going on- too little rain- but really cool rock pools to jump over.  (Click on any picture to expand.)

Everyone carefully read over the sign that could save their lives.  Except Carsten.  He was trusting to good old-fashioned common sense.

The biggest challenge we have with hiking is Steffen.  Unlike Carsten, he is not very enamored with the entire concept.  He stops and sits down on the trail and keeps asking how far it is back to the car.  That means that I have to put him in the backpack.  Austin, at 20 pounds or so, is pretty packable.  Steffen, at 30 plus pounds, is heavy.  Plus, if Steffen's on my back, that means Austin is on my front.  Between the two of them and the gear, I'm lugging an extra 60 pounds.  That makes two hours of hiking feel like a major athletic feat.

But they like it!

And the rock shelters were very impressive.

Even Steffen got to touch the top.

Onion Creek is so pretty.

Carsten was nervous about the bridges, but he mastered them manfully.

Justin went hiking cowboy-style.  (Yes, his feet got sore.  I don't think he'll do that again.)

Being lugged around is hard work.  Austin needed fortification!

The older five would have kept going for a good while after lunch, but the little ones were ready to head back.  It'll be so much fun when they're all old enough to carry themselves on hikes!

Friday, December 21, 2012


This week, we reformatted our hard drive (and by "we," I clearly mean "Nathan.")  As I was going through our files on Carbonite, restoring what we needed, I ran across a blog post that I had written two days before Bryan went into the hospital.  I never got a chance to publish it, but reading it was like taking a glimpse into a  different lifetime.  The post contained my thoughts on what principles were going to guide my curriculum planning for the upcoming school year.  For a homeschool mom, summer is a time to carefully research and deliberate over every aspect of each subject and textbook.  This year, I don't even remember ordering our curriculum!  I must have, because it's all here and the kids are using it, but seeing that unpublished post made me realize once again how my life has turned upside down in a span of only seven months (almost.)

I recently read that we should "embrace change as a constant."  And the more I ponder that, the more I think that it makes very good sense.  I like to think of my previous life as very stable and static, but that's an illusion.  In twelve years, I married, built a house, moved, had four babies, moved, renovated a house, moved, moved again, had another baby, moved, had two more babies...

Not a very static life.  And that doesn't even cover the small changes that are occurring each day.  My kids grow and change.  Their activities and hobbies impact our daily life differently each year.  My interests shift and I learn new things.  New friends are made and old friends move away.

Change is not a bad thing.  But it's not an intrinsically good thing either.  It's just a "thing"- a reality.  There is no way to avoid it, though many of us spend our lives making decisions that will minimize it as much as possible.

The key to handling change, I think, is to recognize that it rests in God's hands.  One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 16:3:

"Commit your works to the Lord,
and your plans will be established."

Although I know better, in my very human desire for control, I love to focus on the "and your plans will be established" part.  Emphasis on MY plans.  I behave as if the "Lord, I commit my works to You" prayer is just a formality.  Part of the magic formula to make sure that MY plans get established.  When I think like this, I am, of course, missing the point.

If I really commit every aspect of my life to the Lord, then MY plan will be to do whatever HE wants.  My plan becomes His plan, and that is the plan that is established.  Not my own plans.  My plans are short-sighted, limited by my finite viewpoint.  God's plans see into eternity.  There is no bend in the road that He hasn't already seen and accounted for.  He knows the height of each mountain, the length of each valley.  And He is the one who controls the change.  

"A man's heart plans his way,
but the Lord directs his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Like so many others, I cried as I watched the coverage of the terrible shooting in Connecticut.  I cried for the loss of all those innocent lives, for the pain of the families, for a society that produces a young person with the motive and means to inflict such unspeakable horror, for the little ones who survived but had to witness the evil.

And evil it was.  As the nation grapples with the many issues something like this raises, it seems we must all agree that what happened was, in fact, evil.

This weekend, one news program chose to end its coverage with a tribute to the heroism that occurred in the midst of the shooting:  The teacher who died shielding her students, the principal who ran toward the shooter instead of away.  "Good" that stood in stark contrast to the sheer evil of the murders.

As I contemplated these acts of self-sacrifice, it occurred to me that, while we praise those who do valiant things, we expect nothing less.  Think about it.  How would we respond to teachers who saved themselves first, whose reaction was to secure their own survival at the expense of the children?  We instinctively KNOW that good people must protect the innocent.

What is it within us that expects good and cries out against evil?  When things go well- when our children come back home to us safely and the people around us are kind- we accept that as our due.  We believe that's how life should be.  But when evil is unleashed and suffering descends, we shake our fists at a universe where such things are tolerated.

It surely must be that we yearn for good because we were created by One who is good.  Our Creator intended only good for us always.  He created a world of only good, and then (inexplicably, it seems, during times such as these) He gave us the free will to choose.  Though we chose badly, and though unimaginable evil now mars the world, our hearts remember.  We remember that perfect creation, and we long for the day when it is restored, and evil is obliterated once and for all.

"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
There shall be no more pain, 
for the former things have passed away.
Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."

Revelation 21:4-5

Amen.  Even so, come Lord Jesus!

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Well,  Black Friday came and went.  The spending frenzy has officially begun.  Economists and consumer analysts are crunching the numbers and wringing their hands.  Will we Americans put enough debt on our credit cards to keep the economy afloat for another year?

In our family, we don't give gifts at Christmas, and though we celebrate Hanukkah, we don't give gifts for that either.  Although that keeps us somewhat insulated from the lure of the stores in December, we are by no means immune to consumerism.  There are always birthdays!

A couple years ago, Bryan and I stopped and looked at all of our stuff.  And we had way too much of it.  And our kids had way too much of it.  Most of the kids' stuff had entered the house in the form of gifts.

We started to become concerned that we were fostering rampant consumerism and stuff-itis in our home.  While we were by no means out of the norm, we were afraid that staying on the all-American "more, bigger, better" path might not produce the kind of character that we hoped our children would one day have.  Giving our kids gifts is a lot of fun, but we wanted to look beyond the next birthday to the life lessons they were learning.

Once we had decided that we wanted our kids to be less attached to things, we had to decide what we did want them to value.  What exactly did we want them to hold dear?

The answer was relationships.  We wanted our children to cherish the time they spent with the ones they loved.  After all, when all the stuff is gone, those relationships may be all there is left.

So, we looked for ways to practically demonstrate this.  We didn't stop buying gifts, but we did cut back.  We began picking one or two carefully thought-out gifts, while making the real gift, time (usually with Daddy.)  I talked to the kids about this just today, and we all agreed that it was being with Daddy, talking to him, doing things with him, that left the deepest impression, not the stuff that he bought them.  Stuff wears out, but pleasant memories just grow sweeter.

This concept isn't really revolutionary, is it?  We all know that our loved ones are far more dear to us than things.  But the accumulation of stuff sometimes distracts us from fully appreciating them.  All that stuff has to be cleaned, maintained, organized and paid for.  And all of that takes time-lots of precious time.

I've been struck in a new way lately by the concept  relationships as our greatest gift.  The writer of Hebrews, as if speaking directly to our present age of materialism, says,  "Be content with such things as you have," and then he tells us why we should be content: "Because (Jesus) Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" (Hebrews 13:5)

It's the greatest relationship we humans can experience- closeness with God- that can make us satisfied with what we already have!  And on a smaller scale, if we value closeness and time with others highly, all that stuff will seem far less important.

"Every good gift and every perfect gift
is from above, 
and comes down from the Father of lights."
James 1:17

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Our AWANA Choir did a pageant!

There was a lot of prep work and practice.

Lots of fitting and fixing.

And Toddler Baby Jesus had to run off some energy before his debut performance.

All the kids did a great job.  The soloists sang beautifully.

The angels were angelic.

The animals were tame.

Mary and Joseph were model parents.

The shepherds were appropriately overwhelmed by the glory of the angel.

The narrators may have future careers in radio.

Toddler Jesus was impressed by the gifts of the Magi.

And, of course, all of the kids had a great time.


Fantastic job, kids!  And thank you to all who worked so hard to make it possible!  You're an amazing bunch of people.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Toilet Paper

Well, here it is.  The last roll of toilet paper.

This isn't just any toilet paper.  There's a story that goes along with this one.

When Bryan went into the hospital, our family was thrown into crisis mode overnight.  It was a situation that was literally impossible for us to handle alone.  We needed doctors, nurses, prayer warriors, childcare providers, encouragers, and chefs.  This was not a one-man (or one-family) show.

And our wonderful church family descended upon us en masse.  They took care of the kids, went shopping, prayed, visited, cooked meals, and brought toilet paper.  Lots of toilet paper.  I joked at the time that our church's love language was paper goods.  We were so well-cared for that I haven't had to buy toilet paper in six months.  (I still haven't used up all of the paper towels.)

So as I looked at that last roll, I got to thinking:  How many people have a support system like ours?  Tragedy can visit any of us.  How many would find themselves facing it alone?

Our society is fragmented.  Families are scattered across the nation, and even the families that live close are much smaller than in years past.  Many churches are so huge that people go every week without actually getting to know the people sitting around them.  Technology often gives us the illusion of close relationships, when we're really quite isolated.  I'm not entirely sure how much toilet paper Facebook friends would deliver.

When things are going well, we can go through life fairly independently.  Friendship is a luxury, something that improves our lives but isn't really essential to our day to day existence.  It's when the days get dark that we need someone to reach out to, someone who can come alongside and do what is beyond our power to accomplish.  And we don't just need one "someone," we need a network of people who care.

The writer of Hebrews warns us against failing to meet together (Heb. 10:25), and Solomon tells us that we should pity the man who falls without another to pick him up (Ecc. 4:10).  In spite of this, many of us today, even Christians who go to church every Sunday, are living alone.  Stop and think about your life.  If a crisis befell you tomorrow, would you be instantly surrounded?  Or would you find yourself scrambling, looking for someone to help you up?

If you're not quite sure, it might be time to strengthen your network.  And you get caring friends by being someone who cares.  Going to church isn't enough.  You have to serve.  You have to truly get involved.  If someone's hurting, join with others to help.  Reach out.

But what if you're the invincible type?  What if you are NEVER going to have a situation where you need other people's love and support?  There are, in fact, individuals who do make it through life without facing extreme hardship or heartbreak.  What about them?  Can't they dispense with the network?

Perhaps they can, but they will be missing an opportunity to serve.  If your life is truly blessed to the point where you don't at this moment need the aid of others, there are people who need you.  God's gifts are meant to be shared, not hoarded.  If the Lord has given you a peaceful and tranquil existence, He desires not complacency but active service.  And as you serve others, you will experience the richness that only relationships with other servants can bring.

"And this I pray,
that your love may abound still more and more
in knowledge and discernment,
that you may approve the things that are excellent, 
that you may be sincere and without offense
till the day of Christ,
being filled with the fruits of righteousness
which are by Jesus Christ, 
to the glory and praise of God."
Philippians 1:9-10

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


"You sure have your hands full!"

If I had a nickel for every time I've had someone say that, I could single-handedly take care of our church's building fund.  When you have a lot of kids, you become something of a curiosity.  It just goes with the territory.  And since I take my little people with me just about everywhere (and always have), I have probably heard just about every "big family" comment out there.

"Are they ALL yours?"  (No, I randomly collect friends' children just for the sheer joy of struggling to navigate the hazardous aisles of Home Depot.)

"One-two-three-four-five-six.  SIX kids??"  (Wrong.  There are SEVEN.  And they can all count.)

"Only one girl?"  (Excellent observation.)

"You need to get a TV!"  (We have one- thanks.)

"You're pregnant again?  I didn't know you were Catholic."  (Apparently only Catholics like children; Protestants are supposed to have magic pills to keep the population under control.)

"Have you seen that family on TV- the Duggars?"  (Yes, because clearly a family with 19 children is exactly like our family with less than half that.)

"Don't you know what causes that?"  (I don't.  Would you like to explain it to me right here in the HEB baking aisle?)

"You have your own basketball team!"  (Yes, and the baby is especially adept at making baskets.)

"Man.  What do you drive?"  (A white conversion.  Haven't you seen the Tim Hawkins video?)

"And I think my two (or one or three) drive me crazy!"  (It doesn't matter how many you have- they will drive you crazy.  Only children just have to work harder at it.)

And, my very favorite,

"What a blessing!"

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127:3-5

(And, as a random side note, I've changed the look of the blog.  The dots on the background were making me dizzy.  Thanks for dropping by, and if you have a large family, feel free to add your own favorite "comment."  I know I've missed some.)

Friday, November 23, 2012


It's official: Austin is big.

At least he thinks he is.  Just one of the guys.

Bryan used to rate the kids based on what he called their "cuteness factor." Dancing to music, for example, has a high cuteness factor; screaming in the supermarket, a very low cuteness factor.  Austin's cuteness factor is very high right now.  One of the main variables in this rating is that he is really sooo little!  He's smaller than any of the other boys were at his age, and yet, he acts like he's the biggest in the bunch.

He loves to go outside and just do whatever the older kids are doing.

Of course, when you have five older brothers, you sometimes get squashed.

He doesn't let that slow him down for even a minute.

Austin is quite a talker too.  Of course, none of us speak Austinian, so we can't understand him, but he gives whole speeches in his own little language.  The only English he speaks is "uh-oh" and "go!"

And go he does.  He never stops moving.  He even lends a hand with Lego building. 

And the big kids help him out too.   (Blurry pics, I know.  Just trying to stay far enough away to not interrupt the brother dynamic.)

But being big is hard work.  Wears a little guy out!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


"When upon life's billows
You are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged,
Thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings,
Name them one by one
And it will surprise you
What the Lord has done."

During this season, we pause and give thanks.  We go back over the year and think of all the things we have to be thankful for: homes, family, friends.

Having a heart of gratitude is important in every season, not just during Thanksgiving, of course.  And, during the difficult seasons of life, when we're caught in the tempest, remembering the things we're thankful for becomes an exercise of vital importance.  Giving thanks keeps us grounded.  It keeps us focused on the good things.  It rescues us from the overwhelming blackness of the bad.

But it's hard.

When the going gets tough- really tough- it's hard to be thankful.  It's far easier to become bitter, to curse our fate, than it is train our minds to look at the blessings in our lives.  In moments like these, we learn the meaning of a sacrifice of praise.  A sacrifice requires us to lay something down on the altar.  During the days of trial, in order to offer up praise, we have to lay down our disappointments and discouragements, our very right to complain and whine.

So do we have to say "thank you" for everything that happens?  Do we have to be grateful for the hardships of life?

I believe the answer, much to my relief, is no.  Though it is God's will for us to give thanks IN everything that happens (1 Thess. 5:18), we're not required to give thanks FOR everything that happens.  We live in a fallen world.  A lot of what happens is, well, terrible.  But if we can see God's hand of blessing in the midst of terrible times, we can rise above them (eventually.)

For me personally, learning to be thankful in my present time of darkness, has required me to be thankful for very small things.  From my very limited mortal perspective, it's easy to feel like God dropped the ball on the big things.  (Even though I know that He is always in control, and has never dropped a single ball- or allowed a sparrow to fall unnoticed.)  Because of that, I have to really zero in on the little blessings that the Lord sends each day.  Thank You for the sale on apples, the parking space, the missing shoe that was found.    Each seemingly inconsequential event that allows me to give thanks slowly works to change my heart.  I find my spirit lifted as I see His hand in the details of life.

So, as you gather for Thanksgiving, if your heart is overflowing with gratitude and praise, then rejoice.  You are richly blessed.  But if it's not- if your life right now is tough- look for the little blessings.  Be thankful for those, and trust that there are better days appointed for you around the next bend in the road.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

South State

I can't believe it's taken me this long to write a post about Megan's South State gymnastics meet!  

She was very excited to qualify, and she had high hopes for this meet.  It ended up being a really good experience, plus it provided the chance for Megan and me (and Austin Baby and the stowaway dog) to have a little time together.

So... here are the grand results:

Megan took 2nd place on floor, 3rd place on bars, and 5th all around.  A very good meet indeed!  (Thanks, Coach Bobby, for the picture.)

Congratulations, Megan!  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012



The very sound of the word carries a promise of peace, of refreshing.

"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." 
 Psalm 37:7

"Be still and know that I am God."  
Psalm 46:10

"Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people." 
1 Kings 8:56

The Bible is filled with references to rest, times of quiet.  The Lord rested on the seventh day and established the Sabbath.  He ordered seasons of rest for the land.  His cycles always include both activity and calm.

One of the cycles, though, for which I am most thankful is simply nighttime.    God could, I suppose, have created a world in which day ran endlessly.  There might be a world of never-ending sun.  Such a place would hold no appeal for me, at least not in this life.

At the end of a long day, full of hard work and difficulty, God gives us the blessing of rest- sleep.  And in that time of respite, we can find the strength we need to get up and face another day.

Now, I'm not quite sure how much sleep we really need.  I certainly can't claim to get the requisite eight hours each night.  (Who came up with that number?  I could google it, but I won't.)  I haven't had an uninterrupted night of sleep in a very long time.  (Such is the reality of motherhood.)

I still appreciate the sleep that I do get, even if it might be a couple of three hour stretches.  There is a brilliance in God's simple plan of "evening and morning." Each night of sleep carries the promise of a new day- a fresh start.

I would guess that most of us appreciate sleep and rest.  So why is it that we are so often sleep-deprived?  What keeps us from just...well, going to bed at night?

Worry keeps many awake.  Stressful days can be difficult to put behind us.  Perhaps we've drained our minds to the point of exhaustion but our sedentary lifestyles haven't worn out our bodies.

Or, maybe it's those TV reruns and Facebook.  Zoning out with technology isn't the same as seeking calm at the end of the day.

And, we might just be busy.  Too busy.  I've never been one to stay up till two in the morning finishing a project.  I've always felt that depriving myself of sleep cuts down my overall productivity so much that what little time I may have gained is lost in the end anyway.  And it makes me grouchy.  It's awfully hard to be a patient mom (or a patient anything else) if I'm tired.

So, I enjoy seeing the cycle of light and dark as God's divine directive.  As the sun sets and the darkness takes over, the Lord is saying,  "Come to Me, all you who are weary...and I will give you rest."  And then, casting all my cares upon Him, I take advantage of the blessing of sleep.

"For [the Lord] grants sleep 
to the ones He loves."
Psalm 127:2

Saturday, November 10, 2012


As I said earlier this week, Carsten turned FIVE.  This birthday was a big one for him.  Carsten is very serious and circumspect.  He spent weeks and weeks deliberating every facet of his birthday, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each decision.

First, he had to decide what to ask for.  (He finally settled on a Lego Hero Factory and a Webkinz stuffed animal.)

Then, he had to decide what theme he would choose.  The main problem with this decision was his struggle with two different interests: elephants and airplanes.  How to choose?  I finally suggested an airplane cake with an elephant pilot.  That seemed good enough.  (This cake never made it into production.  More on that later.)

And what about candles?  One candle that says 5 or five separate candles?  Lots of deliberation here.  The 5 candle won out because of concern that he might not succeed in blowing all 5 smaller candles out in one breath.

And, the morning of his party, he had one final decision to make:  Should he or should he not let people sing "Happy Birthday" to him?  Carsten is mortified when anyone makes a fuss over him.  "Mommy, I hate it when they sing to me."  "I know.  It's your birthday.  We don't have to sing if you don't want us to."  "But maybe I should let them sing."  We finally did a "trial run" of singing to him and letting him blow out a candle.  Okay.  That wasn't so bad.  We were good to go on the singing thing.

We had a very busy week, so I was falling behind on birthday preparations.  I had thought we might just celebrate with a couple of families at the zoo (elephants) to keep it simple and low-key.  That came together despite very last minute planning, but the cake wasn't fairing as well.  SOMEONE ate all my vegan marshmallows (which I use to make the fondant and the rice krispie parts of the cakes) and I just didn't have the time to make a Whole Foods run.

I had a great idea:  Let's just stick little Matchbox airplanes on top of cupcakes! Cake, theme, take-home gift- done.  So we set off to Wal-Mart.

Major failure.  Apparently, Carsten is the only child in the greater San Antonio area who wants to be a pilot when he grows up!  There wasn't a single airplane anything anywhere.  How weird is that?  Since it was now less than 24 hours till his party, I just let Carsten pick whatever he wanted.  We ended up with Lego Star Wars plates and napkins with little animals to go on top of the cupcakes.  All his careful planning, ruined.  He took it pretty well, though.  Bryan always said that being in our family was good for Carsten.  He is learning flexibility.

The kids ran around and explored the park.  (Thank you, Abbie, for taking the pictures!)

The singing and the candle blowing out went well.

The kids had a great time in the zoo too.  We were that group that no one wants to be behind.  The one with all the excited, shrieking children who block the exhibits.

And, most importantly, Carsten got to see elephants.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Okay, so I have a word of advice:  Never, ever, ever blog about not sweating the small stuff.  Why?  Because you might have a flood of small stuff pop up just to test your theory.  After all, one snowflake is no big deal but millions of them make an avalanche, and avalanches bury people.

Here are a few of the small things that made up last week:

First of all, I was sick.  I ran a fever all week long.  Apparently, the dog bite I got a few weeks ago wasn't just going to go away quietly.  Antibiotics seem to be clearing that up now, but the fever and chills, and pain in my leg (and everywhere else) made for a tough backdrop to everything else.

We put our house on the market and had all the fun of getting the house ready for showings, plus leaving it perfect (that's a relative term) every time we go somewhere.  And there's always something that comes up with that.  "Who spilled the glass of orange juice in the pantry?  Never mind, just bring me the mop..." right as we're headed out the door, and so on.

I drove the van off the edge of a steep driveway and damaged something underneath.  It's making a terrible grinding sound and I'm going to have to take it in to get it repaired this week.

 We waited for just over an hour to vote on Friday.  The election judge and everyone in line was kind enough to let me wait off to the side with the kids and then just jump in when my turn came.  (I think they were terrified when they saw me walk in with seven energetic little people.)  All the kids were really good and patient, though they did threaten to start chanting, "Mitt!  Mitt!  Mitt!"  (They've seen the rallies on TV and had been longing to go to one just so that they can chant along.  Maybe in 2016.)

And, then, there was our trip to Houston.  Megan competed in the South State Championships this weekend!  (That deserves its own post.)  The five older boys stayed with friends and Megan and Austin and I headed to Houston.

It is very challenging to get all of us ready to go anywhere.  It's even more challenging to get all of us going in opposite directions.  The boys had to have their church clothes and AWANA stuff; Megan had to have stuff for her meet; Austin needed stuff; and we all needed just our normal stuff.  It was a lot of stuff to keep track of.  Plus, we had people coming to see the house Sunday while we were gone, so it had to be show ready before we left. 

All packing and cleaning done, we headed over to our friends' house.  As I was getting the boys settled, Megan and a friend entertained Austin in the car.  Then we punched in our hotel's address into the Garmin, and we set off- about three hours later than I had hoped.

Austin was happy, so we pressed ahead as far as we could.  We were about ninety miles outside of Houston when we stopped for dinner.  I got in the back of the car to get Austin out and what do you think I found in the back row seat of my van?

A dog.

A real live dog.

It was my friend's dachshund.  Sitting in Justin's empty booster seat.  200 miles.  Not a single bark.  Not a single whine.  She was shaking like a leaf.

"Really?!"  That was my only thought.  And then we went on the hunt for a kennel, leash, dog dish, food, and all those little things we'd need to keep the dog alive and contained for the next 24 hours.  Two Wal-Marts and a grocery store later, we had everything together, and we collapsed in our hotel around 10.

Megan's meet went well (another post- I promise) and we headed back home.  After dropping off the dog, we went straight to church for AWANA.  All the volunteers had everything running beautifully, as usual.  As soon as it was over, I was ready to pack up the kids and go home just as quickly as our van could take us.

Except... I hit the unlock button on the van one too many times, and... it went into security mode.  It wouldn't start.

Deep breath.  This just meant that we would have to stick the key in the ignition and wait thirty minutes.  That would get it out of security mode and we could go home.  Just thirty more minutes.

But then, the last little snowflake came drifting down.  Apparently, our van has one more security feature:  If you leave the key in the ignition with the doors shut, they lock.  Yes, lock.  With the keys in the car.

The snowflake hit the ground and BAM! down came the avalanche.  At least that's what it felt like.

But there were some St. Bernard's around to dig us out.  (It might not be the best thing to compare our dear friends to a breed of dog, but dogs were getting kind of a bad rap in this post so far.)  Sidney and Kelly and their family hung out with us just in case we couldn't get into the car.  And Phil, faithful as always, was able to round up a mechanic who got us back into the car.  Finally, of course, there was the friend who let me vent on the phone when I got home.

So, don't sweat the small stuff, but try not to let it pile up either.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Don't sweat the small stuff.  (And it's all small stuff.)

Have you seen that on a bumper sticker?  Maybe on an office plaque somewhere?  Perhaps it's popular because there's wisdom in it.

I'm finding myself fretting less about the small things.  Those little bumps along the road of life seem far less troublesome when I think about the canyon I've had to cross.  It's as if, when I weigh a problem or hardship against Bryan's death, it naturally can't come anywhere close to matching the magnitude of that.  "Well, it's certainly not the worst thing that's ever happened to me," I think to myself.  When I realize this, I let the problem go , assigning it its proper place among the other "small stuff."  And you know what?  Things usually work themselves out.  This change in perspective is something that I really don't want to lose as life moves on.

I suppose we all have scales on which we weigh our problems.  Each person probably has a unique weight he assigns to his own hurts and frustrations.  And everyone reacts differently to the weight.  One person wails and storms when faced with a ten-pounder, while another's fifty-pounder gets no mention at all.  (And sometimes those two people get married, much to the amusement of their friends.)  We're all different.

Jesus knew, as always, of our tendency to "sweat the small stuff."  But when I really spent some time thinking about it, I was surprised by how high He set the bar for what qualified as "big."

"Do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink; 
or about your body, 
what you will wear.
Is not life more important than food,
and the body more than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air,
they do not toil or reap...
and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them.
Do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself."
From Matthew 6

So what are the small things?  What we will eat and what we will wear.  Now, Jesus isn't talking about struggling with a dinner menu or going through our overstuffed closet to find something flattering.  He was addressing a crowd with legitimate survival needs.  "What will we eat?" to many of them meant, "Are we going to starve or live another day?"

And yet, He tells them that's a small thing.  Not worth worrying about.  There are things, He says, that are more important than even our basic needs.  Life, for example.  Did you wake up today?  Did those you love wake up too?  Then it's a good day, period.  God has promised to take care of the little details.  Our job is to keep our eyes focused on  Life with a heart of thankfulness.

In my own life, the things I "sweat" the most, those things that I obsess over, allowing circumstances to rob me of joy, don't really even qualify as small things.  If I were honest, I'd know they were minutiae.  Teeny, tiny aggravations, situations that aren't going my way- now, those can cause all kinds of trouble.  I recognize them as minutiae, largely because I never even remember them later.  They're just that unimportant.  If they leave any lasting impact, it's only because my over-reaction caused fallout for the people around me.  That's never fully forgotten!

I hope the lesson of keeping the minutiae in perspective stays with me.  The end result is peace.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Carsten was born five years ago!  It's almost impossible to believe.  He was our biggest baby: 9 lbs 3 oz.

He was born on his due date, which only makes sense, because Carsten likes things done properly.  And, Bryan and I were the only ones in the room when he was born.  (After much exhaustive work, I made the midwives leave us alone.  Carsten was born just a few minutes later.)  That makes sense too.  He hates being the center of attention.

From the time he was little, he was very suspicious of anyone not living in our home.  I remember when he got his first haircut.  The stylist tried to give him a lollipop.  He looked at her with clear distrust.  He didn't say a word, but his eyes said it all, "Who are you and why are you trying to give me candy?" He wouldn't take it.

He is a man of few words, especially with those outside the family.  A friend once asked him, after having watched him on many occasions, "Carsten, do you talk?"  His response?  "Yes."  Enough said.

Bryan said that there was something about Carsten that just melted his heart.  He was a little man from the time he was born.  Bryan said that when you saw Carsten, you knew just what he'd be like at twenty, and thirty, and fifty.  He's a grounded little guy.

Love you, Carsten!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Today would have been Bryan and my twelfth wedding anniversary.  

We got married in downtown San Antonio at the Little Church at La Villita.  It was a beautiful day!  (Photo Bomb Alert, although our best pictures are the print ones, not these digital ones.  Indulge me a little.)

(Now, if you're thinking that we looked a lot younger twelve years ago- well, so did you!)

The Reverend Andrew Reichert officiated.

Shawn McGrew and my aunt Tina stood up with us.

And we were surrounded by friends and family.

My Mutti

Bryan's Nephew Marc

Marriage and its companionship are a precious gift.  Don't take it for granted.  Don't waste the time in petty discontent.  Take joy in the gift you've been given.  Cherish the moments, because those moments are all we have.

"Above all,
Love each other deeply."
1 Peter 4:8