Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

"Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else, because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you."
--Tim Keller

Monday, December 23, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 309

"Doing all things without grumbling is humanly impossible. But thankfully not with God (Mark 10:27). What it requires is getting our eyes off ourselves and onto Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and all God promises to be for us in him. It requires seeing grace. Being different comes from seeing differently.

"Yes it is hard. It’s a fight. God told us it would be that way (1 Timothy 6:12). But we will grow in the gracious habit of cultivating gratitude through the rigorous exercise of constant practice (Hebrews 5:14) of seeing grace. Lord, help us speak more in the accent of heaven!
"Prone to grumbling, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to scorn the God I love;
Here’s my eye, O take and peel it
Till I see the grace above."
--Jon Bloom, "We Are Far Too Easily Displeased"
Fighting to see grace this week by thanking God for...

5905. not having to pay for Jude's terrible haircut
5906. lunch at Chick-Fil-A to console ourselves :)
5907. the reminder function on my phone
5908. Steve helping Elijah with his homework
5909. Mom DVRing things on TV I'd like to see

5910. dance lessons in the living room with Steve
5911. Jude desperately wanting to dance with me, jealous of Daddy
5912. homemade tomato soup
5913. the gospel in 1 Kings 8
5914. Elijah reading Pete the Cat to Jude

5915. Christmas gift projects finished
5916. friends here for supper
5917. sweet bedtime moments
5918. dedicated, hardworking teachers
5919. Elijah's calm obedience in the midst of his classmates' craziness

5920. Hungry, Hungry Hippos
5921. the hilarious, adorable Christmas card we got from Elijah
5922. a friend taking the time to correct my insensitive language
5923. Jude's throwing up was short-lived
5924. protection through storms (tornado warning four days before Christmas?! what?!)

5925. light of Advent candles growing brighter every night
5926. the anticipation of His coming, not as a babe in a manger but as King of Kings

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Two Cents on the Duck Nonsense

I’ve tried to ignore this whole Duck Dynasty kerfuffle. I really have. But my Facebook friends keep blowing up my news feed with links and comments and articles about it, and I can’t keep my mouth shut any longer.

Three things:

1. I find it highly ironic that the Christians who are so agitated about A&E’s suspension of Phil Robertson are, in all likelihood, the same Christians who have been appalled at the recent court cases involving Christians who are fighting for their rights not to do certain types of business with gay or lesbian couples. The photographer in New Mexico, the florist in Washington, the baker in Colorado—all have argued that they should not be compelled to provide services for a same-sex wedding. They believe they should have the freedom not to work with people whose beliefs and lifestyle are in conflict with theirs.

Um. Does A&E not have the right to the same freedom? This is not a First Amendment issue. Phil Robertson is not going to jail or being killed for saying what he believes. This is a private company saying, “Hey, we don’t want our name and brand associated with your beliefs.” Which is pretty much the same exact thing the photographer and the florist and the baker are saying. We can’t have it both ways, folks.

2. Regardless of where you stand on the issue of homosexuality, please do not claim that Phil Robertson “simply said what Scripture says” or “was only stating biblical values.” As a Christian, I found his remarks offensive. He displayed a lack of compassion for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, a disturbingly demeaning view of women and marriage, and a staggering ignorance about race. That last one was what startled me most when I read Robertson's quotes, and Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan summed it up well:
 I don’t even know where to start with this one. Comparing black people to white trash is cringey, but suggesting that black people were happier during segregation? That because Phil never heard a black person publicly complain BACK IN THE ERA OF LYNCHING means that they must have been satisfied with the state of things? This is so racially tone-deaf that it reminds me of the time Paula Deen romanticized the slaves as being “like family”. Not to mention, the subtext of his remarks is that black people nowadays are entitled, unGodly, discontented welfare recipients. So when I see people as “standing with Phil” based on their Christian values, I really have to ask . . . how does an apologist for our country’s ugly Jim Crow legacy represent Christian values? 

3. Really, church? This is what we’re going to get ourselves all worked up about? How about we save our energy and outrage for things that are truly, unarguably outrageous. Like, I don't know, human trafficking. Also, can we just stop crying “persecution” all the time? THIS is persecution. A millionaire being suspended from a cable TV show for making crass and ignorant statements not even about the gospel (please, for the love of all that is good and holy, PLEASE do not confuse “the gospel” with “morality”), is not persecution.

I know a lot of ink has been spilled over this already, but I couldn't scroll through the slew of "I support Phil Robertson, the righteous martyr" posts on my Facebook feed any longer without throwing in my two cents. Thanks for indulging me.

Further worthwhile reading:
The Duck Thing: Is There Another Way?
Duck Dynasty, First Amendment Rights, and Christian Values
This is Not Worth Quacking About
Dear Kids: Never Forget the Power of Words

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Little Man Turns Three

Every once in a while I still find myself counting words. "Can you put my window down so the fwy can go out?" Twelve. "An' den it will be CWISMAS! An' I'm gonna JUMP outta my chair 'cause I'm EXCITED!" Sixteen.


You see, throughout the process of evaluating Elijah's language delays and getting therapy, I frequently had to fill out surveys that assessed his "mean length of utterance"--How long are his sentences, on average? What is the longest sentence he spontaneously says? List three examples.

I'd listen carefully for a couple of days and scribble down the most impressive ones I could come up with, encouraged as the number grew with each successive evaluation. Meanwhile, friends of mine would recount the conversations they were having with their two-year-olds, and part of me didn't actually believe them. Your child is Elijah's age (or younger!), and she says all that? 


I never knew it was possible to have an actual conversation with a two-year-old--until a certain adorable blond-haired, blue-eyed little boy came into my world. Week after week over the last year I have marveled at the difference it makes to have a verbal child.

I don't want to spend my life comparing my boys to each other. I know they will each have their own strengths, each be their own selves. And as I've shared before, Elijah has more than overcome his early struggles (sometimes at the dinner table, when we're struggling to get a word in edgewise, Steve will glance at me with a look that says, "Remember when you wanted him to talk?"). Still, unless you have dealt with a language delay, you can't fathom how incredible it is to talk extensively with a toddler, to feel like you can interact and *know* him.

Jude is articulate, interesting, funny, mischievous, exuberant. He turned three last week almost two months ago, so I'm overdue for a photo-heavy blog post reflecting on my littlest man.


He is a delightful (or at times patience-testing) mix of "I can do it! I don't need help!" and "I want you to cawwy me. I can't! Mama help pwease?" The word "can't," by the way, has two syllables. Jude has picked up more of a Southern drawl than his big brother so far.

Jude is definitely still obsessed with school buses and the garbage truck--well, trucks of all kinds, actually. He also loves to help Mama bake...

...or help Daddy fix things...

Really, he just loves to be considered a helper in general. He is joyful and energetic, sensitive and imaginative and always, always thinking. And talking. Did I mention this kid would talk to a brick wall?

Jude is my social butterfly--the one who's eager to have friends over or go to their houses, who barely says goodbye to me when I drop him off at "Jude's preschool" (a Mom's Day Out program at a local church) once a week. He loves other kids, but in the end, when I asked him a while back, the answer was, "Lijah is my best fwend."

His other best friend is a certain Big Red Dog.

Our stuffed Clifford was actually a gift from my parents to Elijah, years ago, but somewhere along the way Jude co-opted the dog and now Clifford rarely leaves Jude's side. He has his own chair at the dining room table; he sleeps in Jude's arms every night. We get away with not taking Clifford everywhere we go by explaining that he needs to stay home and be our watchdog.

Jude has already mastered the art of the Sunday school answer; it's not uncommon to hear him shout proudly, "Jesus died on the cwoss to forgive our sin!" (We won't talk about the time he listened carefully to a Bible story and then shouted, "Jesus is a bad guy!") But however superficial his current understanding, a few weeks ago he blew me away with his quiet spiritual insight. I was looking everywhere for my keys, with no luck. Jude sat patiently in his stroller, watching me, and then remarked, "God knows where your keys are."

On the other hand, Jude can also be my little Pharisee, self-righteously declaring in response to his brother (or other children) being corrected: "I'M not cwying!" "I didn't whine!" "I didn't touch it!" "I'm not throwing it!"


Like his big brother, he does remarkably well with entertaining himself--but his solitary play is so much more verbal than Elijah's was. He's *really* into cars and trucks and trains, and they have endless conversations. Occasionally I'll hear him saying, "You need to be kind," or, "Do you understand me?" "Good job! That makes me so happy!"

When Elijah is around, Jude happily submits to his brother's dictating the toys' conversations. It is ridiculously comical (and sometimes irritating when it continues on and on) how compliant Jude is as Elijah scripts the entire interaction. "Say, 'Wow, that's amazing!'" Elijah orders, and Jude cheerfully parrots, "Wow, that's amazing!" "Now say, 'I didn't know you could fly!'" and Jude doesn't miss a beat: "I didn't know you could fwy!"


On any given day you might find him imitating anything and everything his big brother does...sliding his arm around Mama...jumping from the second-to-last step...singing a rousing rendition of "Hakuna Matata" or "The Itsy Bitsy Spider"--or singing "Na, na na, na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, Hey Jude!" Or hearing the Beatles' rendition, and exclaiming, "Dat's my song!"...pretending his toy vacuum (or a pair of sticks, or any other random prop he can find) is a cello, and playing along with the Piano Guys...or parked in a chair with a giant pile of books.


At the end of the day, before I put him to bed, we usually sing Randall Goodgame's little lullaby "Sweet Baby Boy." A really sweet moment to share with him, though lately it's been more silly than mushy, because Jude recently decided it was absolutely hilarious to sing *with* me. Only he sings (in between giggles) "Sweet Baby Mom."


I love this kid. And wow, parenting the second time around is so much different. I can see how things I freaked out about with Elijah, fearing his misbehavior meant I was a hopeless mother whose child would turn out to be a sociopath, actually were normal developmental phases he would simply outgrow. I realize how challenges that were all-consuming (hello potty-training) faded into a distant blur.

The delight of having a preschooler/kindergartner in the house, combined with the fun of Jude's verbal skills, have made parenting a two year old much more enjoyable this time around. I have been *present* for Jude's early years in a way I was not with Elijah, and for that I am grateful. The days are still long; I am still too easily irritated and impatient. But our Jude indeed gives me many reasons to praise the Father who has given me such a sweet gift.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Like Father, Like Son

In many ways, Steve is just like his dad--and at Thanksgiving, he got called out on it by my five-year-old niece. That little anecdote came to mind when I read John 8 in preparation for this month's article over at Pick Your Portion. Click over for the story, the ultimate Storyteller, and a little about our favorite Christmas tradition!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 308

But grumbling is the accent of hell’s language because it’s how a creature’s pride responds to the Creator’s decision to do or allow something that the creature does not desire. Grumbling scorns God because it elevates our desires and judgments above his.

That’s why the world is so filled with grumbling. It’s ruled by the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2) and its citizens speak the official language.

And that’s why Paul tells us to “do all things without grumbling” (Philippians 2:14). The children of God should not speak with the accent of hell.
Rather, our speech should always be gracious (Colossians 4:6); it should have the accent of heaven. Those who have been forgiven so much (Luke 7:47) and promised so much (2 Peter 1:4) should speak words that are always salted with gratitude (Ephesians 5:20). That’s one way we “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Gospel gratitude is a foreign language here. We are citizens of a better country (Hebrews 11:16).

--Jon Bloom, "We Are Far Too Easily Displeased"

Working on my accent this week by thanking God for...

5871. our pastor starting a new sermon series - the book of Galatians!
5872. the incredible wonders of the internet - my mind is often blown at the information I can access so easily
5873. Jude entertaining himself SO well all morning on a day last week when I was crunched to meet a deadline
5874. catching him having a picnic upstairs with his stuffed animals
5875. the relief of finishing a massive project I put off for over a year

5876. companies with excellent customer service, above and beyond what I ask (Shutterfly, Kohl's)
5877. Brussels sprout chips
5878. the smell of fresh oranges
5879. clementine season
5880. a gracious extension on a writing assignment

5881. Christmas songs that move me to tears
5882. Steve and the boys making Grandma Kannel's cranberries
5883. new lipstick
5884. sparkly jewelry
5885. photobooth at Steve's company Christmas party

5886. getting to try out our dance moves at the party
5887. friends babysitting, boys loving them
5888. cranberry honey cinnamon butter
5889. the opportunity to use my gifts to serve the body
5890. the way proclaiming the gospel publicly moves me deeply

5891. reminders that I am not God, my agenda is not law
5892. Steve patiently helping Elijah with his homework
5893. grace to think twice and keep my mouth sIhut
5894. Thai food
5895. Handel's Messiah at the Schermerhorn

5896. the gospel proclaimed at the symphony
5897. two dates with Steve in one week!
5898. our babysitter serving and serving while she was here
5899. the talent He gives to writers, singers, cellists, trumpeters, conductors, architects, engineers
5900. views of the Nashville skyline at night

5901. Christmas cards from friends and family
5902. Steve's ability to fix our clothes dryer
5903. the way contact lenses protect my eyes from onion fumes
5904. nightly Old Testament stories in which the punchline, the climax, the hope of glory is always and only, "JESUS!"

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Things I Learned in November

I'm a little late with this, and I didn't remember to keep track this time as closely as before, but I still have to share a couple of brilliant lifehacks from last month. Without further ado, with a nod to Emily at Chatting at the Sky, a few things I learned in November:

1. How to peel a head of garlic in ten seconds without a knife. Really. I use a LOT of garlic, and peeling it is always a pain. I tried this out after seeing the video, and it really does work. It took more than ten seconds, and that was only about three or four cloves, but still! Life changing. I can't wait until the next time I make this soup. I usually quadruple it, which means peeling 20 cloves of garlic. I know the "smash it with the side of your knife" trick but that only helps so much. This one will blow your mind. (P.S. That soup? If you didn't click the link, go back and click it. Print it and make it ASAP. You're welcome.)

2. How to de-seed a pomegranate. I don't often buy these, because they're just not worth the trouble. But learning this may make me change my mind. I'm not linking to the video because it was maddening--it was advertised as "how to de-seed a pomegranate in thirty seconds" and then you have to sit through a solid two minutes of inane blabbering before the guy even *starts* showing you! Ain't nobody got time for that! You don't need a video anyway--just score the pomegranate all the way around, break it in half, and then hold each half loosely over a bowl and whack the daylights out of the outside of it with a wooden spoon. This really does work...but you will want to wear an apron and make sure you are working somewhere that can be easily wiped, because you will end up with red juice spattered everywhere. 

3. It seems like every month I give a nod to a company I'm pleased with...this month it is L.L.Bean. I just love them. We had an issue with one of Jude's sneakers, where it was like something underneath the lining in the heel broke and was sticking out weird. They shipped out a new pair immediately. I am willing to pay a bit more for sneakers and backpacks and jackets and such when I know they will be excellent quality, durable, and backed up by L.L.Bean's satisfaction guarantee.

4. How to get rid of the hiccups: Take a deep breath, exhale completely, and swallow twice. It totally works. Forever grateful to a friend of a Facebook friend for that gem.

5. Jellyfish can't locomote. Loved World magazine's interview with Phil Vischer (creator of VeggieTales) and his spiritual reflections on that fact.

6. I've often heard and thought about Proverbs 29:18, "For lack of vision the people perish," as some sort of call to setting goals, casting a vision, writing a mission statement, etc. But in the interview linked above, Phil Vischer also pointed out that that verse doesn't apply to our ambitions. I was challenged and fascinated by his story and the way he's taking his new company in a different direction (and also thrilled to know that he sees and regrets how VeggieTales were cute and clever, but Christ-less moralism).

7. Patience pays off. To make a long story short, I finally got the iPhone I've been wanting for a long time--and paid less than half of what I was prepared to pay for a smartphone earlier this year. Super excited. A few apps I have been using and liking so far:
  • Pocket - for saving blog posts and articles to read later. Much better (quicker, easier) than saving them to Delicious with an "unread" tag and never coming back to them. 
  • Feedly - for the handful of blogs I want to keep up with but don't get in my Facebook news feed
  • ESV Bible - so handy. Do we realize how astounding this is, that we can have the entire text of God's Word in a device that fits in our pockets?!
  • TrueHDR - got a couple of great fall color photos with this. Perfect for those situations when the scene has a lot of contrast and either the sky is blown out or the details are too dark (which, incidentally, also says a lot about the magnificent design of our eyes, that we can naturally absorb all that beauty simultaneously in ways a camera can't!). 
  • Vyrso - haven't used this much yet, but I purchased a book through here and I love the idea of having the Bible linked to the book so you can easily look at a passage the author mentions.
How about you - what have you learned lately?

Monday, December 02, 2013

Multitude Monday, Take 307

"Gratitude is the accent of the language of heaven because there everything is undeserved grace. No creature that basks in the eternal, deep, powerful, satisfying, overflowing joys of heaven will have merited being there. Each will be there solely by the grace of God, which is why we will all sing, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!' (Revelation 5:13)
--Jon Bloom, "We Are Far Too Easily Displeased"

Practicing my native-but-forgotten tongue this week by thanking God for...

5921. raucous games of Twister with Steve and the boys
5922. Grammy playing hide and seek with the boys
5923. my dad's homemade ice cream
5924. doting grandparents
5925. the word "Mama"

5926. Brussels sprouts growing on a giant stalk
5927. blue glassware
5928. babies growing in friends' bellies
5929. baking with Jude
5930. blue ballpoint pens

5931. hauntingly beautiful echoes of the gospel in 2 Samuel
5932. blood-bought promises
5933. the Holy Spirit sealing my heart, guaranteeing my redemption
5934. opportunity to pray with a hurting friends
5935. ability to text friends and ask them to pray for me

5936. sunlight filtering in windows
5937. nonstick pans
5938. paint
5939. comfortable shoes
5940. steaming mugs

5941. little boys' sound effects
5942. speaking "Jude" so fluently I don't realize it's a different dialect
5943. a Father who hears and understands what my heart can't even express
5944. Jude chatting it up with Grandpa over breakfast
5945. Grandpa's laughter

5946. time to journal through a messy muck of thoughts and emotions
5947. boys excitedly picking out gifts for Operation Christmas Child
5848. cinnamon dolce latte
5849. the beauty of a friend's fight to worship and obey Jesus
5850. friends willing to babysit for upcoming holiday dates

5851. my brother's hospitality, fixing a huge breakfast for us
5852. Wendy's coupons
5853. snow flurries
5854. poop in the potty!!!!!
5855. cheerful cooperation from the boys

5856. a double date with my BIL and SIL
5857. getting to see my oldest childhood friend and meet her husband
5858. cousins playing "Lion King" together
5859. turtlenecks
5860. pizza sub with my BFF

5861. mascara
5862. glasses
5863. e-versions of books I've been wanting to read on sale for super cheap
5864. smiles and coos from my baby niece
5865. safe travels to Ohio and back

5866. first Christmas cards in our mailbox
5867. Christmas tree lit up and decorated
5868. Advent candle-lighting and reading begun
5869. Christmas music
5870. the promise that Jesus is coming again