Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BEE Fulfilled: A Ladder to the Moon

My son, Hayden, began dreaming BIG when he was two-years-old. One evening last fall, my husband Ryan gathered Hayden and our dog for an evening stroll on a neighborhood trail. While on the walk, Hayden noticed a full moon rising in the east, and pointing at it, he announced, "I need to get a ladder to go to the moon." Ryan chuckled at the thought of using a ladder, of all things, to climb to the moon. Later, when he shared this story with me, I also giggled at the thought of finding a ladder and propping it up against the moon.

But then I questioned the feasibility of Hayden's imaginative mode for trekking to the moon. I thought:

  • Where could we find a ladder tall and sturdy enough to reach the moon?
  • How much would it cost to buy or build such a ladder?
  • How could we position the ladder so that it wouldn't tumble down as we climbed each of the rungs?
  • How long would it take to reach the moon using a ladder? (I'm a BEEsy Mama, and time is a precious commodity!)
  • Why would we need a ladder to journey to the moon when we have space shuttles?

As I pondered on these questions, I observed a difference between my son and me. As a young child, Hayden is not afraid to dream BIG and wouldn't hesitate in trying to use a ladder to reach the moon, while I probably wouldn't even attempt it, rationalizing why it couldn't or shouldn't be done.

It was at that moment I realized I had forgotten what it was like to dream BIG like a child. But I once was a child, and like my son, I dreamed BIG.

I remember being ten years old and watching Mary Lou Retton in the 1984 Olympics. That summer, I was determined to be the next great gymnast. Every day, I practiced cartwheels, handsprings, and round-offs at the school playground behind my house. I'd balance myself on a narrow beam just inches from the ground, twirl a few times, and then bounce off it to dismount. With both arms extended high above my head, I'd bow to an imaginary audience cheering at my debut performance in the Olympics. Oh, the medals I was going to win!

Many other BIG dreams would follow in my childhood--to be a zoologist, a missionary, and a writer. And although many would never be realized, I found joy in dreaming them.

Then I transitioned into adulthood, and with each passing year, my BIG dreams dwindled until one day I realized I only had small ones, and sometimes, none at all. I noted many reasons for this--fears, complacency, busyness, and failure to seek God's direction on His dreams for my life.

But isn't it amazing how God can use children to show us what's missing in our lives? I'm learning so many lessons from my son, and one of the greatest is to not be afraid to dream BIG. Oh, if we could only dream like young children once again! We'd be fearless, optimistic, creative, determined, joyful, and hopeful as we reach for BIG dreams.

And I'm also learning the best dreams to pursue are those God has planned for each of us. I believe God's dreams for us are BIG . . . not dainty, oh-it-can-wait-until-later dreams. But instead, dreams that give joy, hope, and fulfillment to our lives and those around us. Dreams that require effort on our part but are well worth the extra energy we exert to accomplish them. Dreams that demand courage and commitment. Dreams that glorify God.

In Beth Moore's Breaking Free study, she wrote, "One of the things I love best about God is that He does not frown on our dreams. He simply longs to surpass them . . . God surpasses our dreams when we reach past our personal plans and agendas to grab the hand of Christ and walk the path He chose for us."

Can you imagine how God could use each of us if we allow Him to surpass our dreams?

Won't you join me in finding the unique ladders God made just for you and me? Let's grab them, prop them against the gates of Heaven, and begin climbing toward the dreams God intended for us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: Green by Ted Dekker

"According to the Books of History, everything that happened after the year 2010 actually began in the year 4036 AD. It began in the future, not in the past. Confusing perhaps, but perfectly understandable once you realize that some things are as dependent on the future as on the past."

~Excerpt from Green by Ted Dekker~

Green, Ted Dekker's latest fantasy novel, begins and ends the saga of The Circle Series. This book tells the story of two worlds connected by the Books of History--one world in the past, which existed during the twenty-first century, and one in the future, which was created after the apocalypse destroyed Earth.

This novel centers on Thomas Hunter, who in the future world leads a group known as the Circle. But the Circle begins to fracture as some within the group, including Thomas's son, lose hope in Elyon, their one true God. Desperate to save the Circle and his son, Thomas embarks on a journey to restore the Circle's hope in Elyon, a quest launching him into the past.

I found Green to be a fast-paced fantasy exploring the battle between good and evil in a creative way, although some of the dark sections of this story were disturbing at times. I typically don't read fantasy and have not read the three other books in this series. As a result, I struggled at the beginning to understand the future world, characters, and new terminology. But soon I found this novel to be a page-turner and stayed up late last night to finish it. I'm curious about what happens in the next book in the series, Black, and will probably read it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasies.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: For the Love of Books

"There are many little ways
to enlarge your child's world.
Love of books
is the best of all."

~Jacqueline Kennedy ~

At a young age, I developed a love for books. I remember my mom encouraging me to read often. She'd sign me up for the library's reading program each summer, and I recall keeping tally of the books I finished. My mom also shared with me several books she enjoyed in her childhood. A favorite was a collection of poems, which included "Casey at the Bat" and "The Highwayman." Perhaps one of my fondest memories is the time my mom read aloud to my brother and me The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia series. Each day I could hardly wait for her to read the next chapters in the book.

And now that I am a mom, I desire to pass on a love of books to my son Hayden. One of my favorite activities with him is reading books together. I love it when he gathers a large stack of books in his arms and plops them in front of me for storytime. And I love it when he climbs up into our reclining chair in the den with one of the books, finds a comfy spot on my lap, and says, "Please read me this book, Mommy."

As best I can, I try to bring the books to life, varying the characters' voices and adding emphasis during the dramatic parts. I love to watch and listen to him as the story unravels--he imitates a dinosaur or a choo-choo train, giggles at a silly saying, and points his finger at interesting illustrations. When we finish the book, he often wants to read the same book again or jumps out the chair to grab a different one.

I'm thrilled to watch Hayden develop an interest and love for books. As a recent addition to his bedtime routine, we allow him to browse through books in his bed until he falls asleep. I'm amazed at how this has been soothing to him. Before we began this routine, he struggled to fall asleep in his bed without either his dad or me in the room with him. Now, I can leave him in his room alone as he flips through a stack of books until he eventually falls asleep.

Like many moms and their children, we have our favorite books. I must admit, as I browsed through the books in our home, I discovered I have many favorites, probably too many to list here. But I thought I'd share some with you today.

I'd love to hear about your family's favorite children's books!

Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss: I'm a big fan of Dr. Seuss (you'll see few of his books on my list), and I love Horton the Elephant. He's so kindhearted and, oh, so devoted! A great example for the kiddos! One of my favorite lines in the book is at the end when the crowd of people at the circus run into the tent where the egg has just hatched:

"My goodness! My gracious!" they shouted. "MY WORD!
It's something brand new!
And it should be, it should be, it SHOULD be like that!
Because Horton was faithful! He sat and he sat!
He meant what he said and he said what he meant . . . . "
. . . And they sent him home
One hundred per cent!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: As a child, I loved this Christmas story. I especially looked forward to the cartoon airing on TV during the Christmas season. And guess what? I still love it, and so does my son. I must admit I always feel sorry for poor little Max, hitched in front of the sleigh with an antler tied to his head. A favorite section in this book is when the Grinch hears every Who in Who-ville singing:

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling: "How could this be so?
"It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
"It came without packages, boxes or bags!"
And he puzzled three hours, til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . . means a little bit more!"

Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss: As a mom, this book is a favorite because I secretly hope it will influence my little one to be more open-minded in trying different types of foods. (Although, with age he's becoming more brave and every so often he'll try something new.) When Hayden and I read this one, I often have him fill in the words. I will read: "Could you, would you with a . . . " And he replies, "Goat!" Then I read on: "Could you, would you in a . . . " And he blurts out, "Boat!" Recently, he's been pulling this book off the shelf every day for our storytime together.

The Hippo-NOT-amus by Tony and Jan Payne: We purchased this book at a Scholastic book fair at Hayden's school two years ago, and it fast became a favorite for both of us. It's about a little hippo named Portly who doesn't want to be a hippo anymore. So he goes on a journey in search of another type of animal he can be. Along the way, he meets a rhino, a bat, an elephant, and a giraffe and tries to change himself so he is like each of them. But he soon discovers he longs to be back home, standing up to his eyes in water all day and eating "boring old grass all day." When he returns home, his mother asks him, "What sort of creature are you?" And Portly replies, "I'm a hippo-gir-ele-bat-onoceros." This is a fun book!

Llama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney: I never tire of reading this book to Hayden. One of our favorite parts is at the end: "Llama llama red pajama gets two kisses from his mama . . . " Every time I read this, I give Hayden two kisses on his forehead, and he looks up at me and smiles. I love those moments! One other favorite section, which makes me giggle every time I read it, is:
Baby Llama,
what a tizzy!
Sometimes Mama's
very busy.

Please stop all this

llama drama
and be patient
for your mama.
The Cow Who Clucked by Denise Fleming: I thoroughly enjoy reading books to Hayden with animal sounds. They are so much fun! This book is about a cow who wakes up one morning and discovers she's lost her moo. So she visits the animals on the farm, greeting each with a "cluck, cluck" as she tries to find her moo. In this book, you can "bzzzzz, bzzzzz" like a bee, "glub, glub" like a fish, "squeak, squeak" like a mouse, "chee, chee," like a squirrel, and make many other silly animal sounds. Another book similar to this one that we like to read is a book called The Cow That Went Oink by Bernard Most.

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague: Have I mentioned Hayden LOVES dinosaurs? A day isn't complete unless he's played with his dinosaurs, crawled around and roared like a scary T-Rex, and sat with his dad or me to read one of his many dinosaur books. This dinosaur book is silly and educational. It teaches kids about good manners at the dinner table. I particularly enjoy this book because Hayden giggles and responds to the questions in the first half of the book. For example, the book asks, "How does a dinosaur eat all his food? Does he spit out his broccoli partially chewed?" And Hayden responds with an emphatic "No!" Then I read on: "Does he bubble his milk?" Hayden laughs and says, "Yes." And this is because Hayden likes to make bubbles in his milk. :-)

Jungle Drums by Graeme Base: This is a beautifully illustrated book with an exciting tale about Africa's smallest warthog name Ngiri Mdogo. The warthogs and other beautiful jungle animals tease and laugh at poor Ngiri because he is so small. Then he meets Old Nyumbu the Wildebeest, and she gives him a set of magic drums. So that night Ngiri beats his hooves on the drums and makes a wish to be changed. The next morning, he finds he's the same, but the other animals have changed. And this when the drama unravels. As a fun addition to this book, the author hid images of Old Nyumbu the Wildebeest on each of the spreads, and some of them are difficult to find.

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale Retold by Angela Elwell Hunt: For Hayden's first Christmas, my brother and his family gave him this book, and it is unlike any book we own. It tells a beautiful story about "three trees whose wishes come true in a surprising way." Every time I read this book, I cry. It is such a deep and enriching story.

Monday, October 19, 2009

BEEsy in the Kitchen: Pizza Chefs!

"When the moon
hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie

That's amore."
~Lyrics from Dean Martin's That's Amore~

This evening Hayden and I became pizza chefs. We both slipped on our aprons--Hayden in his monkey one and me in my floral one. Hayden jumped right in, rolling out the balls of dough into individual-sized pies and piling one with his favorite toppings. It's the first time he's helped me make pizza.

A couple of years ago, I began making my own homemade pizza. I studied different techniques in my collection of cookbooks and experimented with them. I enjoy the art of creating pizza--kneading the dough, rolling it out, and loading it up with a variety of toppings. And I've discovered making delicious and even healthy pizza in your home kitchen is not too difficult. But it helps to know a few tips before your begin, including:

  • One of the best places I've found for placing the dough to rise is in my microwave oven. Before placing the bowl in there, I usually run the microwave on high for about 1 minute with a cup of water. I then remove the water and place the bowl of the dough in the warm microwave (do not run microwave while dough is in there).
  • For pizza with a thin, crisp crust, either use a large rectangular pizza stone or line the bottom rack of your oven with unglazed quarry tiles made of terra cotta (you can usually purchase these at a tile store).
  • Preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Place the pizza stone or tiles in the oven before beginning the preheat. If possible, preheat the oven for one hour.
  • For pizza that is crisp and chewy, use bread flour.
  • When making whole-wheat dough, your flour should be one-half whole wheat and one-half either unbleached all-purpose or bread flour. Using only whole-wheat flour results in a very dense pizza crust.
  • Pizza peels are handy tools for sliding uncooked pizzas onto stones or tiles. Coat the pizza peel either with semolina (preferred) or corn meal to prevent the dough from sticking to the peel.
  • Keep an eye on the pizza because it tends to cook fast with the oven's high temperature. I usually check it every five minutes.
  • Experiment with toppings. You may be surprised which combinations you like best.

I typically use one of two recipes when making pizza dough--one with white flour only and the other with a combination of whole-wheat and white flour. The recipe I'd like to share today is the whole-wheat recipe. In the weeks to come, I'll share the other one when I post one of my family's favorite calzone recipes, which uses white flour dough.

I'd love to hear about any tips you have for making delicious pizza!

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
Adapted from a recipe in Everyday Food

1 1/2 cups warm (115 degrees) water
2 packets (1/4 oz. each) active dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 cups bread or all-purpose flour
2 cups whole-wheat flour

1. Place water in a large bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes

2. Add sugar, oil, and salt to the yeast mixture and whisk together. With a wooden spoon, stir in flours until mixed together. Knead on a floured surface for 3 to 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl and brush top of dough with olive oil. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm area in kitchen (I recommend the microwave--see my tip above). Let dough stand until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.

3. Place dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Divide into two balls for two large pizzas or eight small balls for individual-sized pizzas. (Note: I only used half of the dough tonight, making four individual pizzas. I froze the other ball, which I can take out a day before I plan to use it and make either one large pizza or four individual-sized pizzas.)

4. Roll dough out into desirable size and thickness. Pile on your favorite toppings. For the pizzas we made tonight, we added tomato sauce, pepperoni, pineapples, and a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses to two pizza pies and barbecue sauce, crisp cooked bacon, sliced sweet bell peppers, sliced onions, and feta cheese to the other two pies.

5. Using a pizza peel, slide the prepared pizzas onto a stone or tiles in the preheated oven. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.

6. Allow to cool for a few minutes. Enjoy! :-)

Friday, October 16, 2009

BEEing A Mom: A Campaign for Our Veggie Pals

I'd like to share a poem I wrote for all moms with kids who won't eat their veggies. I hope you enjoy!

A Campaign for Our Veggie Pals

Calling all mamas from near and far
From north to south to east to west
Come and join this noble quest
To smother veggie prejudice.

Come rally for veggies of all colors and sizes.
Please jump on the wagon for this grand campaign
To proclaim, defend, persuade, and explain
How veggies endured years of preschoolers' disdain.

Stand up and cheer for our beloved green pals,
For spinach, snap peas, and asparagus
For broccoli, string beans, and all sorts of lettuce
Oh, how they desperately do need us.

Let's also support our other friends.
Let's take to the streets, with our signs and our mottos
To represent beets, carrots, and tomatoes
Onions, eggplants, yams, and potatoes

Most veggies I know are hardworking and good-hearted,
But every so often a bad one spoils the bunch.
I'll only name one for which I won't munch.
Pssst . . . It's cauliflower--too bland to be in my lunch!

Moms across this great land of ours
Are weary and frazzled and full of dismay
Tired of begging and nagging and pleading each day
For kids to sample veggies on their dinner tray.

They've tried all the tricks in the modern books
From Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious
To The Sneaky Chef's recipes, creative and nutritious
But soon they discover these ploys aren't expeditious.

Every night at bedtime they read to their kids
A classic Seuss tale they hope will prevail
Of Sam-I-Am for whom moms all hail
As a master persuader who does not fail.

But as much as they hope and pray for a victory
Their little ones still snub yellow squash and zucchini
The kids whine and cry and make Mom feel like a meany
So she dreams of a lamp and three wishes from a genie.

It's time to take action and start a new movement!
We'll swap out their nuggets for bowls of peas
And pile on their plates mounds of lettuce leaves
Then serve them some broccoli and maybe some cheese.

We'll grin and exclaim, "Oh, what a treat!"
"Veggies are so, so good," we'll assert.
Then we'll hope that they finally convert.
And if they don't, then no dessert!

Monday, October 12, 2009

BEEing A Mom: Write Me A Story

Over the weekend, Hayden and I discovered a new educational activity. Saturday afternoon we visited our local toy and teacher supply store. As I browsed through the books and activities for sale at the store, I found a stack of tablets called "Write Me A Story." Three different themes were available: a circus adventure, a fairy tale, and a robot story. After reading the instructions and studying the tablets' contents, I decided to purchase the circus-themed one. I could hardly wait for Hayden to begin creating stories.

Over the last few days, we have written two tales wrought with conflict and featuring scary dinosaurs. Just so you know, none of the 96 stickers in the tablet had dinosaurs. But Hayden LOVES dinosaurs and a story is not complete until a hungry T-Rex enters the adventure.

I'd love to share one of his stories with you. But first, let me tell you a little about the tablets and how they work. Each tablet includes 50 lined pages and 96 theme-based stickers, and they are appropriate for children ages three and older. Because Hayden is three and cannot write words yet, I wrote the story on the lined paper for him, but he created the story. To begin, he selected a sticker and placed it at the top of the page. For the story I've included below, the first sticker he chose was of two monkey trapezists. I then asked him what was happening in the picture, and that is how our story began. Occasionally, he picked out a new sticker and we added it to the page. Both of the stories he created were about four pages long.

I truly enjoyed this activity for a number of reasons. First, it is fun and interactive. Our storytelling experience was filled with goofiness and giggles. Second, I believe it is a valuable tool in introducing literacy to young children. As described in the tablet's instructions, this activity teaches language and communication in a variety of forms - speaking, listening, reading, and writing. For a child who cannot read yet, this activity shows the child how the letters and words are written as the story is being told. And for a child beginning to write words, this activity provides a great opportunity to practice this new skill. Third, it sparks and encourages a child's imagination as well as the parent's. And finally, it introduces children to the basic elements of creating a good story.

As an alternative to these tablets, you could purchase lined paper or an easel-sized tablet of paper and an assortment of stickers to begin your own story writing experience with your kids.

And now, I'd like to share one of the stories my three-year-old son, Hayden, created. I hope you enjoy! :-)

Hayden's Story About Monkeys,
Dinosaurs, Clowns, and a Lion

Once upon a time, a monkey was upside down. A T-Rex came along and ate the two monkeys. The T-Rex joined four other T-Rexes and they went inside a cave. The T-Rexes chased the people in the cave. The people screamed and ran. One T-Rex found a triceratops in the cave. Hayden and Mommy were in the cave, and they began to run out of the cave, but they realized they needed to help Daddy escape. With Daddy in tow, they ran home.

They found "scary" clowns outside their house. Hayden, Mommy, and Daddy hopped in the back of the car with the clowns. The clowns and Hayden and Mommy and Daddy chased the dinosaurs back to their cave. The clowns took Hayden, Mommy, and Daddy home. The clowns then drove to the clown house. They played with some toys and lived happily ever after. Or so we thought! The clowns met a lion who liked to garden. THE END :-)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

BEEtween the Pages: The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen

"When we arrived at the end of the year 1919, Siam was laughter, music, color. Many years later I fled the country and the rage of darkness that howled within me. This is our story, my child - Harvey's and mine. These are the years that you can't recall. Sift for the truth. But look to light and learn what those fireflies taught, what draws the moth to the flame and flowers to the sun. It is this that I want you to know: Darkness is only the absence of light."

~Excerpt from The Moon in the Mango Tree by Pamela Binnings Ewen~

The Moon in the Mango Tree tells the tale of a woman's journeys from Philadelphia to Siam, Paris, and Rome and her search for a distinct purpose in her life. As a newlywed in 1919, Barbara Perkins sets aside her dreams of being a singer to follow her husband, Harvey, to the mission fields in Siam. Stationed at a post off the beaten path, she struggles to conform to the protocols and mindsets of the region's Christian missionaries and to understand Harvey's passion for serving the Siam people as a physician. Demoralized and frightened after a series of events at the isolated post, Barbara loses faith in Christianity and questions Harvey's love for her. Soon she finds herself torn between her deep love for her husband and children and her yearning to pursue her dream of being a singer.

Within the first few pages of this book, I was drawn into Ewen's exquisite prose. Her beautifully crafted scenes, landscapes, and characters blossom into a rich story that enchanted me from the beginning to the end. Although the story slowed somewhat during Barbara's journeys from Paris to Lausanne, Switzerland to Rome, I understood and appreciated Ewen's inclusion of these scenes after finishing the book. Ewen creates a sense of uncertainty on how the story will end, which made it unpredictable and satisfying to me. Days after completing this story, I found myself still pondering on its characters, craft, and themes. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical and literary fiction. I am looking forward to reading more books from this author.

For more information about this book and its author, please go to http://bhpublishinggroup.com/fiction/authors.asp?a=Ewen_Pamela.

Reviewer's Note: I learned about this book at the American Christian Fiction Writers' annual conference in September 2009. At this conference, one of the first writers I met was Pamela Binnings Ewen. We sat next to each other at the first-time attendees orientation and chatted for several minutes. Ewen was so kind and gracious to me, offering valuable advice to me, a beginning fiction writer. Intrigued by the description about her story, I purchased the book and brought it to a book signing event. As she signed my book, I thumbed through a notebook filled with black-and-white pictures of her grandmother in Siam. The Moon in the Mango Tree is based upon her grandmother's true story.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

BEEdazzling Mamas: My Mom - Part 2

"My prayers were simple. I've never been a big fancy prayer. It has mainly been, 'God, I'm not able to do this. I don't know how to do this. God, I need your help.' I think it's just pouring out your heart honestly . . . and when you get to a place when you truly mean what you pray, God hears you every time. He always does. That type of prayer He will answer."

~Deb Murray on her prayers as a parent~

I recently had the great privilege of interviewing my mom. This is something I have never done before, and I found it to be such an enriching experience. My mom and I have always been close, and over the years she has shared many personal stories and her thoughts with me. And yet, I learned so much more about my mom from this interview. I would highly recommend all daughters interview their moms. You may be surprised what you discover about your own mom.

I hope you enjoy this article and are blessed by it! :-)

As a veteran mom, Deb Murray understands the joys and challenges of raising children. She's experienced the thrills and celebrations at the high peaks of motherhood and the fears and disappointments in its trenches. And yet, after 35 years of being a mom, she still loves this important role God gave her.

At the age of 18, Deb discovered she was pregnant with her first child. She was excited about becoming a mom. "I've always loved kids," she said. During her childhood, she babysat for many of the families in her neighborhood and soon developed a love and passion for kids. "I think I was probably more ready to be a mom than I was to be a wife," she said.

But the early years of being a mom were challenging in many ways, she recalled. Her marriage was rocky during those years, and she often contemplated divorce. "That took away some of the joy," she said about how the marriage issues affected her as a mom.

A life-changing event occurred shortly after she became a mom. "Having a child was the thing that kind of made me think about God again," she said. About a year after the birth of her first child, her father-in-law invited her to attend his church, and on Palm Sunday in 1975, she became a Christian.

She soon developed a close relationship with the pastor of the church and his wife. Bernie and Essie Lovely, whom she affectionately calls "Brother and Sister Lovely," encouraged her in many ways in the early years of being a mom and a Christian. She laughed as she shared a story about Brother Lovely's kind and forgiving heart that happened on one of her many visits to the Lovelys' house. On this particular visit, she accidentally spilled coffee over Brother Lovely's Bible. "He wasn't upset at all," she recalled. "He didn't hate me. As a Christian, that is one of your most precious things and to have someone spill coffee all over it . . . He still loved me."

In late 1978, she moved with her husband and two children from Ohio to Colorado. During the first couple of years in Colorado, she struggled to keep her marriage intact. She soon met two young moms in her church, and the three of them met often to pray together. "It was definitely a group of people who were very innocent, who were young in Christ, and yet God amazingly answered prayer after prayer," she said. One of the prayers answered was her husband, Jack, became a Christian. "The marriage began to get better, and God started to do some really neat things."

As her children grew and her marriage began to flourish, she enjoyed being a mother more and more. She said she centered her life around her two kids, Julie and Luke. She soon landed a job as a teacher's aide at a local school. "There could not have been a more perfect job than that," she said. Being in the school, she was able to keep tabs on what was happening with her kids. During this time, she and her husband also became more involved with their church and volunteered to serve as the church's youth group leaders.

She said she learned many lessons during the elementary and pre-teen ages of her children. "When you have kids," she said, "you realize you need to be an example to them. If you want them to serve God and you want them to do what is right, then you too have to do the right thing. Probably in my younger days, I would have called in sick [for work] and not really been sick. I stopped doing things like that. I tried to be really honest."

During this phase of parenting, she also learned "you have to recognize your kids are human. No matter how good they are, they are going to do things that are wrong . . . You have to make your kids responsible for their actions." And in partnership with her husband, this meant immediately addressing behavioral issues with their kids. But she also learned that she had to find a balance and not be so strict that she pushed her kids into rebellion.

When her kids reached the teenage years, she said there were times she felt she was failing as a parent. "I think the teenage years are really tough," she said, "because kids are starting to get their wings and starting to want to be on their own and they get to the place where they think their parents are really stupid and don't know anything. I think that's normal."

She laughed as she shared a valuable lesson she learned during this phase of parenting. "Pray harder!" On a more serious note, she said, "I think the whole key is that you just need to go to God that much more . . . The key to [my kids] turning out was not me. It was God. It was because I honestly humbled myself before God and said, 'God, I can't do this. I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to be a parent.' I don't thing any of us really do. But God knows how. And I asked Him to help me and show me how to be a parent to my kids."

Now, as a parent of two adult children, she said being a mom during this stage can sometimes be the most difficult time because "you have no control. You have to let them go. It's never too late to pray. And really that's all you can do."

But she also shared the many joys of being a mom to adult children. Because parenting is more relaxed now, she can develop closer friendships with her adult children. Her fondest memories during these years have been the births of her six grandchildren. She said being a grandparent is much easier than being a parent. "As a grandparent, you only correct when the kids are at risk or some big issue. You realize you only tackle the big things. You're more relaxed, more calm."

Her greatest desire for her children and grandchildren is for them to "serve God with all their hearts and all their souls." She said that this is more important to her than the careers and aspirations they may pursue in their lives. "If they can keep their focus for the most part on God . . . they're going to be fine."

When asked about advice she would give to moms in supporting their husbands in their parenting roles, she said, "You always want to encourage. You don't want to really disagree, unless it's something really serious, in front of the kids." She also advised about being careful to not be jealous of the other parent. "Don't worry if the kids love one more than the other, because they do. They go through different stages where they like Dad more than they like Mom and Mom more than they like Dad, but you need to not become jealous of that."

When asked about the advice she would give to moms with children of any age, she say, "The biggest advice is pray. Humble yourself. Realize that the season will pass. But the only thing you can do is pray. It's really in the hands of God."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

BEEdazzling Mamas: My Mom - Part 1

"A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts." ~Washington Irving~

BEEdazzling Mamas is a new column I created to celebrate the inspirational and beautiful moms I know. And what better way to introduce this column than to feature my own mom. She is truly BEEdazzling to me in so many ways.

Earlier today, I sat at my desk and began jotting down all the qualities I love in my mom. Soon I found my list quite lengthy, and as I reflected on each of the qualities, tears began to tumble down my cheeks as I realized how much I truly admire and love my mom. I'm so excited to be able to share some of those exquisite qualities with you.

Beautiful: As a child and an adult, I've always seen my mom as beautiful on the inside and outside. But as I ponder on this further, I realize that her true beauty shines from the inside out. Her genuine smile, twinkling eyes, and infectious laugh illuminate her true beauty from within. And from within, you will find wisdom, integrity, and kindness of the purest kind. With age, this type of beauty only blossoms.

Encourager: My mom has been the encourager and cheerleader in my life. She has always believed in me, even when I could not believe in myself. She's stood beside me and supported me in all my aspirations, and I know I could not have accomplished many things in my life without her encouraging words and belief in me. Thanks Mom!

Sincere: My mom has always been sincere in what she says and does. I know that I can rely upon her to be truthful in her assessment of circumstances and in the advice she gives.

Trustworthy: My mom is one of the few people I know whom I trust wholeheartedly with all aspects of my life. I know I can share my deepest secrets and fears with her and she will handle them with care and confidentiality. And even more important, I know I can trust her with providing love and protection to one of the most precious people in my life - my son.

Forgiving: One of the greatest gifts my mom has given me are the many examples and lessons on how to truly forgive. I remember her pleading with my brother and me to never leave home or go to bed at night without asking for forgiveness from those we've wronged and forgiving those who we believed have wronged us.

Responsible: My mom taught me how to be responsible in life. In fact, both of my parents showed me what it means to be a responsible member of society. They are hard-workers, and I've always admired that quality in both of them.

Integrity: Over the years, I've watched my mom live a life of integrity. In her jobs and personal situations, she has been placed in challenging situations with no easy solutions. And time after time, she has chosen the high road, even when it was not popular or resulted in criticism. I admire her for her decisions and have sought to follow in her steps in living a life of integrity.

Empathetic: My mom deeply feels the hurt and pain suffered by those she loves. When life serves me disappointments, I know I can go to my mom and pour my heart out to her, and she will attentively listen and sometimes even cry with me.

Nurturer: My mom has always been a natural at nurturing. As a young child, I remember her tending to my many needs. But perhaps the most meaningful way she has nurtured me as a child and an adult is in the way she has encouraged me in my walk with God. In fact, the spiritual nurturing she has provided to my entire family has blessed us immensely and will richly bless her grandchildren and the generations to follow.

Dreamer: My mom has always believed in having dreams. And even though I've witnessed seasons in her life where she thought her dreams may be fading, I still saw a glimmer of hope within her and knew those dreams would not be lost.

The bottom line: My mom is my best friend. Many of us often envision growing old with our spouses, sitting in rocking chairs on a wrap-around porch and reminiscing on the years we shared together. I dream of this as well and am looking forward to the many years ahead with my husband. But I also yearn to pull up another rocking chair and invite my mom over to laugh and cry over the memories we collected together in our lifetimes.

I'd love to hear about the BEEdazzling Mamas you know!

Please check out my blog in the next day or two for the second part of this series: an interview with my mom.