Tuesday, March 29, 2011

281. being where I can see this

282. house clean smell

283. a grandmother next to me, texting slowly........ grinning

284. Japanese red maple blazing outside my kitchen window

285. Julia referring to things in Soperton as “ours”- “You know, Brighton, we have one of those out in the barn.”

286. B’s thrill at “those old composers in my keyboard!!!”

287. XS baseball pants

288. avocados

289. Daddy dates and the "magic of Macy's"

290. spinning drunk kids on their feet, on the floor

291. kneeling with a friend to pray

292. drive in with friends and a shopping bag full of popcorn popped by Isabella

293. soap smell of boy -still- on my lap

294. new mercies EVERY morning

295.  friend's of friends who came

296. the gospel told in shiny, colorful fabrics

297. unexpected cold and the welcome surprise of sleeping bags in the car

298. a fire in the fireplace when I thought there would be no more

299. Moms choosing to be transparent, choosing to love and widen the circle

300. words of faith from children

From the Backseat #16 Faith

To my delight or demise, their words fly freely in the backseat.  Their banter puts my brain in overdrive so sometimes, if all the cosmic spark plugs are perfectly aligned, I can tune the verbiage out.  Don’t be horrified.  You do it too.  It’s instinctive Momma survival.  You may not even realize you do it.  I am sure I’ve missed some eloquent, witty, or clever words (I've heard ALL the mean ones..) over the months, and sometimes knowing that makes me sad, but most of the time, I am grateful I had a few moments of pseudo-silence.

A little back story-- Since January, we have been gathering leadership for a new church in Fort Worth.  We have been meeting on Sunday mornings in the indoor facilities at the Botanic Gardens. We normally park in a rather empty parking lot because we get there pretty early to set up.  About every other week, Brighton makes a comment on the cars and how he wishes there were more there.  I usually say something like, “Oh, B, we are early.  No one is here yet.”  Regardless of how many cars wind up in the lot, the kids have been such a big help and always add to the excitement of what the Lord is doing each week.  Thankfully, their enthusiasm is contagious, because this is a in your 20’s job, not a 40’s job!

The Friday of spring break, we experienced our first production of the Fort Worth Children’s Opera (loved it!) and headed to the Botanic Gardens to do a “nature challenge” (see below).  As we pulled into the same lot we do every Sunday morning, Jeff and I were scoping out places to park. It was one of those gorgeous, turquoise sky days and the gardens had enticed many out.  After driving around a minute or two, we parked.

As we got out of the car, Brighton piped up, body and voice,

“THIS is what I am TALKING about!!!!  THIS is what I want the parking lot to look like on SUNDAY morning!!  LOOK at all these cars!  THIS is IT!!”

My friend, Elaine, told me about  Texas Nature Challenge.  Check it out.  Good stuff!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The lovely mom sitting across from me has a crisp coral scarf tied about her head.  I see no hair.  Her wiggle-jumping, I am guessing, six year old boy is with her passionately filling her end of the table with words that are important to him.  Her face seems kind and placid but also tired and older than it should.  Carefree, her boy plays with the small toys placed in front of him, sips his lemonade as his mom carries a weight that her now thin frail frame wonders if possible.  The boy chatters doing what is normal to him as she moves around the table doing what a mother always does at a restaurant.   Today looks normal but I bet, she knows it is not.

I look at her little boy with her and think of my own.

Today, I get to watch Brighton play his first game of baseball this afternoon.  I am a little miffed that I can’t change a work training  so I won’t have to miss a game in April.  I wonder what she’s thinking she might miss.

Today, I will take him to the park to play with one of his best buddies.  I can think of a handful of errands I could run.  I wonder if she’d choose the park or Target.

Today, I dream of seeing him turn into a young man, even a dad and on a day of dreaming big, a grand dad.  I wonder what her dreams are today.

Last night, we all got home late from a meeting.  My kids entertained themselves in the next room for TWO hours while some dozen adults hammered through some details.  During the bedtime routine, voices elevated from upstairs and upon my investigation I found excessive water on bathroom floors, clothes (now wet) that should have been placed in the hamper, BOTH bedrooms scattered with B’s toys, Science Etc. homework that still needed completing.  I was aggravated and they knew it.

Today, this morning, two tired little bodies got out of bed, walked the dog, and made breakfast.  After waffles, bananas and free flowing maple syrup, Brighton found his paper Texas Ranger “T” he colored slightly bent and was bent himself to blame his sister.  He had no room for reasoning.  No room for grace.  No room for letting it go.  And neither did I.  Stern words, grown up fingers clamped on his bicep, I pointed plainly to his sin of selfishness.

And, gently, He pointed to mine.  My grip loosened on his small bicep.


I wonder, would she have sweated the mess upstairs?  Would she have even SEEN it behind the wonder of kids streaking pale and cold to find a towel?  Would she have seen B’s toys in Julia’s room as a simple desire to be with his only sister?  Would she have remembered to applaud them for hanging out for two hours so we could have a meeting and not hire a sitter?  Would she have remembered to express her gratitude to them for not dragging around this morning, tired as they were?  I wonder, would her words have been gentler, more patient as she tried to make her son understand his sin in blaming his sister?  Would her kindness in the midst of irrationality have led him to repentance instead of excuses?  I wonder.

I wonder what she has learned through world shaking news, chemotherapy and doctor’s appointments.   I bet “today” is a big deal to her and wet clothes on a wet floor is not.  I bet she knows expressing gratitude today is a privilege not knowing what tomorrow holds.   I bet today with a stop at a park is better than a run through at Target.  I bet today is a gift to her and proving a point in haste is not.

Today, I will pick my kids up after piano, take Julia to sewing, join Jeff at the ball field for B’s first game and figure out dinner as we go.  They will take baths and inevitably soak the floor.  We will read on the couch and Jeff will kiss them and tuck them in tightly.

Today looks normal but because of the lady in the coral scarf, I know it’s not.

264.  husband taxi at airport

265.  finding house much better than I left it

266.  “youths” grown up, flying on faith to India

267.  opera for kids

268.  boy tallying squirrels

269.  J and B having a secret handshake

270.  kids making the best of it

271.  fruit of discipline-- yet to be seen

272.  sister helping brother sort a mountain of Legos

273.   five around our table

274.  wind reminding me of wide open spaces where I live

275.  quiet Saturday morning house

276.  friends on floor- “hiding” to talk

277.  empty suitcases

278.  smell of kids after play

279.  homemade scones

280.  today

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spiritual Parenting-- Certainly a Worthwhile Read

If I were smart enough, motivated enough, and experienced enough this would be the book I would dream about writing.  I don’t normally post on books, but this is the second since Christmas.  I get overwhelmed by all the great books filling the shelves “out there” so whatever comes my way has to be highly recommended by someone I respect (who has actually READ the book!), written by someone I admire from afar or the title/tag line has to grab me by the neck and start shaking me.  This book did the latter.

Michelle Anthony’s words, Biblical ideas and God-shaped philosophy in Spiritual Parenting are for me, my family.  As I read, I find myself thinking, “So THAT’S how I might accomplish that in my family,”  or “THAT’s a model of a way to handle a situation like that.”  I also find myself thinking about how I live out my own faith in front of my children and how critical this is to their spiritual growth.  It’s not just about the kids, it’s about parenting.  Spiritual Parenting.

Others would disagree I am sure, but I find this short paragraph a great preview to what the book is about-- or maybe it’s just my big “take-home” from the book.

“One thing I do not want to do as a parent is just continue to fill my children’s brains with lots of information about Scripture and God, but then not give them opportunities for expression.  As parents, one of our roles is to match the experience of faith and action with the knowledge they are learning.  We need to be intentional about this.  We will always fight the temptation to make our children into cognitive Christians.”

If we could make that a reality in our home before Julia and Brighton leave it, we would have the party of the century celebrating God’s power in our weakness.

If you’ve been looking for a parenting book that is as practical as it is inspiring, get this one.  You won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

247.  backpacks filled with airplane fun but even more anticipation

248.  kindness of stewardesses

249.  parents at baggage claim

250.  the road that leads to home

251.  pans of these

252.  “yes ma’am”, in unison, from teenage boys in dirty baseball uniforms

253.  spring snow

254.  steeples high in blue

255.  the gift of hearing for dear one’s dearest one

256.  my niece’s laugh

257.  familiar covers

258.  fresh cut camellias

259.  nephew on hunt for “lost” cousins

260.  four wheelers and acreage to ride

261.  Spanish moss

262.  these kinds of smiles

263.  plane tickets to Fort Worth..to Jeff

Missing Jeff

I always do.  I always wish that he had come with us.  I’ve never enjoyed getting on a plane without him.  My throat always knots up and sometimes, my eyes sting.  It doesn’t take long before escalators, boarding passes, security and my two small traveling companions divert my attention from the pull I feel with every step we take away from him.

When I go off without him, only a few hours have to pass before something comes up and I think, “Oh, I wish Jeff were here.”  This time it was the afternoon I arrived.  At RJ’s (my nephew) baseball game, someone asked me about which translation of the Bible I read.  That is usually a harmless question, however, from this friend, I knew it was loaded.   And, without thinking, my wish for Jeff to be there just tumbled out of my mouth.  Even later that first night, when conversation with dear ones we hadn’t seen in a while didn’t flow comfortably, I thought about Jeff’s easy way of conversation and his ability to draw people out.

The next day, I needed his wisdom with a friend whose troubles weighed heavily in the most tender of places.  His man talk would have reached farther, meant more.  He could have ministered where I was unable.

When Denise called me from Florida on Saturday and asked me if I would teach her high school/college Sunday School the next morning, you bet I was wishing Jeff had made the trip.  Oh.  My.  Teenagers and beyond.  Not my specialty-- and I am not sure what is, actually.  What was even more intimidating than teaching in place of my own sweet mentor, there was the possibility of my niece and nephew sitting in the room.  Adding to the case of fluttering butterflies I developed after hanging up the phone, the day was so packed I had no time to call Jeff, think, or find a canned message on the internet.  I knew he would know just what to say, but he had his own "sermon" to work on.  He could speak to them with confidence and I knew they would listen to them.

And Monday when I returned from town to find out a small search party had been organized for Julia and Brighton, I wished Jeff had been there.   Before I left, I told them to leave the house to explore.  There are trails and dirt roads everywhere.  I said, “You won’t get lost.  Just look for the house.  It’s big and yellow.  You can’t miss it!”  When they called them in for lunch and they couldn’t see them, my nephew, RJ, took off in his truck to find them.  Daddy followed.  Papa found them as far away as they could possibly be without leaving the property.  Oblivious.  Of course.  They were doing EXACTLY what I told them to do--and having a ball.   My family had been so worried and I was very grateful but I also felt responsible for their stressful half hour.  Jeff would have either been at the house helping look for them or at least there in the kitchen to be “responsible” with me.

I have learned through the years, and especially these parenting years, his presence carries a lot of weight.  It accomplishes many things at once-- comfort, confidence, security, ease, lightness, fun.  I miss him when he’s not around.  Trips like these just highlight that.

As the plane gets closer to DFW, the tightness in the “pull” is loosening.  We are almost home.  I won’t be missing him much longer.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Just last week, Jeff and I wondered if Brighton had slammed the front door off the hinges.  Dishes shook.  Pictures went cock-eyed.  We were reassured only a few seconds later he hadn’t, because it seems like he tried four more times that afternoon.  Nothing was wrong.  It’s just the way he goes in and out.

As my rare quiet reading hour was interjected by these frequent booms and the foundation disturbing tremors, I tried to be thankful.  Hmmm... that we built on a cement slab, that the front wall is all brick, that we have a front door, that the hinges hold well, that I have a little boy who runs through it, in and out, all day......... which turned into a prayer that he’d find more joy running in through our front door than running out of it.  Those hinges, I thought, allow it to swing both ways.  In and out.

In the middle of a school day, OUT is where he wants to play.  When the bike has coughed him up, IN is where he wants to run.  When he doesn’t just love his choices inside, OUT is where he wants to be.  When cul de sac friends have hurt his feelings, IN is where he comes.  When he hears those same friends having fun outside, OUT is where he wants to be.  When Julia and I have devoured one too many chapters, OUT is where he wants to run.  When he figures out it’s time to eat,  IN is where he wants to be.

Of course.

In and out.  In my little room that day, I thought of the hinges on our big door.  From where I sat reading, I could see his seven year old self running fast, trying to catch up.  Book face down now in my lap, I realized his freedom was only expanding and I wondered about his desire to be here or somewhere else.  Uncomfortable, I shifted in my chair when I thought about this hinging on the atmosphere we have created in our home.  Big hinge.  As his Mom, what am I doing to make our home a place he wants to be, rather than a place from which he just wants to get away?  I can stock his favorite snack food, play the Star Wars soundtrack constantly, develop a high tolerance for Legos everywhere,  serve up Mexican three times a week, and fill our book baskets with bright yellow Curious George books but so can any other woman on the planet.   What can he get here, in the Sanders’ home, that he won’t find in the cul de sac, in the kid’s house a couple of streets over, from his friends at school or on the baseball team and as time goes by, the teenager’s room across town, or heaven forbid, the young girl who thinks he’s really cute?  (“her”-- all in good timing, I know.)

I know it goes way deeper than what’s on my pantry shelves, but that’s harder.  I don’t like hard.  A trip to Target is easy.

Laughing at his antics takes energy--- funny or not.  Being ready to drop my agenda for his can be excruciating.  Allowing his creative messes with paper, markers, scissors and yards of tape isn’t always convenient.  Overlooking, at times for the sake of the atmosphere, typical boy behavior isn’t my natural bent.  Giving grace again causes my parenting insecurities to rise. Saying yes to screen time at regular times is hard for me.  After discipline times, exerting all the strength I’ve got to keep him in my arms until he softens and lets me hold him can be exhausting.  Listening to all his words takes a great deal of patience.  Answering pages of questions can be draining.  Making eye contact with him for the duration of these avalanches is challenging.  Knowing him and understanding Brighton is time consuming.  Recognizing that face that says he’s been hurt-- in the heart -- and responding interrupts my reading time.

And so it should.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25

With the best of intentions, I have no chance of creating this atmosphere.  Only if I choose, moment by moment, to lean heavily on the Holy Spirit, to be filled by Him, to allow that mysterious interchange of Him living through me.  Moment by moment.  Because, for me, it only takes a moment to act out of my self and not His Spirit.  My responses and my reactions hinges solely upon what I do with Him....moment by moment.  If I want this atmosphere that will quietly call my children’s hearts to our home, it hinges on how I respond to Him.  Again, big hinge.

Before it’s all over, he may wear the door hinges out.  My picture frames and our "remember" crosses on my walls don’t stand a chance of ever being straight.  And that’s okay.

Maybe if I hear the boom enough, feel the tremor more often, and straighten frames a few thousand more times, I won’t forget what hinges.

Thanksgiving.  Grace.  Joy.

223.  plane tickets to Georgia

224.  8 months lost key found

225.  Jeff’s calls or texts that say “Need anything from ____________?”

226.  breakfast with one sister I don’t see near enough

227.  son’s prayers for me before work

228.  my hand me down camera

229.  children’s laughter carrying through the windows to my quiet place

230.  leftovers

231.  humility personified in my front seat teaching me what true friendship looks like

232.  clothing swaps

233.  hush-hush frozen yogurt with Julia

234.  having pastor and wife from our first year of marriage around our dining room table

235.  the text that saved me a fit of embarrassment

236.  roller skates and Daddy

237.  hymn humming children

238.  Italian food-- al fresco

239.  B’s reaction (aka- string of questions, thoughts) to first chapter book to read in bed at night

240.  smell of kid’s skin after rowdy sunshine play

241.  curve balls that yield dependence

242.  small cleats

243.  staccato “B-I-N-G-O” on the piano

244.  sister referring to him as “our B”

245.  excitement manifesting like this

246.  and boyness like this

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I can already tell I am going to be jumping around on this now blank white screen.  Bear with me and let’s see if it all comes together.

I am only two months in trying to practice eucharisteo, the word that encircles my first born’s middle name.  Only God could make a word so full, so life-giving and some days, so incredibly hard.   Thanksgiving.  Grace.  Joy.  Crammed-packed.  I bet it’s an envied word in all “word-dom”.  It’s a word not wanting.... lacking nothing.  It overflows with meaning and mystery and as Ann Voskamp asks, “But where can I seize this holy grail of joy?”  I am finding out, it is harder than I thought.

Practice.  With much, much practice.

Last weekend, I was able to go to a conference on motherhood.  About half way through, I called a friend who had stayed home.  Her day hadn’t been easy.  I found the difference in our mindsets interesting.  I texted her later, “I am in the clouds and you are in the trenches.”  I was sitting in a beautiful ballroom with clean, well-fed, well-dressed moms who hadn’t been pulled on in at least 12 hours and my friend was home, un-showered, knowing lunch was up to her, looking around at her to-do list, while being pulled on by eight little hands.  My brief talk with her was a good reality check for me because Monday, I’d be where she was-- minus 4 little hands.  I listened to the rest of the speakers with that in mind.  How will this apply to me when the laundry won’t fit in the cubbies, when I see shelves that might sprout weeds if seeds blew in, when I hear, “STOP THAT!!”, when I see dog hair on everything we call ours, when the mud space is functioning as anything BUT, when I am not sure what is for dinner, when I walk by their rooms in disbelief-- simultaneously... or not.  How would I get from there to joy?

Hopping on...

Grace.  I am tuned in to that word lately.  Jeff has been talking about it for months now-- at home, with his staff, preaching on it the last seven weeks of our new church plant.  My mind and heart is primed for it, longs for it.  It’s the word I brought back from the conference.  It’s the word tucked into euCHARISteo.  I want to experience MORE of it in my life so I am able to extend MORE to my children who so desperately need it as they make their way in this world.  Oh, but how?  I am not sure I know what dispensing huge doses of grace in this season of discipline and training looks like.  I want to learn.  Am I learning?  Would I be more grace-giving if I were more grateful?  Would I dole it out more freely if I were more aware of His Presence and gifts in my routines?  Would there be more joy?  That would sure be nice in the domestic trenches.

Last week, a friend of mine sent a short post by Sally Clarkson and I loved this, “A woman has such a capacity to bring a spirit of grace and beauty into the world if she focuses on the beautiful–the Lord Jesus who did not revile in return. If you want to leave a legacy of grace, beauty and love, you must choose to walk in graciousness and become more gracious. You do not need to capitulate to the error of the irrational people, but you must discipline what goes on in your heart. The outcome of cultivating love is growing in love and eventually having a legacy of righteousness by your obedience to God.”

There’s something I can learn there-- something I need to practice, keep practicing-- “you must discipline what goes on in your heart”.  Graciousness. Thanksgiving.  Joy.

And about her children, she went on to say, “I tend to look at my children through this lens, “It is the kindness and mercy of the Lord that leads to repentance.”  (paraphrased from Romans 2:4)

I get that.  I don’t DO that, necessarily, but that is what I would like to be characteristic about my training of and interactions with Julia and Brighton.  Can I really offer kindness when I am going over, for the bazillionth time, the reasons we must speak the truth at all times, or why we don’t argue (with us, the parents), or why we don’t do diving rolls into the museum front door?  Really?  How refreshing that would be around here.  Life- giving.  Grace giving way to JOY.  Eucharisteo.  Again, it’s something I need to practice- keep practicing.

I do feel that thanksgiving is intertwined in all of this.  It’s about seeing things differently when a moment or a day has turned south.  As Mrs. Clarkson says, "If she focuses on the beautiful", Him, could this make a difference?  I think it’s a choice worth making.  God is ALL in and through my day.  Why do I find it so challenging to seek Him out-- during it?  How can I get so distracted by dust, dinner, debates and dog hair?  As Ann says over and over again in her book, I must practice it--keep practicing.  “Hammer it out at night with pen and ink.”  I am convinced that if I can consistently abide in this frame of mind--- seeking God and giving Him thanks for the gifts He brings in the midst of my dailies--- a lot of who I desire to be as a parent will spill in overflow. Thanksgiving. Grace. Joy. In and out of the trenches.

Two months in, I am not giving up.

Ann, thanks for showing us how to hammer.

207. quiet morning house

208. a space to meet with Him

209. overdose caught

210. the way a candle flickers

211. Asian take out

212. relocated lamp casting new light in old space

213. scales sputtering up and down the keyboard

214. our city’s museum curators

215. flowers picked just for me

216. ibuprofen when feverish

217. hymns

218. tears

219. the way the library smells

220. my youngest’s thoughts and loves in marker, tape and paper

221. cinnamon crunch bagels

222. grace

Museum Week 2

I’d like to say that Museum Week was birthed from a moment of classical educational genius, but actually, on a Sunday night last February, it came to being as I sat in a heap on our well loved, well worn couch, mourning the beginning of Monday’s routine.  As the idea of Museum Week slipped through my mind, I quickly perked up, straightened my back and grabbed my computer to start clicking around town.   A whole week of school has never been cancelled so fast. Energy renewed.  Mourned no more.

It was a no brainer to schedule it this year.  Because of a couple of other things going on last week, we didn’t get to everywhere I was hoping.  We stayed close to home which is, in my opinion, a really great option.  Just another reason I love Fort Worth.

One hitch was that I forgot about President’s Day (Sorry, Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Washington- my kids think you two are amazing but I am not great on remembering birthdays) and I didn’t remember their special day until we pulled up to the only museum opened on Mondays, the Science and History Museum, and found a very full parking lot.  It was Engineer's Week.  Thankfully, it’s a big place.

(EVERYday, I forgot my real camera.  Excuse the quality here, but it’s all I’ve got.)

Configuring the SLOWEST route possible...

Making a movie with rubber stars

Creations from the Paper Studio

Wednesday, we tried out The Texas Civil War Museum on the outskirts of town.  I was amazed by all the displays and how they organized the North and South paraphernalia on their respective sides of the building.  Growing up in Georgia, a state with a rich history of its own, I know little about Texas history, but have always been intrigued by their audacity and their bravery.  One of the favorite quotes I saw was by General Robert E. Lee, “Alabama soldiers, all I ask of you is to keep up with the Texans.”

The owner's gave out a pretty detailed scavenger hunt.  Prizes always motivate a boy's interest in really old things. 

He had a plan for that cannon.

And because she couldn't take home the ball gown, she settled for this:

A few days before, we reviewed parts of the Civil War through some of our favorite picture books which spurred on some thoughts of injustice for Brighton.  During “mom check” one night, I found these “thoughts” on his bed.

The wrinkles in the covers lead you right to a very darling, thoughtful little boy.

Thursday afternoon, we spent some time in the Kimbell enjoying their permanent collection which is astounding to me for a museum in “Cowtown” --  Duccio, Fra Angelico, Pisarro, Caravaggio, Poussin, Velázquez, Bernini, Rembrandt, Goya, Monet, Cézanne, Picasso, Mondrian, and Matisse -- yeah, I know, a gift down the street.  

Friday we met  about twenty of our favorite friends in Sundance Square at The Sid Richardson Museum which houses "one of the finest and most focused collections of Western art in America".  Even though it may be my favorite museum in town, this trip was marred by Brighton’s evidently uncontainable enthusiasm causing him to enter the door, which was being held by our lady curator, in a DIVING ROLL.  Yes, a diving roll, right into the feet of all his friends.  THREE mornings, I had reviewed “museum manners” before we entered different places and by the fourth morning, I figured I would just sound like a Peanut parent, so I skipped the speech.  Diving roll.  As my hand clenched his bicep outside the door, he said, “But Mom, I am just so excited.”  And you think I am a sucker for buying it.

After time in the gallery, we learned about the purpose of bandanas and branding.  We were taught how to read different brands and the kids made up their own and designed their bandana.  

Next year, I hope to venture a little farther from home.