Category Archives: Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving, Toddler Style

Whoever said that children are never grateful?

My just-turned-two year old always wants to pray after everyone else at dinner. Usually she repeats what has just been said, a litany of thanks for everyone around the table. “Dear God, Tank oo Jesus, tank oo bubba, tank oo mama, tank oo dada…” But tonight, she gave us evidence that she has caught on to thanking Him from whom all blessings flow:

“Tank oo milkies!”

Lest anyone think she was just naming the contents of a glass before her, think again. Milkies is her word for mama’s milk, not to be had from a glass.

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In our weakness…

…His strength is made perfect. How I know this now. And I also know how painful it is to be weak and let His strength be perfect.

I was reminded of this as I was visiting Owlhaven’s site and ran across this plea to pray for Lucas, a fellow blogger’s little boy who was burned last night. Many of you know that our own son was burned about a year and a half ago. My heart goes out to this family and Lucas. It brings back the feeling of my heart breaking in two for my little boy. Please read his story and PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for him.

Also, scroll down and look at the you-tube video the family made of their adoption story. Keep a kleenex ready! They brought their two new children home only a few months ago.

I was thinking about how right now the family’s souls feel as raw as their son’s flesh. I was also thinking how God showed Himself over and over through our ordeal, mostly through the prayers we felt that were coming literally from around the world. Now, as I told my son of little Lucas, his earnest face lit up when I asked him to pray for him. Can you imagine? He actually felt joy that he could pray for another little boy in need. What a blessing. I think of how many people come away from a painful tragedy bitter. I know our son’s injuries could have been worse, but I believe his belief in God’s goodness would still have been the same.

Now our son is healed and stronger in his faith than he was before he was burned. Please pray the same for Lucas.

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‘Meat’ for your Good Friday

I hope you read this in it’s entirety. It is a beautiful thing to “taste and see that the Lord is good.”

This comes from St. John Chrysostom’s catechumenate (new believer) instruction. St. John Chrysostom was born in 347 A.D. Thanks to the Rev. David Chalk for editing this quote unto 21st. century readability. I was inspired to repeat it here after hearing it in his Maundy Thursday sermon.

If we wish to understand the power of Christ’s blood, we should go back to the ancient account of what took place in Egypt where Christ’s blood is foreshadowed. “Sacrifice a lamb without blemish,” Moses commanded, “and sprinkle its blood on your doors.”

Moses said, “Sacrifice a lamb without a blemish and smear the doors with its blood.” What does this mean? Can the blood of a sheep without reason save men endowed with reason? Yes, Moses replies, not because it is blood but because it is a sign of the Lord’s blood. So today if the devil sees, not the blood of the sign smeared on the doorposts, but the true blood smeared on the lips of the faithful, which are the doors of the temple of Christ, with all the more reason will he draw back.

If you desire further proof of the power of this blood, remember where it came from, how it ran down from the cross, flowing from the Master’s side. The gospel records that when Christ had died, but was still hanging on the cross, the soldier came and pierced his side with the spear and immediately there poured out water and blood. Now the water was a symbol of baptism and the blood, of the holy Eucharist. When that soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own. So also with the lamb: the Jews slaughtered the victim as a sacrifice and I gathered the fruit of that sacrifice—salvation. I have been saved by it.

“There flowed from his side water and blood.” Dearly beloved, do not pass over this mystery without reflection; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy Eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: “by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit,” i.e., by baptism and by the holy Eucharist. Now the symbols of baptism and the Eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ formed the Church, as he had formed Eve from the side of Adam.

Moses gives a hint of this when he tells the story of the first man and makes him exclaim: “Bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh!” As God then took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.

Do you understand, then, how Christ has united his bride to himself? Have you seen with what kind of food he feeds us? By one and the same food we are both brought into being and fed. As a woman forms and feeds her child with her own blood and milk, so too does Christ continuously feed those whom he has begotten with his own blood— so too does Christ continuously feed those to whom he himself has given life.

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Getting What We Want

I have been haunted by a theme that runs through the Chronicle of Narnia series: that in the end we get what we want. Over and over through the series the characters are confronted with the end result of what they desire.

The self-centered and gutless uncle in The Magician’s Nephew got what he wanted…himself. He was so focused on satisfying his own desires and evil curiosities that by the end of the book, all he could see and understand was himself. The words of the talking animals were incomprehensible. He was cut off from their fellowship, all the while convinced the world was going insane but certainly not himself.

The witch hungered after the eternal youth and power found in the beautiful apples of Aslan’s garden, and succeeded in stealing and tasting the succulent fruit, only to discover the horror of living with the bitterness and hate of her act ever after.

In The Last Battle, the dwarfs tire of being pulled between the battle of good and evil and finally decide to retreat into themselves. They chant “The dwarfs are for the dwarfs” repeatedly until that is all they see…themselves. Like the uncle, they can no longer see or hear anything else around them. Conversely, the characters desiring Truth and Beauty, found in Aslan, are rewarded with the joy of being in his presence forever.

This thought has caused me much introspection. What do I want? I have found myself praying to Jesus to please not give me what I want. Or at least please change my desires. I fear I desire Him too little. I fear that I may end up getting what I want. I can easily turn this fear into a horror movie…I am standing in heaven, there are millions of enraptured worshipers around me and someone comes and places a big mirror in front of me. It is too heavy for me to move and I am sentenced to look at my own reflection instead of gazing upon the beauty of the Lord. Who could stand it?

My source of great comfort is that Jesus knows our nature. He knows that I am not wise or faithful enough to know what I need. I am grateful that Jesus taught us to pray “Thy will be done.” He wouldn’t have left us with that prayer if we were not in need of fine tuning our desires.

I think that I am getting to a new stage where I am starting to sense the dis-harmony between what I want and what the Lord wills. It is sort of like striking two dischordant notes. Let me back up a little and explain. I usually operate on two levels. On one level I am a jumble of mixed up desires…with the prevailing desire to please myself. On another level, I know that the Lord is good and that His will is good, so I earnestly pray for His will. It was easy to leave it at that, being satisfied that in the end, His will would triumph my puny little desires. This isn’t working anymore. It’s becoming increasingly uncomfortable in my soul. I can sense how against His will my desires and actions so often are. I am just realizing as I write this that this should be a praise! He has heard my prayers to not give me what I want and ignorance of my own sinful desires must have been top on my list.

“Fear not,” Jesus had to repeat over and over. I will rest not in my version of a horror film, but in the words found in my favorite Psalm, the 27th:

One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.

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Good, but Violent

For those of you who know my second daughter, our 5 y/o thirdborn, you’ll know that she is the “quiet” one of the family. She is mostly content to listen and observe. Like most people who share that trait, when she does choose to talk, it is usually a zinger. Something that makes you think. Or at least it should.

She very casually said to me yesterday, “Mama, you’re good, but you’re violent.” That was it, no further explanation. I paused a moment, and said to her, “Yes, that’s very possibly true.” What made the comment more intriguing was that at that moment, I was sitting on my bed reading a book and she was cozied up in a chair, also subdued.

How much truth was packed in that statement! That very day I had taken part of the Palm Sunday liturgy where Luke’s Passion story is read aloud with assigned parts and the congregation shouts out “Crucify! Crucify!” Oh, yes, my child, I am indeed very violent.

Over the past few weeks of Lent, I have spent some time thinking about my very sins that have caused great violence upon an innocent. I am only beginning to scratch the surface of my very violent nature against my very Holy God. What seemed so timely about her statement was that I have spent much of my Christian life “tidying” up my sins, making them what I thought was more palatable to God. I had confused what it meant to be saved and what Paul meant when he said that we are still being saved. I still have a war going on in my body. I am now trying to name my sins in truth, not what I am more comfortable with.

A few weeks earlier I might have been a little jarred by her words. “What is she saying? Does she even know what the word violent really means?” I would have tried to talk her out of what she said. But yesterday, it just seemed to fit into my thoughts perfectly. While my 5 year old probably had spanking in mind, I was delving a little deeper. Every time I rebel, deny my Lord, ignore His urgings, am cross with my family, argue my point too vociferously, pass by the hungry, or even bludgeon my spouse with silence, I am raging against the demands God makes on my life. I am furious with Him for intruding into my life. To make matters worse, I am furious with Him when He doesn’t appear to be intruding enough in my life. It doesn’t matter how great or small my sin is, the end result is violence.

Thankfully, there is also within my soul His banner, shouting gloriously “Good, Good, Lord of All, you are Good!” His life, His light in me is good. I can taste it, I can feel it, I would die without it. He is winning me over completely to goodness, but the battle is long and the battle is bloody. One day, I will be good, wholly, but for now, alas, my daughter was right.

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More than You Ever Wanted to Know about Vultures

Amazing how you find yourself doing things for your kids you never thought you’d do.

Yesterday, I found myself throwing my laundry basket over a stunned turkey vulture in our yard. Yep. Commonly known as a buzzard. Bald, red head. Big.

I also found myself becoming genuinely concerned for the little guy (or gal) as the day passed. I’ll digress for a moment. My son is bird lover and for the past few months we have immersed ourselves in learning about birds. If you ever get a chance to see The Life of Birds series, a BBC production, do it! It is hosted by the charming, elderly David Attenborough. You will find yourself absolutely stunned by God’s providence for the birds. His careful attention to the tiny but crucial details in a bird’s life will make you realize how big His hand is in ours. Truly, “His eye is on the sparrow…” So, after a few months of study, I too have become hooked on birds.

Now, back to Viking. (So named by my son.) We really didn’t think Viking was going to live. When we found him, his eyes were closed and he alternated between quivering and lying stone still. After placing the basket over him to protect him from any passing cats or dogs, we left the house for a few hours. When we came home, my son excitedly reported he was standing up with his eyes open. “And someone fed him some raw meat!” Huh? I walked over to Viking and thought surely my son was wrong about the health report. Flies were buzzing all around the basket. A vile stench permeated the air. But, sure enough, there was a bright eyeball looking at me through the basket. A little pile of something vaguely raw meatish was at his feet.

Okay, time to check this bird out. No, I did not lift the basket. Instead, I ran to the computer and found this nifty little site: The Vulture Society. Yes, my first thought was “A Vulture Society? I guess there is a society for everything.” But after reading about the lowly vulture, I really appreciate the little guys. They are clean birds. Their digestive juices are so acidic that their excretions are actually sanitizing. They excrete on their own legs to clean off the bacteria picked up from standing on carrion. Their heads, which necessarily have to poke and prod decaying flesh, are featherless, helping to again resist bacteria. They can soar without flapping for 6 hours. And, of course, they clean up the countryside of dead animals.

Why did ours stink so bad? One of their only defenses is to vomit up partially digested meat. This would send just about anybody packing.

When Viking started to move the basket around and stick his beak through the slats, trying to get out, I walked over to him to lift the basket. He hissed. I backed away. Hmmm, do vultures attack when scared? I hadn’t thought about that when I threw the basket over him.

Time to ask an expert. We found the phone number online of a rescuer. She instructed me to lift the basket from his backside and back away quickly. Yes ma’am. I’ll do that. Leaving my kids inside, armed with the cell phone, I feigned nonchalance and walked over to the basket (my kids were watching!), picked up a long stick, lifted the basket, and quickly backed up.

He didn’t move.

My “vicious” vulture sat there quietly and I was afraid that he was sick after all. I walked back inside, feeling quite like the wildlife rescuer in spite of my fear that things were not going to go too well. We watched him and over the hour, he began preening, stretching his wings, and finally, he flew home to the colony perched in the tall palms lining my street. We all cheered.

My son spent the evening watching the vultures soar above our yard. He was sure that Viking was rocking his wings in thanks. I love happy endings.

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Happy St. Valentine’s Day

“Our Hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” St. Augustine

 

For God so loVed the world

that he gAve his

onLy

begottEn

SoN,

thaT whosoever

believes In Him

shall Not perish

but have Everlasting life.

-John 3:16

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Hiding Tears

I wonder what it is that makes a boy begin to want to hide his tears. What changed from last year when he cried unselfconsciously like any other small child, to now, when he doesn’t want anyone to know, save maybe his mom, that he’s been crying? It’s just one more sign that my little boy is making his way to a man. (I know, I know, men cry…read on.)

This really struck me the other night when my son’s little bird suddenly began to poop blood. My son and I searched the web to see what could be the cause and everything we read said the bird was in BIG trouble, i.e. the bird would probably be dead within hours without help.

I looked at my son, whose eyes were beginning to fill up. “Let’s pray for him.” As we prayed over “Thunder” great big, salty drops began hitting the floor. Afterward, my sweet son went to the bathroom to wash his face, then came out to ask me if anyone could tell he had been crying. *gulp*

Later, when my husband came home, they, too, prayed over Thunder. Again, the big drops fell. I heard our son ask his daddy to carry him to bed “upside down.” He didn’t want his daddy to see his tears. *another gulp*

I’m sure it will take him many more years to figure out that crying doesn’t make him less of a man, and in some cases, will make him more of one.   He is also beginning to sense that in holding back his tears, he is joining the ranks of noble men who face life’s challenges with courage.  It’s just one of those bittersweet moments watching one of your children pick their way through the path to adulthood, and you cringe a little that the path is not always so straightforward.

And, by the way, the prayers of my righteous little man did availeth much…Thunder is just fine.

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Irene

My grandmother, Irene, passed away the last week of December and since then, my mind has been filled with memories of her. Actually, I wouldn’t say filled. The memories have come back more like a dripping faucet. One at a time, but steady.

She was the prototypical unsung hero, a hardworking mother of 4 surviving girls and plain wife, born in a covered wagon to poor migrant farmers in the first part of the last century. She took naps on cotton sacks as a girl, and remembered being paid a penny a row in peanut fields. “A long row,” she said.

Her father was a harsh man and her mother, from what I could glean, was kind and practical. Something happened in my grandmother’s past that left her with a mistrust of men for the rest of her life, which eventually destoyed her marriage, although my father and my husband, along with her grandsons, helped to change her mind a little on this. I can still remember her not letting me ride my bike outside my suburban home when she was babysitting me once. “You never know what kind of pervert might pick you up.” At the time, I thought she was silly, but I find myself telling my own children “No” for the same reason these days.

My best memories of her come from when I used to stay at her house as a child. Like most children, my memories center strongly around food. She wasn’t known for being a cook, but she could make the best fried potatoes around. I can still see her standing by the stove, the smell of gas in the air, watching the blue flame heat up the cast iron pan, and hear the sizzling of the potatoes in the hot oil. The edges were always crispy and browned perfectly. She would often add onions to the potatoes. I think this is where I learned to love a good, carmelized onion.

It was always a good thing to eat her fried potatoes for dinner, because you knew the next morning you would be eating Special K with powdered milk. I guess she always had powdered milk around because she preferred to drink buttermilk.

Another good memory was her shower. My grandma kept the cleanest shower I’ve ever seen, even when she was well into her 80s. All she used was baking soda, too. She always had a big dish of Dove soap and a bath brush. I think it was the only time I ever used a bath brush. I never have really understood those. But now that I think about it, they were probably pretty important when you spent all day in a peanut field. I cannot smell Dove to this day without thinking about her.

I also loved to sleep in her bed. Once, she bought a brand new couch, and boy, was she proud of it, but she kept it covered in big, thick, plastic. I hated sleeping on that and would beg to sleep with her in her bed. Sometimes she let me. I remember she had a big sliding glass door in her bedroom. There was a bright mercury lamp outside that kept me awake. Awake, that is, until she came to bed. She was quite a large lady at the time (all those fried potatoes!), so when she climbed into bed and turned on her side, she blocked the light just right for me. I would roll right into “the cleft of the rock” and fall fast asleep.

At her funeral, one of my cousins spoke up, and mentioned that, being her second oldest grandchild, he always felt a special connection with her. I chuckled a little to myself. I would guess that all 11 of us felt like we were her favorite. The more my cousins reflected on their memories of Grandma, the more I realized we shared the same favorite moments with her. What an accomplishment. She managed to love us all unconditionally and accept whatever love – sometimes a little, sometimes a lot – we could give back with equal grace.

These memories have been sweet. There are so many more I wish to share, and I may, over the coming weeks. None of them describe a grand moment, just the little simple things in life, like taking a walk, or looking at her new dish towels, or picking tiny strawberries growing in her garden. She was a simple soul and she has taught me more than I realized in her simple way. Thank you, Grandma.

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Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

Believe it or not, it is snowing in this little border town! My neighbor said it was twenty years ago that it had last snowed. We are actually getting more snow than some areas northwest of us.

So, for school today, we got to have a field trip to the north in our very own yard and observe, compare, and contrast:

  • sleet
  • freezing rain (and how it is different from sleet)
  • snow (we never did catch a perfect flake…they were huge conglomerates of many)
  • icicles and their development (where do they form first? last? why are they shaped that way? when will they melt?)
  • freezing temperatures and their effect on water
  • ice glazing (the leaves were beautiful!)
  • gravity (the children slid down a 3 feet slope into the canal…okay, that one was a stretch)

My favorite highlights:

  • The children picking up big leaf imprints of ice from the magnolia tree and scooping up snow and eating “chips and dip.”
  • My third calling out, “Yea! My first snow!!!”
  • My baby being scared, then still, then curious, and finally tasting and touching it.
  • The industry that the outdoors brings out in children.
  • The tinkly sound of sleet.
  • The quiet of snow.

My not-so-favorite highlights:

  • Mud, mud, and more mud.
  • Wet clothes.
  • Snow down my back…multiple times.

It is predicted to snow through the night but warm to above freezing tomorrow. I have a feeling I’ll be wakened early with giddy little kids itching to make a snowman again before the thaw. O Happy Day!

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