Saturday smiles: Life edition

Today, the sun is shining and the temperatures are in the 50s and feel like the 50s. Which means spring is drawing us outside.

I see and hear life, and I smile.

The highlights:

Talking to Isabelle while we’re outside with sidewalk chalk. Me: Isabelle can you draw me a picture of the clouds? Izzy: Well, I’m not very good at clouds, but I’ll try. (She then draws a cloud.) Izzy continues: I can draw a pteranodon. (Which she does. So, to clarify, not good at clouds but excellent at extinct animals. Got it.)

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Overhearing this in the living room. Phil, looking at something on the computer: “Son of a bee.” (His actual phrase. I did not censor.) Corban, immediately following, “Son of a bee?” Insert uproarious laughter from all parties. (Note to parents: watch what you say. They are listening. We’re still learning this.)

Receiving this awesome prize pack from author Dani Pettrey. Coffee, chocolate, books. I don’t win a lot of things, but this was one great prize.

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Isabelle wanting to go to the Good Friday service in town. I’m not sure it’s what she thought it was going to be, but we went because I want to encourage my kids’ faith. On the way out, a woman offered us some treats from her car, so we came home with cupcakes and squeeze tubes of orange gelatin (looks better than it sounds).

Signing another contract for an article I sold earlier this year and receiving a check for the other one.

Registering and planning for a marriage conference this summer. Phil and I are Nashville-bound in July. Woohoo!

And this:

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5 on Friday: Blog posts to challenge your Easter thinking

In the course of a week, I read a lot of stuff on the Internet. Here are some Holy Week related posts I found valuable to challenge my thoughts about celebrating Easter. blog note

  • Forget bunnies and chocolate, how about iPads and flat-screen TVs? This post by Eugene Cho raises the question: Is the Gospel enough?
  • This post by Jen Hatmaker made me cry. “What if we calculated the money we’d spend on new clothes, anything having to do with a bunny and chocolate, and used that investment for great good, pouring out for someone in need of mercy? Maybe instead of matching outfits from Dillards, we invest in family t-shirts benefiting someone’s adoption, someone’s mission for Christ. Perhaps rather than time and energy spent on ourselves, we ask: “Who can our family serve? Where can we put our hands and hearts to use in Jesus’ name?”  Who in your city desperately needs hope but won’t find their way to the sanctuary Sunday filled by people dressed to the nines?”
  • Sarah Bessey wrote this post which challenged me to a life less full, especially during Holy Week. “And I think we need more theologians with a poet’s heart: a little imagination when we speak of God never hurts.  The best art leaves a bit of silence, room on the edges, for interpretation and response. It is often in the white space of art where I find the Holy Spirit, hovering, stirring, waiting.”
  • And this one, by Rachel Held Evans, is for those who show up on Easter with more questions than answers.
  • This last one isn’t an Easter post, specifically, but it’s one I read recently that I can’t get out of my head. It’s by Preston and is posted over at A Deeper Story. A mixture of beauty in the mess of life. A story of the Eucharist. (WARNING: Contains language some might find offensive. But it’s used purposefully.)

What have you read on the Web lately, Easter related or not?

960 million people went to bed hungry last night

So did I.

But not for the same reason.

In a world where 1 in 7 people battles hunger daily, I’m one of the “lucky” ones.

Yesterday was Compassion International’s One Meal One Day campaign, an annual event that encourages people to skip a meal and donate what they would have spent to their work in a country whose people experience extreme hunger. This year’s focus: Ethiopia.OMOD_2013_children

First let me say this: I don’t usually fast. It’s a discipline I’ve not practiced much since college and I almost never look forward to it. Especially as a stay-at-home mom where the food is readily available all day long and the kids need regular nourishment. Plus, I’m cranky when I’m hungry. All good reasons to not do it, I know.

But this seemed like a challenge I could handle. And I wanted to do it. When it came time to decide which meal to skip, I chose dinner specifically so I could go to bed hungry. When’s the last time I did that on purpose?

Some thoughts:

  • I made pork chops and sauerkraut for the rest of the family. I’m not a big fan of sauerkraut. Maybe I did that on purpose. And maybe I’m ashamed that I can choose to skip a meal because I don’t like the food being offered. Who, if they were truly hungry, would turn down food of any kind? 2012 UGANDA IT WORKS+
  • My stomach started growling almost as soon as I started cooking dinner, as if it instinctively knew I would be denying it.
  • Hunger does strange things to your senses. I had to run to the store after “dinner” and when I came back, I was sure the air in town smelled like root beer. Root beer? Weird.
  • When I told my husband my plan to not eat after I started making dinner, he said, “So you’ll drink water. I could put some dirt in it for you.” We chuckled and maybe that makes us insensitive. Truth is, unclean water is a reality for 880 million people around the world. No laughing matter.
  • My husband also ate ice cream and a cupcake in front of me while we watched TV. I think I handled it okay. No one lost an arm.
  • When I woke up this morning, I barely remembered that I hadn’t eaten for 15 or 16 hours. Does a person eventually become accustomed to hunger?
  • I wish I’d known about this event earlier so I could have enlisted more of you to participate. Be forewarned, next year, I’ll be recruiting a team.

Even if you didn’t skip a meal, you can donate to the cause here.

And if you’re interested in sponsoring a child through Compassion, you can click on the banner on the side of the blog and start searching for a child to support.

Skipping a meal and donating a little bit of money doesn’t seem like a big deal with a big impact.

But it’s something.

And when a whole bunch of somethings come together, they can have a greater effect.

My parting words?

Do something.

How a question led to a story: Review of You Don’t Know Me by Susan May Warren

Imagine you’re sitting on a plane and the woman sitting next to you is visibly upset. You’re naturally curious and compassionate, so you ask a question or two: How are you? and Why are you on this flight? The woman says she’s on the way to see her daughter, who is going into a federal witness protection program. She’s saying “good-bye.” Forever.

That happened to author Susan May Warren, and she turned the experience into a book, You Don’t Know Me, the sixth novel set in the fictional Minnesota town of Deep Haven. you dont know me cover

In the close-knit town, Annalise Decker is a devoted wife, supportive mother and community activist. Her husband is running for mayor, and life, from the outside, looks perfect. Then a federal agent shows up with news that could wreck her world: the man she testified against 20 years ago is out of jail and seeking revenge. And Annalise’s carefully guarded secret, that her real name is Deidre O’Reilly and she’s in the Witness Security Program, is in danger of being made known. She has to decide if she’ll give up the life she’s built on a lie to protect her family or entrust herself to the grace and love of her family and the protection of God.

I picked this book up on sale for Kindle before Christmas last year. I’ve read one other Deep Haven book and a novella, both of which made me eager to pick up another one in the series. Though they all take place in Deep Haven, you don’t have to read all of them or have read them in order. I’m not even sure which ones I’ve missed, but each time I’ve taken the trip to Deep Haven through Warren’s novels, I’ve not been disappointed.

Warren blends suspense, humor, romance and inspiration like a perfectly seasoned soup. Her stories are warm, comforting, hearty and keep you coming back for more.

I cannot imagine what it would be like to say good-bye to your family forever, start a new life and then have that life threatened. Annalise’s choices are not easy and Warren makes her struggle real to the rest of us, who probably will never have to face that kind of choice.

I appreciated, too, that this story was borne out of something that really happened to someone through an encounter the author had in real life. As a writer, that inspires me, because I see stories everywhere. Warren’s tale is encouraging in so many ways. It’s not fluff; it’s tough.

And more often than not, I’m loving books that aren’t afraid to go deep.

Check out the first chapter and see if a trip to Deep Haven is in order.

What I would say to the other moms in the WIC office

Hey, Mom sitting in the WIC office waiting for your quarterly allotment of food checks,

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Photo from Stock Exchange (www.sxc.hut)

You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but I want you to know, you’re a good mom.

Your baby, your toddler–they’re proof of that.

I know some people would say differently.

I’m sure you’ve received your share of judgmental looks and stares, and heard people in the grocery line behind you express their impatience.

I feel it, see it and hear it, too.

And it’s possible I’ve been one of those people.

Okay, it’s more than possible.

When I was first eligible for WIC, I wanted to set myself apart as a mom. I sat in the waiting area, dressed in clothes that I hoped would communicate that I wasn’t poor like you. I bribed my kids to behave well. I hoped beyond hope that they would answer the questions the “right” way so the nutritionists wouldn’t think I let my kids eat junk food. (Confession: Sometimes I do let them.)

I wanted to convince myself I didn’t belong there, but since we qualified for it, we would accept the help.

And then one day, I realized that we did belong there. We were and are poor. We need help. And like you, I’d do what it takes to help my kids.

So, when you call the office because you missed your appointment, I understand. Transportation isn’t always a given. The weather and illness can change your plans. Work schedules can be unpredictable.

When you let your kid climb all over the chairs as you text, it’s okay. Motherhood is hard when you have a support system. And if you don’t have one, I don’t know how you do it.

Illustration from Stock Exchange (www.sxc.hu)

Illustration from Stock Exchange (www.sxc.hu)

Choosing to have a baby takes courage. Married, in a relationship or single, however you became pregnant, it takes guts to bring a child into the world and raise him or her.

So I applaud you.It doesn’t matter to me how it happened or whether you planned it. Life has a way of altering the best-laid plans.

Our time with WIC is coming to an end soon, and you have helped me understand so much.

That moms of all kinds are doing the best they can with what they have to do what they can for their kids.

I won’t forget the lessons.

And I will stand up for you when I hear criticism against you.

I will wait patiently in line behind you while you spend your checks.

And someday I hope I can slip an extra bag of apples or vegetables into your cart because I know how quickly the money is spent.

Keep going. Keep doing the next right thing. For you. And your kids.

You have opened my eyes.

And I pray they’ll never again close to your needs.

Sincerely,

another mom waiting in the WIC office

I’m bringing smiles back

This regular Saturday post where I tell you what has made my week has been MIA for a few weeks. Partly because I was feeling sorry for myself and didn’t want to take the time to try to come up with a week’s worth of smiles. (Because truly some weeks it is harder than others.) And partly because we had this BIG event–a 5 year-old’s birthday–and family were in town and life was not ordinary or routine.

So, I return, somewhat reluctantly, and if you missed me, then accept my apology for the absence.

Here’s a short list of what makes me smile this week.

Illustration by Billy Alexander/courtesy of Stock Exchange (www.sxc.hu)

Illustration by Billy Alexander/courtesy of Stock Exchange (www.sxc.hu)

Spring. It’s here, officially. Even though the weather hasn’t played along, I know it’s only a matter of time before walking outside with the kids becomes bearable again and the world bursts with color. It’s my favorite season.

God kept me calm when my son’s head was bleeding profusely. And He kept us safe while driving in the snow to the emergency room. And He’s given us a daughter who jumps in to help and isn’t freaked out by other people’s pain. When we told the nurse that Izzy wanted to watch any procedure on her brother’s head, the nurse asked if she was going to be a nurse or a doctor. “Actually, I’m planning to be a teacher,” she says. And Corban’s head is fine, no stitches required.

I read two great books this week. I can’t wait to tell you about them in April. Watch for the reviews.

I signed a contract for a magazine article I wrote. It’ll be published in an upcoming May/June issue. I’ll share more when the time comes.

We officially own our car. The title came in the mail last week. Getting out of debt feels good, even if it’s hard work in the process. One down, too many more to go.

While calculating our expenses for the upcoming month, I was relieved to realize we might be able to pay them without too much extra help. That’s a relief when lately paying bills causes anxiety.

I applied for a job.

Homemade hot chocolate mix.

Friends who bring a bag of coffee beans to your front door.

A catch-up phone call with an in-town friend.

Okay, maybe the list wasn’t as short as I thought. Guess that’s what happens when you start listing the good. You think of more.

What was good about your week?

 

5 on Friday: Ways to fight slavery

Thanks to my friends over at The Exodus Road, here are five ways you–yes, YOU–can fight slavery.

  1. Educate Yourself. Take some time to research the issue of modern day slavery. Check out the slavery map on FreetheSlaves.net. It’s a great resource. You may also want to visit CNN’s Freedom Project for resources and current news stories.
  2. Write your elected officials. International Justice Mission does a fantastic job lobbying governments to make changes that support freedom. Stop by their site and sign their latest petition. You can visit them by clicking HERE.
  3. Buy Fair Trade. Since the majority of slavery involves labor, make an effort (and spend the money) to purchase fair trade items as much as possible. This is a practical way you advocate for the oppressed as a consumer. Consider checking out places like TenThousandVillages.com or Yobel Market to shop for gifts, and take a few minutes to see what your Slavery Footprint is. (Lisa adds a shout-out to Imagine Goods, a Lancaster, Pa. based company who’ll be launching a Web site soon with fair-trade items for sale, benefitting at-risk women in Cambodia.)
  4. Socially Share. Commit that every time you see something about slavery or justice, you’ll take the time to share it with your online circle of influence. When you consistently share, you become an advocate for positive social change. “Like” anti-trafficking organizations on Facebook and follow them on Twitter–this will help abolition efforts to remain at the forefront of your attention, too. This is a simple, practical, and free way you can actively become an abolitionist. ER-camera-mirror
  5. Donate to Freedom Efforts. Find a specific organization that fights trafficking and do research on their efforts, their financials, their methods. When you feel good about their work, start by choosing a specific project that connects with you, like financially supporting prevention efforts in the United States with Love146 or helping a national undercover investigator with The Exodus Road buy a covert camera.

How sponsoring a child changed my life

I’m guest posting on my friend Carol Cool’s blog this week about how child sponsorship through Compassion International changed me, as well as the child I sponsored. Here’s a preview:

“Dear Sponsor Lisa …”

I was just out of college and a newish Christian when I had the opportunity to sponsor a child through Compassion International. His name was Gian and he was 5 years old and lived in Peru. I don’t remember what compelled me except that I had a job and could afford the $30 a month and it felt like something a Christian would do.

Fast forward 12 ½ years. I’m a wife and a mom, and my “son” is 17 and about to graduate. He recently wrote these words to me: 

Read the rest on Carol’s Blog, I’m No Superstar.

What Gone With the Wind would be like on a ship: Review of Forsaken Dreams by MaryLu Tyndall

I’m a big fan of Gone with the Wind, and Scarlett O’Hara, love her or hate her, is a complex and well-written character. (If your only reference to GWTW is the movie, then I tell you now, READ THE BOOK!)

And if you’re a fan of the Civil War-era stories and strong leading ladies, then MaryLu Tyndall has a new book you’ll want to add to your to-be-read pile.

forsaken dreams coverForsaken Dreams, the first in her new series Escape to Paradise, introduces a group of Southerners, just after the Civil War has ended, who are looking to start over. They all pay for passage on a ship headed for Brazil to start a new colony. Among the passengers is Eliza Crawford, Southern-born widow of a Union general, and Colonel Blake Wallace, wanted for war crimes and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Eliza and Blake are the central characters in this book. In subsequent books, other characters will take center stage.

The story takes us along on their journey from Charleston, South Carolina, through the Caribbean and Atlantic waters to Brazil. Of course, nothing is easy, and the tension that unfolds from the beginning of the story until its end is gut-wrenching and soul-piercing. Tyndall crafts an action-packed story from the first page and it doesn’t let up until the end. Even as I neared the final pages, I wasn’t sure how things were going to turn out.

The characters in this story are well-developed and realistic. I especially liked Eliza. She had me at this line: “I fear I’ve always been too adventurous for my own good.” I wouldn’t say those words about myself, necessarily, but they stir something in me. Eliza is no wilting Southern flower. She is strong and capable and steps forward where others step back. She’s described this way by Blake:

War has a way of stealing one’s innocence. As well as strengthening their character. However, in your case, this pluck of yours seems more something you were born with than something acquired.

And Blake is a flawed hero–the best kind, really. He’s not perfect. He often reacts with his instincts and his PTSD episodes are painful and frighteningly real. Eliza describes her attraction to him this way:

Yet something about him tugged on her, drawing her thoughts and heart like the needle of a compass to true north. And as with a compass, there seemed to be naught she could do to change its direction.

Perhaps my favorite part of the whole story is that it’s based in history. An unknown number of Southerners migrated to Brazil after the war to create what they hoped would be a utopian society after the devastation of the Civil War. This is a piece of  history I’ve never heard before. It makes for a compelling tale.

As Blake says to a fellow passenger, “Brazil is the last hope for many of us.”

The second installment of this series releases in November, which seems a long time from now. I’ll be waiting anxiously for the continuing story and a chance to journey further with this group. They feel like friends already.

In exchange for my review, I received a free copy of the book from the author.