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.)