Tuesday, March 30, 2010


A couple of months ago, I was able to get away with some girlfriends. (Just typing that sentence makes me happy. It’s a gift to get to do that.) We normally stow away in a lake house in our pajamas (or anything with elastic waistbands) for the short 48 hours, but this year we pulled out all the stops and actually paid for a couple of hotel rooms! (With this bunch, you can bet your last babysitting dollar that we got a deal.) We knew this 5 star hotel would certainly be a treat, but at the last minute we all seemed to be just short of “panicky” about our food. On our usual lake weekends, we have enough eats to be snowed in, trapped for weeks and weeks, maybe months. Boo-koodles. One year, I think we had 9 bags of Fritos. Heaven forbid that we wouldn’t have a “transfatty-scoop” for the guacamole or for the dip that is sure to cause us all to have angioplasties when we are fifty. In the house, we have a refrigerator in which to keep necessities cold, an oven in which to bake brownies and such, a stove top on which one friend can pop our popcorn and last but absolutely not the least, a coffee maker in which to brew our vice (or in some healthy cases, a tea kettle in which to heat water). We all reassured each other that there would be a coffee maker in the room. Five star ............ surely. No pot. No nothing. Five iPhones quickly calculated the shortest route to the nearest coffee house and we consoled ourselves with the fact that we could get morning coffee in the lobby. (WHO would be the one who would actually go down to the fancy lobby and retrieve it was never discussed, but you can be sure we were all wondering.) The next morning, one desperate gal called the front desk only to find out they had “taken up” the coffee at 10:00 am. What? Didn’t they know there were six mommas upstairs who were getting to sleep through the sunrise for the first time in weeks! Alas, they had replaced the coffee pump with cider. So we traded a needed caffeine boost for clove-numbed tongues.

On our way in from lunch, I spied a fancy coffee maker in the bar area. With high hopes I stopped in and asked, “Can you make ‘fun’ coffee, like with syrups?” The lady proudly answered yes, displayed a raised eyebrow and confident grin and said, “If you can dream it, I can make it.” Well now, THAT was a jolly good answer. So that is just what I did... dreamed about my 4 o’clock cup.

When my water-proof Timex finally blinked a blue 4:00, a friend joined me on my way

down to the lobby to “fulfill my dream”. I was delighted to find the same perky lady working the bar. Anticipating my frothy topped coffee, I asked, “So what kind of syrups do you have?” She looked behind her, turned and announced, “Vanilla.” Long pause. Longer. Of course, I was waiting for more. The “Dream it. Make it.” thing singing in my head. She looked at me, eyebrows raised. I looked at her, raising my eyebrows a little higher. Where were my choices? Where was her “dream” mantra?

Walking away, sipping my vanilla-flavored coffee, I came to the conclusion that this lady just didn’t dream very big. It’s only coffee, I know, but, my word.......vanilla? “If you can dream it, I can make it”???? I am no great visionary whose dreams have potential to change the world as we know it. (God knows, truly, my husband has enough ideas to last just my family through the Millennium and beyond.) But I can dream up a cup of coffee. I can even do better than that. I can dream up a yummy meal to serve to friends. I can dream of what I want my bedroom to look like or how I want my dinner table arranged for company. I can dream of how, as a Mom, I never want to get snippy or irritated with my kids or how I want our school days to look. I can dream of the way I want our holidays to

be celebrated or how I want our family devotions to go. I can dream of the atmosphere I want to create in my home or what I want for my children one day. Some of these I can pull off and at least one of these is absolutely out of my control. And so, there’s the rub. “Out of my control.” I tend not to dream there, not so much anyway. “Out of my control” is tricky............ and scary. Did I learn that growing up? Or is it part of my genetic make-up? Is it fear? Is it because I lack faith? Does He try to plant big dreams in my heart and I just don’t listen? Am I too proud? If I dream BIG, set out to see it through and fail, would I recover? How often do I dream of things beyond my control? Not very. Somewhere along the way, along the thoughts, I decide to play it safe.

Often, I hear about women, all ages, who have dreamed huge and "out of their control". Ideas and aspirations that would have never crossed my mind-- women who have set up businesses and websites that help create income for women in third world countries as they

use their own giftedness, women who create supplemental schools for home schooling families, a widow who sold her home so she could move into a women’s shelter so she would be available to them 24/7, a woman who took it upon herself to raise money so a lady in Rwanda could own her own home, women who home school their kids while establishing resourceful, humorous and/or meaningful blog “empires” that refresh thousands- not to mention publish books and speak in various parts of the country, a college student, who instead of going to church on Sunday mornings, used her money to buy doughnuts, hitting the streets on the “other side of the tracks” in order to share Christ's love, women who set out to write a book or run for political office, women who with their husbands say “yes” to raising their children in remote parts of Asia away from all people and things familiar.........and all things "out of their control". You know people like this. You have a list too. Big dreams. Big impact.

Over the last few months, I have thought a lot about dreaming big--- what is a “big dream” anyway and how can I help plant the desire and confidence in my children to ask God to reveal His path for them, to say “no” to fear or pride and to jump with both feet

into any dream He plants deep within their heart? Into things out of their control? (Out of MY control? Yikes.) Several weeks ago, Julia and I went to see a friend of ours in a wonderful high school production of “Little Women: The Musical”. Our friend played Jo, the main character, whose entire life was driven by her audacity and impetuousness. Until the last scene of the musical, her dreams were “bigger” than marrying and raising a family. Hmm......of course I wondered what Julia was thinking. I anticipated a conversation with her on the ride home, but she didn’t have much to say. I asked. She shrugged, but her silence confirmed to me that her wheels were turning. Finally, as we were pulling into our driveway, she asked, “Momma, is there anything WRONG with dreaming big?” What she had always dreamed of before the musical and the ideas presented in the musical were at odds in her impressionable heart. Were her dreams not big enough? Were they “less” somehow?

In the next few minutes in true God form, all my aimlessly wandering thoughts on the

subject came together and marched out in neat little rows giving Julia encouragement and

security in the midst of the small struggle taking place within her. I assured her that her

desire to be a wife and mother one day was in the heavy weight category and that it was a

marvelous dream. Loving, helping and respecting her husband and attempting to raise her children in the ways of God is a big deal, bigger than she or I will ever know on this side of heaven. Like Julia, it had been my own childhood dream, growing stronger until sweet Jeff surprised me with a proposal and so the dream began. It has looked different than I thought it would, but that’s only because I couldn’t begin to imagine it the beautiful way God had it all laid out. Definitely out of my control.

Through the years, He has helped me to put away my fear of failure (most of the time) and to choose His dream of sharing with my family my heart, my longing for more of God, for more fruit in my life, my love of home, my need for grace, my desire for fun, my efforts toward “togetherness”, my love for His Church...........sharing with them meaningful celebrations, my need for rhythm in life, His track record of faithfulness in our lives, my love of quietness and order and beauty......... sharing with them my many failures and His steady redemption, ...........sharing with them my love, my fears, my life, and my trust in His big, big glorious dream as it is still being revealed.

Father, You put the dream in my heart and You, only You, can make it happen. Thank You.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wide Open Spaces

Since our urban home is hemmed in tightly with our kind neighbors, this country girl at heart loves to find wide open spaces for her children to roam and run through, discover and dig in and most of all, imagine. Growing up, I had seemingly endless land to explore and time to make believe all sort of scenarios. In any direction from my childhood home were mostly empty pastures and woods of mostly pines. It didn't take me long to figure out I was allergic to poison ivy and it seemed to reach up and grab me often. I remember well the crunch of pine straw beneath my feet and the distinct smell of the pine trees. My preference of going barefoot eventually changed after stepping on a few too many pinecones hidden beneath the straw.
My friend, Jessica, ended my search by sharing with me the perfect "expanse" a couple of months ago. It is barely 10 minutes from our house. Her girls affectionately named it "Roxaboxen" which is, well, the children's picture book explains it best. (Check it out. Barbara Cooney is the author.) It's perfect with trees, small hills, a little pond, a steep incline for all sorts of fun things and the necessary bugs, dirt and sticks. So, Roxaboxen is where "Sanders and friends" ended our Spring Break and Brighton has the poison ivy to prove it!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spring Debut

Is there anything more "spring" than young winter's legs bursting forth from last summer's shorts? Come March or April, this sweet sight makes me grin......every time. Sure, I love the redbud trees and the greenest grass of the year, but oh, these tender spry legs........fresh, lily and finally free.

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Looking on the Bright Side

My son’s name came strangely. No, I wasn’t shopping for belts or even decorative electrical socket covers. I was driving to Austin. I knew I wanted him to carry his Daddy’s name, but I didn’t necessarily want two "Jeffs" in our home. We made up all sorts of combinations with Jeffery and everything fell short of “Bingo!”. As years have come and gone, I have found out that I am pretty sentimental. I like things to have a meaning--- from the chotskies that sit around in my home to the jewelry I choose to slide or fasten on. Our second child's name was no exception. So on I-35 S, in a good moment, I decided to ask the Lord, Who in His omnipotence was the One bringing this little bundle to us in the first place. Maybe He had an idea of what He wanted Sanders no.2's name to be. Even with my “reserved” personality, I can be dramatic and in true Southern custom, can be prone to exaggeration from time to time. However, God’s ways never need exaggerating. He alone creates drama and fills the galaxies with His Presence. He doesn’t need my feeble attempts of embellishment. About two minutes after I sought His input on my name dilemma, one of these blew by me:

I’ve seen them a zillion times. I had probably passed this same one before earlier, but I hadn't just been talking with God when I did. “Bright”. I loved it. While I was waiting for Jeff to answer my urgent phone call, I thought of Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, who had just passed away. To Jeff, it was the “Bingo!”. He tagged on the “o-n” and so it became Jeffrey Brighton Sanders. We knew nothing about our unborn son, but we loved all for which Dr. Bright stood. His passion for the gospel was real, directing and consuming his entire adult life. I also loved the verse in Proverbs that reads, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ‘Bright-er’ till the full light of day." All the Scriptures that speak of “light” and “shining” are beautiful to me. These are things we can pray for Brighton to experience and embrace in his life, but, for now, it is so interesting how many people comment on his “bright smile” or the way his face “lights up” when he greets them. As his Mom, I see this but I am also seeing how optimistic he is. No matter how many times I may say “no” to gum, he continues to ask. No matter how many times he has been told to finish ALL of his green beans, he continues to ask, “How many?” No matter how many times he complains about a certain friend, he continues to love and play with this person. No matter how many time he asks, "What's for dinner?" hoping to hear something other than "meat, vegetable and a starch", he still asks. With hope.

When Jeff was out of town last week, we made a stop at the library to pick up our books on hold. The line was a little long so I told the kids they could go over and pick out one DVD each. After about 30 seconds, Julia ran back over to me, visibly discouraged. “I can’t find anything!” I shrugged. She said, “All I see is Hansel and Gretel.” (Talk about tunnel vision) I knew some friends of hers had seen the play recently and she was curious. I told her Hansel and Gretel was fine with me. Now, I know it is a odd little story the Grimm Brothers came up with, but I would be watching the far-fetched tale with them and we could navigate through it together. It wasn’t until we were in the car did I see the cover. There were two kids, from maybe the 1920’s, on the front and the cover read, “Hansel and Gretel: An Appalachian Story”. I rolled my eyes. It reminded me of those hard to read books like, “Cinderella, a Cajun Story”, or “The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale”, or “Little Red Riding Hood: A New-Fangled Prairie Tale”. Just leave the story alone, I say. They are classics for a reason. "Creative license" is overrated. (My absolutely worthless opinion)

Once pj’s were on and smoothies were whirled, we all settled on the couch. It had barely started before all parenting senses were at stiff attention. The short film was dark. The father was a pushover, or maybe already pushed-over. The step mom was more vicious than Glen Close in 101 Dalmatians. I had wanted to turn it off before I did, but I was hoping I wouldn’t have to make a big deal out of it and that it would get to the zany and “far fetched” part that is more “fairy tale” and unbelievable. Worsening my plight, the camera work was just plain creepy, filmed from the watcher’s perspective. Wide-eyed, the kids kept asking, “Who’s watching them, Mom?” Well, you know how the story goes: the brother and sister finally get good and hopelessly lost and happen up on what was far from the original tale's candy coated “cottage”. Try a road worn trailer decorated with card board gingerbread men. Very strange...............and way too real. Think: home of one of America’s Most Wanted. Not NEAR “far fetched” enough. I began to get really concerned about what the "cook you in the oven" scenes were going to look like! Pictures of a dirty rusty oven kept closed with chains and padlocks rushed through my head. What I saw on the screen next were the ONLY typical “tale-ish” images so far and they were the colorful petticoats revealing Wizard of Oz striped socks and the typical black heeled shoe that all "proper" witches purchase who knows where. The camera worked its way up to “its” face surprising me with someone who made Chucky look like Howdy Doody with peeling paint. Frantically fumbling for the remote, I said, “Okay, that’s enough! I don’t like this movie.” Julia’s face was already buried in my shoulder. I looked at Brighton and he was staring straight ahead. He had this to say first, “Momma, their momma is MEAN. I don’t like her.” “Honey, I know. This just isn’t a good movie.” Personally, I didn’t see much difference in the step-mom and this freaky old witch. (Or is that the point?) This cruel woman ranted at the father and the children using verbiage like “you stupid fools” and “get rid of these two brats!” Squeezing my arm, Brighton went on, “I’m glad I don’t have a momma like that! But you know, Mom?” He broke his stare, looked at me and in all sincerity he said, “I bet if we kept watching she would turn out to be a good momma in the end.”

I put my arm around him and said, “Sure she would.” We closed the doors to the TV cabinet, poured in second helpings of smoothie, got re-situated under blankets and read our next chapter of The Railway Children and lived happily every after...............for the rest of the night anyway.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sweet, Soft Kiss

Thoughts swirling tonight. All afloat, wandering. Are any worth catching? If I grab hold of one, can I make any sense of it? Squeeze anything fruitful from it? It’s always a toss up for me. Sometimes when I begin typing, I really have no idea where I am going or where it’ll all end up. I know there is some value, at least to me, to these airborne words, but not one can I see clearly until I have had a chance to grab hold of it, size it up, cut it out, slather the glue on it and decide just the right way to paste it down on paper....on screen. If I didn’t, I picture myself living life with my head down, cranking out one task after another, sleeping, then repeating. Then, March would meld into April which too quickly would smear into May, then it would be 2011 and then, poof, 2031 and I wouldn’t remember a worthwhile thing.

There had to be some value in the other day. Certainly, I’ve had days like it before but this type of day is getting really, REALLY old. I chose to sleep in because of the previous week/weekend but in the few short moments I had before the offical day began, I earnestly prayed that God would help me to make it a good day with the children and mostly, to function out of love for them. Not five minutes later, I realized I should have added Gabriel’s name (the pup) to my prayer. It was raining outside. He didn’t want to wait around outside to take care of his business any more than Jeff or I wanted to stand in the rain with him. In our nice dry home, on the front door mat seemed the perfect place to him. Brighton yells, I yell, Jeff yells. In comes the scooper, the paper towels, the neutralizer, and the air freshener. And come to find out a short two minutes later, our yelling had interrupted him. He wasn’t finished. Julia joined us in yelling the second time. You know how it is. It’s just no fun cleaning that up or smelling it for that matter, even if it is temporary and then wondering if it will ever stop. No one wants to start their day like that-- all that yelling (and smelling), everyone irritated with the dog, wanting to pin Gabriel’s mishap on someone who understood “blame and shame”, and facing the reality that it will rain all day, causing alert “Level Red” with the puppy for the remainder of the day. The extremely sad part is that I kind of stayed there until bedtime. Primed and pumped for irritation- through teaching Brighton how to trade pennies in for dimes (and convincing him that it really was just as much money), showing Julia how to add 5 digit numbers with decimals, explaining to both the six sounds of “ough”, and making sure Gabriel was not chewing on anything important nor expelling any digested food.

I have admitted before, as much as I want to be one, I am not a agile multi-tasker. I can do it- everyone is forced to at times- but character traits of “cheery” and “engaging” elude me. Just vanish. Adding Gabriel to the school morning mix has forced me to up my game, which was suffering pre-dog, but the other morning revealed hard evidence that my ability to multi-task is no better. I tried to turn things around when the kids and I did our Bible study. Is there anything worse than talking about “image bearing” when you know that all morning your face has looked like scary monster and your voice has sounded like, well, you know, that same scary monster? The kids didn’t have anything to do with Gabriel’s inept puppy bladder. It was a mere circumstance that I chose to allow to control me. I let the elevated atmosphere grab hold and then acted powerless to do anything to force it loose. How foolish. How ignorant. How faithless. How absolutely pitiful.

When I am able to pull away and think about a day like this one, I sometimes think it must be like a drunk who is finally sober. “Oh. Wow. Did I really say that? And do that?.” Ugh. And then, like a kiss, soft and sweet, you remember..... forgiveness. This is where you almost have to stand to your feet and shout praises to God. Forgiveness. For me, these intimate relationships knitted together as my family have been the classroom, teaching me to give it... often, to ask for it....more often , to long for it....with desperation, and to experience it.....wholeheartedly. I can’t imagine living day after day with the sins piling up and up and up becoming a smothering heap............... until finally, you are so covered up and laden with guilt you can’t even remember what it is like to hope for something different, something fresh, to breathe easy and to smile from somewhere deep inside. Forgiveness. Harmony restored. Within ourselves. With each other. With the Father. Glory be to Him. It was His idea.

“In Him the enslaved find redemption, the guilty pardon, the unholy renovation, In Him are everlasting strength for the weak, unsearchable riches for the needy, treasures of wisdom and knowledge for the ignorant, fullness for the empty.

At Thy gracious call I hear, take, come, apply, receive His grace, not only submit to His mercy but acquiesce in it, not only glory in the cross but in Him crucified and slain, not only joy in forgiveness but in the One through whom atonement comes.

O Lord God, without the pardon of my sin I cannot rest satisfied, without the renovation of my nature by grace I can never rest easy, without the hopes of heaven I can never be at peace. All this I have in Thy Son Jesus; blessed be His name.”

-excerpt “The Valley of Vision”

A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

In Him we have redemption through his blood, the FORGIVENESS OF SINS, in accordance with the riches of GOD’S GRACE that He LAVISHED on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8

Praise His Name.

Photos: Mission in Carmel, California, Inside the Chapel at Rough Creek Lodge, The Chapel at Rough Creek Lodge