Chasing Contentment

Wednesday, August 31

The needs in the Gulf South are overwhelming. The stories we're hearing about the conditions in New Orleans, about the shelters being set up in Baton Rouge and the conditions of the special need evacuees being taken to those shelters, about the devestation... they are sobering.

Our parish school system is opening to evacuee children - as are many parish schools around the state - so that they might continue their education now, where they are, because it might be months before their own schools are reopened.

The scope of this is just beyond imagination. The evacuees continue to pour into our town. Shelters continue to open, and churches continue to mobilize to minister to these people in such a time of need. I have been impressed with the way area churches have responded, with the way our Christian brothers and sisters are opening their arms and welcoming these broken souls into our midst.

The little girls in the missions class I teach at church on Wednesday evenings are going to make cards tonight for some of the children who are in local shelters. The cards will be tied with ribbons to a stuffed animal the children can keep. So many don't have anything. It is so very important to me to both give my own assistance and to teach my children - and these precious little girls - that we can all make a difference, one little step at a time.

As we participate in the Day of Prayer around the state today, my prayer would be that each of us looks for that one tiny step of assistance that we could make this week. If we all take those little steps, we can show these people a drop of Christ's love for them.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, August 31, 2005  ]

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has declared today a statewide Day of Prayer. She asked all residents to spend the day in prayer.

"That would be the best thing to calm our spirits and thank our Lord that we are survivors," Blanco said. "Slowly, gradually, we will recover; we will survive; we will rebuild."
That's something we can all do for one another.

My office today is working to help coordinate some volunteer and assistance efforts with our fellow employees, and it's good to feel like we're doing something - anything.

I urge people to make a donation - however large or small - to the Red Cross and to designate it for the Hurricane Katrina Relief Efforts. The situation in New Orleans continues to deteriorate, and the needs here in the state continue to grow.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, August 31, 2005  ]

Tuesday, August 30

In response to my last post, The Pastor commented about a group that is accepting donations to assist those affected by Hurricane Katrina. I thought this might be a good time to post a few other ways we can all help.

So many of us aren't able to make big financial donations or be there physically to work in shelters, but there are lots of ways we can help. Any small expression of love is a reflection of Christ.

America's Second Harvest is accepting donations that will be used to provide food for those in need.

Network for Good has a page that lists several different ways that we can all help.

As always, the American Red Cross is actively working in these areas and would welcome any donations.

Now, I'm sure this isn't nearly as comprehensive a list as Karama at So What Can I Do? would post, but I suspect she's on her honeymoon this week, so we'll muddle through ourselves until she returns.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 30, 2005  ]

Our hearts are heavy. We have but one train of thought this week. There is nothing but Katrina. My little town didn't get a drop of rain and but a gentle toss of wind, and yet we hurt for those hurting. There is so much hurt with more to come.

Everyone here knows someone in the South Louisiana/Mississippi area. We all have family and friends who were in harm's way. We all know someone whose home may no longer exist, and we all know someone whose home now serves as a make-shift shelter. We did not lose, and yet we feel the loss.

As the images come in and as the extent of the devestation is revealed, we are overwhelmed. There is not one problem in this situation. There are hundreds of problems. While the Mississippi residents begin to assess the damage, New Orleans residents are not being allowed home because the waters are rising, not receeding. Several parishes are under martial law as the National Guard takes over the tasks at hand.

People are homeless, living in shelters not designed to hold this many people for this long. People are hungry, depending upon the kindness and generosity of strangers to provide their next meals. Unable to work because their office buildings and job sites are no longer, people are going to be struggling financially, as will the cities themselves.

It goes on and on, the toll Katrina is exacting from our state and our sister states. It is unfathomable. We see the images and know the places shown, and it doesn't quite register as being real. How could there possibly be that much water? As we are deeply thankful that our homes were spared, there is the knowledge that others were not so fortunate. There is a desire to help, and yet a helpless feeling.

I was praying this morning for our friends and family, for these strangers I'll not know, and for all who must participate in the efforts of these next few weeks. My prayers sounded hollow, even in my own ears. For what do I ask? There are such monumental needs.

For now, I'm asking that God meet the needs that He knows better than anyone... that He show each of us how we can ease the struggle for even just one soul one tiny little bit. I don't know what else to do.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 30, 2005  ]

Monday, August 29

Home. Such meaning in that word. So many meanings. I've been thinking a lot today about families displaced - homes lost - lives changed. I've been praying for strangers and friends, thinking about home.

I love our old, little house. Messy. With scratches in the paint and weak spots in the floor, and one tiny bathroom for all of us. But it's perfect. And we are so very grateful to have a roof over our heads and an a/c that works and the security that comes from those things.

But for me, home isn't entirely about a structure or a place. It's about a feeling of warmth and security and contentment. It's the knowledge that I can be who I am without any fear of criticism. And that is a valuable thing, indeed.

In my mind's spirituality, our God accepts us as we are. He reaches out to us - I heard a minister on the radio say that most religions are about man reaching upward to God but that Christianity is about God reaching down to man - exactly where we are. Christ redeemed us through His blood, and we are each God's creations. I am well aware, of course, that we ought to be reaching upward to seek the hand of God, that we should be growing in Him all the time. But I am refreshed by the thought that our God loves us at this moment exactly as we are. And I am reassured by the idea that God not only knows each of our needs at this moment, but He also knows how those needs will be met - often when we cannot imagine the outcome.

So, this evening, I am asking God to give these many, many people - who are displaced and anxious and frightened - comfort. I ask that He provide them with a feeling of home even in the midst of this possible homelessness. And I ask that God show us how we can be the hands of His work, how we can minister to those in our state who are in need.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 29, 2005  ]

This excellent blog from the New Orleans Times Picayune gives an up-close look at what's happening there now.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 29, 2005  ]

Sunday, August 28

Usually, I love a good thunderstorm, but tonight as I listen to the thunder and the windchimes on the porch, I know this coming storm signals dangers for those south of us. We will have little more than thunderstorms and rain and a little wind, but we have friends and family in South Louisiana who will face greater. Our prayers are with them tonight.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, August 28, 2005  ]

Saturday, August 27

I love Saturdays... the easy pace, the lolling around. There are always errands to be run and things to be done, but there's just a different feel about Saturdays. I love the random feeling Saturday give me...

We began our Saturday Suppers this evening and had one of Griff's friends and her family (her mom and sister... her father is in Iraq) join us for dinner. We all had a lovely time just visiting with the kids playing together. Eliza runs along with the big kids... she's not quite figured out yet that she isn't that big. Bless her.

My side hurts again today. The shingles hadn't hurt in a couple of weeks, but today's been uncomfortable. I'm hoping it's just left-over pain and not a sign that they might be coming back again.

So many people are in the process of evacuating now. Many will come through here, and I suspect our church will open tomorrow as a shelter. My dear family keeps calling and asking if we'll evacuate, which makes Mike laugh. We live far too far inland for evacuation to be something we'll need to consider. But we could face storms and rain and winds and such. With the current heat, one of my biggest concerned is losing power for several days. But we'll just pray. Mostly, we'll pray for those who are in Katrina's direct path.

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, August 27, 2005  ]

Friday, August 26

We all struggle. I believe that God promises His people blessings and wonders and amazements. But I don't believe that He promised them in the ways our worldy eyes and hearts always want them. I also don't believe that those wonderful promises exclude Christians from the struggles of life.

It's been a hard week for me emotionally and mentally (as a result, of course, I'm now feeling run down physically). One of the things I can count on, unfortunately, is that when I'm struggling, I have a tendency to turn my displeasure to my own self-image, and focus my energies there. It's not very reassuring, but it's more comfortable sometimes (because of the familiarity of it) than dealing with what's really going on in our lives. And so this week, I've been in a funk.

Our church has an Intercessory Prayer Ministry, and each Wednesday, our prayer room is filled with volunteers (one for each 30 minute block of the day, from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.) who pray for prayer requests that have been made. I've participated on and off through the years as my work and family schedules allow.

It was good for me to go on Wednesday and focus on the needs of others, to get outside of myself in a time of prayer with God. As the week has drawn on, I've found that happening time and again, my being reminded of how those around me need prayer and love and support, just as I do.

Friends long for a baby. A friend longs for a husband. My grandmother is having heart problems, and my family is worried. Another friend searches for meaning in her life, for her heart's true calling. A friend's parents have faced (and continue to face) illness and her much-anticipated infant daughter may require surgery.

I hate it when people in church debate or discuss (and inevitably they do) why bad things happen to good people. That bugs me beyond words. They just do. Because we live in a fallen world full of our own sin and the sins of those around us, because our bodies are temporary to this world and our hearts are aiming for another but some days failing in our attempts. They just do.

The best we can do, I think, is to keep our eyes on the Lord and our arms around one another as we struggle through this life, along this journey of faith.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, August 26, 2005  ]

Blogger now has word verification for comments to help prevent comment spam, which I encountered here blog earlier this week.

I want my blog to have the same feeling I want my home to convey... warm and inviting, messy (to be sure!) but comfortable... a place where residents and visitors alike can feel secure and nurtured, able to soar and struggle without fear.

And comment spam seemed like it went against that. So, to those who comment regularly, I apologize for the extra few moments your comments will take you now, but at least this will help keep the atmosphere friendly.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, August 26, 2005  ]

Thursday, August 25

I believe that, often, God teaches me more during the difficult days than the easy ones. I think that He uses trying times to teach and reteach me about relying on Him and about moving forward in faith. The easy times, I think, are restful, restoring.

But this summer, I think I've had the best of both worlds. I've enjoyed the rest and restoration that come with such a joyous time, but I've also learned so much. God used this summer - my summer of grace - to teach me and to shore me up so that I would be ready for this fall and the things that will come with it.

We are already experiencing things that pull at us, that tug at our souls. We are weary and tense, unsure and unsteady. At moments, I feel as if I can't go on, and yet I know I will.

A friend made a comment yesterday that she waits well but has trouble believing while I believe easily but wait poorly. And she's very right. I trust without a doubt that God will protect us and provide for us. But as I've said here before, it's this middle ground of waiting that wears me down. It's this day-in and day-out putting forth a solid effort to do the right thing when the right thing is rarely rewarded.

I'm thankful that I had this summer of delight to show me how I want our family to interact in the evenings and weekends when we're all together. We've not done very well this week with striving toward the goal, but I at least have a goal in place now.

I'm thankful the Lord gave me the desire to begin having a daily time with Him this summer so that the habit and practice - and joy in it! - are already in place when free time becomes less plentiful and schedules become fuller. I want that time with Him now, and so I'll seek it out whereas I might not have if I were just now beginning the practice.

These are difficult days, and I'm asking the Lord for courage and strength and encouragement.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, August 25, 2005  ]

Tuesday, August 23

My family didn't have many traditions when I was growing up, and many of our childhood traditions fell by the wayside when I was in my teens. Longing for some constant threads to tie my own family together, I've worked to create traditions that can grow with our children.

One of the things we do is that each evening at dinner, we each tell the best and the worst thing that happened to us during that day. It's a quick and easy way for us to guage how Griff's doing and what's going on in his life on those days that he might not be chatty. No one has to have a worst - it's a pretty good day when there's no worst to report! - but everyone has to have a best.

We insist on that in order to remind all of us that God gives us blessings in each day. We just have to be paying attention so that we can see them. By having to think through our day and find a best, we see God's hand in our daily lives.

Today, my best will be an email from an old friend who told me about her life and asked about mine. Best of all, she closed with kind words not about this or that I had done but about my essential nature. And I needed that today. And I am grateful for her kind words and for her friendship.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 23, 2005  ]

Monday, August 22

There are times when moving forward is my only goal. I'm not looking to accomplish much or to change things. I simply need to focus on doing the best I can with this one moment in time, trusting that God will care for all of the rest of the moments. In truth, He's caring for this one as well, thankfully.

I look around some days and see such improper, immoral things, and I am discouraged. I see such heartache and pain, and I am saddened. There is such uncertainty around that sometimes, that in itself, is the only certainty.

And in these days when I'm trying to find the middle ground of life that feels comfortable to me - not threatening and not compromising - I remind myself over and again that I know in Whom my foundation stands. And I know that He not only holds the future, but He knows this very moment in time, the ones in which I sometimes feel so lost.

In this, I am aware of God's hand on my life because my heart is peaceful, if heavy.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 22, 2005  ]

Friday, August 19

The joke is that if something isn't on my planner, we won't do it. It's important that I write things in the all-important planner for us to coordinate as a family. I just wrote down September 26 as a day to be sure to have dinner with my family.

That's the date of this year's annual Family Day. Everyone is encouraged to commit to having dinner with their family that evening. You can pledge to participate.

We have dinner most evenings with our kids, but this is a good reminder, a way to make that day special and to explain to Griff why we think it's important that we share meals together.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, August 19, 2005  ]

Thursday, August 18

In my prayer time this evening, I was reading from Ephesians 5 (verses 1-2) in The Message, and I liked the way it was worded and wanted to post it here to remember later.
Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that. (my own emphasis added)
What I want is a family, a circle of friends, a church, a community in which we are all (or at the most reasonable, most of us) striving to love like that.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, August 18, 2005  ]

I'll take little bits of encouragement wherever I can find them. I don't necessarily believe that God programs the songs on the radio to encourage me, but I do believe that He can use whatever my heart is open to at the time, whatever allows Him a little closer to my needs.

On the XM this morning, I heard the Nickleback song, "Someday," and its refrain struck me. While the song is about a relationship, the refrain could apply to anything. At this moment, it feels like my life.

Someday, Somehow
I'm gonna make it all right but not right now
I know you're wondering when
Things are going to be difficult for us for a while because of outside circumstances, but I know that it will be okay at some point. And I know that I'm going to be asking God when, when will it be all right. But I also like remembering that it will be all right at some point. I like knowing that God already knows when this will be the most difficult and when it will be finished.

As long as He knows and I trust Him to make it right, then we'll be okay, I think.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, August 18, 2005  ]

Wednesday, August 17

Struggles - in all their various forms - are something I've accepted as part of life. They're hard by their very nature, but they're also often temporary. And in the struggles, I learn the things God doesn't teach me during the comfortable times.

I've talked about how this has been my summer of grace. My family has traveled and spent time with family and friends and has laughed together. We have genuinely enjoyed one another. And I've known that time like that wouldn't last forever, and so I've tried to soak it all up, to fill my wells with joy so that when the joy rain wasn't falling as readily, I would be able to draw upon what has been given to me this summer.

Already, we are seeing that the fall is going to be different, more difficult. There are things that will test us in so many ways. Mike and I will cling to one another for strength, and we'll rely on our Lord to provide the ability to do the things that feel so very beyond our own abilities. We'll trust that friends are praying for us, asking God to carry us along.

And I am admittedly afraid of the possibilities that we are preparing for at this point. I am unsure and uncertain. But I know this is happening whether I enjoy it or am ready for it or not. More importantly, I know my Lord has plans I have not yet imagined. And I trust in that.

Because just as I know struggles are part of this life, I also know our Lord blesses us with times of refreshment and renewal. And so this difficulty that we prepare for now will pass away at some point, and we'll again be given times of purer joy. Until that time, it is my responsibility to remember that while I cannot control the external things that assault us, I can control my reactions to those situations.

It is my hope that those around us see us act in a kind and tender manner to unkind actions, that they see us leaning on the Lord for stability and strength, that they know in Whom we put our trust.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, August 17, 2005  ]

Tuesday, August 16

When I feel worn down by the heaviness of life, like the wind's been knocked out of my sails, like I'm broken in half, left frightened and insecure, I am refreshed by the simple act of asking friends for prayer. The idea that they will pray for me in this time of distress is renewing and comforting.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 16, 2005  ]

There's an old saying that you can choose your friends but not your family, and my hope is that some of my extended family would choose me as a friend as well. There's something precious about family, especially those living under my roof.

I once wrote an essay about Chosen Family, the people who I choose to have in my life with me. They're not related to me by blood, but they are close to my heart like love.

Several co-workers and I were talking yesterday about preparing our children for the school year, and one mother was telling about how she and her daughter were talking about how school was harder than home and church. At home and church, people love us without question (ideally), and we need to soak up all of that love so that we are prepared to face the world that doesn't always love us.

I want my home to be that kind of love-giving place, not just for my immediate family (which is one of my greatest goals) but for all who come through the doors. I want visitors (who will, admittedly, have to step over dirty clothes and toys and shoes and books and whatnot to get anywhere in the house) to feel loved, to see the love between me and Mike and Griff and Eliza.

My friend, Aleece, lived with us for a few weeks several years ago when Griff was just an infant. I had always sworn that no one would live with us, and yet, at that moment in time, inviting her in seemed like (and was) the right thing to do. And she came to know us deeply. She watched countless Astros games, flipped through the magazines I found interesting at the time, and rocked my Griff to sleep.

She saw us fight and be snippy and petty and downright ugly with one another. She saw us tired and weary and sad and unglued. In our home, we are the most real. We can all put on our good face when needed outside those walls, but when we're home, we're just us. And sometimes that's not very pretty.

When I was on the trip with Mika and Tara, I told them about my tummy fears (maybe if I tell my fears, they won't frighten me any more), and Mika's first response was, "I lived with you." She knew me, and I needn't fear.

The living and loving process brings us past the point of the ugly being what defines us. It's something that happens along the way, to be sure, but what defines us most is the love and the acceptance and the moments when we are at our very best. And so many times, those moments are these tiny little snippets of time when something tender is said or a touch is given or an acknowledgement of understanding is shared.

It's those things that I hope my family - and my home - provide to ... well, to one another, and to those who grace us with their presence. Our family. And our friends who are as dear as family.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 16, 2005  ]

Monday, August 15

I am, in all things, a planner. I do best when I've got everything all mapped out, when things work on a schedule and when I know what to expect. I have, though, figured out through the years that no amount of planning can guarantee me anything. I've learned to slow down a bit and listen to what God has planned, as His plans are always better than my own.

It's not always easy, though. It's getting easier as I practice leaning on the Lord more, but it's still difficult. I don't enjoy the anticipation of things, the waiting - even for good things. I want everything now ... good or bad. I am at my best dealing with things as they come, rather than prolonging things.

I have to fight myself on the Saturday of all of our vacations... knowing that I've only got one more day of freedom makes me cranky. I'm getting better at easing up and just enjoying our time together rather than ruining it with cranky thoughts of that time ending.

We're all in that pre-school days funk around here, wishing our houses would once again be quiet when we sneak there for lunch hours yet not wanting to pack lunches before school or deal with homework after work. We're all startled, yet again, at how cute our little ones look in their new uniforms, but just as startled at how expensive those uniforms were. We're not really summer now but not yet really school either.

When Mike was finishing his coursework, we knew he wouldn't be traveling as much (he worked fulltime in this state while taking courses in another, driving back and forth two or three times a week... four hours each way), and we were so pleased. And yet, in those last few weeks, I was suddenly terrified something would happen to him as he drove. We were so close, and I was afraid of things that might get us before we could finish.

I wonder if the mothers of two of Griff's friends feel that way. Their husbands are both due back from Iraq in September or October, and I wonder if they worry they will get so close but not make it. I worry that, so I pray for both of these families.

When I think of Mike defending his dissertation and getting his degree, I feel that tightening in my chest in that same way. He's worked so hard and come so far, and now, I have this secret fear that something will happen to stop this process. At the conference last week, one of his professors suggested a semester for re-writes, and I thought my head would explode.

It's these in-between moments when my own unrest and fears surface. I do really great with trusting the Lord and not trying to take control when things are big or difficult or in crisis. And I comfortably rest in Him when things are easy, taking advantage of the moments of calm. It's these in-between times that get me all unravelled. I am blessed beyond words that God chooses to meet me in these uneasy places and carry me forward.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 15, 2005  ]

Friday, August 12

This time alone with Mike has been good for both of us, for our marriage. We've always believed that the best way for us to be good parents was for us to have a good marriage. The parenting stems from the marriage foundation. And, sometimes, the daily stuff of life... the always having one child or another in the bed between us or in the conversation ... wears us down.

This trip has been relaxing (for me, mostly, as Mike's actually attending sessions at the conference) and has given us time to spend alone, talking and remembering what we love about one another as individuals, not simply as co-parents.

Tomorrow's our 11th anniversary... how wonderful! I think anything is a reason to celebrate, but anniversaries are so dear. I'm blessed that God put me with a man who compliments me beautifully. He drives me crazy, makes me crazy, but he's also exactly who I need. I thank God that He knew that, that He planned our togetherness and kept us each single until we found one another.

Today is my friend Aleece's anniversary... 10th. I've always liked that our anniversaries were so close together. It gives us another opportunity to encourage and support one another. I wish for Aleece and her husband all of the good that marriage has to bring and not more than a smidgen of burden for the next year.

I just read that yesterday was also Marla's anniversary.

Happy, strong marriages to us all.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, August 12, 2005  ]

Thursday, August 11

We're in San Antonio and having a wonderful time. Aleece sent me this quote a few days ago, and I keep meaning to post it here. Now seems like a good time.

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference." Eli Weisel

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, August 11, 2005  ]

Tuesday, August 9

Ah, the delightful energy of the night before a trip. Somehow all of the lights in the house end up blazing, and the television's not quite as loud as usual, though the Astros game is on. And there's just a lovely humm around our house tonight.

All of my family is outside sitting in my car. Mike's cleaning it out for the trip while Griff and Eliza crawl around the forbidden territory that is the front seat. All are listening to the Astros on the XM, of course. And so I have a moment alone.

Mike and I will be in San Antonio tomorrow through Saturday, and I must admit that I've entertained the idea of going to see the church of Real Live Preacher. Aleece says I absolutely should. Mike says I'm nuts.

And I can't decide if I feel more like a stalker (if I just go see his church) or a groupie (if I actually am bold enough to try to meet him), neither of which really feels quite like me. And yet, I've very much enjoyed reading his blog, and I'm intrigued. And ... I just haven't decided yet.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 09, 2005  ]

I owe Griff's first grade teacher a debt of gratitude. She showed me how important it is to let him be himself. Now, I try to approach all of the adults I come in contact with in a manner that accepts them where they are at that moment. Turns out, I hadn't completely been doing that with my own child.

He is this delightful, maddening combination of his daddy and me. He is laid-back, barely motivated but selfless and sensitive. He moves at his own very slow pace, but he is always willing to stop and help someone along that journey. So many times I have said that the very traits that will make him an amazing man also make it difficult to be a little boy.

But this teacher embraced him where he was at that moment in time, and that made all the difference. Not only did she seem to enjoy him but she let him be. She encouraged him and stayed on him (necessary for this stage of the game), but she also didn't push too hard. She taught me about helping my son.

And so, I try (though I don't always succeed!) to take him as he is. Now, that's not always easy. We spent two hours last night preparing a double-spaced, one-page book report on "Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman." An hour and a half of that was spent with him moaning about how hard it was, crying that he'd never finish. Once he got moving on it, it really only took about 30 minutes of work.

Mike said he was impressed with how calmly I handled the situation, and while I think I did pretty well last night(the BRAIN, CHILD magazine I was reading helped), I am also aware of how difficult this next school year may be. And in all honesty, the year after and so on.

But I want Griff to be his own person, to make his own choices, and to become his own man. And I know that I have to allow him some space in order for that to happen. I'm also, admittedly, hoping that the lure of watching "Teen Titans" will speed him up in his homework.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 09, 2005  ]

Monday, August 8

God bless good doctors, for all they do.

Eliza's pediatrician saw her first thing this morning and had the nurse give her a nice big shot of antibiotics. She's got strep throat and will be on the oral antibiotics for another 10 days, but Dr. D says she won't be contagious by Wednesday, our scheduled departure date.

Mike's dad and his wife say they don't mind the sick baby, and I'm sure my grandparents won't either, so it looks as if we're still going on our trip. We'll most likely wait to decide for certain until tomorrow when we can see how Eliza's feeling then, but it's nice to know that it's still a possibility.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 08, 2005  ]

It happens every time.

Mike and I are supposed to go to San Antonio on Wednesday for him to attend a conference. My plans were to shop and read and loll around... the kids are to stay home with grandparents and great-grandparents.

But Eliza woke up this morning with a 104 temp. She's playing fine now, and we'll take her to doctor later this morning. I suppose we'll decide about the trip after we hear what the doc has to say.

While we'll both be disappointed if we don't get to make the trip, we're both okay with it, too. God's grace, I suppose. And the knowledge that this seems to be our own personal Murphy's Law... someone's going to get sick days before we leave town.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 08, 2005  ]

Friday, August 5

While the summer heat will linger on into October or so here in the Deep South, we're in the last days of summer.

We have all thoroughly enjoyed our summer, which only makes it harder to think about beginning school again. Mike will begin working on lectures in the evenings (hopefully instead of his dissertation rather than in addition to), and Griff will have homework of his own.

Second grade at his school is the reading year, which doesn't bode well for us, given his lack of interest in reading. We'll actually have to go back to Griff and Eliza having bedtimes, and we'll have to start making lunches again.

While I don't much look forward to any of those things, the thing I dislike the most is having to think about Griff's lunches and the search to find something he'll eat. Lunches are the most difficult part about Griff's allergies, on a practical level.

Because of his many food allergies, he has to brown-bag it every day. Now, he doesn't seem to mind that much, as he's always assured of sweets the other kids might not get with their tray lunches.

But his tastes are constantly in flux (something I blame upon him eating lunch with lots of other kids at school every day. Until kindergarten, he was an adventurous eater. Now, he's finicky.), and so it's an effort to find something for him to eat that both appeals to him and assures me that he's getting at least a tiny bit of nutrition.

And, in all honest, a tiny bit of nutrition really is all I'm after. In terms of looking at his diet on the whole and trying to see if he's getting enough good foods, I only look at breakfast and dinner. I figure lunch is a wash. Anything good he gets there is a bonus. But I'd sure like that bonus to be a little easier for me and more of a boost for him.

So this weekend we're going to begin the task of lunches... we'll talk about what he likes and what I wish he would like, and we'll try some new recipes I've found, and at the end of the weekend, we'll agree to disagree... just like every fall. It's our own little rite of passage.

I've always wanted to build traditions for our kids that were just our own, and we have. It's just that they're all a little kooky. Maybe that makes them wonderful.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, August 05, 2005  ]

Thursday, August 4

How blessed is it that I have my family here with me? While I understand that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow by our Lord, it is easy to become accustomed to the mere presence of the people who I love most.

Griff has two little friends to whom he is close, and both of them are without their fathers right now as they are serving in Iraq. One little boy has spent the day with Mike and Griff today. They played video games and went swimming, and we all had dinner together. Griff adores Mike and always wants him to play, and W has been asking for Mike to play, too. At this age, I know W misses the male influence of his daddy.

Mike was telling me that they were all in the truck together earlier when the boys began to talk about fears and what their fears were (amazing what children will talk about when left to themselves).

Griff said he is afraid of high places (a recent thing... since we bought him a loft bed), which seems like a very reasonable fear for a seven-year-old. W said he is afraid his dad will die. And that seems like an unfortunate but certainly possible fear for this little boy. And my heart breaks for him... and for his brother and sisters (at seven, he's the eldest of four) and for his mother.

And so tonight as I listen to all of them laugh and joke with one another, competing in yet another video game, I am grateful that God has allowed us to be in the lives of this family. I am grateful that Mike is the man he is and that God gave me the opportunity to be with him.

And I am selfishly grateful to have all of my people under the same roof covering my head.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, August 04, 2005  ]

Wednesday, August 3

I am more and more convinced that I need to consciously seek role models for each of my children as they go through their childhood and teenage years. It is so vitally important that, at each stage of their development, they have Christian men and women (other than their daddy and myself) in their lives who can show them the face of God through their actions and lifestyle.

So many days, it feels to me like the world is all upside down, topsy-turvy, not-quite-right. Men and women doing evil deeds are rewarded while good men and women are harmed for someone else's gain. Honesty is a seemingly lost virtue. Personal ethics are shady, at best, in many cases, and the concepts of right and wrong seem to be on a sliding scale. Looking at all of the things in our world today, I understand how people become disheartened, discouraged.

And I know without a doubt that we need to first look to Christ himself as our model. But so many times we need (at least I do) to put a human face to the ideas we study. With such poor role models in such abundance, I think it's vital that I try to give my children good ones, too.

We need to have examples in our lives of people living these difficult lives but still maintaining their dignity, of people making the hard but proper choices, of people struggling but still remaining true to themselves and their Lord.

Griff's current aftercare arrangement (during the schoolyear) is more expensive than another option we have, but it allows us to hand-pick a young man to spend lots of time with our son. The way the two of them interact, even in the little things like watching television and playing video games, will give Griff a glimpse of ways that young men should act and how they should carry themselves. And that's important.

I am beginning to pray that God be preparing people to minister to my children as mentors, that He be developing in them traits that will benefit my Griff and Eliza. And, in all honesty, that will benefit us all as a family. I pray, too, that God will use us in the lives of these men and women. Isn't that the most I can ask for... that God use me for His purposes?

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, August 03, 2005  ]

Tuesday, August 2

It's a testament to God's grace and to my feeling of being all cozy in His love this summer that the continuing financial stresses we encounter haven't dampened my current contentment.

We bought Griff this lovely boy bedroom furniture that meets his growing-up needs, and we got a payment plan that made the whole thing very reasonable. Mere days later, Mike's hearing tests went farther awry than we had expected, and we were presented with a $4,200 estimate for the hearing aids he needs. And today, we discovered we have termites under our old, wooden home. Another $1,100 to take care of those.

It's one of those times when it seems like it's one thing after another, but it's also a time when I am confident that we can make it work if we rearrange our budget and tighten our belts for a time. I'm not a very good belt-tightener, in all honesty, but I know that we can do what is necessary. There has never been a time in our lives when God didn't provide exactly what we needed when we needed it, so I do not fear this. Remarkable, indeed.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 02, 2005  ]

Despite my emotional, from-the-gut general responses, I tend to be a very direct person. I want to deal with the facts - good or bad - as they arise. This is one of those traits that is either a blessing or a curse, usually depending upon the day and how I respond to things.

If something difficult is approaching, I want to know about it up front so that I can deal with it. If a friend sees something in my life that is harmful - to me or to someone else - I want her to approach me with it. I want that kind of openness. It took me years (and some unpleasant interactions) to discover that not everyone is that way.

Mike has been known to say that no one asks for my opinion until they're really stuck and want to know what I view to be the truth of the situation, from my perspective. Because if asked, I'll tell. But I do try to reserve my telling for those times when asked. In no way do I believe that I have useful advice to give on a regular basis, so I refuse to go about spouting advice anyway.

Now that I'm older, I understand that everyone operates on different planes and that what works for one, won't work for another. My children have helped teach me that. I am now far more respectful of other people's basic personalities and of what would be best for them in our interactions. If I am concerned about something, I try to base my responses upon my friends' personalities and what actions would best serve each person. My hope is that those around me would do the same for me.

But in the learning curve of all this, I've become more cautious about bringing up delicate subjects, even with friends. I've become more hesitant to approach a friend with a personal need in my own life, which is a shame, I think. While I know they want to know and share in my life, it is sometimes difficult to find a place in one another's lives. I'm thankful to be old enough to recognize the ebb and flow of life as just that... things change constantly, and our friendships need to be fluid enough to change with us.

I just sometimes feel as if it's a delicate line to walk between being involved and being needy or clingy (things I dislike when I see them in myself), between being concerned and being overbearing.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 02, 2005  ]

Monday, August 1

Jana had a quote on her blog that was so delicious I had to steal it for myself.

Truth and Falsehood were bathing. Falsehood came out of the water first and dressed herself in Truth's clothes. Truth, unwilling to put on the garments of Falsehood, went naked.
The author is unknown.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 01, 2005  ]

I never read parenting magazines or books. With my tendencies toward guilt, I usually feel badly about my parenting style after reading them. So I made a choice years ago to not read such things.

But in my search for reading material from women in similar circumstances as mine, I came across BRAIN, CHILD magazine and ordered a few sample issues. In a quick flip-through of the samples that arrived in the mail today, I found a pull-quote that I loved.

"After a while, I began to wonder how many of the advice-givers were really in a position to advise. Sure, most had experience raising kids. But none of them had raised my kids."
from Mom Blame by Katy Read in BRAIN, CHILD Winter 2005
I think, for me, one of the big problems with child rearing magazines and books was that solutions were often presented as fitting everyone. And, at least for my kids, there's not a universal solution for anything. We have to find what works for each child at that particular moment in time.

If that quote is any indication, maybe I've found a parenting magazine I can read and enjoy.

Addendum...August 2...
I flipped through the magazines last night, fully reading only one article, which I enjoyed. I should note, however, the the tone is very straight-forward (blunt and bold, even), and thus, might not be for everyone. But I'm pretty sure it's for me.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 01, 2005  ]

I've never been diligent about having a daily quiet time with God, and I've become convinced this summer that I need to do that. On July 1, my goal was to have a time each day - through the month - to spend with God.

I like to start new things on new days... first of the week, first of the month, etc. That method seems to fit best with my organized ways. And I liked the idea of only committing to this for a short time period... I could reevaluate on the 31st.

Of course, I now see such value in that time with God that I plan to continue. And I'm pleased with myself for sticking with this for an entire month. While it would be wrong to say I had a quiet time each day, I did it more days than I didn't, and that's something.

So I'm keeping that on my calendar (embarrassingly enough, if I write something down - even this sort of thing - on my planner, I'm more likely to do it) and for August, I'm going to add something new.

I tend to be an all or nothing, either/or sort of girl despite the fact that I see much of life in shades of grey rather than black and white, and so I get caught up in having to do something all the time or every day if I want to try a new endeavor. This process has helped me see that some better is still better, that trying but not being completely successful is not necessarily failing.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 01, 2005  ]