Thursday, December 24, 2009

it's a wonderful life!

dear emily,

hans and i have been walking with the Lord for 40 years and find His
love and grace to be inexhaustible.  He continues to surprise us with
His goodness and kindness, especially when life is heartbreaking.

both of our parents are enjoying fulfilling lives.  we have, between us,
seven amazing siblings, five precious sisters-in-law, and a significant
other, who we absolutely adore.

hans is still my knight in shining armor, favorite companion, and chief
entertainer.  i am careful not to laugh at all his jokes, so he doesn't take
me for granted.  he is always kind, gentle, and loving, so i won't break.

this is the best part.  we have the five most lovable, intelligent,
respectful, and funny children imaginable plus a prince of a son-in-law
... AND the world's greatest westie!

i was so exhausted with all the pre-Christmas festivities, that i fell back
into bed right before lunch.  hans tip-toed in to check on me and said,
"honey, i just wanted to prepare you that i didn't get you a 'big' gift this
year."  he says that every year. :)

"oh that's all right." i murmured. "you've given me a wonderful life!"

merry Christmas,

roller coaster Christmas

dear emily,

man, can you believe this roller coaster Christmas ride?  we  spent the
day baking, decorating Christmas cookies,  last minute shopping,
wrapping, and fussing up the house in anticipation of  dinner guests...
a lovely family of 25!

i could not have imagined a more delightful evening.  babies crawling
everywhere, toddlers rolling cars under tables, over tables, around
tables, a pretty little princess decorating a gingerbread house, loud
voices, raucous laughter, "white Christmas" playing in the back
ground, and then spontaneous singing of 'sisters, sisters.'

we ordered smoked brisket, turkey, and ribs, but somehow we
received barbecued BOLOGNA! yuck.  i overheard a sweet little
voice ask, "mommy, is this chicken fish?"

an adorable two year old asked me for a cookie, and being afraid
it was too big, i tore off a portion of shelby's browned butter,
caramel chocolate chip cookie.  he looked at it sadly and said, "that
is not a cookie..."  he promptly received the biggest cookie i could
find with a satisfied smile and, "that is a cookie!"

the same little guy deadbolted himself in our guest bathroom.  you
should have heard his uncle trying to explain to him how to unlock the
dead bolt.  why is the 'undoing' of a thing so hard?

later i found the cookie monster/deadbolt boy turning our globe around
and around, saying under his breath, "" he's
bound for the mission field...look out africa!

the young parents took their babies home to bed, but the teenaged
siblings stayed much longer, playing games and retelling funny old
stories like, "remember the time when you were two and you got left in
the gas station on a car trip?  your parents didn't notice for an hour!"
which completely spiraled out of control into every 'bad' parent story i went to bed.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

mary's treasure

dear emily,

when looking to older, wiser mothers, we shouldn't neglect the most
famous one of all time.   how young she was and how overwhelming it
must have been to be the mother of the 'anointed One'!  can you imagine
saying, "no" to Jesus?  i'm afraid we do it all the time.

every time i read, "and mary treasured up all these things and pondered
them in her heart," my own heart is pierced.  how many treasures am i
tripping over and how many worthless things am i worshipping?

a vital key to becoming an anointed mother is pondering the Pearl of
great price and letting everything else diminish in its value before Him.
if we prize Him above all else, then He has been extended a request  to
flood our lives and loves with His spring of everlasting water.

psalm 112: 1, 2 says that if we delight in following His commands, then
our children will be mighty in the land.  what mother doesn't want her
children to have great success?  i think the crucial word in the verse is
'delight'.  to delight in something i must have invested my heart
and soul in it.

just like mary did.


Monday, December 21, 2009

wise women

dear emily,

i was thinking about the wise men who followed the star to the baby in
bethlehem.  it reminded me of all the wise women i have followed.

they left me signs as obvious as a star's light.  in their wake were happy
and confident children, satisfied and successful husbands, and many
grateful hearts. they were the first to bring a meal to a sick family, to
pray for a significant heartache, or to love on a small child.

these wise women taught me to follow the Lord by feasting on His word
and leaning into Him.  they led me in studies to understand Him better
and showed me many ways to worship Him.

they inspired me by their humble, persevering service to the younger
women and our children.  they invited me into their homes, fed me
delicious meals and encouraged me to respect my husband and raise
my children in a Godly home.

i watched them very carefully and followed along in their footsteps.
it's humbling and a little unsettling to think that there are young
women behind me now.

i have so much to learn still.

titus 2:4 says that "we are to train up the younger women to love their
husbands and children."

i better get busy,

princess samara

dear samara,

when isaac, shelby, max, sunday, and hailey were little, i made up
stories like this for them.

once upon a time in a far away kingdom there lived a precious little
princess named samara. she had beautiful curly hair, twinkly green
eyes, and a cute little pixy nose.

every morning, when the sun first peaked beneath her curtains, she
would jump out of her royal bed to peak out the turret window.  then
she would decide if she and her kitten would fish in the bubbling
stream, explore the great forest, or ride her royal pony.

that morning she spied her father, king matt, and brothers, prince asa
and prince phin, mounting their royal horses!

she quickly scooped up her kitten, ran down the hundred stairs, and
pounced out onto the courtyard.

"papa, please let me go with you!"

"she can't go! she's way too small," said prince asa and prince phin.

"they're right, samara.  this is a very dangerous hunt, and you are
much too little.  i couldn't bear for you to get hurt,"  said her kind papa,
the king.

off they galloped, leaving princess samara in a trail of dust.  she
stomped her royal foot, picked up her kitten, and stormed into the
castle kitchen.

flour was floating in the sunlit doorway, fragrant bread was baking in
the ovens, and chocolate pies were cooling on the window ledges.

"may i help? please let me help you make something!"

"out!  out of my kitchen!" said the royal baker.  "you are much too  tiny
to be of any help here."  but she smiled gently and gave princess samara
a delicious bun, still warm from the royal ovens.

sharing the treat with her kitten, princess samara plodded sadly to her
mother's chamber.  she found queen emily and all her maidens on their
hands and knees peaking beneath her royal bed.

"oh, samara, you are just in time!  we have been counting out coins
from the royal treasury to give to the poor villagers.  one of the coins fell
to the ground and prince ilo crawled under the bed with it. we are
terrified that he will plop it into his mouth and choke to death!" queen
emily cried.

princess samara scrambled under the bed and handed her kitten to
prince ilo, who promptly dropped the coin.

"thank heavens you are still small enough to do important things," said
queen emily and gave her the biggest hug in the kingdom...and lots of
kisses, too.

merry Christmas,
miss lea

Saturday, December 19, 2009

sleep in heavenly peace

dear emily,

many years ago, a college friend and i were catching up on each others'
families.  she had two beautiful children to my motley crew of five and
a very different kind of life.

she said that her average day consisted of getting up at 6:00 to put on
her make-up in the morning.   make-up in the morning?  i was lucky
to WAKE up in the morning.

then she gathered up the dirty clothes, threw them over the upstairs
rail, awakened the kids, made breakfast, and flew out the door to take
the kids to school around 7:00.

i was astounded, confounded, dumfounded.

at the same time she was towing her children out the door, mine were
tumbling into the kitchen and onto my lap for a morning snuggle.   i
would have just started my devotions that never seemed to last longer
than 30 seconds.

one of my favorite things about home-schooling was that i never had to
awaken a baby to take an older sibling to school.  i never even had to
awaken the older sibling.  they slept as long as their little bodies needed.

isaac was usually the first to rise, and we frequently had math and
reading completed before the others were ready for their breakfast.
it was a totally unorthodox way to do things, but it worked for us.  that
is the goal, i think, to figure out what works for your family, not to try
to be like other families.

galatians 6:4 says "don't compare yourselves to others."  be your own
sweet family, which you do so brilliantly.

lea hear the angels sing.

dear emily,

one of the most rewarding roles of motherhood is rescuing our children.
unfortunately, we can't always...and shouldn't always, but when we
can, it just doesn't get better than that.  here's a special rescue story.

a mom overheard her eight year old son and his friends regretting that
they couldn't sing in the school Christmas program.  apparently, they
didn't sing well enough.  imagine her outrage!

so she marched them to the piano and had them sing  'it came upon a
midnight clear' from the program.  afterward, she sympathized with the
teacher.  they not only could not sing the notes, they could not sing any
note.  she had to start at the very beginning...

every afternoon after school she spent time teaching them to find a note,
by playing it and having them try to sing it.  eventually, they progressed
to linking two notes, three notes, and finally, the entire song.  the boys
especially loved the line, "the world in solemn stillness lay to hear the
angels sing."

after watching the boys do a wonderful job in the school program,
though thrilled for them, the mother was feeling a little glum for not
having been a little appreciated for her hard work.

walking home, hand in hand with her son on that still, snowy night,
she heard him say, "mom, i think i heard them."

"heard who, honey?"

"the angels sing..."

thanks received.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas anorexia

dear emily,

when all the kids left to go back to school after thanksgiving, i had two
choices:  feel sorry for myself or decorate for their return.  so, i threw
myself into the Christmas spirit and worked diligently for days.  when i
came up for air, i was pretty pleased with myself.  the house had never
looked more festive.

after many days of living with it, though, i walked into the family room
and whined, "i can't see any Christmas anymore."

hans and hailey's jaws dropped open, and hailey said, "mom,
every corner, table, and surface of our entire house has a Christmas
decoration on it.  there are lights everywhere, santas everywhere, angels
everywhere, and mangers everywhere!  i think you have Christmas

i hope they don't check me into one of those clinics...

merry Christmas,

saved by the carol

dear emily,

hans and the kids have teased me a lot through the years, because i
don't really understand sports.  all i have ever known is music and
literature.  imagine my delight at receiving this clandestine phone

"mom?" one of my sons was on the other line and i could barely hear

"honey, are you ok?" i ask worriedly.

"mom, i don't have much time and may have to hang up on you."

"honey, are you in trouble?"

"how do you finish this line, 'angels we have heard...'?" whispered my son.

" 'on high'...but"

"awesome!  now how about, 'o little town of bethlehem...'?"

" 'how still we see thee lie! ' what is going on?" beginning to get a
little frustrated.

"sweet!  what comes after this? 'angels from the realms of glory'?"

"'wing your flight o'er all the earth'...  do you need me to call the

"oh no, i gotta hang up!  stay by the phone!"  now i had visions of
kidnappers with my precious baby wrapped up in duct tape.

the phone rang again.


"oh honey, are you hurt?  where are you?"

"no worries, mom.  mr. mccoy was just walking by and i didn't want
him to see me on the phone."


"just fill this line in:  'what child is this?...' "

"'who laid to rest on mary's lap is sleeping'  will you please tell me
what is going on?"

"thanks, mom!  you're a life saver!  i told my buddies that no one
knew more Christmas songs than you!"

dial tone...

turns out his physics teacher gave the class a bonus pre-Christmas
test, that i helped them cheat their way through.  a better mom
would have made them 'fess up, but i was just so proud...

...that my superior knowledge of Chrismas carols won the game!


grandma goldie's coming to town!

dear emily,

shelby said that your parents are coming to town, and i can't
imagine how excited asa, phin, samara, and ilo are!  well,
actually, i can, because i lived and breathed for my grandma
goldie's visits.

if grandma calhoon was truth, then grandma goldie was grace.
between the two of them, i had a pretty clear picture of Jesus!
one taught me how to read the bible and live uprightly.  the
other showed me how to care for the poor and love the down

i have lost track of how many abandoned kitties and puppies she
took in or how many old ladies she visited at the nursing home.
it is shameful to me to remember that i never wanted to go with
her to wash and 'set' their hair, because i didn't like how they

i did love every other minute with her...sneaking the car out at
5:00 a.m. when i was five years old,  eating as much candy as
i wanted, reading as long as i wanted, even helping her clean
the rooms in her little motel.  it probably made her work take
longer with me tagging along, but we both enjoyed it so much,
we didn't care.

then, joy of joys, we got to take our coffee break at the motel
restaurant.  she let me have real coffee with lots of cream and
sugar . . . heaven!

at Christmas, all my siblings would get so excited to anticipate
what santa might bring them.  i was more interested in  how
long grandma goldie could stay.  when i was only four i sat on
the curb and cried for the longest  time because i realized we
only had one more day...

i wish i still had one more day,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

four year old, beer drinking burglar

dear emily,

i just heard a news report about a 4 year old who was discovered at 1:45
in the morning, drinking beer and lugging packages that he had stolen
from neighborhood homes.

this is disturbing on so many points that i don't even know where to

how did he open the beer can?  i don't think four year old thumbs are
strong or nimble enough to do that.

what was he doing outside, alone, at that time?

how did he break into the homes?

the story proceeded to say that he was trying to get caught so he could
go to jail and see his daddy.  so we know where his daddy was, but...

where was his mommy?

poor little guy.  it breaks my heart.  i pray that some kind soul will cross
his path and lead him to the One who will never leave or forsake him.


"everything seems hopeless...i'm completely depressed."-charlie brown

dear emily,

linus prodded me to do some investigating into the life of his creator,
charles schulz

when your kids suffer failure and humiliation, you can tell them that
the world's most famous cartoonist had more than his share, too.

good grief!

his high school paper turned down every single cartoon he ever sub-
mitted, but he eventually made $30 million a year from 'peanuts.'

his first love, a beautiful red-head, refused his marriage proposal.
charlie brown used to say, "nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter
quite like unrequited love," when referring to his beautiful red-haired

he was sent to war the day after his mother died of cancer.  when
ordered to throw a grenade into a camp, he refused, because he saw
a little dog in it....snoopy!

he flunked countless subjects in school, coming to the realization that
"in the book of life the answers aren't in the back."

"happiness is anyone or anything that loves you,"

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

keeping pappy, happy!

cdear emily,

another way to keep a rewarding, loving marriage is to have a
consistent date night.  my mom gave me this advice not long after
we brought our first baby, isaac, home from the hospital.

she told me to brush my hair, put on some make up and a pretty
dress, and go out to dinner with hans.  moms are so bossy!  she also
admonished us to not talk the entire time about our beautiful,
wonderful baby.  that was the hardest part, because we were so
enthralled with him.

instead, we talked about each other and our dreams for the future.
we kept the coals of our pre-children love burning by investing in
that relationship.

as our covey expanded, it became harder to find the time.  basketball
games, ballet and piano recitals, school programs all competed with
our weekly date, but we held fast and firm to it.  we had to get very
creative and that made it more valuable and fun.

after 30 years, we still have that standing date.

what you do after the date, is up to you....but we have a saying in our
house, "keep pappy, happy!"   1 corinthians 7:3-5


Monday, December 14, 2009

mothers and fathers

dear emily,

it is extremely difficult to parent effectively if our marriages are a wreck.
you know this, because you counseled our precious shelby before her
marriage, and your marriage is an inspiration to her and dan.  what a
prince she has for a husband!

the foundation of our families is the relationship we have with our
husbands. if we do not have a loving, fulfilling marriage, the chances
are good that the children will not have a secure, happy childhood.
now that our little ones have left the nest, i can assure you that i am
very grateful that hans and i not only still love each other, but LIKE
each other, too!

we must respect our husbands.  we show him respect in many small
ways that add up quickly to make him feel honored.  listen to his
stories from work and be attentive to his devotions to our children.
let our children see how much we  admire him.  we must never, ever
speak in sarcastic tones, roll our eyes, or murmur under our breath.
these are all signs of disrespect that the kids will mimic.

resolve differences in a congenial manner.  it is not necessary to yell
or be ugly to offer an opinion.  this will teach our children how to
address disagreements in a positive way.  we model more than we
teach.  when we prefer each other, we are teaching our children to
do that, also.

they need to understand that the core of our family is not them but
their mother and father, yielding to their heavenly Father.  the children
are part of that solar system but not its center.  (got that from hans)

"...let the wife see that she respects her husband."  ephesians 5:3


hear no evil, speak no evil

hey emily,

when max was three or four and up to some orneriness, he would say to
me, "mommy, don't see me!"

what a great illustration of how we want to hide the ugliness in
ourselves.  unfortunately, the Lord tells us that whatever is done in
secret, will be shouted from the rooftops.  not exactly a refrigerator verse...

it has been said that the truest indicator of our hearts' condition is how
we speak to our husbands and children when no one is
we talk about our friends when they are not we treat
those who are the least in the Kingdom.


'special' friends

dear emily,

my friend brenda just chastised me for neglecting to write you.
you would love her, because she has all the same aspirations and
has succeeded in raising five amazing children.  she is also very
'crafty' like you!

we have homeschooled our 10 children together, taken vacations
together, saved each other's lives multiple times, and endured our
husbands' best friend status for over 25 years.  when the Lord gave
brenda to paul, He was really handing a special present to me.

so, i guess this is really about friends, again.  i don't think it is
possible to raise Godly kids in a vacuum.  they begin to tune us out
as they grow up, but continue to listen to wise men and women
who have poured love and fun into their lives.

my girls pay special attention to brenda's wisdom and would
shudder to disappoint her.  she has taught them how to cook, put
pills down dogs' throats, be mountain women, and make 'brenda
balls' (delicious peanut butter filled chocolate candies.)

her extremely high standards for purity have made a profound
impression on each of them.

the boys think paul is the coolest dad ever and love to ski and fish
with him. one of my favorite paul stories is of him on the stream,
untangling his hook from a branch, saying casually, "fishing
rod-$300, patagonia vest-$150, waterproof pants and shoes-$200,
....the ability to cast, priceless!"

during those outings, he has taken numerous opportunities to spur
them on to pursue adventures in the Lord.

...some friends are more loyal than 'brothers'.   proverbs 18:24


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

out of the mouth of babes

dear emily,

i have been mentoring a six year old girl named taylor who has stolen my heart.  today, i recited luke 2 to her, worrying that all the census taking might be a little above her head.  she said, "my mom would have to go all the way to california to register."

she asked me if i could bring mcdonald's for our lunch, and when she saw that i had a happy meal for each of us, said, "oh, you remembered to bring one for my brother!"  gulp...i hope he didn't mind drinking iced tea.

when she noticed that there were two happy meal toys, she promptly gave one away to her friend maya, who then gave her toy to taylor.  i started to say, "see, if you share..." but she finished, "someone shares with you!"

i thought i was doing a good deed to befriend an impoverished child, but she is much more generous and thoughtful than me.

it's almost as if the Lord is saying,"ok, we really need to get this poor lady a mentor! about that sweet, little taylor?"


awesome pastor's wife

dear emily,

our pastor's wife, sandi paschal, is teaching a 12 week class to help young moms train up their children.  she is a very inspiring, awesome role model and has raised three precious, spirit-led children.  it makes me happy that someone with her authority has such a heart for young women.

so....if you are near tulsa's first methodist church on wednesday nights at 6:30, go!

emily, if you ever want to make the trip over with some friends, we can put you up here and babysit your kids while you go to the class.

merry Christmas,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

He's got the whole world in His hands

dear emily,

a few months ago, shelby called to have your adorable, three year old samara sing me a song in her sweet little voice.  then i sang 'He's got the whole world...' i could hear her start to giggle, and then shelby laugh hysterically. when she could talk, shelby said, "samara thought you sang 'He's got the whole world in His pants!!!"

this reminded me of max when he was about four, and hans and i were all dressed up for a black tie event.  as we were leaving, max looked up to see my fancy dress, and asked, "mommy, are you going to get  married?"

what a sweet illustration of misunderstanding.  we must be at least that confused when trying to understand the One "whose ways are not our ways."  i wonder if He, along with His loving companions, chuckle at our blunders.

i am singing 'i wonder as i wander' on sunday and have been so moved to consider the babe who came to die for us all.  to think that He divested Himself of His glory and came to live among us...

ephesians 4:10 tells us that He then ascended higher than the heavens to not only have the whole world in His hands, but to also fill the whole universe!

i'm with samara on that one,

Thursday, December 3, 2009


dear emily,

have you ever noticed that some women are just naturally gracious?  one of my idols is an 80 year old great grandma, who sings like an angel, looks perfectly beautiful ALL THE TIME, and always has the most gracious and kind words for everyone.  it is so tempting to hate her...except she is just too lovable!

today, a man said that she should teach classes to young women, because they don't seem to understand how to be ladies.

here's what i think she would say:

1.  love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and strength...and your
     neighbor as yourself.

2.  take a little time each day to put yourself together (hair, make-up,
     clothes that flatter.)

3.  if you think kind thoughts about people, your kind words will follow.

4.  stand up nice and straight.

5.  be well prepared for everything you do.

6.  have a sense of humor and don't take yourself too seriously.

7.  encourage those who need it and be a friend to the lonely.

i'm going to ask her for some more tips...

lonely moms

dear emily,

a sweet, young friend was telling me how lonely it can be as a mom and how much she longs for more encouragement and adult companionship.  as much as she adores her little boys, they can't really converse about cultural events, politics, or fashion.   her precious husband can only answer so many, "does this make me look fat?" questions.

my friends and i, along with our numerous kiddos, had standing play dates at the park, lunches at mcdonalds, and bible studies at the church.  the children enjoyed these outings as much as we did and were motivated to finish chores and school to have some fun.

it's much more rewarding to push the swing for the 100th time, while commiserating with a friend about her marriage, lack of sleep, and Christmas errands.  exchanging a glance with someone who understands, helps ease the frustration of untangling another skirmish on the playground.

as women, we have such an intense need for fellowship that we have to feed it...or become lonely.  in the olden days, they sewed or canned together.  we have to figure out what we can do.

a few things come to mind:  take turns helping each other with housework, let the kids watch a movie while we wrap packages together,  have baking days, etc.  any chore is more fun with a friend.

it is comforting to know that the Lord understands all about our need for companionship and even described Himself as a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  He also gently leads those with little ones.  how precious is that?

deep and wide

dear emily,

a wise woman steered me to the scriptures when praying for my children.  i just insert their names and pray, believing He is able to do what He says.

ephesians 3:14-19

"for this reason i kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  i pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen ____ with power through His Spirit in their inner being, so that Christ may dwell in their hearts through faith.

and i pray that they, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how WIDE and LONG and HIGH and DEEP is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge-

that they may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."


ps.  i include your little ones, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

the governor of cereal

dear emily,

i have been thinking about the fun Christmas traditions we enjoyed with our kids.   the first craft was to make red and green  paper chains with 25 links. each day the kids would take turns cutting off one link to show how close we were to Christmas day.  we decorated yummy Christmas cookies and gingerbread men and assembled gingerbread houses that were loaded with every kind of candy imaginable.

my aunt fern started me a collection of Christmas books that we treasure. some of the loveliest tales ever written are Christmas stories.  i especially love one about a lonely young bride who makes a Christmas dinner for her family and the farm hands.  it paints a moving picture of selfless love, simplicity,  and gratitude.

as an act of rebellion, i play Christmas music on halloween and throughout the season.  it makes me happy that at Christmas i can hear Jesus' name lifted up in all the places He is no longer allowed!  i have stood in endless grocery store lines humming along to "do you hear what i hear? and o holy night." that only happens at Christmas.  my kids think i am nutty about Christmas music.

when the children were really little, they enacted the Christmas story. isaac was joseph, shelby played mary, max was the donkey,  sunday and hailey traded between being sheep, shepherds, angels, or the inn keeper.  we also memorized luke 2 and recited it each year.  the little ones inevitably said, "when quirinius was the governor of cereal."  i didn't have the heart to correct them, because it was just so sweet.

merry Christmas,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

psalms 100

dear emily,

'make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.'

nobody does this better than children.  while your hands are greasy from stuffing the turkey, you can bet
there will be a very loud noise erupt from the farthest corner of your house.

'serve the Lord with gladness: come before His presence with singing.'

in assigning chores for the thanksgiving feast, remind the little noisemakers that servants are the heroes in the Kingdom.

'know ye that the Lord He is God:  it is He that has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of his pasture.
enter His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him and bless His name.'

we used to share what we were thankful for before eating the thanksgiving meal.  if someone was a little nervous speaking in front of our huge extended family, i would read it for him.  i think someone said,
'halloween candy' one year.

'for the Lord is good: His mercy is everlasting: and His truth endureth to all generations.'


happy thanksgiving,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

dear emily,

i awoke in the middle of the night, thinking, "i really need to alert emily about teenagers!"  even though you still have six or seven years until that time, it will help you to keep this in your cap until then.

many of our friends parented with the goal of helping their kids to make only good decisions, which is a fine aspiration. unfortunately, it is like wishing for an ocean and beach to miraculously appear in your backyard!

it is inherent for teens to make foolish and dangerous choices, because they think they are indestructible.

if you can accept this now, you will parent it better then.  when they slip up, try to encourage yourself with the truth that they rarely do it to hurt you.  we know this is true, because, honestly they don't think about their parents often. :)

another comforting reality is that while they are still at home, they have you to pull them up by their bootstraps, love them, forgive them, and correct them.   every poor choice and consequence will hopefully inoculate them from repetition after they leave home.

your gracious yet firm response will, more importantly, rebuild their fragile egos with your unconditional love.

pray psalm 91 over them each day and trust that the One who holds them in the palm of His hand
will keep them from serious harm.


peanut gallery comments, please!

dear emily,

hans said that i should open this up for other moms to post advice, and i think that is a great idea! i was a little worried about 'weird' postings, but after reviewing some of mine think they would fit right in...

then my friend, yleana, told me that she wasn't able to comment on my letters. after checking, i discovered that i had inadvertently pushed a button to not allow comments! this is basically how i raised my kids..."no comments from children, please." :)

so, if you or your friends remember wonderful...or terrible things your moms did, just push the comment button and enlighten us!


ps. happy thanksgiving to your little turkeys!


"my mom made us verbalize the bad stuff we did or said and also tell her our motivation. sorry was not good enough. lesson: own what you have done before moving on." -jordania

"independent moms can sure create dependent children...we tend to jump in faster...and what does
this child learn? to keep coming to me...and to question her own judgment!" -lael

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


i recruited some help from wise women:

"take their door off the hinges to show them who the house belongs to!" -becky and tamra

"don't always bail them out of every fix." -laura

Friday, November 13, 2009

nine lives

dear emily,

i bet you miss your biology classes some days when you spend your time, instead, changing diapers and wiping runny noses.  let not your heart be troubled, because you will have many adventures after your sweet babies have left the nest.

let me encourage you with some stories about my grandmother.  if the proverbial cat has nine lives, then she had at least that many!

in her first life, her family came to oklahoma in a covered wagon to be missionaries to the indians.

her second life brought marriage and her third, eight children!

her fourth life brought her widowhood, as her husband and oldest child were murdered in her kitchen...
a devastating heartbreak still.

was her life over? absolutely not!

instead, she had a fifth life in raising those seven children not only to keep up the family farm, but also to excel in school.

her sixth life took her to the campus of northwestern university, where she was the dorm mom (my dad had to live his senior year in a tiny dorm room with her.)  this provided the tuition waiver for her oldest kids to attend college. after all seven children graduated from college, three attended medical school and one, law school.

the impoverished med and law students passed her '57 chevy between them until it journeyed to my cousin lane.  she painted it pink, named it 'talulah', and then sent it to me for my 16th birthday!

are you keeping up?

ok, now grandma was in her fifties and retiring to the rocking way!  in her seventh life SHE went to college and became the best first grade teacher ever! i was old enough by then to visit her class.

her eighth life took her to seminary and ordination as a methodist minister at the young age of  65.  she had a little church in manter, kansas for many years, which i was happy to attend.

in her late seventies, she did finally become the secretary to the ORU chaplain and to disciple young ORU married students in her tiny cottage.  one of my best friends, anna mae, was in that blessed group.  that makes nine!

in her tenth life, she traveled all around the world, taking me to israel when she was 84!!!

take that, kitty kitty!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


dear emily,

my children heard me say "be a blessing!" every time they walked out the door.

i wanted them to be cheerful, kind, obedient, peaceful, and helpful.  they understood that all these actions were necessary to be a blessing, and we practiced them every day at home.  

this required me to conform to the same standard, and i can assure you, they would let me know when i was grumpy or impatient.  all of us continuously fell below the benchmark,  but we asked forgiveness and then tried harder.

i used to dread teachers' conferences for fear of what i might hear.  there were comments like, "hailey is just the sweetest thing, but she falls asleep during history every day."  that teacher eventually had the other students color while she took her nap!

another teacher remarked, "shelby is easily the brightest and most helpful child in the class, but would you remind her that i am the teacher?"

on several occasions, teachers would burst into tears and say, "your child has been the biggest blessing in my classroom.  i have never had a more caring or obedient student!"  then i would burst into tears.

that didn't happen often in high school...


galatians 5:24
'the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.'

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

snakes on a plane!

ha ha!  shelby just told me that it is "snakes on a plane!"  oh well...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

snakes on the plane

dear emily,

i keep seeing commercials for this silly movie called 'snakes on the plane.' anyone who fears snakes on a plane has never been on one with a baby!

the terror rises while you stumble down the entry ramp towards the cabin door. the lovely and skinny young flight attendant is not happy to see you carrying your 15 pound baby, his 25 pound diaper bag, balancing your ticket and his pacifier between your first and second fingers, and dragging the stroller behind.

you are praying that your seatmate is an understanding and helpful mommy, maybe even your own mommy! 6 A B, 7 A B, 8 A smile nervously at the intimidating business man in his very expensive pinstripe suit and reptile shoes.

he does not smile back.

your sweet baby, who is vibing on your stress, is already getting a little fussy.

the thought of nursing your baby, with an uptight executive next to you, makes you want to wean him. then, horrors, your precious baby throws up all over mr. pinstripe, who hisses with displeasure.

your baby, however, is now content and sleepy, and you no longer care about a snake on the plane.


hey emily,

thank you for your sweet note and the darling drawings by the kiddos!

i have been thinking about our friends. we know how important it is for our children to choose their friends wisely. "show me your friends, and i will show you your future!" it is just as worthwhile that we, also, select our friends carefully.

when hans and i returned to our hometown after college, we decided that we wouldn't run with the affluent crowd. to be perfectly honest, i was afraid that i would get caught up in trivial things that i knew i had a weakness for.  so, instead, we knit our lives with those who were following the Lord, just like you are.

those dear friends prayed all night when we almost lost our first baby and later took our kids to the emergency room when we were out of town. we have cheered on each other's children in every sporting event imaginable, prayed for their success in all they do, and cried over their heartbreaks.

we have recently spent time with some of our oldest and dearest friends, and it melted our hearts to hear how devoted they are to our children. we love their beautiful daughters and are becoming friends, now, with their grandchildren!

thank you for being a devoted friend to shelby and hailey.

someday, your kids will befriend their kids...and on and on and on...

proverbs 17:17
'a friend loves at all times...'

Thursday, November 5, 2009

strong-willed children

dear emily,

james dobson saved my life with our strong willed daughter, shelby.  he encouraged me to not look at her nature as a trial but as a life with a strong purpose.  truthfully, though there were difficult aspects in raising such a strong will, the benefits dramatically outweighed the obstacles.

who would you rather have on your team, the person who doesn't really care or the one who knows the best way to win?

she really had the most brilliant ideas and constantly implored me to do better. i wish i had discovered earlier that her opposition to many things stemmed from her ability to improve ...almost everything i did. unfortunately, it never dawned on me that a three year old had a finer sense of schedules, clothing, cooking, cleaning, etc. than her mother!

no children's expert ever said, "some of you have children that can help you be a better mother." they all said, "whatever you do, make sure your strong willed child knows that you are the boss!"  so, one time i asked her in exasperation, "who do you think is the boss around here?"

she calmly replied, "me."

i wish i had just given her the car keys right then.

so, here is the balance.   she needed to know not only that mom and dad were the ultimate bosses but also that her opinions were valued and occasionally implemented.

a wise person once told us to never ask a child to do something or not to do something unless we were prepared to back it up.   this forced hans and i to think before we said things.   if we asked shelby to pick up her room, and she didn't do it, she had a consequence.  if she ran into the street after we told her not to, there was another consequence.

in spite of my many mistakes, shelby is now a precious young woman of God.  your little samara will be, too!


1 timothy 4:12
'don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.'

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

saved by the blanket

dear emily,

i performed many crazy experiments on my children. they suffered through my extreme health craze, no TV phase (for three or four years), and fanatical 'no santa' syndrome. i feel embarrassed about some of them, but am the most mystified by the blanket trick, because i only know of one other person who ever taught this to their toddlers.

there were many older women who gave me excellent child-rearing advice, but one surpassed them all. she taught me that you can spend all your time running around cleaning up messes and saving your kids from dangerous situations. but it is wiser to put that time to good use by training them to do little german shepherds! jk

she said that if i were to train my little puppies to sit on a blanket with special toys and books for a couple of minutes a day, they would become accustomed to it. then i would be able to take them anywhere, and they would feel safe with their blanket and not be so fidgety.

basically they could learn 'to stay' on the blanket.

yeah, right.

being the maniacal mother that i was, i tried it. i bought the most colorful,
soft blanket i could find and four or five new toys. then, i sat down beside
my toddler and said that we could only play with those special toys while
we sat on that blanket. after two or three minutes, i picked up the toys
and blanket and told him we could play with them again the next day.

that was the hard part, because he really liked those new toys! but
toddlers, like puppies, are easily distracted. i re-enacted this little
routine everyday, increasing the time to about fifteen minutes, until he
even sat by himself. if he got up off the blanket, i simply withdrew the
toys for the next day.  (pavlov's bell) :)

i kid you not, in a week's time, i would say, "max, play on the blanket with
your toys," and he did it! hans and i could take any of our five kiddos
anywhere, with that blanket, and they were happy as clams....for ten or
fifteen minutes. honestly, ten or fifteen minutes of peace was worth the
hours of training! when the children were older, three or four, i did not
subject them to the indignity of blanket sitting. this was just a toddler tool.

i would wait until the 'witching hour', fifteen minutes before hans came
home when the children were bored to tears with me, to pull out the
blanket. then i could breathe a big sigh of relief, because i knew the
ultimate 'blanket' was about to walk in the door.

can't think of a single scripture for this...umm, gideon, i think, put out a
blanket as a fleece before the Lord about a battle...judges 6:36-39

Monday, November 2, 2009

little boys

dear emily,

don't you just adore little boys? there is something about their carefree, ornery zest for life that just slays me. i love that you let asa and phin get just as dirty as they need to play as hard as they should. nothing is more winsome than a dirt-smudged smile and an excited high-pitched voice saying, "mommy, look what i found for you!" it's also a little scary...a flower from your garden or a snake from the creek?
it is pretty adorable, too, how much they revere their daddies. my boys used to watch out the front window for hans to return home and then tackle him at the door. no matter how tired he was, he would throw them over his shoulder and hurl them onto the couch. this was the signal for 'chinese team!' the shrieks of laughter would increase and someone would inevitably get hurt, but what fun they had playing this mysterious game.

their natures are wired to hunt, gather, and protect. i'm not sure if 'chinese team' taught them much more than that they had to be a little tough to play and that their daddy loved them a lot. when isaac was three, he used to pretend to be samson between a column and the couch. he would close his eyes and say, "let me die with the philistines!", imagining that he was bringing the whole house down.

we don't know what the Lord has specifically planned for our sons, but we can prepare them for most anything by teaching them that He loves them even more than their daddies do and that He will equip them for any task. we can pray that they will be valiant and courageous, with hearts turned toward the Lord and wills bent to obey.

ezekiel 22:30
'i looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap...'


dear emily,

i was a plain, introverted little girl, completely content to be left alone to read 'black beauty' and 'little women.'...until the fateful day i discovered make-up! before the annual church choir banquet, my gorgeous mother applied the tiniest bit of mascara to my pale, lifeless, puny lashes.

it was the most amazing thing to watch a skinny, homely girl turn into a choir queen! i actually did win that title at the church banquet (what kind of a church has a choir queen?) it was heartbreaking to wash off my beauty that night before i went to bed, and the next day at school, i kept wanting to tell all the kids, "you don't understand, i really AM beautiful!"

the good news was that i still had 'black beauty.'

hans and i decided, before we even had girls, that we would never speak to them about their looks. we wanted them to be confident in who God made them to be and not in how He made them to appear. we worried that if we extolled their 'outside', they might neglect their 'inside'.

1 peter 3:3,4 'your beauty should not come from outward adornment...instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.'

i have a dear friend whose mother wouldn't allow her to fast in high school, because she worried about the health risk. so my intrepid friend barbie fasted makeup one day a HIGH SCHOOL! needless to say, she is a mighty woman of God.

even with our good intentions, when the girls hit high school and saw us as the ignorant, annoying people we were, we threw out our principles and shouted desperately, 'we think you're beautiful!'

Saturday, October 31, 2009

a cup of cold water

dear emily,

i just read margaret jones' witty and sensible posting on being sane and single. she has the spirit of jane austen in her!

in responding to your worries about being a wise and loving mommy to your four precious children, i have been prodded back to sweet days that i treasure. oh, to have one of my little ones bouncing on my knee again! thankfully, i occasionally have yours to fill that role.

hans used to tell me that i was a cup of cold water to our children. most days i felt like lukewarm dishwater! there was never an end to diapers to be changed, meals to be prepared, or knees to be bandaged and kissed. after falling into the rocker to nurse the baby, an older child would inevitably want me to read him a story or get him a cup of water.

that is when i felt the weakest and most impatient. i would lean into the
Lord and ask for strength and grace, and He would amply supply that
need. then we would settle into another chapter of "the fantastic mr. fox"
...and fill another cup of water.

and, of course, He would fill another cup for me, too.

matthew 10:42
'if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, i tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward."

Friday, October 2, 2009

lilies of the field

i have been encouraged to take a weekly sabbath rest from blogging,
and i like the idea.  in lieu of a new post, i will be re-posting an old

lilies of the field . . .  october 31, 2009

when i was in highschool, all the kids listened to fleetwood mac, james taylor, or kenny loggins, but i idolized barbra streisand. it was so uncool that i didn't tell anyone besides my boyfriend, who promptly bought me four of her albums.

i, of course, married him.

i recently read a quote of barbra's, "i always wear the same thing at home. i can't be bothered with jewelry. my pants have elastic waists. i like to be comfortable." now she is totally my idol.

sometimes i'm afraid my kids will turn me into "what not to wear". stacy and clinton would have a field day with my uniform of sweat pants and oversized denim shirts.

there were only two hard and fast fashion rules in our home, modesty and well, modesty. shelby was the basketball trainer in highschool just as low rise jeans became popular. i told her that anytime i saw skin between her shirt and jeans at the basketball games, she would have to pay me two dollars. 

we didn't purchase expensive handbags, etc. for the girls, because it seemed foolish to allow them to think that fashion was that important. the boys, on the other hand, did wear 'michael jordans'. such a double standard!

when the kids were little, they mostly looked like little street urchins
from fagin's band of pick-pockets.    i sort of liked them that way.  

we wanted those little urchins to know that what you wear is less
important than what is in your heart.

matthew 6:28
'consider the lilies of the field, how they neither toil or spin, yet i tell
you, even solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.'