The Party’s Over . . .

The Party’s Over . . .

The house is quiet now. Way too quiet. And way too orderly. Only the ticking away of my Mom’s grandfather clock, reminding me that time moves on. 

For 38 glorious days, our home has been filled with the voices of children. My ten favorite children, to be precise. Shouts and giggles and fun and laughter and crying and bickering and “time outs” and whispered conversations between cousins coming from the “craft closet” (our master bedroom closet, repurposed) and loud games interspersed with “No, it’s my turn!” . . . You get the picture. 38 days of glorious chaos.

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Whatever he’s doing . . . Happy Father’s Day!

Whatever he’s doing . . . Happy Father’s Day!

A little boy is on the phone in a long-ago kitchen with his best friend, Adam.It’s Saturday morning, and Adam is trying to persuade Bjorn to come over and play.“Not today, Adam,” Bjorn says. “My dad’s off this weekend and that means we get to spend the morning with him.” Adam is insistent: “O come on, Bjorn. What are you going to do this morning anyway?” Bjorn: “I don’t know, Adam. But whatever my dad is doing, I’m doing.”

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The Cross and the Lily

The Cross and the Lily

I was a craft-challenged mama. Sort of the anti-Martha Stewart. The very words “Next week we’re going to do a simple craft” struck terror in my soul. When it came to “making things,” my fingers just didn’t seem to work. The fingers that could play the piano and write essays and turn book pages by the hour simply froze when the popsicle sticks and glue came out. My heart just wasn’t in it. It’s a good thing Pinterest wasn’t around when my kids were small. I can’t imagine how I would have beat down the false-failure-as-a-mom (please note the word “false”) feelings. 

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Planet Nana . . . and Back

Planet Nana . . . and Back

Oh, the joys of "Planet Nana." We had all our family under one roof for a few fleeting hours (actually, it was a couple of days, but they flew like hours). All 18 (!) of us crammed in our little condo. Ten grandkids aged 3 months through 10 years, four of them in diapers. Four in Pack’n Plays, six sleeping on our bedroom floor in sleeping bags. Glorious chaos.

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Home for Christmas

Home for Christmas

So there it is.  “All hearts come home for Christmas.”  The sign I have so loved for years.  Well, most years.

Last year I almost didn’t put it up. None of our kids or grandkids were “home for Christmas.” Not in our home, that is. They were in their own homes or sharing Christmas with a spouse’s family in their home. All as it should be. A reality of this chapter of life, whether I like it or not. And so I rationalized about my sign last year: in their hearts, I know they come home for Christmas. More importantly, they know where their True Home is. 

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That Time of Year

It’s that time of year again. Malls are full of back-to-school shoppers. TV ads blare back-to-school sales. (I’m reminded of my favorite ad from years gone by: a woman waltzing through a store gathering school supplies for her kids and belting out, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . .” ) A daughter-in-law prepares, with a full heart, to send both her kids off to school for the first time.  And mom Facebook friends have been posting since early August: “It should be time for them to go back to school by now, right?  Right?”

Then there are the conversations. “We just took our first child off to college . . .”  “I’m so proud of her . . . but how do you do this?”  It’s not the going: The excitement and trepidation and drama of getting ready. Lists checked off. Bedding and supplies gathered.  Goodbyes to friends. The iconic packing of the car. The trip down there, with lots of silence in the backseat. The butterflies in the stomach (all stomachs in the car, that is).  The trepidations about The Roommate. And then the excitement: New places. New friends. New vistas. Courageous smiles. No, it’s not the going.

It’s the coming home. Without them. Just you and him (if you are fortunate enough to have him). When we took our first son to college, I had just—ironically—finished the lesson on Hannah for our Mom to Mom curriculum.  Hannah’s words had been our verse when we dedicated this boy so many years ago: “For this child I prayed . . .”  (Read, if you have the courage, the rest in 1 Samuel 1:27-28.) Through the driving rainstorm between here and Williamsburg, Virginia, God gently reminded me: “Did you mean it, Linda?  You know, the part about “as long as he lives, he will be lent to the Lord”? Do you think you can trust me with him across state lines?”

Little did I know that was just the beginning.  There were two more taking-kids-to-college trips.  Then three long (and joyful) aisles to walk down.  Deployments and ministry careers and a mission trip that became a life across an ocean.  Countless exciting trips to and many long flights from.  And there’s Hannah again:  Each year she made a special little robe and went to visit her beloved Samuel at the temple where she had committed him to God’s service.  “Then they would go home.”  (1 Samuel 2:20b)  It still gives me chills every time I read it.


I’ve just done it again. Except in reverse. All our kids were here this summer for varying and overlapping visits. Sheer joy. Nana Heaven. Ecstasy, really. We read books together (Nana’s fav) and played games and went to the beach and the pool and ate lots of pizza and ice cream and had cousin sleepovers and celebrated a BIG birthday for the much-beloved Farfar (the grandkids’ name for Woody—it means father’s father in Swedish).  


Then they went home.  Home to New Hampshire and Virginia—and Ireland.  All of them.  Home to busy, God-directed (thank you every single minute, Jesus), meaningful lives which give us joy. Great joy. But still, they went home.

So you can imagine how these words hit me from the August 23 reading in Jesus Calling:

“Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into My protective care.  They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands.  If you let a loved one become an idol in your heart, you endanger that one—as well as yourself . . .When you release your loved ones to Me, you are free to cling to My hand. . . . My Presence will go with them wherever they go, and I will give them rest.” 

Oh yes, and there’s more:

“This same Presence stays with you, as you relax and place your trust in ME.  Watch to see what I will do.”

I’m watching.        

Faith of our Mothers and Grandmothers

may-june-06-022Today’s my mother’s birthday.  She would have been 92.  She left us quietly from a hospice room one sunny December day in Ft. Myers, Florida, nearly 7 ½ years ago.   She was a deep believer, and I know one day I will see her again. So why am I still crying?

Well, for starters:  She was, next to my husband, my best friend. Being my mother, she knew me in a way no one else could.  Mothers are really the only ones on the planet who know us through and through, know us from the very beginning—and love us anyway!

She was also a great listener. She felt my sorrows along with me—maybe even more deeply than I did.  You know that old saying: “This hurts me more than it does you.”  I never believed it as a kid.  It took becoming a mother to “get it.” Now, as mother and grandmother, I get it. Big time!

And she was funny.  And spunky.  And smart.  Not highly educated—but very smart. Once a hugely successful realtor, she retired “cold turkey” when she moved to live near us.  She channeled all that energy and drive and love of people into her grandchildren, and into the many women she mentored in Mom to Mom and at Women’s Bible Study at our church.

She was also my biggest prayer partner.   She was the first one I called with every prayer request, large or small.  Or even trivial.  I would blab my heart out, and she would listen and empathize.  And pray.  When I hung up, I felt so much better—and I bet she felt a whole lot worse!  (Remember the part about mothers feeling their children’s pain?)

Recently I attended the funeral of a wonderful woman of God who reminded me a little of my mother.  Her daughter, the mother of three daughters herself, read a beautiful piece she had written for her daughters about their grandmother—and the two generations of women before her. It began: “You stand on the shoulders of four.”

I was immediately taken back to memories of not only my mother, but my two grandmothers. They were very different. Grandma was a farm lady from a tiny town in western Minnesota.  The other, my mother’s mother and my Nana, was the wife of a jeweler/postal carrier/watch repairman in Springfield, Illinois. They had very different lives and they had very different personalities.

But they had one thing in common.  Each of them came to faith through evangelistic crusades in their towns. Each of them got out of their seats and went forward alone, eventually leading their husband and families into Bible-preaching, Christ-centered churches in which to raise their children. Each of them became strong women of faith and faithful prayer warriors.

My dad loved to tell the story of how when his mother (Grandma) went forward, her husband (Grandpa) said, “Anna, you sit down.  You’re a good church woman.  You don’t need to go up there.” But Anna did not sit down. How thankful I am for that—I, along with her six other grandchildren, now having raised our own children in the path of her prayers. 

Her prayers. And Nana’s. And my mom’s and dad’s prayers as well. 

It’s those prayers that live on. What did E. M. Bounds say? “Prayers are deathless.  They outlive the lives of those who utter them.”  It’s those prayers that help me this morning to turn my tears into gratitude, my mourning into dancing. 

But I still wish we had phone lines—or at least internet connections—with Heaven.    

Seven Reasons Why You Should Celebrate Your Shared Birthday with a 5-year-old


Reason #1: You get to have a Lego Star Wars Cake with Tom Brady defeating Darth Vader on it.


Reason #2: The 5-year-old is better at blowing out candles (and besides, there aren’t so many!)


Reason #3: You can have a sleepover, with squirrely little boys playing in your bathtub in the morning.


Reason #4: You get to read really good books.


Reason #5: You can make up all kinds of games.

Reason #6: You get to go see the Paddington Bear Movie, which is great—but watch out for that mean Nicole Kidman character!


Reason #7: You can have a second (monkey bread) birthday cake for breakfast.

I’m lucky to have an almost-shared birthday with my grandson Nils.  If you don’t have a shared birthday like that, I recommend borrowing a 5-year-old from one of your friends or extended family.  They really make birthdays fun! 

Remembering Month

November is my remembering month.  I just realized that this morning.  I’ve always thought of November as my giving-thanks month.  How has it taken me so many years to realize how the two—remembering and giving thanks—are related?  


Remembering is everywhere this month.  Today I got out our Thanksgiving decorations.  When I unpack my favorites, the two pilgrims my mother-in-law always had on the Thanksgiving table when we visited,  my mind—and heart—are always flooded with memories.  

Woody and I are teaching a Sunday School class on Deuteronomy.  Here we find Moses’ final address to his (God’s!) people—one last chance to impress on them what really matters most. “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you . . . they are not just idle words . . . they are your life!” (Deuteronomy 32:46-47) 

And what are some of those words? “Remember,” Moses tells the people 16 times.  “Do not forget,” 6 more times.  Hm.  I guess he knew that, like us, his people were fast forgetters.  We need to be reminded to remember!

And what are we to remember?  Many things. But here’s a start:  

  • Remember where you came from.  “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.”  Five times (at least) Moses reminds the people of their past.
  • Remember how you got where you are.  Over and over Moses reminds the people of how God led them out of Egypt with a mighty hand, with signs and wonders and divine drama, to bring them to the land He chose for them.
  • Remember where you’re going.  They’re headed for a place God Himself chose and will provide for them.
  • Remember Who goes with you.  “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified . . . for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

So what does all this have to do with us?  Everything!  What a difference it would make in cultivating a grateful heart if we remembered 

  • where we were “before God/without God,”
  • Who it is who found us and redeemed us and gave us Life,
  • where it is we are ultimately headed, and
  • Who goes with us every step of the way.

Common denominator?  GOD.  God in our past.  God in our present.  God in our future. 

Recently we were singing with two of our grandsons as we put them to bed.  We sang the requested hymn: “Amazing Grace.”   When we finished,  Nils, who had selected this song, looked up at Woody and asked:  “Farfar?" (our grandchildren’s name for Woody, which means “father’s father” in Swedish) “Who was lost?”  After a brief discussion about John Newton and his life and conversion with this 4-year-old and his 7-year-old brother, Nils thought for a while and then said, “Oh, I get it.  ‘Lost’ means he was bad and then Jesus found him.”  

Lost.  And found!  Something to remember.  Reason indeed for gratitude.  For the Israelites—and for us.   


Random Tips on Summer Fun (thanks to my grandkids!)

Playdough_0377#1 Playdough in PJ’s is a super way to start the day.


#2  A closet makes a great craft and coloring room.


#3  Even Chuck E. Cheese can be a bonding experience.


#4  Kids of all ages love stories.


#5  Everyone needs a little glam in their life.


#6  Touching the nose is a good way to get acquainted.


#7  There’s nothing like Oreo cream-filled donuts to cheer you up.


#8  Cousins play hard and stick together.

 IceCream2_1515 IceCream1_1634

#9 Ice cream is essential.


#10  Silly families are the best.

Thankful for a July of “glorious chaos” at our house.  Here’s wishing all of you a Happy Summer!