We Were Made for Communion

My family departed–only to be gone for a few hours; yet, my heart sank, already feeling the loss. My attachment is real. Our last two children still at home interact with us in a personal, intimate way. The four of us, Don, me and the kids, are tight-knit. Our bond is unique and strong. I am amazed that these teenagers desire to spend time with me–to share life with their parents. And I am grateful.

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My screensaver while Don, Kenneth & Melinda were in Houston for eight days.

We were made for communion.

I think that’s why I felt their loss–why I wanted to cry when they left and the house was quiet. Even though the noisiness of everyday life can grate on my nerves, I missed their presence. Even though we may not say three words to each other in an hour’s time, I missed their company. I missed their smiles and antics; I even missed their pouts and complaints.

Communion is defined as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” (Google) This describes my relationship with my husband and children. This should also describe my relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

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Never a dull moment with these two.

We were made for communion. Communion with those around us, but, more importantly, with the One within us. My bond with Jesus is also unique and strong. My heart should sink when I feel the separation between God and myself–when I allow our relationship to wither and weaken. I should invite His presence into my space, if only for whispering comments and calming effects as I go about my day. I should look forward to intimate times of prayer and conversation. I should miss Him when I’ve pushed Him away.

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We were made for communion. Find someone to interact with today. Open your Bible, get on your knees, and commune with the One who made us for communion.

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Something Similar to National Lampoon’s Vacation

beach at night

My beloved husband booked a short getaway for us recently. We needed to be in the St. Louis area Sunday evening, so he purchased tickets out of St. Louis Monday morning traveling to Cancun. I gloated (more than once—CANCUN! baby) about leaving behind the foot of snow and all my responsibilities and basking in the sun and gorging myself at the all-inclusive hotel we were bound for.

What Went Wrong:

Monday morning the flight attendant was late due to weather (freezing rain), so our flight took off late.

When we arrived in Chicago there was a plane at our gate, so we had to wait on the runway. We missed our connection to Cancun by ten minutes.

We were added to the stand-by list for three flights but none of them had room for us. (Yes, flights were flying in and out even though Chicago got 8 inches of snow that day.)

We paid for lunch (pizza), supper (pizza), and a hotel room in Chicago while also paying for our all-Inclusive room in Cancun. (I ate leftover pizza for breakfast.)

I chipped a tooth Monday night.

Tuesday morning our flight out of Chicago was delayed because computers were down.

Don at the airport . . . pretending to be on the beach

Don at the airport . . . pretending to be on the beach

When we arrived in Cancun we were told our suitcase was still in Chicago.

We hailed a taxi and drove 35 minutes to our luxury all-inclusive hotel only to be told our room had been given away and the place was booked. (I had called our booking agency Monday but had not been clued in to the fact that the hotel needed contacted to hold our room.)

The “sister” hotel they sent us to was 25 minutes away.

When we arrived at the new hotel, the lone restaurant open served pizza. (See my previous three meals.)

Our sunscreen was in our suitcase. We paid $35 for a tube at the hotel.

Unbeknownst to me, the red flags on the beach meant the waves were dangerous. The pull was so strong Don had to help me back to shore.

When our suitcase arrived at our hotel (Wednesday at 5 p.m.) it was missing a wheel.

On the way home (Thursday), our connection out of Houston was delayed because of severe storms and the drive from St. Louis was difficult because of high winds.

What Went Right:

The children enjoyed time with their grandmother.

A terrific friend encouraged me during our very long delay in Chicago.

I packed our swimsuits, flip flops, hats & sunglasses in the carry-on bag.

The “new” hotel staff and most of the (numerous) airline employees we spoke with were friendly and helpful.

I took a kindle loaded with books which meant I could read on the beach without my glasses (big font) and no worries of ruining a paperback book.

We eventually received our suitcase. (Don’t laugh – I still have a full suitcase that has been floating around out there since 2006.)

We spent 43 glorious hours at an all-inclusive resort with breath-taking views and enormous amounts of food.

cancun sunset  cancun sunrise

The weather in Cancun was perfect.

The food was yummy. (Yes, I eventually got something besides pizza.)

All of our problems were minor and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

No one was injured or in an accident.

I spent five days alone with my husband.

don and barb in cancun

We both maintained positive attitudes (mostly) and a proper perspective. (We know people living in countries without clean drinking water.) We also got along well and worked together to troubleshoot problems and help each other during the stressful times.

God blessed us with the means to take a luxury vacation (plus some unexpected extras).

Don and I recognized all along that these were first world problems.

Lessons Learned:

Pack the 3-1-1 items (including sunscreen) even though it is an extra step through security.

Don’t wear embroidered jeans through TSA security screenings. They set the alarms off every time.

Joy is found in the little things.

Cultivating and maintaining a relationship with our loved ones is more important than having a perfect vacation.

God is magnificent. I was awestruck by the beauty of the ocean, sun, moon, beach, flowers, trees, etc.

God is in the business of refining. He uses grandiose landscapes AND minor irritations to purify us.

God is in control.

I am grateful for God’s attention to detail and desire to maintain a close relationship with His children. After our last flight, Don overheard one of the pilots telling another airline employee that something on one of the wings was broken and hadn’t been working during our flight. Wow! That puts it all into proper perspective.

cancun beach

10 Christmas Traditions

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In the same manner that the Israelites had their traditions to remember their heritage and what God had done for them, many families have holiday traditions. These practices help create family memories and solidify bonds.

Because of our family constitution (step-children and “other” parents), we have been creative in establishing traditions. We recognize the importance traditions hold, so we continue to instill them into our lives but follow them loosely. By that I mean that we aren’t bound by them or bothered if we have to change a few things around to fit our schedule. For example, a few years ago when Christmas fell on a Sunday we followed our “Christmas morning ritual” on Christmas Eve morning.

Our traditions include:

1 – Christmas Tree – We have our pattern. Don and the children build the tree (we go artificial here), and I put on the lights. Some church ladies taught me how to weave the lights in and out of the branches which makes for a more illuminated and prettier tree. The children then decorate with our unsophisticated store bought and homemade ornaments. A few peculiar ones remind us of stories and cause us to laugh. And we each have our “special” ornaments.

2 – Christmas Music – On this point I am a stickler: Christmas music may not be played until after Thanksgiving. After that I listen to it as often as possible, and we always play it while assembling the tree. We have our favorite CDs – the ones that generate a, “Remember this . . .” comment or story – and usually add to the collection each year.

3 – Advent Story – While we maintain a flexible schedule, we read part of an advent story and light advent candles each day during advent. When our older boys were in Kindergarten I stumbled on a story entitled Jotham’s Journey. The next two years I purchased the other two books in the series. Since that time, we have rotated through them, reading one each year. The stories aid us in focusing on the purpose of our celebration, Christ and His birth. They also remind us how to live and assist us in looking forward to His second coming.

4 – Anonymous Gift – Each year our family gives an anonymous monetary gift to a family or person in need. This tradition reflects what Christ has done for us and teaches our children the gift of giving.

5 – Foods & Crafts – Some foods smell like Christmas! During this season I bake more, and the children spend more time making crafts (remember those homemade ornaments mentioned in #1?).

6 – Christmas Eve Service – We have attended services at several different churches and enjoy the awe and wonder inspired by candlelight, quiet hymns, the reading of the Christmas story, worshiping with God’s people, and other blessings a Christmas Eve service includes.

7 – Christmas Breakfast – Don is a great cook and enjoys serving a big breakfast as part of our celebration. But I must admit we don’t always have this breakfast on Christmas morning. If we are traveling (which has been the case for the past few years), we adapt by having this meal on a different day.

8 – Quiet Exchange – Don and I prefer to exchange gifts without the children around, so we usually break ours out after the kids go to bed Christmas Eve.

9 – Exchange Gifts & Stockings – We do not purchase elaborate or expensive gifts, but we do participate in the giving of gifts and stocking stuffers. I think it’s fun and the kids enjoy selecting presents to fit each family member’s personality. More recently we have established a routine as to when and how we open gifts, but in the past we have been flexible on our plans as usually there was one or two family members missing on Christmas morning. Periodically we allow the children to open a gift or two Christmas Eve but usually open on Christmas morning (unless we are traveling).

10 – Extended Family – This is the time of year my heart aches for those I grew up with. Both Don’s family and mine are spread far and wide throughout the United States. Unfortunately we are unable to visit with most of them but, when possible, we drive to my mom’s.

I pray these traditions help my children connect Christmas with family and Christ’s birth.

I’d love to hear from you! In the midst of this holiday season, what traditions will you be including in your celebration?

Leave a Legacy of God’s Love to a Thousand Generations

B D L and Mom May 1992.1My mom blessed me with a box of old pictures. Some date all the way back to 1968 . . . the beginning.

In the span of 15 inches (of stacked pictures) I age 40+ years. My life literally flashes before my eyes (especially if I fan them quickly, like one of those old-time flipbooks in which the little character drawn on the bottom of each page looks like he’s walking or eating).

But it’s not the pictures of me that I am enamored with; it’s those of my family, some of whom have since passed on. I see a picture of my grandmother holding me as a baby and wish I could ask her what she was thinking.

Barb as little girl1

I see a picture of my three-year-old self kissing my little sister and want to reach through the 243-mile gap and plant one on her in the here and now. I see a picture of my nineteen year old son as a toddler and can hear the sounds he was making when I snapped the picture.

I laugh. I cry. I long.

I long for a simpler time. I long to stop the clock so my children won’t grow up. I also long to create an environment in which they look back and smile.

Barb Donna Dad Grandma Grandpap1

It’s the time of year when the value of family prevails. “Family” (children, parents, grandparents, in-laws, adopted families, church families, etc.) is found at the top of most Thanksgiving lists.

This leads me to ask: How do I preserve these precious moments, these delicate relationships? How do I capture and retain something that is ever-changing and contains so many dynamics?  How do I hold on and let go? How do I protect those who follow behind me?

I realize I cannot pause time and hold fast to my dear babies; however, I can (and will) influence the next generation and, probably, the one after that. The memories will impact their lives. So I want to be purposeful in my teachings and behaviors. I desire to model Godly wisdom . . . and Godly love. If I keep my eyes on the Creator, they will too.

Exodus 20

Triggers, Visions, and A Solid Foundation

A trigger.

The memories came whizzing at me without restraint. Past episodes that hadn’t been brought to the forefront of my mind in months, possibly years, were suddenly vivid and fresh, as if they had happened yesterday.   It’s not a matter of forgiveness; that’s been extended. It’s not a matter of lingering over hurts; the wounds are healed with only scars left behind.

But there are triggers.

And I couldn’t halt the memories that crashed into my present time without permission.

It still confuses me how one can believe her world is stable, built on truth, and that she lives in reality when, in fact, it’s all an illusion—whether created by herself or someone around her. And when the fallacy fades and reality is revealed, the firm ground she thought she was standing on disappears.

I saw myself back then. I envisioned the floor caving underneath of me and falling through the hole while all around me—that which I thought was concrete but in actuality feeble and weak—faded, slowly dissipating into thin air. And the drop was long and took a while. Yet in the end it was God who caught me and carried me until I could stand again—this time on a more solid foundation.

Woman Falling

And I wondered what that drop would look like today if my world again turned out to be an illusion. This time I imagined a short drop, causing only a slight tremor, as I live closer to the solid foundation. The drop would be relatively quick and without much damage. I chuckled at the thought of coming to an abrupt stop as my knees bent to absorb the shock—like jumping out of a window a foot off the ground.

Woman Falling

And I am thankful . . . oh so very thankful my Rock, my Foundation, my Lifeline is not that far away.

Has your world caved underneath you?

Are you far from your Foundation?

Today Counts

clock

When making food choices, I sometimes pretend that today doesn’t count. I’m out of town or I’m celebrating or I’m with friends, etc. So I tell myself that today’s choices are somehow null and void and I’ll pick up my “right choice thinking” tomorrow. (Click here to read another post on this.)

What I am realizing is I periodically have this “today doesn’t count” attitude in other areas. Not all, though. For example, I always choose to brush my teeth and take a shower. (Aren’t you glad?) And in homeschooling, I know every day counts and organize each school year accordingly. I allow for 180 days of schooling and use an accommodating curriculum. That’s not to say we are rigid. This year we started two weeks early so we could take a two-week vacation in September. I planned for it because I know the choices I make today (every day) will affect tomorrow’s outcomes.

However I am not as disciplined in all areas of life. Therefore I must pause to consider if I give the most important areas proper attention on a daily basis. Or do I take this “today doesn’t count” attitude more often than I should? The choices I make today, whether deliberate and prayer-filled or impulsive and whimsical, will affect tomorrow and the next day and the next. There is a cumulative effect. The person I am next week, month, and year is a direct result of the minor decisions I make today. And, to further complicate matters, there is a trickledown effect. I, in fact, do not live in a bubble—my attitude, knowledge, and disposition rub off on those around me. The most effective way to teach my children self-discipline is to model it.

So which areas require daily cultivation in an intentional manner? I suggest you ask God to show you. For me, the list includes (but is not limited to): Bible reading, prayer, physical well-being, and relationships—with God, my husband, my children, my church family, and friends.

In which areas of life do you sometimes take a “today doesn’t count” attitude?

Will you prayerfully consider making a change today?

Longing for More – Part 2

Don and David praying

The following is a reprint of an article I wrote for SEEK. The original publication date is May 6, 2012. Click here for Part 1.

Offer the Bread of Life to Others

Perhaps your life, like mine, seems mundane and ordinary. Maybe you are asking: How can I offer the Bread of Life to others?

Begin in the home. Offer a kind word and a listening ear to your spouse. Nurture your children’s souls while nourishing their physical bodies. Have supper as a family around the dining room table. While you eat, read a word of Scripture, say a short prayer, ask each person about his/her day.

Develop personal relationships. I purposefully befriended a woman having marital problems. She needed someone to whom she could reveal the intimate details of her life. I listened to her, cried with her, and prayed for her as I gently led her to the foot of the cross.

Open your home. Jesus admonishes, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) You may be thinking: I don’t know how to cook. My house is a mess. I don’t have time. I have recited these excuses. But once I decided relationships were more important than appearances and invited others to break bread in our home, I found my guests relaxed as they realized I do not keep a perfect house, do not have perfect children, and cannot make a gourmet meal. This genuine environment created a calming effect.

These small gestures are only a few examples of how we can introduce Christ to the world. As you cultivate a relationship with Him through daily disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, and fellowship with other believers, God will open your eyes to opportunities for ministering. He will use your gifts to glorify Himself. I pray as I rise in the morning, “Lord, less of me and more of You. Lord, Your agenda, not mine.” I am far from perfect, but as God molds me into His image, He directs my path and shines His light through me. As I help others, Jesus restores me. As I lift my eyes from my own circumstances and see others as Jesus does, He changes me.

I pray that as you help others, Jesus will restore and mold you. May your story be more like these:  Longing for Mr. Right, a teenage girl attends a worship service. Recently demoted, a husband calls his pastor. Tired of her seemingly pointless life, a stay-at-home mom volunteers at the local crisis pregnancy center. Defeated, a divorced man falls to his knees. Lonely, a single mother reaches for her Bible. Each longs for a more satisfying life and realizes only God can bridge the gap between here and there.