Chin Ups (Via Humorous Teens)

Dear Lindsey,

As heavy as life can get, I love it when a lighter side keeps my chin up.

While Christine and I were away visiting Mom in a Colorado hospital following her stroke, and Chris was speaking at Life Leadership’s Summer Convention in Wisconsin, the three boys were left at home to their own devices. (“devices” ha! I guess I could intend that pun, since their humor used their phones 🙂 )

Since the older two have a schedule of soccer workouts and work, I decided to have a nanny stay the nights, but she kept her job working days elsewhere.  She was sweet enough to text the boys (age 18 and 15) during the day to be sure everything was ok. (She probably was making sure they were taking care of JR (age 10)  too!)

Here is how the exchange went. {For those of you who are not familiar with this phone screen, the “GROUP” is Casey (age 18), Nate (age 15), and Lydia (the nanny), so they can all see each other’s replies, even though none are in the same location. This is Casey’s phone screen, so his words are the ones in BLUE.}

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I am grateful they have a sense of humor, and especially grateful Lydia does too!

In fun,

Terri

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Soccer Guys and Humble Pie

Have you ever made a mistake in parenting?

Long before he could write, my son Nate loved soccer. If he wasn’t playing soccer, he was

81Tn4mGp+dL._SL1500_watching soccer (or begging to watch soccer as shown by the Post-It notes below). If he wasn’t playing or watching, he was using his “Soccer Guys” to act out field formations that would eventually end up with a “GOOOOAAAAAAALL!” Walking close by his imaginary play, you would usually hear his little 5-yr-old voice narrating the play in a British accent!

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The play in his mind translated well to play on the field. According to the local coach, Image-1 2he was “above” the recreational league for 5-yr-olds and should really come try out for the competitive league. The problem was that the youngest travel league was for 8 and 9-yr-olds. Nate didn’t seem to think that was an obstacle. He began showing his magnificent obsession on the field of giants! (6-yr-old Nate on the U-9 team to the right and below.)

 

 

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His obsession didn’t end there. Every restaurant’s blank placemat was quickly turned into a soccer guy:  legs spread, fingers out (usually twelve fingers!), and the net behind him, often with a dialogue bubble coming out of the mouth saying, “GOOOAAALLLLL!” (I am sure with a British accent.) He seemed so old during league play that his drawings shocked us with his youth.

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He was a monster on the field and a youngster in the house. After completing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, we had moved to My Father’s World curriculum for first grade. The curriculum used the simple language of small words to write a Bible that my little guy could read all by himself! Having a 2-yr-old and 1-yr-old sister and brother, Nate was usually left to finish his Bible journaling once he and I had done the lessonIMG_6915 together for the day.

“Since you have already read the chapter to me, write a sentence about it and color a picture of what it meant to you,” I often said as I left him to work alone and went to care for his older brother or younger siblings.

His journaling began well: Adam and Eve had a serpent come out of the tree to visit them.

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On the next page, Nate had written, “Cain said, ‘Let’s go for a walk’.”

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Noah’s ark had animal stickers, two by two:

 

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Then I forgot to check the book for several days, and things took a turn:

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I was shocked to open his “Bible Journal” and find pictures of …soccer guys!!! There they were: legs sprawled across the page, fingers (many!) spread and sometimes even a ball in the air!

WHAT?!!! I was livid. It would be bad enough if he had drawn soccer guys in his math notebook, but Bible journal?!! You’ve got to be kidding me!

I had found the mess while I was checking work late at night, and ran it by Chris. He Slide1agreed with my consensus that we needed to crack down HARD on little lies or we would raise an adult who tells big lies. I decided to bring up the subject to my 6-yr-old the next morning, with a clearer, calmer head. My thoughts swam: This was pure deceit. I had heard of deviled eggs, but never before had I applied the adjective to kids! Drawing soccer guys while pretending to be recording in a Bible journal? This was like some scene from the Brady Bunch of the 70’s when Peter hides the comic book and pretends to read history! I don’t care how many points he scores on the field if he can’t score points in character!

What’s on the inside is what matters!

I rehearsed my speech in my head, wanting to turn this boy from his wrong ways while he was still young enough to learn.

“You’re character will be what you choose to make it [and I added: young man!!].” – John Lubbock

“When nobody else is looking, I still see.” – God

“Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” – Proverbs 28:6

“People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1Sam 16:7

 

The next morning, we started homeschool with a one-on-one conversation. I gave him my “SCORING POINTS FOR CHARACTER” speech, and he sat listening intently. I gave him a chance to tell me if he had any times recently when he thought his character was not something he would want God to see.

“I don’t think so,” he said as his bewildered, 6-yr-old, enormous, brown eyes squinted a little.

I brought out the Bible journal, practically ready to jump on him and say, “Thou art the man!!” I opened and turned the pages, telling him how disappointed I was that he was drawing soccer guys instead of illustrating what he had read in the Bible like I had told him.

His tears started to well.

Guilty as charged! I assumed. I was ready to accept his apology and hold hands to pray toward repentance.

His tears burst through his words as he said, “THAT…. IS MOSES!”

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I was shocked when for the first time I noticed a burning bush next to the man I thought was a soccer guy.

“AND THAT IS JACOB…SEE HIS DREAM?” he said, turning the page to an identically looking man next to what I had thought was a soccer ball.

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“And that one is Joseph next to the barn full of grain,” he said, pointing to another “soccer guy” next to a little square, that apparently was not a goal, but a barn.

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I could have died. Or cried. Or both – preferably in that order.

I…FELT… SO… BAD!!!

Next up: one of the most important parenting moves ever:

I said, “I’m sorry,” to my son!

We held hands and prayed for my forgiveness.  The table was turned. The verse: “People look at outward appearance, but God looks at the heart,” (1Sam 16:7) was still applicable. I was indeed “a people” and I just displayed it in full color to my 6-yr-old, since I had only looked at the “appearance”! I hate the taste of humble pie! But I love the results of peace in the relationship.

The Bible says, “Humble yourself and you shall be exalted,” (James 4:10) but I like to say, “Humble yourself or God will do it!”

I showed Chris the pictures later and he laughed hysterically at what we had thought, versus what was reality. Of course, I guess Nate got past the horrible incident and forgave us, because when I got out his old Bible journal this week (now that he is almost 15-yrs-old) and told him the story, he laughed and laughed and laughed, not remembering it at all!

I guess it is a good thing that God judges from the heart, because then He could know that I meant to teach for His glory; however, it served as a good reminder that my heart might be the deviled one some days in this Brady bunch.

Love ya,

Terri

1Peter 5:6 : “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

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If You Give a Sanguine a Marker, She Might Change the World!

C text room wreck

“Everything looks like junk to me and treasure to her!” my husband vented in a text to me, while he was trying to help my daughter finish packing her room for our move across town. Our family’s recent move put us all into fights and flights – where personality differences are most evident.

Bedroom door decor

Bedroom door decor

A flurry of creative design, my sanguine daughter’s bedroom is a sight to behold. I pray daily that I will see God’s design in that “butterfly”, and allow it to fly, while teaching her (age eleven) the necessities of being a future wife and mother who lives on THIS earth, even if her mind lives elsewhere. Today, I found cut up toilet paper inserts, decorated with cupcake papers to create perfect little owls. She also took two advertisement magazines I thought I had discarded and cut them apart to mix and match. The clothing models looked like they were ready to take a rest in Pottery Barn magazine’s color-coordinated beds. Where does she come up with this?!! Look out, world, if she ever finds Pinterest!

The model on this magazine cover is cut out and pasted from a different magazine's ad.

The model on this magazine cover is cut out and pasted from a different magazine’s ad.

So how was she supposed to pack her room? How could she part with toilet paper inserts, advertisement magazines, coffee cans and the rest of what she must have absconded from the recycle bin in the garage?! She told me her room was “completely packed,” so I went to inspect. I found one gigantic box in the middle of her floor, full of those “recyclable treasures,” but not one stitch of clothing was packed; her bed was still made; the toothbrush must have seemed optional along with her school books, because nothing was packed except the “treasures.”

My choleric son (age fourteen), however, was “done packing” exactly oneIMG_5417 half -hour after I had asked him to start. The hallway outside of his room was lined with trash bags, labeled, “throw away.” I think he wanted to save six or seven shirts, and the rest he didn’t think worthy of unpacking in the new house, (or giving as hand-me-downs to his younger brother which I always do) so he wanted them out of his way – choleric style. DONE! (I pray A LOT for his future wife, LOL! And, I filed the clothes away as hand-me-downs.)

Today’s story of my butterfly’s latest flight began because during the packing weeks, she found the brand new markers – black, blue and red – and the way Miss Kristen (who was helping us pack) was using them to label every box as she packed. My daughter wanted to be where there were people – not in her room where she was supposed to be packing; so Butterfly began drawing on the boxes. She was thrilled to have markers with ink (since they hadn’t been lost, and nobody had left the caps off…yet) and she wrote …and wrote….and wrote. I didn’t stop her, because honestly, I knew that if she were with Kristen or me where we were packing, she wasn’t somewhere confiscating the bubblewrap for future crafts.

Butterfly’s writing on the boxes was a little different than Miss Kristen’s or mine. Ours said simply,

“FROM: old living room.

TO: new family room.

CONTENTS: photo albums.”

Butterfly’s messages were more like

“Smile! God is with you!”

“Turn that frown upside down!”

“The sun will come out tomorrow! Look up!”

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I was amused with her continuously encouraging words and wondered who she thought would read them. (Though I was reading them…and they had blessed me already!)

That’s when I noticed her younger brother had picked up on the trend. He drew big smiley faces, or cartoons with talking bubbles, making the readers (including me!) laugh.

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IMG_5454Miss Kristen was uplifted as she packed books…thousands of books…into boxes, each one being decorated as soon as it received its closing tape.

“Who are you writing those messages to?” I asked my daughter as she fluttered from one box to the next.

“Well, aren’t people going to move these boxes?” she asked.

“Yes, we will have movers,” I said.

“Yep, then I think they are the ones who will read it. But really, whoever God wants to read them!” she said with delight as she saw another room full of boxes she had not yet decorated.

I continued working, huffing a little on the inside, debating whether I should force her into aIMG_5451 working mode, instead of a coloring mode, but grateful for her joyous spirit. As a mother, it seems like a constant debate for me: when do I let my task-oriented personality reign, and when should I let them flutter in their own personalities?

Moving day arrived, and our house was covered with the most artistic moving boxes imaginable. The men quickly filled the house, moving box after box onto the truck. Day one was New Year’s Eve, originally planned to move only the piano, but boxes went onto the truck…rode for four miles and then were mixed up and taken by different hands off of the truck. I wondered if the men noticed the messages.

By the time the movers resumed January 2nd, it was an entirely new crew of men. This next crew loaded the truck again with boxes. As darkness fell, they drove four miles and unloaded the same boxes…different hands touching each one.

An underestimation of truck size caused need for yet another day of moving, so another IMG_5453set of men arrived on the third day to load and unload more boxes… and the messages they carried.   As they walked by me in the foyer of the new house, the movers asked me to confirm the destination room of each box they held. I giggled at my 9-yr-old’s jokes on the side of the box, “Two movers walked into a …oops! Watch where you are going!”

Next was the unpacking – as more hands made the work light, and boxes were unpacked one by one. Even I – who had been looking at boxes for weeks – was amused by each of the boxes’ messages. SMILE! Kept going through my head.

When the boxes were unpacked, they were broken down and stacked in enormous piles in the garage. We offered them on Craigslist, and takers came within a couple of hours. The first was moving to Boston. The second was putting their house in storage while they rented, deciding if it would work out to retire in Florida. The third couple was starry eyed about moving to Oregon to start life together. Their dreadlocks and tattoos would probably not have been my daughter’s usual circle of influence, but they took her decorated boxes.

As I walked away from loading the last of the empty boxes into someone else’s car, I was IMG_5456in awe of my daughter’s God-given ability to encourage; she had no selfish ambition in her coloring (although she definitely received joy in the giving process). She has often said her goal is to “Spread Smiles” with her life.

If you give Christine a marker…

She might write some words…

Which will make her brother write…

Which will make her mother smile…

And Miss Kristen will smile…

And the movers who load the first truck will smile…

Which will make their wives smile when they get home…

The boxes will make the other workers smile while they unload the truck…

The unpackers of the boxes will smile while piling the now empty boxes into the garage, where…

More people will smile while they load the boxes into their cars…

Where the boxes will ride to another house to be packed…

And then their movers will smile while they load the boxes onto a new truck…

Where the boxes will ride to Oregon…or Boston…or eventually Florida…

Where the boxes will be unloaded by smiling workers,…

And unpacked by a family in a new place, where hopefully they are reading the words and smiling…

at the influence of a smiling 11-yr-old girl in North Carolina.

 

If you give a sanguine a marker, she just might change the world!

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Smiles,

Terri

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Shade in Thorns

Dear Lindsey,

It was spur-of-the-moment for me, but it had been in my daughter Christine’s mind for a week: berry picking.

On my walk one morning last week, I had seen wild blackberries by the side of the road. They weren’t the “normal” small, uncared-for wild berries. These looked as beautiful as the ones sold in grocery stores, although their bushes were clearly in a wild pattern. The berries’ large size was only surpassed by their taste – yum! – a great treat on my walk. I told Christine I would bring her there, and we would bake a pie.

I should know better than to tell a ten-year-old my thoughts without a plan in my calendar for the picking. She begged me daily to go.

We have been blessed with incessant guests at our lakehouse this summer, and I finally realized that I would need to take her even if the guests were present, or we would miss the ripe season altogether.

GG and Pop Pop (my parents) were the chosen participants, and we drove the car to the location, knowing the air conditioning for the 2-mile ride home would be priceless!

I am no stranger to wild blackberry picking. We had hundreds of bushes on our Michigan acreage a few years ago. There, I had dreamed of an invention of bee-keeper type gloves to repel the long, sharp thorns of blackberries, while being dainty enough to pick the soft, sweet berries without damage.

CM & PP pickinWe arrived at the patch bare-handed and began picking with vigor. The bottom of the bowl was covered, and the berries made a different sound when they landed on berries instead of plastic. I could practically taste the pie.

As I tried to reach deeper into the patch, I accidentally slid down the slope, not sure how far it actually was going to take me through the tangled vines. I hoped I wouldn’t land on a snake as I fell! I stopped my fall by sitting on the ground, and thorns pierced my jeans. Oh well, I thought, while I am stopped, I can reach these berries underneath.

Every time I would reach for a berry, it seemed thorns came to life, grabbing my arm more forcefully the further I went into the bush.

I leaned in a little more, and they grabbed my exposed shins under my denim capris.

My dad came down the slope a little behind me, and I reached back to try to catch his fall, but the thorns seemed to notice my movement and make their crown on my head.

“You have a new hair piece!” my dad jested, as I tried to get what felt like an entire bush out of my hair. I looked into the bush and saw hundreds more berries…just a little out of reach from where I sat.

I asked Christine how much was in the bowl, since she stood up the road, still in earshot.  more pickin

“Almost one inch of berries!” she enthusiastically reported.

Less than an inch!

It would take about four inches in the bowl to make a pie.

And the big berries seemed to be already gone. Why did I come!? I don’t have the right clothing for this! This is not worth the effort! A $4 basket of blueberries at the Farmers’ Market sounds better right now, or I could hit the freezer section of the grocery store for an already-made pie!

The worst part is, my thoughts continued, most of these thorn cuts don’t really show up until tomorrow in the shower – when they burn like the dickens! And itch all day!

I looked at my dad, and his four-score-old skin wasn’t handling the thorns either, as blood from his wrist trickled onto his white t-shirt, and wicked in the wetness of his sweat. He continued picking, presumably unaware.

Christine proudly carried the bowl from where she had been working, into our neck of the woods, swiftly sliding down the path, disconnecting the thorns as she said with excitement, “What a great idea! God gave us shade here!”

It wasn’t until that moment that I even noticed that I was no longer in the scorching, North Carolina July sun.

Thank You, God.

Thank You, God for the shade, and thank You for the reminder that in the midst of thorns, there is always something for which to say thank You.

And of course, I thanked Him for my daughter’s bright spirit and ability to bring light (and shade!) onto subjects every day.

 

We made the pie, and enjoyed the making of it. It tasted better than any store-bought berries, or freezer pie could have tasted, because it had the three-generations’ touches for ingredients.  Memories matter. (I suppose the light (or shade) in which we view the memories matters as much as the memories themselves!)

 

May you discipline yourself to notice the shade more than thorns in life.

And of course, enjoy the pie for which you aim!  pie

 

Terri

Matthew 13:7-9: [Jesus said] “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Isaiah 4:6: “And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.”

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Real Moms: “When the Last Goldfish Dies”

Dear Lindsey,

After ice skating for a while, I decided I could sit back with my book while I watched my kids through the glass. The Tuesday family skate brought less than ten kids that morning.

I sat in the viewing area with my book, while other moms enjoyed fellowship and coffee. I overheard one mom say to another, “I am going to have a party when that last goldfish dies!”

I chuckled to myself, since we had the amazing longevity-gifted goldfish Chris at fairat our house, too, and I completely understood what she was saying! We had won the fish at the State Fair.  These three fish with an average life of one day, were going on their second YEAR at the Brady house – living in Tupperware, since I had given the fish tank away to a neighbor literally days before that State Fair. 

The plastic home of these carnival fish lived in our basement homeschool area and always pleaded for cleaning. Always.  It seemed that although the kids had begged to keep them, no one ever remembered we had them – except me – when I smelled them.

I get it ! I mean, when that last goldfish dies:

  • No more working to keep the tank (or Tupperware) clean!
  • No more rocks, filters, lights or food to replace!
  • No more badgering kids to finish responsibilities!

As luck would have it, weeks after the overheard goldfish comment, one of our Fair goldfish was found in a not-so-fair state, floating on the top of the water. That night, a second fish was moving slowly, looking awfully buoyant, and dead by morning.

The third fish was gone within twenty-four hours, confirming that something must have happened to the water (which ironically, was clean this time).

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(My husband wants me to tell you that he is innocent. Really.)

The mourning process in my kids was shocking to me.

Life appreciates after it is gone.

These ignored fish, suddenly had value now that they were gone, the same way the man in the casket always seems to have so many “best friends.”

“I miss him!” my eight-year-old cried, assigning gender to one who had no name or gender – that we had identified anyway.  “I loved him so much.”

It felt completely silly to me, and I hid my smile,

“The worst part is that he doesn’t even go to heaven! It would be so much better, if I at least knew he was theeeeerrrrrrrrreee.” He cried, and I hugged him on the stairs where we stood, not remembering if we were going up or down.

His body shook in my arms, which made me hold more tightly. It was funny how much I didn’t care about the fish, but a tear left my eye, as I felt my son’s pain. To him, it was real, and that’s what mattered to me.

“Should we have a funeral?” I asked, finally, wiping my tear before he could see it.  I couldn’t believe I was offering, but honestly, I felt like he had an emotion – and even though I did not share that emotion – I might help him work through it.

“What do you do at a funeral?” he asked, and I secretly thanked God that he hadn’t had a lot of exposure to death.

“It’s a time when we give our respects. We tell God thank you for giving us memories, like a celebration of the life. Sometimes people tell stories of the happy memories with the one who died.”

“Yeah, Let’s do that,” he said, as a calm overtook him.

He and his sister immediately began making “invitations” to the funeral, created a casket out of a paper cup, and dug a hole next to the fishpond in the back yard.

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JRCM fish funeral

The three of us met at the pond, buried the treasure, and thanked God for giving us memories with the fish. We sang Amazing Grace, since I suppose even fish-death reminds us of the amazing grace of eternal life given to my children and me.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those “cool” moms as seen on TV. You know the ones? They wear their skinny jeans while they feed the kids chocolate chip cookies and milk and sit and discuss their school day. Their teens run in with all of their friends, (because the mom is so cool, surely any teen would want to hang out with her), and gobble up the pizza pockets and Sunny D. (That’s the way “cool moms” say “Sunny Delight.”)

But where are the “real” moms in those commercials?

Real Moms

A real mom is sitting in the bathroom, and the ENTIRE family is standing outside of the bathroom door asking “URGENT” questions like,

“What are we having for dinner?”

“Have you seen my book?”

“Doesn’t HE  have to put the dishes away today, because I already did it TWO TIMES YESTERDAY!!”

A real mom doesn’t realize till dinner that her shirt has been on inside-out all day.

Real moms have library books that they have paid for three times, thinking one day they’ll find it.

Real moms lose socks in every load.

Real moms go to the store for milk, and come home with seven things…and no milk.

Real moms fit four little people (preferably her kids) with her in one bathroom stall in the airport.

Real moms know what the code for “lost toddler” is on the Kohls intercom. (Thank you, Kohls, for handling us real moms.)

Real moms wonder if their hair can last one more day unwashed without attracting a social worker’s inspection.

Real moms know evolution can’t be true or else she’d have seven arms by now.

Real moms have the super power of finding things in the fridge that aren’t even at eye level.

Real moms can listen to the conversation behind them while talking to the one in front of them.

Real moms know how to hide the green beans under the bananas on the baby food spoon, can distinguish their baby’s cry in a nursery full of screamers and recognize the meaning behind every cry: hungry, hurt, or trying to get brother into trouble.

Real moms stop and blow bubbles.

A real mom has Good Night Moon memorized, even if her youngest child is eight.

Real moms know how to read aloud in characters’ voices in bedtime stories.

Real moms spend hours…or days…distraught over their children’s behavior.

Real moms leave knee prints in the carpet.

Real moms live life at the speed of their slowest child – even the special needs one.

Real moms hurt when their children hurt.

Real moms are sad when their kids leave for college…or kindergarten.

Real moms sometimes fall in bed at night, not fitting into their skinny jeans, second-guessing their every word to their kids that day, and wondering if tomorrow will be any different.

Real moms have days when they think they will party when the last goldfish dies.

And real moms shed a tear when it does.

Because when the last goldfish dies

It means the child has grown up a bit

“Back-scratching times” are almost done.

Bedtime stories are about to be silent.

The misspellings on the funeral invitations may almost be over.

Childhood appreciates after it is gone.

When the last goldfish dies, so does a little bit of childhood; and I suppose it is buried alongside a little bit of the “real mom-hood” that goes with it.

Gotta go!

–   back to being a real mom,

Terri

fish grave

Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

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Why is There a Dead Bird on the Air Hockey Table?

Dear Lindsey,

I got off to a start this morning. My oldest drove himself to school. The next three kids and I loaded into the car before Chris was even downstairs for breakfast. Off to the appointments we headed when I got a text from Chris that changed my day:

“Why is there a dead bird on the air hockey table?”photo_2

Stopped at a red light, I read the text aloud to the kids in the car, sure that my backseat held the culprits.

“[silence]”

Suddenly, the 13-yr-old in the front seat was stifling giggles that refused their restraint and started sneaking through his pursed lips in bursts.

Shocked, and trying to be strict, I subdued the humor of the text – but my own choked laughter (holding up my cup to hide my smile) led to the coffee-down-the-wrong-pipe-choke, so I prayed the light would stay red for a while as I tried to get oxygen.

That’s when the back seat spoke with remorse:

“We felt bad it died yesterday in the back yard, and we were going to bury it…”

“…But the dog was going to eat it…”

“… we couldn’t find the shovel…”

“…then Nate asked if I would throw football…”

“…and I didn’t want to have a funeral without people…”

“…and then we left for evening church in a hurry…”

At eight and ten-years-old, their voices are undistinguishable, so I couldn’t tell which Dead Birdone was talking when (and I was seriously just trying to breathe again), but I got the gist of their story. I only wish that Chris had not been the first to find the carcass: a messy house drives him crazy! Although I can’t think of too many people that are happy when they find a dead bird on the air hockey table.

Irresponsible!

They are not getting this “pick up after yourself” thing that I have been teaching since before they were born!

Oh my…I cannot put into words to even speak to these two right now. They know what they did was wrong!

That’s when my thoughts of frustration were interrupted by a protective (or perspective) mechanism:

  • Thank You, God, that we found the dead bird on the air hockey table today, and not next week when guests are here.
  • Thank You, God, that my kids have good hearts that had compassion for Your creation. (I am glad they were not ruined by my roadkilling a few years ago.)
  • Thank You for a 13-yr-old who was mature enough to see it wasn’t a life-threatening, eternal consequences moment (but that he stifled his laughter until the lesson was taught).
  • Thank You that they put the thing in the bug cage, so at least if it had bugs on it, they were contained in the cage…and I hope that means they didn’t actually touch the dead bird.
  • Thank You for creating the birds that we could fall in love with, even when we don’t know them.
  • Thank You that I didn’t choke to death. (And thank You that the choking reminded me to say thank You that I don’t have a brain tumor…as it always reminds me now.)
  • Thank You that my children will never bring a dead bird in the house again. (I believe.)
  • Thank You that I have children.
  • Thank You for the dead bird on the air hockey table that reminded me of so much for which I can be thankful.

I think it’s ironic… I was trying not to get too bent out of shape, so I made a list in my mind of what to be thankful for (my normal redirection mechanism), and I ended up being thankful for the exact thing I was trying to reframe: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

When Bad Things Happen

I think the point here is that this mechanism is applicable to bigger issues than dead birds on the air hockey table. When I go through bad times (This began during my years of massive headaches while I had young toddlers!), I have a protective mechanism of listing things (at least three each time!) for which I am thankful. It is ironic to me the number of times when I am listing thankfulness to distract me from a problem – and give me perspective – that the list goes all the way back to thanking God for the exact problem with which I started: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

I suppose one of these days, I will be able to skip the “Why?…” part and get to the “Thank You, God for even this,” faster.

A friend, Jane Zempel, spoke at my church recently about “contentment.” She told a story of figuring out what one thing is so bad in life that you would want God to change. What one thing would you get rid of? If you were granted only one thing about yourself you could change, what would it be?

“Now thank God for that one thing,” she said.  “It’s amazing how when I did this, I had to force the words ‘thank You,’ but once they were said, enough times, I realized I could believe it.”

She went on to say that when we believe that God is sovereign over all, we can say thank You for even the things we don’t want, because we recognize God has a plan in even them.

When her son came home from school in tears (again) at age twelve, being teased as a “retard” for having Down Syndrome, she taught him this lesson of saying, “thank You,” even for Down Syndrome, because God had a purpose in his life. She saw that purpose thirty years later when her son told a doctor what a “blessing” Down Syndrome was to him…and it changed the doctor!

When things are rough….

When we can’t change it all…

or when we can’t change even one thing…

Let us give thanks.

Make the list now. To what do we owe God “Thank You”?

What if you woke up today with only the things for which you said thank You yesterday?” – Peter Bonner

I am thankful for you!

In love,

Terri Brady

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1Thes 5:18

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  1Tim 6:6

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Phil 1:3

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The Book is Here!

Introducing: Letters to Lindsey in book form!

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Thanks to my husband’s initiative and his incredible, creative team; thanks to you who requested it; and thanks to the late Russ Mack who persistently encouraged it: Letters to Lindsey (the book) is available! With a foreword by Laurie Woodward and introduction by my best-selling husband Chris, let the stories begin! The chronicled journeys through infertility and the brain tumor survival,  tea parties and fishing trips, along with enflamed underwear (size 4T) on a chandelier are all decorated with my kids’ cute quotes in Post-It note form.  It’s a short read, a long read or anything in-between. So curl up with a blanket in front of the fire, make some fresh popcorn and hot chocolate, (or just go to the beach!) and relish some quiet reading time as you laugh with me, cry with me, and grow with me!

Enjoy!

-Terri Brady

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Readers (you!) in line for book-signing in Milwaukee, WI.

Tough Breaks

Dear Lindsey,

“Mom,” my eight-year-old began last week, “could you please call my coach and letknee-pain him know I can’t play tonight, because I cracked my leg.”

Seeing he was walking fine, I smiled inside (remembering my own “broken leg” claims of childhood) and asked how it happened. He explained he had been playing soccer with his brother. Five years his elder, that particular brother can be a little over-competitive with his already-powerful kick.

“Did he miss the ball and kick you? Or did you fall? What happened?” I prodded, guessing there might be a little tattling involved.

“He kicked the ball ‘as hard as he could’ [a phrase that always makes me smile inside] and I tried to stop it.”

“Oh my! That’s the kind of shot I stopped one time, and I couldn’t use my shoulder for a year!” I said. “Well did you at least stop him from getting the goal?” I jested to make light of the situation.

“No.” He sulked, and I stopped suspecting his purpose of getting his brother in trouble.

“No? You tried to stop it and it hit you so hard you hurt your leg, but it still went in?”

“No,” he complained, “I tried to kick it really hard, but I missed the ball completely.”

“You missed the ball? Then how did you hurt your leg; did you kick the ground?” I dragged the story out of him.

“No. I didn’t hit anything. But I kicked so hard, I cracked my leg, because I heard it crack,” he surmised.

I relished in the joy of motherhood.

“Well, bud, I don’t think you broke it, so you are probably ok for practice tonight.  Besides, you are scrimmaging the girls. Your team needs you!”

“No, Mom,” the concern in his voice was obvious.  “There is no way I can play in my scrimmage tonight.”

Uh oh…I smelled a teachable moment. What can I say to encourage him away from the wimpy attitude that tries to stop us all when the “going gets tough”?

Bradys play hurt!“? -no…he’s heard that one already.

Story! I need a story!

My kids (like us adults) always learn the best through a relevant story. For me, when it is told through a third-party’s eyes, it takes the offense away and allows learning without feeling attacked.  Certainly I could think of someone overcoming hardship that would relate to this eight-year-old’s heart and mind. Then I remembered an oldie but goodie from his very own oldest brother (whom I knew this younger son would never see as “wimpy”). I started my “once upon a time…” voice with the following true story – but in eight-year-old terms, like, “You know what happened next?” to keep his attention:

When your big brother was eleven…

(From my previous Letter, “Itching to be Tough,” images-1which was inspired by this conversation with my eight-year-old last week, but that day I told it to him in younger terms.)

When Casey was about eleven, I remember that sometimes even he, like many eleven-year-old boys would cry, or fight wimpiness. I prayed that God would help to make him strong and tough.

The very next day, Casey got poison ivy! It was just a little patch, but Casey thought he would have to skip his soccer game. I told him I thought he needed to “play hurt,” because it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

That night, the rash got worse. A lot worse! It was on his face, his belly, his legs and his feet! He itched SO BAD, I prayed that God would take the poison ivy away! fast!

But the next day, Casey got out of bed and you know what he did? He put on his soccer uniform to go play the game!

I couldn’t believe it! Then I realized what a champion he became when he overcame the poison ivy!  I thought back to my prayer just days prior and realized that maybe the poison ivy WAS the answer to my first prayer: that God would make Casey tough, because when I saw him play even though he had poison ivy, I realized my prayer was answered.

I wonder if God ever laughs at me?! One moment, I prayed that Casey would become a warrior, and then when God allowed the exact thing that would make him tough (poison ivy),  I immediately prayed it would be taken away.  Lucky for me, God continued with His plan, and didn’t just listen to my request for the “easy way out.”

Not only did Casey play for his team that day, but he scored a goal!

“Maybe sometimes God allows the struggles so that we can gain the strength we need to persevere,” I told my young son (telling him about Romans 5:3-5) as I finished the story of his brother, hoping it would make an impact on his own toughness factor for the night.

He sat pensively silent. I gloated at my mothering ability to teach through a third-party story. I hoped he got the parallels to his own soccer-scrimmage dilemma.  I got a little choked up, thinking about my now sixteen-year-old who has become such a man.

Then the eight-year-old broke into my prideful thoughts, “Well, that is a good story with poison ivy, Mom, but MY cracked leg is a much bigger problem!

Ha! Don’t we always believe “our mule carries the bigger load”?

I told him he could let the coach know that he “popped” his knee, and that he might need to take it lightly that night.

images-3I would say that the lesson wasn’t learned, but alas, he DID play in his scrimmage that night… “broken leg” and all.  His team was down 2-0 at half-time, but came back in the second half to win the game against the girls. (He wanted me to be sure and tell you that part.)

Enjoying motherhood,

Terri

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Bradys Play Hurt

Dear Lindsey,

I have decided I know why it is called, “roughhousing”: because it is rough on my HOUSE! Boys are boys! When our oldest was barely one-year-old, “wrestling with dad” became the most exciting activity of the day. It progressed well into toddlerhood and became training ground for toughness with each of our three boys.  Chris and Casey spent hours tumbling on the floor and showed such a different relationship than my own with my son (or my relationship with my husband, for that matter!). The game always seemed to come to a halt in tears, as the toddler would succumb to exhaustion, realizing he was “whooped.”  Chris wanted to raise our boys to be tough though, and he would never let their game end with crying.

“Brady’s play hurt!” Chris (knowing that his son was not really injured) would egg a four-year-old Casey on – never rewarding his sniveling.  Making it fun so the toddler would continue playing, Chris would then let enough time pass that tears were forgotten, and he could end the game on a good note.

This game was daily, no maybe hourly! Wrestling with Daddy still occurs in this house with teenagers…only louder!

One particular day of toddlerhood, though, the game was declared “over,” and Chris rested his eyes, lying down on the couch in our playroom while Casey played with Legos. After some time, the four-year-old suddenly ran and jumped on the couch, landing on Chris’s mid-section, startling Chris from sleep to a shout: “Owwww! Get off of me!”

Casey got a cute twinkle in his eye and said,

“Come on, Dad! Bradys play hurt!”

I laughed out loud!

And the wrestling continued.

Oh my! The number of times the saying goes through my head outnumbers the wrestling events where it was created.

When I want to give up in tears,

when I want to make excuses for my mood,

when I want to scream in exhaustion, “I can’t get it all done!”

I go back to the moment with my four-year-old and am reminded: “Bradys play hurt,” and I stay in the game …just one more day.

Blessings,

Terri

Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

Hebrews 12:1:  Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,…

1 Corinthians 9:27:  but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

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Finding a Character to Marry, Part Two

How to Find a Spouse

Dear Lindsey,

In the previous two Letters, Part Zero and Part One, we have been discussing “How to find a spouse,” featuring advice from Pastor Stephen Davey.  If Dr. Stephen Davey had a list of things to DO, then Dr. Laura Schlessinger, a former radio talk show host who often took calls from listeners expressing their dating woes, had a unique list of Don’ts in her book, Top Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess up Their Lives. Using brash terms like stupid, 51Xwh+JmslL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_“Dr. Laura” holds nothing back as she allows single women to learn from the mistakes of others. Although my milder personality would probably choose a softer term, I kept the word stupid in this Letter, as I summarized her list.  For the most part, her book says that finding your identity in someone else (and I would add: someone other than Christ) puts your happiness in someone else’s control, and never ends well.

Dr. Laura’s Ten Stupid Things:

Stupid Attachment 

If you feel like a spouse is the answer to all of your woes, you are heading for disappointment.  Overly-attaching yourself to someone is often the number one reason that someone wants to become unattached! Fast!

images-8When my daughter Christine was 2-yrs-old, my little butterfly loved attention of her three buffalo brothers. Once while buckled into her car seat in the third row of our Ford Excursion, she asked Casey (then age 9) to sit next to her. He said he wanted to sit one row forward, so he could more easily exit when we arrived at his practice. She broke into tears and wailed to me, hoping my ears in the front seat would recognize her desperation two rows behind me.  “Mooooooommmmy!!!! Casey won’t make me happpppyyyyyy!” she sobbed.

Let’s all have a moment of prayer for Christine’s future husband.

OK.

Seriously, attaching our happiness to anyone else is a perfect recipe for perfect unhappiness. Become the best unattached YOU, [bringing glory to God]. Have dreams; forge a purpose; have an identity; make a commitment to things outside of yourself. You can only become the best spouse by becoming the best YOU first.

This principle doesn’t end once a woman puts on a ring.  (Read “The Needy Queen” in a previous letter, The Bad Queens for how “attachment” looks within marriage.) Becoming the best YOU, aligned with Christ, will make you a better wife, because that is the One with Whom your husband should be aligning as well.  (2 Cor 6:14 says that believers in Christ should only be yoked with believers in Christ.)

 

Stupid Courtship

If you are dating a jerk, now’s the time to leave him. In Dr. Laura’s words, “You don’t have to settle; you can SELECT!” (Emphasis mine)

You are worth it!

When I was in high school, I had a suitor, who quickly became a stalker with a side of creepy when I didn’t share his admiration in reverse. What began as love notes and personally recorded songs sent through the mail, quickly became threatening phone calls and eventually mystery hang-ups. (Before the inventionimages-6 of caller ID, he would call my house, ask for me, and then hang up as soon as I got to the phone.)  Once I cracked the case of the mystery phone-hang-up artist, my older brother called the guy and told him the familiar poem of the 70’s: “If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it is yours. If it doesn’t come back to you, it never was.” Except, my big brother, … in my defense, … being the sweet, protective big brother he is, …said in a threatening tone, “If you love something, let it go. If she comes back to you, she’s yours. If she doesn’t, and you call again, I will hunt you down and rip you apart with my bare hands.”  The suitor never called me again.

I think “stupid courtship” is coming back to someone when you shouldn’t.

 

Stupid Devotion

This one seems so simple:  if a situation is self-defeating, then leave it.  When you have a dream, a defined purpose and a calling, and your significant other is defeating that, it is probably defeating “the you” that God meant you to be. 

 Don’t be devoted to self-defeat.

A true future spouse will be devoted to that which you are devoted, so be sure your devotions are worthy of …um…devotion.

Bryan Heath has a song that says, “I am not my family tree.” You have incredible, God-given value, and nobody –particularly a future spouse – should be trying to convince you otherwise.  Your past (or your family’s past) does not have to determine your future; Dr. Laura says it this way: “History is not destiny.” Your choice in a spouse matters.

 

Stupid Passion

Things happening in the premarital bedroom (or backseat of a car) are not love.   How do I know? Ask any man who has ever paid for “passion”. Why would someone pay for it? Because it feels physically good – not because it increases a relationship with the one he paid.

OK, some will argue it is not all lust, some is expressing love; but it is all against God’s Law. To really spell L-O-V-E, let him show you he loves you enough to preserve you for the wedding night. Show him you love him enough to treat his body as a beautiful temple deserving respect. Express love to each other by waiting.

In this day, movies and daytime television advertise premarital activity as not only acceptable, but expected.  I saw one recently that said, “Wait until the third date.”  The “third date”???!!!!!

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“They” say it is respectable if you wait to go to bed together on the THIRD DATE?!!!!

I hope you didn’t just argue, “Oh good, I’m not THAT bad; I wait until the fifth.”

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The Bible says differently. It clearly says, “Wait until the wedding night.”

How is that possible in this day and age? While the world says, “No way!” God says, “You can do anything through Christ who gives you strength.” (Phil 4:13)

Stay strong, and your marriage will be too!

 

Stupid Cohabitation (Living Together Without Marriage)

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Statistics show that unmarried couples living together ARE NOT LIKELY to stay together once they are married.  Wow. THAT is worthy of repeating:

Statistics show that unmarried couples living together ARE NOT LIKELY to stay together once they are married.

 So if this letter is How to Find a Spouse, then statistically, STAY IN SEPARATE RESIDENCES. 

This mistake is related to all of the mistakes listed above:

  • Stupid Attachment (You will lose yourself when living with him);
  • Stupid Courtship and Stupid Devotion (You are less likely to do the right thing if it is breaking up, if you are sharing a residence with him.);
  • Stupid Passion (How do you stop from eating the chocolate cake if you see it out all the time?)

Living together is tempting when it “makes sense” financially. It’s ironic to me that people, even Christians, will make this argument. Yet, they would never rob a bank, even though that might make sense for their “financial benefit” – because they recognize that stealing is wrong according to God’s law.

So is sleeping together before marriage! Ugh!

Living together makes it easy for someone to become dependent on someone else.

Living together, statistically doesn’t lead to a good marriage.

If someone doesn’t want to continue dating unless they can “take the car on a test drive,” then go ahead and lose the relationship. It is likely that you would have lost it for other reasons anyway even if you had slept with him, but then you would have been the used car, and you are worth more than that.

 

Stupid Expectations

If someone is a controlling person, you can expect him or her to continue to be controlling.   A wedding ring doesn’t change someone’s personality, so your expectations for after marriage should be about the same as who he/she was before marriage.

I remember dating someone who gave me my every wish. What Terri wanted, Terri got. It was heavenly…for a while. Then it went from heavenly to heavy.  The pressure of being the rudder of “our” ship was too much, although I didn’t recognize the problem at the time.

Later, when dating Chris, things were quite different. He was attending graduate school on a full fellowship with a monthly stipend, and I was living on Ramen Noodles and cold Spaghettios. I felt like he was rich!  Our date night was my “princess” night!

Then one day Chris pointed out the bill. Really? My date showed me the bill and questioned why it was so high?! At first, I was embarrassed for him that he would be such a slave to money. (Oh, the irony of my blindness is killing me here – but I will share anyway.) He went on to say that he loved our time together, but wondered if we could do it without the appetizers, specialty coffees and desserts sometime?

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Some who have heard my husband speak on leadership have said he can punch you across the face, and somehow make you laugh and follow his way. I think that night I got “punched.”  Inside, I was embarrassed that I had been a burden on his budget. But be still, butterflies of my soul! I fell madly in love with the man who would be so strong as to control the rudder of our ship. His courage to stand up to me (on something with which I could only agree!) made a pattern for much resolution in our marriage.  Oh how I pity the woman who has no rudder speaking truth to her.

 

Stupid Child Conception

images-7“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage!” I sang hundreds of times in the jump rope game of my youth. The song’s principles are not always the case these days.

Somewhere around the age of six, I remember visiting a family friend in the hospital. By chance, we ran into one of my father’s other friends from work, whose teenage daughter had just given birth. In my youthful state, I stared at the young girl and innocently asked my dad, “Where’s the baby’s daddy?”

He looked down with sad eyes and said, “There is no dad.”

In my little mind that day, I had decided that God had made a mistake. I feared for my 6-yr-old-self, (checking my belly to make sure it wasn’t growing) worried that the mistake could happen to me too.  Obviously time and education wiped the cover of innocence from my eyes and I eventually figured out the truth of who was making the mistakes.

The term, “baby daddy,” of the 2000’s was coined because of so many conceptions out of wedlock. (Or would those be misconceptions?)  Careless women and men, who don’t pay attention to some of Dr. Laura’s other listed “mistakes”, will end up in this situation.  Unfortunately, or ridiculously, some women will become pregnant out of wedlock ON PURPOSE trying to get a marriage commitment. Entrapping a daddy, thinking this will change him is as bad as it gets; it’s like risking the life of a child for your own selfish desires to be married.  It only multiplies the number of unhappy people in the house.

Be responsible.

 

Stupid Subjugation, Stupid Helplessness and Stupid Forgiving

Some direct quotes from Dr. Laura’s book on these last three “mistakes”:

“If your someone abuses you, it’s over.images-5

It is the saddest thing when someone won’t stop trying to get love from someone who is abusive and offensive to him/her.  Some women will use the “any dad will do” excuse to stay with bad men in bad situations. A NO dad home is better than an abusive dad home.”

Be strong and courageous, for the Lord thy God is with you. (Josh 1:9)

Until we “part” again (in Part Three),

Terri

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