A Disease Called Busyness

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Dear Lindsey,

Having lunch with my 13-yr-old last week, I asked him a question of where he wanted to be in five years. What kind of person was he aiming to become?  Did he have goals for himself?

His answer surprised me, since he said that he wanted to be more like his older brother:

“Everyone likes Casey.  My [12-yr-old] friend, Zarec, said it best: ‘The reason Casey is so much fun is because he seems like he is really having fun when he is with you!’ Most teenagers aren’t like that. I guess I want people to feel that fun from me.”

He wasn’t envying his brother, but admiring a trait he’d like to emulate. I like it when my kids think. I don’t know if he realized that his thinking convicted me, but I realized how “not fun” I live some days of my life.

The culprit?

A Disease called Busyness.

I think it is amusing when I ask my kids a question like, “How many times have you flossed this week?” and my eight-year-old will say, “I haven’t had time.”

Haha!! If you don’t have time when you are eight?…

Don’t we each feel that way though – whatever we are doing seems important enough to feel BUSY?

As an engineer (before motherhood), I

  • drove 50 miles each way to work
  • worked in three plant locations involving travel
  • volunteered at church directing the children’s choir
  • sang in the adult choir, and filled in as accompanist at times
  • taught piano lessons on the side
  • picked up kids who needed a ride to church
  • played on a softball team 30 minutes from my house (part way to work)
  • played in a county band
  • made meals from scratch
  • worked out every day
  • flossed my teeth 🙂
  • stayed involved in elections, attended weddings and baby showers, traveled to out-of-state family, practiced instruments and other things that happened on a non-daily routine

I am sure you could make this list for yourself.

“It is not enough to be industrious, so too are the ants,” said Henry David Thoreau, “but what are you industrious about?”

For me, I have LOVED to be busy my whole life.   In highschool, my mother would continuously say (to my back as I was leaving the house), “You are burning the candle at both ends; it cannot last!”

I wore it like a badge.

My highschool yearbook looked like I was trying to be Jan Brady (or was it Marsha?) with all of my activities: Shakespeare Club, high school musical, jazz band, church plays, babysitting, softball teams, marching band, (county, district and state bands), Science Fair competitions, indoor drumline, National Honor Society, nursing home visitation, and winter ski club.

I could have sung the Veggie Tales song to any friend who asked for time, “I’m busy busy! Frightfully busy! You’ve no idea what I’ve got to do!”

But there are so many pitfalls to busyness!  A book, Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung inspired the following:

Pitfalls of BusynessPitfall3

  1. Makes us lose sight of direction.
  2. Robs our happiness.
  3. Masks our growing further from whom we were meant to be.

1.  Busyness makes us lose sight of  the direction we intended.

I like to list those activities of my engineering days, because it is clearly eclectic, and pointless for where I am today.  What was my goal?  We have twenty-four hours in our checking account to spend, 365 days a year. We cannot add to that number in any way. My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Romberger, taught me a valuable lesson on busyness, when she had us actually keep an account ledger of our time. We took a lined piece of paper, and labeled each line with fifteen-minute intervals of time. Then for one week, we were supposed to stop every fifteen minutes and write down what we were doing. I remember being shocked – even at that young age – of things which I had no intention of doing that took my time! (Maybe I should do this today? I cannot figure out what happened to my 11am to 2pm yesterday!!!) If we could look back at our account ledger for the last six months of time, we would likely be able to predict where we will be in five years!  Our hourly account ledger tells where we are headed. Does it have the direction we intended? It is “what we are industrious about” that matters.

2.  Busyness robs our happiness.

OffCliffRecently I had a day when I got miserably tired. You know the kind? Once my daughter, exhausted and teary at age seven said, “I am so tired, my heart has been at the edge of a cliff, and it just went over. Wah hah hah”– That kind of tired.

.

.

When my heart, “went over the edge,” I analyzed the day I had had:

  • I had gotten up early for a good workout and Bible time,
  • Then went to have coffee with a friend in need, arriving a little late.
  • I came home shortly and did some homeschooling work with the kids, then let them work on their own assignments while I
  • Volunteered playing piano at the high school where my oldest son attends.
  • I came home and paid the cleaning lady quickly before leaving in a hurry,
  • To drive my daughter to homeschool youth theatre practice, while eating lunch out of my lap.
  • I volunteered with music for that group for 2 hours
  • I came home in time to say hello to my teens before dropping them at the soccer carpool.
  • Making the family dinner took a little longer than expected, so I didn’t get to sit down.
  • I ate dinner from my lap while driving to an evening orchestra practice at church which I had been looking forward to.
  • I came home and the younger kids wanted me to read to them before bed, but
    • It was late
      • And I was tired.
        • Chris wanted to tell me about his ideas, and spend quality husband/wife time, but my body had had it!

I felt like saying, “Do you know the kind of day I have had?!!!”

Then I actually thought about the kind of day I had had:

  • I had started with exercise and quiet time in prayer.
  • I had spent time with my kids.
  • I had given of my time and talents in volunteer work.
  • I had played in an orchestra at church – a kind of worship for me, cleansing of my soul, once a week when my schedule allows.
  • I had eaten healthy – even from my lap – since I had prepared the meals.

That day would have been called “rest” back in my engineering days (and most of my “normal days” now), but clearly, the happiness had been robbed.

I ended too tired to read to my kids.

Volunteering had become a chore when it affected my meals!

Any of these events taken separately would have been a blessing, but all together, they were a strain.

A thief came in to rob my happiness through the door of my calendar.

The sad part is that most people have busyness robbing their happiness and they do not recognize the cause, only its effect.

3.  Busyness masks our decay.  

If we are not growing right, we are growing wrong!! There is no staying the same.

Growth in a specific direction takes specific intent for growth.   Growth in a bad direction takes no work at all.

If I want to be a healthy weight, it takes massive intent and work.

If I want to gain weight, it’s a piece of cake! (Pun intended! 🙂 )

Growing in a right direction requires tending to the calendar, not just riding along in an “unattended car”Keeping ourselves busy disguises itself as productivity, when in actuality it is often masking decay.

I believe this decay due to busyness is very evident in marriages:

Nobody plans for a marriage to decline to a status of “acquaintance management,” but lack of HappyCakeplanning is the root of the rot.   Personal busyness usually does not involve the spouse…who frankly has his/her own reason to be busy, leading him/her in different directions.  Our busyness often is exclusive of those who are closest to us, leaving what matters most in our hearts, out of our mind while we RUSH – often trying to serve the very ones we ignore. While we think we are working to get things done, things are becoming undone within us…as individuals and in our relationships.

Rest is not the antithesis of productivity.

“Tending” to our growth, personally or professionally, means we know when we need rest, too.  Rest can actually halt the decay cycle.  My husband wrote a whole book on the importance of rest! (Maybe I should rest from writing and read it again!  He says, “Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.” A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation.)  Rest allows time to think. Unscheduled time allows planning for the future.

If we have every minute filled with who we are, it will be difficult to find time to become who we are meant to be!

Leave space!!  Just because there is a blank in the calendar does not mean it needs to be filled!  (Okay, I am screaming, “Preach it, sister!” to myself in my head – because I am SO preaching to myself. I suppose I better close this letter before my “self” starts answering.)

One last note: According to author Bryan Caplan, secondhand stress is a leading complaint among kids.  In an “Ask the Children” survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than 1000 kids in grades 3-12, asking, “If you were granted one wish to change the way that your mother’s/father’s work affects your life, what would that wish be?”  Who could have guessed the kids’ answer would have involved their parents’ attitude?! When asked to “grade” their parents for “appreciating me for who I am, “ or “making me feel loved,” or even, “attending important events in my life,” the parents scored well. But “controlling his/her temper when I do something that makes him/her angry” got the worst marks on the parents’ report card! They feel our stress!

Okay, I do not remember that lady interviewing my kids, but wow! She might have been here. It’s not that I “blow up” at my kids. I have even worked on many systems to avoid the repetitive nagging. But, I often wonder if my kids are going to say my most commonly said word was, “hurry!”

I don’t want them to remember me as the “hurry!” mom. I want them to feel the fun I have with them.  I want them to remember me as the mom who loves them and who loves Jesus, and who stresses only in things eternal. I think my infliction with the Disease called Busyness may be masking my most important message…to my kids, to my husband and to myself.

To be continued,

Terri

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Letters to Lindsey is now available in book form.  61pdoweizhL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

 

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).

goldfish2

(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.

funeral announcment

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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Tough Breaks

Para español, haga clic aquí

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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Donating Through Dinner, Kickstarting the Heart

Dear Lindsey,

I love the idea of “required acts of service,” for my son’s school, but the pressure to do it feels wrong when he’s fighting the clock. Couldn’t the intent backfire by hardening his heart if a teen resented being “forced” to serve someone? I have had this thought many times in parenting: when I have “forced” an apology, “forced” sharing, “forced” reading, “forced” good action when the child’s heart was not in it with me. “If the right action is taught, the heart can follow,” I concluded once again, knowing I can teach the action, but only God can change the heart.

This incident began as a school requirement.

Or maybe it began when I went to Guatemala to visit orphans in October.

…Or when we started splitting allowance into Giving-Saving-Spending jars when he was 6.

God knows when the idea began, but a new chapter was written last week when Casey, my 15-yr-old, was completing his requirement of 3 hours of “Christian service” due last Friday. In the past, he has done lawn work for less fortunate, or volunteered on a soup kitchen team with classmates, but now he was down to the last week and needed to think fast. He asked me if I had any ideas.

This is a "thought bubble". It is an...

My thoughts pelted: “He could ‘make dinner for a neighbor’ and checkmark his requirement for the grade. He could babysit a friend’s kids for free; but that wouldn’t help his heart in reaching others in the name of Christ, which is probably the teacher’s goal.”

That’s when I heard noise outside. Christine, my 9-yr-old philanthropist-wannabe, who loves the thought of owning a business, had begun another one in the driveway: selling “arts and crafts” that were made from the trash in our garage. She and her neighborhood friend, Karsen, had decided to raise money for the orphans in Guatemala. She was yelling up and down the street like a town crier: “FINALLY! SOMETHING TO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT SPENDING MONEY!” She yelled to an empty street, waving a poster in her hands.

There are less than ten houses between ours and the street’s end, so less than ten cars would be passing – probably after 5pm, and it was only 2:30. JR (7) sat patiently by the cash box in the wagon, waiting for customers. Another Norman Rockwell scene at the Brady house.

Kind dog-walkers (who must have brought their wallets!) bought $4 worth of painted soup cans and cardboard houses.

Christine was elated! She had a goal to raise money to sponsor an orphan for a month ($35min).

That’s a lot of decorated trash to sell,” I thought.

That’s when the idea developed. Casey and I ran with it.

“We could sell dinners to the neighborhood, and raise money for the orphans!”

And so it began.

Chris, the marketing expert, taught them how to word a flyer that would go out to the neighborhood. “’What’s in it for THEM?’ is what you want to put first,” he said.

The three (Casey, Christine and JR) decided “what’s in it for their customers” was

1. Donating to a good cause and

2. Yummy homemade dinner

They worded and reworded the flyer until it looked like this, with the subject line: “Donating Through Dinner.”

To all of JP [our neighborhood]: the Brady kids (Casey 15, Christine 9, and J.R. 7) are hosting a fundraiser to earn money for orphans in Guatemala, and would like to offer to make your lives easier by bringing you dinner! 
We have made delicious potpies, brownies and cookies, and all you need do is reply with how many potpies you would like. The price is $10 per 9″ pie, and for an extra $1, you will also receive 6 cookies/brownies/a mix, of your choice. 
Please reply, first come first served!
100% of the profits will go to Forever Changed International, to support Dorie’s Promise Orphanage. 
Simply answer back with your address and we will bring dinner to you! (all that is required is oven heating).
Thank you for helping us make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate.
The Brady kids!
(P.S. If you have concerns about food allergies, we do too! Just ask!)
(P.P.S Please hurry and answer before dad eats all the brownies!)
 

His dad doesn’t know what a pastry blender is (an old joke in our marriage), but Casey Casey potpiesmade the crusts from scratch (with a little help from me in the rolling) and loaded the meat and veggies into pans, while Christine made brownies, JR made cookies and I stood in awe as foreman. The kitchen was full of joy – the kind that only comes through serving others.  Even the cleanup didn’t seem like work. They had lost themselves.

They sent the flyer through email distribution to our neighborhood that night, and headed for bed.

Brady BakersWithin 15 minutes, my email was active: all of the pies were sold. Orders continued into the night, and I thought about announcing they were sold out, but I tried to sit back and let the business owners decide.

The next morning on the way to school, I told Casey all of the potpies he had made had been requested and asked what he wanted me to do with the remaining orders.

He was shocked, but thrilled.

So let me get this straight: I worked for four hours and we can sponsor an orphan for five months?!” he said as he did the math of their proceeds.

“If this rain cancels soccer tonight, I hope we can do more!”
His heart was in it!

Whether it’s time or money, the joy of giving can be duplicated in no other way than …giving. Sometimes you act, and the heart follows.

19 pot pies: $190

17 desserts: $17

To an orphan: 5 months

A heart changed: priceless.

God bless,

Terri

Proverbs 11:25 Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Potpie recipe: click here

Orrin Woodward ‏‪@Orrin_Woodward

A person doesn’t feel, then act; rather, he acts, then feels. Change actions to change feelings.

Chris Brady ‏‪@RascalTweets

At the heart of our problems is the problem with our heart.

Striving for Good Measure

Dear Lindsey,

“She is inconsolably crying,” was my husband’s text to me while I was at the grocery store

English: Digital fever thermometer Deutsch: Di...

last Saturday. When I got home to the thermometer, it was 103.  Christine (9) has had a cold for more than two weeks, so I assumed it had escalated to an ear or sinus infection. She and I headed for Urgent Care. That was when the stomach flu symptoms began, so we cancelled the trip; no Urgent Care needed. Mom diagnosis: flu.

“To bed you go,” I led her up the stairs to her room.

“But can’t I eat?” she asked so innocently.

“No, ‘Starve a fever, feed a cold,’” I softly quoted the old saying, remembering how hunger fools us into eating during stomach sickness.

“How does starving a beaver help?” she whined.

“Fever, honey.  Starve a fever. You will feel better after some rest,” I chuckled at her misunderstanding as I gave her some Oscillococcum, and she drifted off to much needed sleep.

Sunday morning, although symptoms were gone, I decided to keep the flu to ourselves and stay home from church. Since she and her younger brother are inseparable, I guessed he was next…and probably in that incubating, contagious stage, so I kept him home too.

We listened to church online at 9:30am, and then JR (7) said he didn’t feel well.

Sick children are endearing. His cheeks were flush as if painted on a porcelain doll; he snuggled close as only ill children do. Like an electric blanket, the heat radiated from his body to mine. My prediction was right. Here comes #2 family member falling down with the domino flu. I was glad we weren’t at church.

“102.5” was my guess.  It’s a little game I play – as if running for “mom of the year” (always! 🙂 ). I like to guess what the fever is, and then continually be shocked at how close I am when I get out the thermometer. It’s like somewhere in the birth canal, the baby flips a switch in a woman.  Sudden abilities come to her:

  • to be able to distinguish her baby’s cry 2 miles away in a room full of other crying babies
  • to be able to see out of the back of her head
  • to suddenly think, “because I said so,” is a logical enough reason to bring an end to any argument and…
  • to be able to tell if a child has a fever, within one degree, only by the touch of her hand.

I got the ear thermometer poised (and smiled remembering when one of my toddlers had brought it to me from the closet and said, “Will you measure my ear?”).

97.8 was the reading.

Experience has taught me that, although easy to use, these devices have a lot of inaccuracy. I checked the other ear, my standard operating procedure.

98.3 the other ear said.

I felt again. Was I losing my touch? I really believe it’s 102.5, maybe just 102, but definitely fever. Flushed cheeks…sick sister…I couldn’t be wrong.

I reached for the old thermometer: the one which actually had to be kept under the tongue for minutes that felt like hours. It had been so long since its use, I had forgotten that it spoke! “One hundred and two point five,” said the male computerized voice from the thermometer.

I was right: 102.5.

Mom: -> 1       Ear thermometer: -> 0

“To bed you go,” I said as I carried him there.

——–

“Properly defining the problem is the first step to any solution,” Chris often says. But as in the thermometer story, the measuring device has a huge part to play in problem definition.

The world is a measuring device. It often measures success through the amount of money in one’s bank account, the vacation time allotted, the title of a job or the recognition one receives.

God’s “success” measuring device is different: He sees our love, joy, peace, patience…(Gal 5:22); He looks into our thoughts – are they pure, true, noble…? (Phil 4:8); I suppose He assesses the true treasures of our hearts. God’s measuring device needs no numbers. He simply uses the touch of His hand.

The world’s measurements are inaccurate:

  • “They” say we are not good enough;
      • God, through His Son Jesus Christ, says we are forgiven and perfect. (1 John 1:9)
  • “They” say there is no security without money.
      • God says we can consider the lilies of the field. Don’t they have food to eat and water to drink? How much more does our Father in heaven love us – won’t He take care of us?! (Matthew 6:28-34)
  • “They” say I try too hard and should relax.

Although I know it is wrong, I sometimes still have a worldly flinch in a crowd when everyone is talking about what they “do” for a living. It seems as though it will be a let down when it gets to my turn. “They” are doctors, secretaries, engineers, ICU nurses, HR managers, etc, and then it gets to me: a stay-at-home mom.  Yep, most of my tasks could be done by any teen for about $6/hour.  No training necessary.

Yet, my heart knows that the “world’s thermometer” is inaccurate.

What “pay” can be measured by the crushed dandelions that were handed to me as a Mother’s Day Bouquet with the worm still attached?

What “title” can top the spontaneous post-it note that said, “You’re a good cooker!” or as shown in my heading above,“YOR MI FAVRIT MOM” (as if he has more than one mom).

What “vacation” could surpass a picnic in the woods behind my house where they catch the baby frogs and scoop the salamander eggs in anticipation for spring?

What “recognition” would transcend adult children replicating our efforts in Godliness, marriage and parenthood in their own home?

What “award” could top hearing “well done, my good and faithful servant”?

Sometimes the world’s measurements are wrong, and we can stick to what we know is right.

God bless,

Terri

1 Timothy 4:7-87Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

Dampened Impressions, Toddler Style

Dear Lindsey,

Company is coming!!! The holidays begin! Candy still lingers in my kitchen and I can’t believe it’s already the next holiday!

My preparations today remind me of a day a couple years ago:

I have had their last name for almost two decades, but trying to make a good impression on my in-laws is still one of my strong desires. I want to make sure they know I am the perfect wife for their perfect son :).  They encourage me and tell me nice things all the time, but as a daughter-in-law, I always want to do more for them.

Case in point:

The oven had been hot, preparing the holiday goodies all day. The laundry room was equally hot, as I tried to get all of the tasks done before their arrival. I wiped counters and awaited their text: they could be here any minute. All the checkmarks were in the box! …if that last load of laundry could get put away.

“GPS says we’ll be there in 10,” the text arrived!

I worked to mop that floor one last time, and hopefully put on makeup as if I always look “done-up” for their son…but that one last load of laundry was still in the back of my mind. Oh, how I wish I could clone myself for times like this! Wait?! Isn’t that why I had kids? (smile)

“J.R.?” I yelled up the stairs to see if the last remaining unworking child was within earshot.

“What, Mom?” the 5-yr-old yelled back down.

“Grammy and Papa will be here in 10 minutes. The dryer has your clothes in it. Could you please fold those and put them away?”

“10 minutes?!!! Yaaayyy!! Sure! I’ll put my clothes away!”

A tinge of guilt crossed my mind. Is that a lot to ask of a 5-yr-old? He’s folded clothes beside me many times before. The dryer happened to only have his clothes in it, so he would know where it all went, right? They don’t have to be folded perfectly; they only need to disappear into his drawers, right? Perfect! I have time to get myself ready! I raced upstairs to the master bath.

“They’re here!!” the screams began from each of the four children. No question that the white van from Michigan had pulled into the driveway.

Phew, the floor dried in time! I thought as I descended the stairs to the clean kitchen greeting Grammy and Papa. Chris came out of his office; the holiday had begun!

Later that evening, as is tradition (and such a great break for me!!) Grammy and Papa headed up the stairs to help the kids to bed. The kids anxiously picked out their favorite books and brushed teeth, while looking forward to their “scratch-backing” time while Grammy and Papa read books. That’s when Grammy yelled down:

“Terri? Do you have a leak somewhere?”

A leak? You’re kidding me!

I raced upstairs to find that she was baffled why all of J.R.’s pajamas in the dresser were WET.

As I inspected the situation, I found that not only were the PJ’s wet, but so were all of the underwear, pants and shirts…that he had put away from the dryer.

“J.R., was the dryer off when you took the things out to put them away?”

“No. You didn’t say they had to be dry.”

Enjoy your Thanksgiving! Be thankful you have clothes…even if they are wet.

God bless,

Terri Brady

The gift that says, “I’m the big one!”

Dear Lindsey,

I know it’s not much to look at, perched on my office bookshelf among the cluttered books, but just seeing it floods my memory and heart, sufficing the intention of any gift.

My husband, Chris, had taken the boys, age 2 and 5, to the store and handed them $10 each. He told them they could buy anything they wanted for me for my birthday.

Nate, full of personality (and leaving very few of his thoughts to mystery) had those pudgy cheeks the church ladies would squeeze.  Always a competitor, when asked his age, he would answer “5,” (his older brother’s age) with full confidence.

“My! You are such a cute little boy!” a stranger had once told him.

Nate replied, “I’m not little! Except when I look in the mirror, then I’m still little, but I’m not little for real.”  (Although, it sounded more like, “I’m not wittle!”) Ha! Such spunk!

Casey, a sweet spirited pensive type, made the perfect best friend of opposite personality.  I am sure he kept the birthday shopping in line, as he turned down Hot Wheels and guns, aiming for the perfect gift for Mom, not himself.

The package wasn’t wrapped professionally. Evidence of novice hands’ work made it all the more special.  Nothing needed tearing for the present to be opened, since the young deliverers who shared in handing it to me had torn most of it. They stood, or maybe bounced, in anticipation, waiting for my response to their deeply-thought-out purchase.

The torn colored paper revealed the gift: two pigs.

Chris stood in the background, smiling so hard his cheeks might have cracked.  It was truly delightful to see these two boys so excited to give. Casey (5) explained the reasoning for the choice: “They are two brothers, just like Nate and me. We put our money together to buy it!  We thought if you put it in your office, then you would think of us. We knew if we got you candy or something, you might eat it and then it would be gone, but this you can keep FOREVER. It says, ‘I love you,’ because we do!” His reasoning continued, while I basked in the joy of the moment. I gave hugs of gratitude while they both beamed with pride over their selection.

Afterward, I cleaned up the papers and sent them for their PJ’s to start the bedtime routine.  As Casey started toward the stairs, Nate suddenly turned away and ran to my side, cupping his mouth to my ear so Casey wouldn’t hear. (–This is my favorite part!!:)

“I’m the big one!” the 2-year-old whispered, happily pointing to the pigs, which ironically both looked identical. That adorable memory of my “big” 2-yr-old sits on the shelf where the pigs still reside 10 years later.

What makes the gift special?

–      Chris. He thought to take time out of his busy schedule to let toddlers do the shopping.

–      It’s the thought that counts…always; their hearts beamed brighter than the most valuable diamond.

–      The 2-yr-old’s and 5-yr-old’s antics are no longer in my house; I cherish those memories.  No material possession could ever rank over moments that cannot be relived except in our memories. Some things truly are priceless.

Dear young mother: please remember that toddlers are a gift, temporary though they are.  When it seems you can’t get anything done…when you get more boxes to check than checkmarks in the box every day…when you are exhausted with the illness and realize you still have more kids to get it…when you are tired of finding syrup in places you didn’t know it could get to (and you haven’t even had pancakes in weeks!)…stop and find a memory for which to thank God. Blow some bubbles.  Drink in the smile. Pinch the cheeks. They disappear more quickly than the to-do list.

May you find the value behind the gifts you give and receive. I think the remembrance of the giver is “the big one” of them all.

In love,

Terri Brady

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