The Face That Changed Everything

Marley by Liz Gray

“Marley” — February 27, 2013 by Liz Gray

“Then I saw her face; now I’m a believer….”  “Believer” by SmashMouth  (“Shrek” Soundtrack)

    As promised; this was THE MOMENT, THE FACE, THE EVENT that I already know changes everything for our family.  Meet Marley!  Our Marley!  Yes, his name was partially inspired by the beautiful lab in the adorable and heart-wrenching movie “Marley and Me”, but it was even more than that.  My young son walked into the home of the loving gentleman who offered us this sweet puppy–a beautiful golden male lab.  When my son first laid eyes on him, he shrieked “Marley!”  It was as like watching two brothers reunite who hadn’t seen each other in a while.

     At seven, he’s only wanted a dog for about 2 years.  My husband has waited nearly thirty years for me to say, “OK, let’s get a puppy.”  Moreover, he wanted a lab like his own brother has and is so fond of.  As do half our friends!  Yes, I know–labs make great dogs.

      “But what about the work?” I asked while detaining my family all these years.  “What about poop duty, puppy training, daily walks, feeding schedules, their TOTAL dependance on you for EVERYTHING?”   “What about it?”  tiny little eyes seemed to plead.  “It’s really not a big deal,” my husband and adult daughter have told me.  Millions of people have dogs.

    I know.   The thing is I’m a cat person at heart.  Because they’re easy.  You show a kitten a litter box, walk away, and five seconds later they are potty-trained for life.  It’s all easy breezy from there until they get older and face health problems, and believe me I’ve had my share of older cats and all their issues from diabetes to heart defects. That’s the hard part about pets.  It usually always ends one of two ways:  ABRUPTLY or SADLY.

      Just like in the movie “Marley and Me.”  You know from the get-go the dog is going to die.  Still it was watched and adored by millions.

      I get it.  See I know the real reason I’ve put off this decision all these years.  I already know what all of us in our family are risking:

OUR HEARTS

      I know in the “typical” lifespan of this breed of dog, you’re looking at twelve or fifteen years, God willing, and if life goes as “planned” which the movie “Marley and Me” clearly showed that life rarely goes as such!  But I can see the foreshadowing already.  Two of my children are adults now.  Their lives will change.  Weddings, grandchildren (hopefully) and a host of other changes I’m sure will come.  My husband and I are at the middle mark. Our parents are getting older.  The future now seems less predictable then the plans we had for it about this time when we were in our twenties.

        All these things bring changes in life.  And through it all to come, we will have another soul witnessing the entire bloody and blessed drama that will certainly play out.  Our dog, this sweet newness, will be part of it; for better or for worse.

     Our souls are going to get tangled up worse than a little girl’s long hair.    We’re going to experience magnificent things as a family.  And most likely some heartaches, big and small, and crises of all kinds from the daily annoying to the ones of epic tsunami proportions.

    It’s the part that scares me so much.  And yet, I know from experience that’s the best part in life.

      The part where we risk it all. 

      The part where we say:

  • I do
  • I will
  • I promise
  • I commit
  • I love
  • Always and forever

May you live your life large today and all of your days.  Find good risks to take and find God-sized faith to propel you forward as your step into the great unknown.  Travel well and may you have the shadow of a companion and the comfort of the spirit of God always by your side.Marley Gray

Marley at 8 1/2 weeks, plays with a ball for the very first time.  “I’m still getting a grip on my coordination,” he says!

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Lower Image:  The FIRST moment my son set eyes on the puppy, he shrieked “Marley!”
I will forever cherish this moment!

The Moment That Changes Everything

New BabyThis is it!  This is the moment that changes everything.  You just know it intuitively.   It’s every cliché in life rolled into one big split decision:

  • Should I or shouldn’t I
  • This could be the beginning of ……………
  • I (or my family) will be forever changed if I (we)……..

Have you ever had a moment in life like the one I’m talking about?  I’m talking about newness.  Maybe it’s a decision you’ve contemplated for some time and it keeps you up at night, but today’s the day you finally act upon it.   Maybe it’s something you’ll decide on a whim but will have life-altering consequences none the less.  Maybe it’s something that just seems to overtake you and it’s as if it was predestined just for you.  Maybe you’ll make this decision solo, or perhaps some collaboration is involved.  Either way, if you take even one step forward, if you even inhale even one breath of life into this decision, without a doubt life is going to irrevocably change. 

     It’s that BIG MOMENT when you:

  • Say YES or I DO to…………
  • Have just one last drink and put the keys in the ignition anyway, and then ……
  • Take your company public even though you are risking……..
  • Decide to move all the way to…………
  • Kiss someone for the first time knowing that…….
  • Run for office even though……….
  • Want to feel something different than this so you try……
  • Decide to no longer be held captive by the secret of……
  • Pick up the gun and…….
  • Despite any fear of failure, take your dream job doing…..
  • Gaze into the eyes of a baby less than a minute old and your heart floods with….
  • From this moment on, I will live different and choose to believe…………

Think about it.   If you’ve pondered this for a while you know without a doubt, life will never be the same.  Even if you make a decision on a whim, especially if it’s a bad one, an immoral one, perhaps a dangerous one, there is always that one-second hesitation that says  uh uh uh….maybe I better not.   Perhaps it’s something you’ve always wanted to do and this is the moment you say yes, even though you are unsure of future outcome.  Temptation.  Risk-taking.    These are the moments we meet at every crossroads.  How will you decide?

      I call them God Moments.   We either walk with Him or walk away from Him.  Perhaps we don’t consult Him at all, but I believe either way, He is watching, always aware, knowing the future before you take even one step forward.  Even if you’re unsure, perhaps you’ll seek His guidance and wisdom before or as you go through this decision process.  Perhaps you deceive yourself thinking this has nothing to do with God, I’ll just handle this one on my own, thank you.  How will you decide?

     This is the moment you could lose everything……or gain everything.  It’s the moment where you put your chips on the table.  Maybe you’re risking money.  Maybe you’re risking revelation of truth.  Maybe you’re risking your entire heart.

Nervousness.  Butterflies in the tummy.  Heart over head.  Head over heels.  Terror.  Exhilaration.  Freedom.  Passion.   Love.

Today is MY DAY that changes everything.  I have no doubt it will radically alter my life and the life of my family.  It’s something that happens all over the world every day.  As a writer, I know for sure it will give me plenty to write about. 

      What is it you ask?  Ah….the cliff hanger.  Stay posted dear friends.  All will be revealed soon!   I’ve buckled my parachute to the best of my ability.  Now there’s just one thing left:

      Go ahead and jump!

How to Win The Game of Life

LIFE IMG_4516My family has started a new tradition.  We have decided to turn Wednesdays into Family Fun night.  We started last night.   We decided we are going to take good old Milton Bradley’s suggestion and have a family fun night on Wednesdays and start playing board games.

I was first inspired a week ago when playing a vicious, okay scratch that, mildly competitive game of Double Twelve Dominoes – The Mexican Train Version with the ladies from my bible study group.   There is nothing like playing a great game around a table with fun people, food, coffee and tea, laughter, and a community quest to learn something new and if luck has it, to WIN!

So when my seven year old son requested we play the game of LIFE last night, I was all in!  I made dinner speedy quick and cleared the table lightening fast after we finished eating.  That is to say, I moved the dirty dishes and miscellaneous other clutter to the counter to deal with later.

My husband, young son and I pulled the game of LIFE out of the box and started setting up.  I fanned out the cards.  We chose our careers.  We all decided to skip college as we couldn’t find how starting out with borrowed money would get us a higher paying salary which was basically luck of the draw anyway.   We spun the dial and off we went.

I was a policeperson, my husband was an artist, my adult son was a computer programmer, and my youngest son was an entertainer.  Not so much different than our real life actually.  The only difference is that in real life my husband is a mechanic, but even that requires a modicum of creativity to be able to repair cars when car parts or cars themselves are no longer manufactured.

I landed on the first PAYDAY.  I was elated to have an annual salary of ninety grand.  Which if moms were actually compensated in real life for policing a busy household, I would say this is adequate at best.    We made our way around the board collecting our salaries multiple times, picking up LIFE cards, paying both frivolous and necessary bills, and chastising one another for memory lapses over whose turn it was.  My oldest son said we could just play for him as he had important games in real life he had to play on the Wii.  So entertainer-boy  just spun the dial for computer geek-man and moved his box-like van around the board, and basically made every decision for him.

My husband, being the artist that he was and is, had an annual salary of twenty grand and took a loan out for a $200,000 mortgage.  Very quickly he landed a wife, a kid, then a set of twins, and then another kid.  Figures.  We all know people like that.  I told my young son he’d probably be a “drain on the system” before too much longer at the rate he was accruing kids and a high-falutin’ lifestyle on a pauper’s salary.

I could not have been more wrong.  After two paydays, he got the card that said “exchange salary” with any other player.   Of course he picked me.  So there I was for the rest of the long drawn out game stuck at a paltry $20,000 a year salary with 4 kids of my own, a blue husband who refuses to speak to me, and an uncanny knack for landing on every known expense imaginable.  Sigh!  It’s amazing how the parables of sports and games so mirrors our real life!

About ninety percent through our game, my real husband SERIOUSLY asked my real kids and I if he could trade his kids in for cash; he had so dang many of them—they had already spilled out of his six-slotted car and tumbled onto the highway of LIFE several times.    This from the same man whose first wife had previously fallen out of his dilapidated artist’s van into the Grand Canyon (the kitchen floor) upon which he had said, “Don’t worry about it; I’ll just get another one!”

“Seriously?”  I asked.  “Yeah!  Check the rules” he insisted.   For some weird reason I just started laughing and couldn’t stop.  It’s that absurd moment in LIFE and in real life where someone says something so ridiculous you just fall out on the floor wondering how did your brain get wired like this?  But of course, who amongst us hasn’t wished at some point we could’ve traded our kids in for a lump sum payout on any given teenage hormonal day?

My young son got to the Millionaire Estates first because he had mysteriously spun tens almost the entire game.  His spin kept “not taking” except for when it consistently scored a ten.  Throughout the game he’d been entrusted to not lose his fortunes when paying bills and acquiring money in tens, even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But for him the best part was at the end.

He quickly mastered the art of skip-counting by half-millions even though he often claims his daily first grade homework of skip counting by fives or tens is just too stressful.  Sure it is!  If you’re not getting paid to do it.   He counted and handled LIFE money the way politicians handle our money The game of LIFE is always more fun when playing with OPM (other people’s moolah!) to accomplish your goals; the results are secondary to the joy of spending it.   Like GAO accounting procedures, it’s not even worth counting if it isn’t first followed by at least six zeroes.

At the end of the game, we all experienced temporary happiness as we counted our stash:   a million, a million five hundred, a million seven hundred fifty etc.  Perhaps that may be the closest we ever get to counting numbers that high related to real life finances.    At the end of the game, my husband “won” but only by five thousand dollars.  My little boy had two million, seven hundred and seventy thousand dollars.  And hubby had exactly that plus one extra five thousand dollar bill.  Just one wrong move somewhere probably cost my son the game. 

Towards the end, he once spun the dial on my turn before I had a chance to see what number I had spun.  “HEYYYYY!” I shouted, “Watch it!  That can change the whole outcome of the game!”  And indeed it did.  For the next ten turns (I’m NOT kidding here) I landed on every expense known to exist.   I drifted from one crisis to the next railing against the unfairness of the greedy rich just inches away from me.    I had my turns skipped multiple times and the rest of my family inherited all the LIFE cards while I got nothing.   I lost.  Big time!  And then when it was all over, I reread the rules just in case we had missed anything.

We did.  I wanted to cry foul but it was too late.  In LIFE and in life, there are no do-overs.  Since I was the policeperson, I had forgotten to collect $10,000 every time a certain someone had spun a ten.  That alone would have given me an extra hundred grand no doubt.  I had forgotten to plan for my future and buy stock, as did every one else.  My oldest son lost almost as spectacularly as I did, perhaps because he played by proxy and had allowed a seven year old to represent him.  You can’t win if you don’t play the game. 

Finally, as the game ended and reality beckoned with dirty dishes waiting and teeth that need brushing and jammies that needed filling, I realized I had finally spent my most valuable currency very wisely after all:

TIME

    In the end all the money we had tried so desperately to accumulate during the game of LIFE just got put back in the box.  It was all meaningless.  But the time we had spent laughing, competing, journeying across the land, and just being a family?  Well that was the best night we had spent in a long time.  These are the moments that pay eternal dividends.  And that you can bank on!

Are We There Yet?

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PHOTO:  DISNEY     

Are we there yet?  Would anyone like to place wagers on how many times I will hear this question when our family leaves for Orlando’s Disney World tomorrow after school?   My seven year old son has been counting the days to our Disney Trip when the countdown was still over 100.

And then there was one.  One day left until we leave. Knowing how fast the last hundred days has gone is a bit troublesome because I don’t want our vacation to fly by.  I want each magical moment to linger.    I want each one of our family of five to forget about work, school, obligations, commitments, bills, responsibilities, and challenges.  Basically, I look forward to our reprieve from reality and really hope to drop anchor for a while in the new and improved Fantasyland (among other lands), that just re-opened up six days ago, on anticipation of our arrival no doubt.

This is our fifth trip in nearly thirty years of marriage and family.  It is the first real time for my youngest since he was in utero his first trip, and ten months old the second time.  He is beyond stoked for this trip.

  Personally speaking, it will be a homecoming of sorts.  A family reunion if you will.  Why there’s Uncle Mick with his big ears and chubby fingers and his sunny optimism about everything.  He is the family patriarch full of wisdom and sage advice and a voice that never matured when puberty came, if in fact it ever did.  There’s Aunt Minnie with her oversized furniture, her red and white polk-a-dotted dress, and she always wears a smile and looks as if she’s just baked a warm plate of cookies to greet whoever comes into her quirky and humble abode.  There’s Uncle Donald and his rambunctious nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, whose mischief and energy rival my son’s.  There’s the family dog Pluto, and of course Goofy.  Everyone has at least one Goofy in their family, do they not?

There’s beautiful Snow White and Prince Charming who always has his arm out to escort me and he pulls out my chair before I’m seated in front of a table lined with luxurious food.   There will be white and glass carriages escorted by perfectly groomed white horses for the ball later in the evening.

There are no arguments amongst our extended family members.  Everyone is well physically, mentally, and spiritually.  There is only endless exquisite happiness, laughter, joy,  and incredible talent on display be it singing, dancing, acting, juggling, acrobatics, magic tricks, tricks with birds and animals, feats of wonder, or acts of comedy.   This is the family millions of people run to and attach specifically to because it is such a great antidote to life’s often harsh realities.

This is the model familyThis is the World’s Family.   It’s a family where good food and drink, laughter, and smiles are always flowing and adventures abound.  Whether it’s being delightfully scared by holographic ghosts in the Haunted Mansion,  exploring all the real cool rooms of the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house,  eating your way around the world in EPCOT, or watching the Spectro Magic parade at night with all the floats and characters lit up, you know you’re going to have fun.

    This is why we work in life.  This is why we struggle.  This is why we deny ourselves from having everything we want the moment we see it, because there are greater moments to behold later.

As for me and my household?  The next best thing to Jesus and the promise of heaven is most likely Disney World.  And you don’t have to go there to know it exists and that it’s great!  Kind of like heaven.  We sense it.  We know there is more than this life and its struggles.  There is a grand design, a purpose if you will, for our sufferings, our trials, our brevity here.  It’s because God has something better planned for us over there.

Of all the things God gave us in life to use, the most amazing thing he gave us in this life is our incredible mind.  A mind filled to the brim with infinite possibilities of what we could imagine and create, if we dare.  If we take that faith step and risk putting our dreams out there for the world to see.

It’s what good old Uncle Walt did.  He had a dream in his mind and a sketch pad in his hand and BOOM!  His soul connected his vision for animation and he drew what is now the world’s most famous mouse based on a pet mouse he once adopted at his first Kansas City studio.   Isn’t good he made a pet out of what most people would have so easily killed?

     Nothing in life is a coincidence.  I see things in life not with rose-colored glasses (okay, sometimes I do) but thru a lens of divine providence.    I try to connect the dots relating people and events in life as something God wants to use for good in my life and others.  I believe there is something good awaiting us at the end of our journey of toil and peril.   Disney World is man’s gift, a foreshadowing, to remind us of an even greater gift that God gave to us.  He just used vision to accomplish it in Walt.  He can use vision to accomplish it in us as well.  Open your eyes.  See!

Merry Christmas everyone!   We’re off to be a family, amidst all the other beautiful and diverse families of the world, as we watch and experience the magical family of Disney, keeping in mind that Jesus is not just the reason for the season, but a great reason to live life in awe and wonder every day because of what He has done for us.   Life.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Disney here on earth.    Heaven later.

I guess there are only four words left to say!

Are!  We!  There!  Yet!!

Princess of Grace

karolina kotkiewicz

PHOTO CREDIT:  KAROLINA KOTKIEWICZ

So maybe I wasn’t born into the Royal Family and beseeched with adoring Brits and Royal watchers the world over tracking my every hiccup, pimple, gaff, dress of the day, pound gained or lost, and event attended by infinite mobs of paparazzi with camera lenses the length of yardsticks.  I’ve never had women faint or men swoon and lay down their coat for my dry clean feet to tread, simply because of my existence.

I’ve never been deserving of security detail, a personal hairdresser, chef, or secretary to manage my job of social engagements and charitable work, though I would love to have the latter three just for kicks!

When I was pregnant with each of my own brood of three children, the world didn’t stop spinning if I woke up hugging the royal porcelain throne.  I certainly wasn’t given a diagnosis with as many syllables as Princess Kate has been given.  No, I was simply told, “It’s normal; now go eat a cracker.”

Yes, it’s not always easy being a mere serf to servitude and simplicity, complex array of daily chaos.   It’s challenging indeed.  There are no minions to blame.  There is no staff to assist.   There is only my individual blood, sweat, tears, and frequent sleeplessness that accompanies the challenge of trying to do it all: work a day job, raise kids, assist parents, volunteer at church and school, clean house, laundry, attend and reply to endless paperwork, pay bills, feed pets, chauffer children to school and activities, help with homework, find time to play, oh and breathe!

The real challenge is trying to find the essential time known as “Liz Time.”  Yes, these are the precious hours necessary to rejuvenate my own soul: writing, photography, my beloved bible study group, or trying to catch up with good friends.

Living life outside the palace is messy.  We sorely lack a protocol of propriety.  It’s not always structured and it’s rarely consistent.  Yes, high drama occasionally exists outside the drawbridge but doesn’t make the press (thankfully)!  There is no portcullis at our home’s entrance to shield us from the dangers of the outside world.  We have no moat to slow down the uninvited guest or Royal Guard to interrogate and arrest the annoying solicitors who all come at inopportune times.  Ready or not, our house is always open.

But before you grab a monogrammed hanky and cry for me Argentina, hold your horses.  I am grateful for my commoner status.  Above all, I am grateful that I don’t live inside a fishbowl where perfection is the water one must constantly swim in.  For I know this much is true:  I would drown.  Quickly.

See I have evolved over the years.  I have reframed my thinking.  I am not a slave to my family or even to forces outside my control.  I am indeed a princess of three things:

     A Princess of Procrastination:   Ask any accomplished, or worse, struggling (aka “wannabe”) artist, writer, painter, visionary (okay…I’ll stop there) and they will tell you this:  You sometimes must procrastinate regarding your duties of life in order to nurture your high calling, even if at this moment it is perceived only by you.   For who knows the plans God has for you?   Perhaps, you were born for such a time as time as this.  Translation: To respond to intuition and to occasionally shirk what others perceive as duty.  Wisdom whispers quietly sometimes.

     A Princess of Prognostication:  Yes, because the winds of perpetual change often blow in and out of our home, it sometimes feels as if our so-called fortunes can only be predetermined by the accuracy of my prognostications.  That is to say, if I freak out better and more efficiently, you will get off your butt and see the urgency this particular situation requires and quickly get on board!  Indeed! A prophet in her own household is rarely met with honor.  So be it.   My predictions, assessments, and royal decrees march onward, until even I am reminded of a simple truth:   Submit.  Pray.   You are not in charge.  Even though you sometimes act as if you are. 

     A Princess of Peripatetic ProportionsNothing lasts forever.  This too shall pass.  Wanderlust.   The world is so beautiful.

These thoughts comfortably coexist in my brain.   Life is sometimes challenging on the home front, but it’s equally good as challenges not only make us stronger; they reveal who we truly are.

In the midst of trial, I’ve been known to contemplate what life is like outside my kingdom.  What is happening at this moment under the Eiffel Tower?  Does the Taj Mahal have a five o’clock shadow?  Is a child crying for her mother in Halong Bay?  Will the Asteroid belt continue holding up around us?  Who is hurting near me?  Can I help?

I realize life is indeed good.  Blessed, in fact.  This is not of my making, but of God’s.  He has given me life, health, and a family to be grateful for and good things too numerous to count.  He has given me tears to assist with trials and a trust to deal with life on life’s terms:  a temporary assignment.    Because I don’t have to be entirely responsible for generating my own strength or controlling outcome, I am immensely grateful.

I am a princess indeed.  A princess of grace.  Thank you.  Thank you very much!

It’s All Good

Wow, has it ever been a week!  It started on Monday!  I had just gotten my weekly manicure and pedicure at Paradise Salon when I chipped my middle nail on my right hand as I fumbled for my Jag’s keys.

“Lord, have mercy!” I shouted to no one in hearing range.  I was already running late to meet Betsy for lunch.  She always chastises my organizational skills because I never get to lunch first.  How are we going to have enough time to plan EVERYTHING necessary for the Association’s Charity Ball now?  I can just hear her think this as I peel out of the parking lot.

Fine then.   I wouldn’t have even been late if I hadn’t spent the extra fifteen minutes this morning arguing with my husband. When I opened the dryer earlier that morning, a rogue blue sock had tumbled out in a sea of my silky whites.

“WHAT’S THIS?!?!?    Damn it, Charles!  If I told you once, I have told you a thousand times, DON’T MIX COLORS WITH WHITE!”  He just doesn’t get it.  He thinks apologies should just cover everything.  Well not this time, mister.  I want you to learn to listen to me!  Clearly he’s off his meds again.

Lunch was pretty much an exercise in futility as Betts shot down all my ideas for the ball, but giggled that annoying little 7th grade laugh of hers, as she showed me her designer’s plans for the ballroom that all her friends just raved about.

On Tuesday my daughter Crystal informed she got a B- in Honors Calculus.  Seriously?  After all that money we spent on tutoring last year?

“College is competitive Missy.  I don’t know what your problem is, but you need to pull yourself together.”

“Okay, Mom!  I get it.  I know!  Dad went to Brown, as did his father and his father.  I am doing my level best to march lock step in line with your plans for me, so I won’t be the first to break our family honored chain of tradition!”

   Crystal does that.  She has this way of being sarcastic when she knows she screwed up.  Deep down, she knows her father and I only want what’s truly best for her.

The rest of the week was exhausting.  I was dealt an impossible to do list:  Take our oldest son Will’s Tahoe to the shop for an oil change.  A second meeting finalizing the Charity Ball plans.   Take my mother in law to her weekly bridge club.   Deal with the frisky exterminator, what’s his problem?  Finish my Christmas shopping for all 6 of our siblings and their kids!   Unload all the groceries and then realize I forgot the freaking dental flossPeggy, our housekeeper of fifteen years gets sick the week of Thanksgiving!  Great!

Finally, on Friday I had to chaperone Jason and an entire class of second graders on a field trip to what else?  A water treatment plan where we all learned how raw sewage is recycled back into water.  I swear from this day forward, it’s Evian or nothing at all for me.   Then, wouldn’t you know it, when I was at the smelliest part of the water treatment facility, about a half mile from where I had parked, I tripped over a rock, and broke the heal on one of my brand new Jimmy Choos.  I had to finish the field trip by precariously balancing my weight on my good left leg and tip-toeing on the right.

I barely got home in time to watch Days of our Lives.

What’s this?   Right there smack in the middle of our wall screen, our dusty old box TV with rabbit ears from the attic was perched on a card table.

I called my husband at the hospital immediately!  “Page Dr. Clark stat,” I yelled at the very rude receptionist.   You’d think a busy metropolitan hospital could page a neurosurgeon in under twenty minutes.  What if someone had an actual emergency?

    Twenty minutes later, Charles informs me the overhead projector is broken so he took it to be repaired this morning.  “So I set up our old TV in the living room, because I know that’s where you like to sip your coffee as you watch your Days.”

    “Thank you,” I mumbled.  Bless his heart, he really does try sometimes.   I collapsed in a heap on the sofa.  I couldn’t help it.  I started crying.

Suddenly a memory crept up towards the surface of my consciousness.  When I was a little girl, probably no more than seven, I can remember I once fell off my Princess Daisy bike and scraped my cheek a little bit.  My granny Pearl was the one who parted my hair back off my face, wiped the dirt and blood off with her clean little hanky, and kissed my tear-stained cheek.

    “There there, my baby girl.  It’s not so bad.  You’re gonna have days like this,” she softly whispered.

“Yeah, but I’m going to be in the Little Miss Charleston Pageant this weekend and now I’ll be the only one who is ugly.” 

She laughed and laughed.  That made me cry more.  “Child, you’re no more ugly than the sun is freezing.  You’ve got to relax sometimes.  Just go with the flow.    It’s all good!”

  It’s all good.  I try to remember that when I have a week like this one.

I do something next I haven’t done in a really long time.  I probably haven’t done this since my granny used to take me to Sunday school all those years ago all decked out in bobby sox and Buster Brown Mary Janes.  I get out my bible.  I close my eyes and open it up to any old random page.  I put my finger on the page.  I open it up.  Then I smile.

Well, golly gee, I can just hear my granny say, look at the encouragement the Good Lord left for you today:

For we know all things work to the good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.  Romans 8:28

     It’s all good.  Indeed.

Don’t Get Caught By the Eyeball Police!

Photo Credit: Lambert Hulton Archives/guardian.co.uk

      That’s because in our house Little Brother is watching you!  Yes, he roams the kitchen table like a roaring lion waiting and watching for a disobedient dinner patron to commit this most dreadful of sins:

Praying with your eyes OPEN!

If there was a word that described the pace and structure of our house, it would be this:  HAPHAZARD.   So on the nights I cook dinner, if I’m not utterly exhausted, and if I happen to muster up the energy to clear off random acts of homework, unfinished Lego kits, half-sorted piles of junk and legitimate mail, and other miscellaneous objects from our kitchen table in order to have a “family dinner”, then I usually insist that we say a blessing.

It’s only fitting that we should ask God to bless our food for the nourishment of our bodies and oh did I mention the “hands that lovingly prepared it”?  Anyway, my six year old son still prefers the standard:

God is Great

God is Good

Let us thank Him for our food

By his hands we all are fed

Thank you God for daily bread

 

Sometimes I throw in a quick extra request before everyone can shout Amen and start digging in.  I’ll wiggle a sentence or two sideways in that brief interval before the first mouth utters first syllable “A” and mutter something about a world event, “and Lord, please bless our soldiers who are digging in and trying to stay safe from enemy fire” or “please bless the starving children in Africa.”   Or I may say, “Please bless our daughter as she travels out of town this weekend.”     The point is I try.

Prayer is important.  It’s important to me.  But generally my family just wants to eat, if there are actually full plates sitting before them.  The “please bless and save the world” prayers are preferred at bedtime, not meals.    See my son likes the prayers, but what he really likes is to be the enforcer and check the table for any wandering eyeballs that happen to reveal themselves behind lids that should be closed.

“(Sinful person name)’s eyes were open!”  he gleefully proclaims if anyone opens their eye at any point during the prayer before Amen is stated.

He should be a lawyer I think.  He expects obedience to “the law.”  No mercy is granted, and if my son was sheriff, you would be flogged in the public square for not adhering to the Eyes Remain Shut regulation of mealtime prayers.

I sometimes sigh and wish our grace at meals were more full of….well, grace!  Less legalism, more words full of thanksgiving and grace and Godly requests for others.    I want prayer to be our habit of love, not our obligation to following a rule.

I believe that is how Jesus wants us to come to him…with thankful hearts, with prayer and petition making our requests made known.  And then the peace that surpasses human understanding will guard our hearts and mind in Christ Jesus.

That’s the idea anyway.  It’s just that sometimes that’s when the cat jumps up on the table.  The solicitor phone call rings.  Ding Dong goes the doorbell.  The forgotten oven timer finally sounds reminding us that the food I prematurely took out is now ready.  Prayers are started and quickly interrupted.  Eyes open and my son is taking names and calling them out.

We live in a busy world and when did it get so hard to just make a family meal happen?  You know; the table is cleared and set, steaming hot healthy food waits to be ladled onto shiny white plates, iced drinks await to be sipped, napkins are in laps, prayers are said, and Dad is ready to slice the meatloaf.  Sweet children patiently await the food to be served.  Then we’ll all talk about our glorious day and how blessed we are.

OK, scratch the record at this point.  Still as moms we try, and dads too!  Interruption is our standard and peace seems to be our exception, but still we press on with endurance to have a family meal, complete with meaningful prayer and good food that we are indeed thankful for.

As for me and my household?  Well, we all try to keep our eyes shut as long as possible.  Never mind the plank that frequently juts out from them, we just don’t feel like getting a verbal citation from the Eyeball Police.

A QUICK prayer for your family dinner: 

Lord Jesus, please bless the mother’s hands today who tried her darndest to lovingly prepare a family meal after a full day of work and responsibilities, for kids who are not perfectly behaved or quiet, and a husband who doesn’t make it home on time because he works so hard.  Bless the solicitor who calls because they’re just arriving at their second job because times are tight, and the cat who reminds us he’d like to eat too, if it wouldn’t be too much of a bother, and the little Cub Scout who just happened to sell popcorn at an inopportune time to raise money for his troop.  Bless our over-scheduled lives and our sometimes under-nourished souls.  May we remember that even when we don’t give You the praise for our dinner and even more so for our lives, that You are still watching over us, blessing us, and in control.    We thank you for not only the food that nourishes our bodies, but for You who feeds our spirit and nourishes our life.  Help order our time so that we may enjoy eating as a family and with minimal distraction and drama.  And Lord, please keep us safe from the Eyeball Police!  Amen!

PS – I’ve made this meatloaf and it’s really good. Especially the bacon topper! It’s essentially the same as my mother in law’s recipe, but I was too lazy too type it, so I pulled this from About.Com

1950s Meatloaf Recipe:

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef (chuck is best)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork sausage (seasoned or not)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 to 2 large cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper (sweet capsicum)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 package dry onion soup mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste, divided use
  • 2 to 4 strips bacon, cut in half (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine ground beef, pork sausage, eggs, bread crumbs, garlic, sweet onion, bell pepper, oregano, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, onion soup mix, milk, and half of the tomato paste. Gently mix only until combined. Do not overwork the meat or it will become tough. Form into a loaf. Cover with the remaining half can of tomato paste. Weave the bacon strips over the top.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let meatloaf rest 15 minutes before cutting to serve.

Yield: 8 servings

1950’s-style Meatloaf Recipe Photo © 2010 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.