Tag Archive | ephesians

Somebody’s watching me


Whenever we have the opportunity, we try to take Nonno and Deedaw a treat, simply because they are Nonno and Deedaw and, while they expend a great deal of time, energy, and funds doing things for other people, they very rarely indulge themselves.  In this instance, Grandpa had instructed me to do something for Nonno and Deedaw on his behalf; he had wanted to send them flowers or a fruit basket after Nonno’s surgery, but after I advised him they had both in such quantities they could set up a florist shop and a fruit stand, he asked my husband and I to find something appropriate, something that would bring a little happiness to their day.

Since Nonno and Deedaw are big fans of all things crustacean, we decided that some lobsters and crab legs would brighten their day, and would also fit within the budget we’d been given by Grandpa.  After a quick call to Deedaw to ask her not to make any meat for Sunday dinner, we headed to our local grocery (which has a pretty good seafood department) and, after a brief wait for the steamer, exited with two large, warm boxes.  Our surprise had the desired effect of making Nonno and Deedaw smile, and the added bonus of causing them to rain down prayers for Grandpa and Nana.

When we sat down to dinner, it just so happened that the lobsters were facing Bugaboo.

As she was demolishing a plate of pasta (no matter what else we may have to eat, pasta is always the first course at Nonno and Deedaw’s, and salad the last), Bugaboo kept eyeing her dinner companions suspiciously.  As she was finishing her radiatore, she finally burst out, “I do not like the way those lobsters are looking at me!”

We all laughed, including Beanie and Mr. Man.  Nonno and I turned the lobsters so they couldn’t “see” Bugaboo any longer, and we all enjoyed a feast together.  As we were eating, however, Bugaboo continued casting sidelong glances at the lobsters and, after she had finished everything on her plate, she looked up at Nonno and inquired, “May I touch the lobster?”

“Of course you can touch the lobster.”  She reached a tentative finger towards the one remaining steamer; when she had all but touched it, Nonno suddenly erupted, “Ouch!”

Beanie and Deedaw nearly fell out of their chairs laughing.  My husband and I bit our lips as our oldest daughter drew herself up to her full forty-one inch height and shook her finger at her grandfather, sternly admonishing him, “Nonno, you should not frighten little girls like that.”

At that point, we joined in the laughter, too.  It was a merry dinner, indeed.

Here’s the song reference.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, we gathered together in Your name, on the day of the week consecrated to You, to share food and fellowship with our family.  Thank you for the hearts and lips that overflowed with laughter, and for the blessing of two families coming together in love.  Help me teach Your blessings that, because You claim all of us through Your Son, we have family wherever we find love for You, but that we honor our parents and grandparents with an especial love.  Your love letters honor them in the book called Proverbs, and remind us that “gray hair is a crown of glory (Pr 16:31);” please help us honor them as You exhort us to do.

And, Lord, thank You for all of our senses of humor.

It’s the little old ladies from Baltimore


We had a cheerfully chaotic day yesterday; Grandpa was visiting from the Eastern Shore, and Grandma was down from Baltimore.  Since the tribe knew my parents were both coming to see them (it’s rare for both of them to be here at the same time), the early morning hours simmered with excited anticipation, with Beanie and Bugaboo both zipping out of their room before 6:30 to inquire about Grandma’s projected arrival time.  Mr. Man and Baby Guy opted to sleep until Grandma arrived around 9, at which time they joined in the little festival of hugs and cheers that generally heralds the beginning of a visit.  After we stowed her overnight gear, we loaded the kids into the van and headed off for Beanie’s second-to-last soccer game of the season.  Grandpa met us at the field; it was the first time he’d been able to see either of the girls play, so his camera was constantly clicking.

Beanie did manage to stay focused on soccer for about half of the time, which was astounding given that Grandma and Grandpa are two of her favorite people, and she’d much rather hang around with them than follow instructions from anyone else. Fortunately, Grandpa was able to convince her that he’d be really happy if he could see her run and kick the ball, so that got her moving in the correct direction.  We came home for lunch after soccer, put the boys down for naps, saw Grandpa back off, and settled in for some quiet time with the girls.

While Grandma was happy to time her visit to coincide with Beanie’s soccer game, the real purpose of her visit was to enjoy our Mother’s Day gift to each other.  Among the many things for which I owe a debt of gratitude to my Mom is the time and effort she spent nurturing my appreciation for the arts, taking me to galleries for Degas exhibits, to the symphony, the theatre, the ballet, and the opera.  She ensured that I would have an ear for the beaux arts and an understanding of proper dress and conduct while attending fine art performances or displays.

In addition to fostering my appreciation for high culture, my mother also spent a fair amount of time listening to other kinds of music with me; we both love jazz, Motown, 80s hair bands, beach music, big band, novelty songs generally, swing, early rap, British invasion bands, soul, and funk.  I draw the line at disco, she draws the line at (really) heavy metal, but we’ve never had any trouble agreeing on a radio station in the car. Because of our mutual love of nearly all music, I called her when our local concert venue released its 2012 schedule, with a laugh and a smile, and asked her if she’d like to catch a band for Mother’s Day this year.

She thought it was a grand idea, and we two little grey-haired ladies had a tremendous time at the Lynyrd Skynyrd concert last night.  I love that my 67-year-old mom can still rock with any crowd, and the people watching was excellent.  We danced, we sang, we laughed, and we belted out “Gimme Three Steps” waving three fingers in the air.  We also spent a good amount of time snickering at the large number of Confederate flags being waved about.  Hey, we’re from Baltimore.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, You commanded us to honor our mothers and fathers.  Thank You for the opportunity to honor my parents by sharing what they love best with them.  Help me teach Your blessings that the gifts my husband and I will cherish most are not the things our children can buy in a store, but the time they freely give to share those pursuits that bring us happiness.  Thank You for the length of years You have granted Grandma, Grandpa, Nana, Deedaw, and Nonno, and, as their years advance further, help us set an example for Your blessings of how to love our parents by caring for them with happy hearts.  Kindle in us the grace of gratitude for the opportunity to serve them in love of them, and love of You.

Stories without words


Bugaboo and I had a bit of a struggle yesterday morning over, of all things, sight words.  She was pretty adamant that she had forgotten all of the personal pronouns she’s been picking out of books since she was eighteen months old, and I was equally adamant that this was a required part of the day’s schoolwork.  After a couple of hours of tears and demands on her part, and redirections and seating changes on my part, we finally got through the list just in time for lunch.  I’m partly to blame for the problem; normally, I set the girls on their lessons while I’m making the morning phone calls (I check in with my mother and mother-in-law every morning, just to see how they’re doing and share the previous day’s funny grandkid stories), but yesterday, I opted to let them play during those conversations.  Oops.

The morning’s dispute ended up being a periodic topic of conversation throughout the rest of the day; I overheard Beanie admonishing her older sister, “You shouldn’t be ugly to Mommy like that.”  I chose not to bring it up, except during a quiet moment while Bugaboo and I were alone, reading a story together, when I asked her, “Honey, was it really worth all that?  We could have had an extra hour of stories and maybe even a craft this morning.”  She looked at me and sadly muttered, “No. I’d rather have the stories than a fight.  And I’d much rather do a craft.”

After dinner, the tribe settled in for a long storytime and a big bowl of popcorn.  One of the first books we read was Tomie de Paola’s The Knight and the Dragon.  Mr. Man received the book for Easter, and when I bought it, I had assumed it was a retelling of the St. George and the dragon story; since Mr. Man’s given name is, in fact, George, it seemed like a fun and appropriate gift for the big guy. I was surprised to discover that it is a far gentler tale, and I’d encourage you to read the review linked above.  At least half of the story is told solely through illustrations, and Bugaboo, Beanie, and even Mr. Man himself had a great time filling in the story in their own words.  At the end of the story, Bugaboo asked me, “Mommy, why did the knight and the dragon want to fight each other?”  I answered that they probably thought it was what they were supposed to do, since there are so many stories about knights fighting dragons, and even in the book, both parties found lots of books in their libraries about how to fight each other.   She replied, “I’m glad they decided not to fight.  I like that they opened a stand together instead.”

We read a lot more stories before we prayed, sang songs, and bundled the tiny people into their beds.  That particular story, however, kept coming back to me, because it reminded me of our morning struggle with the sight words.  Yes, Bugaboo needs to know her sight words; yes, she needs to learn to follow instructions; yes, she needs to learn that sometimes the tasks set before us are not our favorite things to do.  That said, my job is to encourage and teach, and perhaps, in simply giving her a list of words and telling her to read them to me, then digging in my heels as stubbornly as she dug in hers, I taught her a lesson in inflexibility instead of the personal pronouns.  There will, of course, be times where a certain thing has to be learned in a certain way; this morning’s vocabulary exercise wasn’t one of them, but because I insisted on making it so, it turned into a cause of strife.  In Ephesians 4, I’m reminded that my words should be uplifting and edifying.  Telling a little kid she’s being stubborn isn’t particularly edifying; it’s analogous to telling water it’s wet.

The lessons of the lesson were still on my mind this morning as I sat down to write, and it finally occurred to me why I couldn’t get the incident out of my head.  I pulled up the Bible in another tab, and looked up St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  Sure enough, there it was, right in the middle of chapter 3:  “Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged (Col 3:21).”

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that the kids and I have been studying the parable of the prodigal son.  This morning, I’m the prodigal mommy, as I have been before and, I’m certain, as I will be many more times.  By meeting stubbornness with stubbornness instead of a gentle turning, Bugaboo and I ended up as the knight and the dragon in Mr. de Paola’s excellent story — with one of our heads stuck in a rock and the other stuck high in a tree.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the means and talents to educate Your blessings individually, here in our home.  You have given me tools, knowledge, and wisdom, and have granted me every grace when I have asked it of you.  Please help me remember that each of Your blessings is a unique, small person, as You created no two of us alike, but all in Your image.  When I try to insist that one of Your blessings must learn a certain thing in a certain way, please remind me that even You had to speak in parables at times, so that Your people could understand You.  Thank You for the reminder from a friend that each of Your blessings has his or her own particular beauty, and that while part of the trust You have placed in me involves making sure they walk in Your ways, another part involves making sure they have an example of the love You give us, one they can see always before them.

Please, Lord, grant me the grace of knowing when to shut my mouth and let my actions speak. Thank You for little blessings who are quick to forgive, and please help me think quickly and speak slowly enough that I might minimize the number of words for which I need to be forgiven.  Please infuse all of our lessons with the joy that comes from having You as my supervising teacher.

Discipline, Lenten style — or, what I want to teach my kids


Ordinarily, I make it a point not to discuss my penitential practices during Lent; however, given yesterday’s controversy, it seems appropriate to share one of the disciplines I am attempting to practice during this season of reflection and repentance.

Instead of giving up something easy and relatively meaningless like chocolate or coffee for Lent, I chose to give up snappy comebacks and questioning the motives of others.  I struggle mightily and daily with the temptation to respond to the least provocation with an acidly unkind rejoinder, and to regard offers of help as criticism or rebukes.

Our children look to their parents as examples in all things, and since I am the parent with whom they spend most of their waking hours, they hear and see my responses to just about everything.  There is nothing quite so convicting as hearing my own unpleasantness coming from the mouths of my preschoolers, to hear my questioning of others’ real intentions, and realizing that along with spelling and skip counting, this is something they are learning from me.

Regular readers of this blog are, I’m sure, aware that my husband and I are striving to raise children who are good, kind, loving, and wise.  While there are times when it is appropriate to ask what lies beneath the surface, as students of Greek history can readily attest, it serves none of our goals to raise children who respond to criticism or correction with a biting comment, or who fail to recognize that the more discomfort a comment causes, the more likely it is that some self-examination is in order.

Scrutinizing the motives of a person who offers an observation, criticism, or piece of advice is, in my case, usually a highly uncharitable act.  The Lord Himself commanded us to help one another.  I have no way of knowing who He will send to my aid, and sometimes, He realizes that I need assistance before I do, and the person offering help or guidance is His messenger.  Instead of speculating upon another’s motive for offering help and advice, it is fruitful for me to consider my reasons for refusing it.  Am I refusing the offer because I genuinely have no need, or am I committing an act of pride, wrath, or envy with my refusal?

This is also an exercise in humility for me, an area in which I need to set a proper example for the tribe as well.   The Lord has blessed me richly in many ways, and because of the abundance of His gifts, I often fall into the trap of thinking that I need support from no one else to have a happy and Christian life.  That thought emanates straight from Hell itself, and will certainly lead me there if I indulge it for long.  If the Lord has seen fit to bless me with friends, family, and other interlocutors, I am showing a poor appreciation for His bounty if I roughly shove them aside when they say something that hits a little too close to one of my human frailties.

Sorry, no cute stories today; however, I would like to ask that if you shared a link to the St. Patrick’s Day post, please share a link to this one as well.  I would also appreciate any re-blogs the WordPress family would care to grant; this post matters more than most to me.  I’d also like to invite you to join me in my discipline for the remaining two weeks of Lent, and beyond, whether or not you believe in the Resurrection.  A gentler world has to start somewhere.

And please, if anyone knows the commenter who posted as “Joan,” would you kindly make sure she sees this?

Today’s prayer:  Lord, help us to be gentle with one another. Help us accept Your generous gifts without suspicion or fear.  Your Son was regarded with both during his time here, to the detriment of many.  I would teach Your blessings that discomfort caused by the words of another should cause them to reflect on Your instructions to us more than the motives of the utterer.  Please,  Lord, grant me a heart that takes neither pleasure nor pride in delivering insults and humiliations.  Grant me the grace that I would teach Your blessings — to please You by using Your gifts to foster love, not its opposite.

Postscript:  I’d like to tip my hat to Lori Schulz, who quoted Ephesians 4:29 in her post today:   “No foul word should ever cross your lips; let your words be for the improvement of others, as occasion offers, and do good to your listeners;”