Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fireworks

Every year, on the Fourth of July, the relatives on my mom’s side went to Grandmom and Grandpop’s house in northeast Philadelphia. A cozy neighborhood attracting a variety of European immigrants, Lawndale had blocks of row houses and twins with single homes mixed in. My grandparents lived in a brick two-story twin, which presided like royalty on a main corner of the neighborhood. My grandfather set up his shoe repair shop in the basement and there was a separate entrance around the corner for the customers. The smell of shoe glue and the sound of hammering reminds me of the Bazooka bubble gum my cousins and I would snag from the shelf in the back of the shop. There were only fifteen of us, including my aunts and uncles and cousins, but it felt like an army as we crowded Grandmom’s living and dining rooms to indulge in our holiday feast.

Our meal was unlike what my friends back home would be eating: hamburgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, watermelon. You know, the usual Fourth of July food. Instead, our meal incorporated unusual favorites from my grandparents’ German heritage, including succulent bratwurst, a bowl of vinegary potato salad, red cabbage, a lone dish of pickled herring, and the dreaded German lunch meats. No, I didn’t eat the lunch meats. Just looking at them scared me. I’d learn years later that one of them, called head cheese, is a meat jelly made with the flesh from the head of a calf or pig. If that wasn’t bad enough, they’d also have “blutwurst.” Translated, it means “blood meat.” And the word tongue was involved in one of those delicacies. I felt sorry for the poor cow who wouldn’t be able to talk any more. Yuck. But there would always be orange soda, so that was a good thing. It was my grandmother’s favorite. 

I remember being 11 or 12 years old before I got a taste of personal independence when I was allowed to walk to the local park with my cousins---and no adults. We’d skip the entire way down a couple blocks to the carnival held there every year. Our coins jingled in our pockets, ready to be spent on games and treats. I never won a stuffed animal there, but it was always exciting to try. We’d eventually find the ice cream truck, and take our good old time savoring the pictures of the ice cream choices before making our decision. I always picked a chocolate ├ęclair Popsicle with the candy bar inside. It was a sweet ending to a sweet afternoon.

The grand finale would be the neighborhood fireworks display. Just past dusk, we’d suddenly hear the first boom, then a whoosh, and soon pinpricks of light exploded into starry arrays of color. We’d marvel at the showers of light for what seemed like forever. “Did you see that?” we’d say, or “That one was my favorite!” Our “oohs” and “aahs” followed each one.

I always wondered why we went to Grandmom’s on the Fourth of July when there were other holidays to choose from for our annual visit. Over the years, more and more stories were shared by my mom and aunt. With each detail, I’d fall in love all over again with the love story of my grandparents’ immigration to America despite all odds. They met in Germany but Grandpop wanted to come to the states first, so he could get established with a home and a business to provide for his anticipated family. Months passed before he sent for his true love, and Grandmom followed him, leaving all she knew, including her dying father, to join him in America.

Eventually they married, but I didn’t know until I was an adult what their anniversary date was.

It was the Fourth of July, fireworks and all.



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Ordered Chaos

            I walked into the studio, greeted by the scents of paint and glue. Busy Bees is a colorful playground for the creative artist, and it makes me smile every time. They offer a variety of crafting options, and this time I tried something new: mosaic.

I chose a square piece of wood as the background for my creation and went to work picking out tiny chunks of tile to glue on to the wood into a pattern. After the tile pieces were glued on, I would be sent home with grout (the color of my choosing) to fill in the spaces between the tiles to finish the piece.

The assortment of colors and shapes overwhelmed me at first. It calmed me to start with a loose pattern. I glued little square mirrors in alternating sequence around the edges. Silver. Gold. Silver. Gold. My heartbeat slowed as I got into the rhythm of creating. Faced with a wall full of bins in every color of tile pieces, the design started to form in my mind. I cut a tiny square into two uneven triangles of green. Funny how going from a square to a triangle changed things. I was inspired to cut some more. Next, I cut off the corner of an odd blue piece of tile and it formed a pentagon. When I halved the clover-shaped pieces, they became figure eights.

Changing the shapes gave me a sense of control. While I allowed some pieces to remain whole, I caused others to be broken. All the colorful pieces, broken and whole, show up more clearly when surrounded by the black grout of emotion’s dark depths. 

            
             I call it “Ordered Chaos.”



            A single clear stone belongs in the middle. I may not understand the stone fully, but I recognize its characteristics. For me, the clear stone is like a steaming cup of coffee first thing in the morning. It’s the smell of the bookstore where my writers’ group meets. Sharing hugs with my daughter and long-distance phone conversations with my son. It’s when I send the words “I love you, babes” in a text to my husband. Bible and prayer time. Sharing time with friends. Each of these represent wholeness yet are pieces of the whole of me.

            What does your center stone represent?



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Ginger Root

Why do I buy ginger and then not use it?

 
There’s something about an odd-shaped knob of ordinary ginger sitting in my refrigerator door which makes me feel like I might be a gourmet cook. Or maybe something about being a redhead attracts me to it. Ginger root, when grated or sliced fresh into a chicken or pork dish, is absolutely delicious. Once I get it home, though, I tend to avoid using it. It requires that I peel it, then cut a piece off, then grate it. There are simply too many steps. Often I’ll give in and pull out my powdered ginger jar instead. But it’s not the same.

This reminds me of the authentic root of my faith when I take time in the Bible and pray, as opposed to sprinkling a quick dose of an on-the-go prayer into my morning. The point of prayer is to be with God, right? It’s not about the recitation. God only knows He doesn’t need more noise in this world. The fresh, pure taste of connecting with God adds spice and joy to my life.

It’s worth the effort.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ordinary Faith

It was almost Easter weekend, and I packed my overnight bag for the six-hour road trip to visit my son Alex at college. I counted down the days, no, the hours, until I would see him and hug the heck out of him, even if I had to reach up to do so. Blended with my excitement, though, was my apprehension about his faith. I knew Alex wasn’t attending a church regularly, but have continued praying that he would connect with God somehow out there in college land.  

Several weeks prior, it occurred to me I could ask Alex to attend church with me when I was visiting. It would be Easter weekend, after all, and my request would be reasonable. Right? I wanted to let God be in charge of Alex but felt I needed to give God, and Alex, a little help. Eventually, I sensed God telling me to relax. I wanted to attend the service, and decided to do so even if I’d be going to church without Alex. So, I asked Alex to find us a church service to attend and waited for his response.

Nothing.

Come on, God, I thought. I’m leaving first thing in the morning. Should I look up a service myself? I need some kind of a sign. Do you hear me, God?

I like numbers, and one way I’ve learned to notice God’s presence in the numbers. Whenever I see either of these three times on an ordinary digital clock: 1:11, 11:11, or 3:33, I think of God and His three-in-one existence, and how He really is number One above all things. Those times are a little eye-wink from God to me, reminding me of His presence.

Finally, as I checked over my bag on the night before my road trip, I received a text from Alex sending me a link to a church he found for us to attend that Sunday. Excitedly, I clicked on the link to find out more—the service location, time, and the church information.

He found a contemporary Christian service geared towards college students, held in a nearby college building. It sounded similar to the services Alex used to attend with us at home. The location was less than a mile from his dorm. It was an ordinary service and seemed perfect for our needs.

However, there was nothing ordinary about the time of the church service. I had to reread the information on the church’s website.

It was slated to start at 11:11.

Easter was extra special this year.
 
 

How about you? Can you share a time God shown up in YOUR ordinary experiences?

 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Mistress Cancer

Unwelcome, she takes energy away from our marital intimacy. She requires my husband’s time and attention. She penetrates through to his veins, taking over his body, inside and out. She has her own rules, statistics and the illusion of a plan. She flirts with unpredictability, her greatest strength, her source of passion. She calls on my husband any time of day or night. Sometimes, he ignores her. Sometimes, he can’t.

She is Cancer.
 
This mistress is a Life-changer, a Killer, and an Enemy.

It was April 1, 2011 when my husband was diagnosed. I was shocked. We thought it was something related to reflux or other gastro-whatever conditions he experienced. But tumors? They were not expected.

I went into survival mode. Learning whatever I could about what was going on. Tests, more tests, research, doctor’s appointments. Planning for treatments, impact on our family, our financials. How do you plan what you do not know?

It’s now five years later and Joe is stable under the treatment of a clinical trial. Basically, it means he is on a chemotherapy regimen which seems to be working to stabilize the cancer, which will never be gone. Never. Yes, I know miracles are possible, and yes, I’ll embrace anyone who joins me in prayer for the miracles. In the meantime, however, I live with her.

I want her gone. Can I forgive her? Can I let go?

She is cancer. She is simply a diagnosis.

I am Lisa, Joe’s Wife. Holding on to hope in this complicated life.


 

 

 

 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

For the Love of Ice Cream

The ice cream carton beckoned. Although shoved in the back right corner of my overstuffed freezer, its voice was crystal clear.

“Hey, baby. I’m in here. Go ahead, grab a spoon and get me out of this cold corner. It’s time for you to indulge.”

The cold, smooth vanilla creaminess with buttery undertones threw my taste buds into heavenly overdrive. Crunchy candy pieces of chocolate lingered long after the vanilla was gone. I wanted—no, needed—more. Just another spoonful. Only there was no way to end it. A spoonful turned into a carton. At least it was a pint, not a half-gallon, I thought.

Three days later, it was time to weigh in again. Three pounds up. Ugh. Dreaded ice cream. You give love a bad name.

It’s all about balance, they say.

But how do I balance a crashing wave? I’m supposed to fall over, sink under, swim for a while, maybe catch my breath later. My desire for sweets is one-directional. It’s always a “yes.” What’s to balance?

Eat just a little, they say.

But how can I section out a portion of joy, when by its very nature joy is all about abundance? Why consider even a little bit when I can’t figure out when I have had enough? Happiness is a dessert buffet, especially if it contains the Italian cookies I ate growing up, and of course any form of chocolate. Love has no bounds so why should my dessert have a limit?

Measure your food and count your calories, they say.

But how can I measure the moments I love? Seeing my son after a couple months of being away at college, or spending time watching a movie with my husband, or catching a cup of coffee with a girlfriend, or sharing an after-school hug with my daughter---these are all unmeasurable. When I weigh out my grilled chicken or measure a portion of cottage cheese, I believe I have some control over food, but, seriously, it’s only the healthy food I’m measuring. Who wants to measure the good stuff?

Love unbounded, like a giggling child running through a big wet puddle just to see how high the water will splash, is the best way to experience it. It’s not available in single-serving sizes. Love is an all-you-can-eat buffet of deliciousness.

But by continuing my discipline of day-to-day weighing, measuring and tracking, most of the time at least, I gain the freedom to understand how to love my own self without the ice cream. To love my body which can dance, run, climb stairs and hug a friend means to take care of it. And this means the ice cream must be kept to a single-serving size. Love can be a buffet. It costs no calories but lingers long after the experience.

Ice cream, you give love a bad name. But I love you anyway.
 


 
1 John 2:15-16
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.”
I want to enjoy my sweets in single-serving sizes, and indulge in the sweetness of God’s love with unmeasurable abundance. I’m still learning to do this, one day at a time.
 
 

           

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pottery


I went to a pottery class with my husband the other day.

Okay, there are a couple things to clarify. First of all, this was a class to make the pottery, not just paint it. The primary equipment consisted of a spinning wheel, a lump of clay and our hands. It was the scene from “Ghost,” minus Patrick Swayze. Well, you get the picture.

Secondly, you read correctly, my husband joined me. We are soon-to-be empty nesters, and have been trying out more creative options for our date nights. A couple months ago, we went to one of those painting workshops together (including the wine) and this time, it was pottery-making.

I learned a few things about pottery.

Pottery starts out as a formless lump of clay. It needs water added and a special touch to shape it into something recognizable, useful, and possibly beautiful. I appreciated the metaphor of God as our Potter in a new way.

Isaiah 64:8 (NIV)
“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hands.”

I have no defined shape except what is given me by God. On the outside, I can be curvy or slim, depending on the season of my weight loss efforts. But on the inside, I have many more components, such as a passion for meeting new people, a love of numbers, and a heart to make others feel loved.

We each received a softball-shaped lump of cool, gray clay which was dense and stiff. We had to add water so it would be more moldable, softer, smoother. Water softens things, makes them pliable, more receptive. Perhaps I could use some of this extra water for molding my perspectives to be more like God’s. Wish it were so simple.

When I reached my goal of losing 100 pounds a few years ago, I had a new shape outside but I started to harden inside under the pressure of the goal. Coupled with my husband’s health crisis at the time, I then fell back into old habits of depending on my own abilities and pulled myself out of God’s hands. Now, I’m losing the weight I gained again, but this time it’s with an even greater focus on God. Like the clay’s response to the water, life experiences can adjust my shape.

The end result of our pottery-making extravaganza? Simple beauty.

   

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Fastnacht Traditions

In my teen years, I participated in a youth program at the local Lutheran Church. It was a fun way to celebrate my German heritage while spending time with friends. We prepared and performed a new skit every year; one year, it was a Carol Burnett tribute, another year a variety show. I still remember lip-syncing the song “All for the Best” with my friend Debbie. What a blast. The best part? Eating fastnacht at the end of the evening. Why? Because my grandmother made them.

These weren’t your typical doughnuts found at Dunkin’, though. Authentic German doughnuts made the traditional way didn’t come easily. The time, effort and love blended into the delectable treats were not only food for our bodies, but food for our souls.

This year, I decided to pull out Grandmom’s recipe to pass the tradition along to my teen daughter.

 Step 1: The recipe




Having the right mix of ingredients creates the perfect doughnut, and the perfect environment for conversation and connection. When I hung out with Grandmom, the primary ingredients were love, hugs and smiles. She was a fun-loving woman who avoided conflict and I learned to observe moments of pure contentment watching her in action.
 
 
Step 2: Knead the dough



 This step took a bit of effort. The only way to get it right was to dive into that mound of dough and muscle it until the texture was just right. It was a hands-on experience, and relationships are no different. Simply being together, whether we were talking, cooking, cleaning or simply saying nothing, is what I remember about the texture of life at Grandmom’s house.

Step 3: Wait and wait and wait


I remembered thinking we’d never get to eat those doughnuts when Grandmom set the bowl aside, putting a towel on top so the dough could rise. The yeast would do its job only as long as we left it alone. Patience is probably the most important step in creating meaningful traditions, and without it the result will be an indigestible mess.

Step 4: Cut the dough



A few hours later, the overflowing bowl of dough needed shaping. We’d dump it all over a blanket of flour on the counter and roll it out, then cut into diamond-shaped portions to make it manageable. This is the only way those beauties could face the heat of the frying pan in the next step. Relationships are like this. At times, we need to cut back to shape our connections into precious pieces we can handle. It was in the little things, like a conversation about high school, or my current boyfriend, where I could ask Grandmom’s perspective on shaping and dealing with my own issues in life.

Step 5: Fry the dough


 
Ahhh, the heat. Now that the little beauties were rolled and shaped, they could be placed into the hot oil, resulting in puffy clouds of deliciousness, cooked to perfection. The heated challenges in life, like the oil, can turn our perfect little pieces into something more satisfying, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Step 6: Sweeten



A little sugar to sweeten the treat, like words of encouragement and time with Grandmom, gave the perfect finish to our tradition. The result? Heavenly perfection.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review: No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches

As much as I love to write, I also love to read. Therefore, I chose to participate in a book review of:
No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches (ISBN 978-1-63357-001-6) by Jeff Davidson.

Jeff shares his personal experiences as a dad having a son with special needs in No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches. The stories provide insight into his perspectives on life, on parenting and on his faith. Families raising children with special needs will benefit, however the encouragement he intends to share also applies to the universal theme of challenged faith, no matter what the struggle.

As a pastor who is called to serve the special needs community, Jeff’s generous heart to help others is evident. The book, however, falls short in story-telling techniques and instead slides back and forth from anecdotes to sermons. His writing is redundant and preachy, as if his existing sermons were assembled and printed together to compile the book. There are helpful ideas interspersed between the stories, however.

I found the concept and ministry appealing and useful, however recommend Jeff’s blog site www.goodnightsuperman.com and Rising Above Ministries as a resource for inspiration instead of the book.

The paperback is available on Amazon:

 

Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Targeting My Thoughts


My daughter and husband are competitive pistol shooters. Some of you may cringe at the word “pistol” because of the fear of guns and all things gun-related. I get that. Guns, in the hands of people with evil intent, can be used as deadly weapons.

 It’s not the guns themselves but the people with evil intent which frighten me, though. When I think of my daughter’s bull’s-eye competitions, I smile with pride at her skills. It takes intense focus, physical training, and a gut-level dose of courage to hit the tiny little “x” in the middle of the big, bad white paper with black rings. I also smile with joy at her shared experience with her father. Nothing will replace their special times together, in training and in competition, and my daughter’s life is blessed as a result. The guns they use in these competitions are not in the hands of people with evil intent. Instead, they are in the hands of people who love competition, who love each other and who safely handle the tools of their sport.

 
 
 
 
As for me, I have my own version of target shooting: healthy eating. I watch what I eat, when I eat it and how much. It takes gut-level motivation to continue to plow forward even when the scale moves slowly and everyone else in the world seems to be eating donuts.

 
There are three principles in target shooting which I can apply for success in eating right.

 1)      Everyone in shooting knows it’s virtually impossible to hit the ‘x’ every time.

When I watch what I eat day after day, there are certain to be moments when I miss the mark. Today, for instance, I had a York Peppermint Patty (yes, it jumped from the counter into my shopping cart) but counted the calories towards my day’s allotment. This meant dinner was a tuna salad and soup, but it still worked. Not quite an ‘x,’ but close.
 
2)      Shooting professionals manage their thoughts by approaching the target one shot at a time.  

I take my eating plan one day at a time, and sometimes one hour at a time. The focus it takes to figure out what to eat to stay healthy and yet manage to keep going can be overwhelming. Instead, by weighing in one week at a time, and approaching each new day with a new attitude, I can break the long-term goal into smaller, achievable goals. These are the goals which result in healthy weight loss.

3)      Finally, true competitors know that each shot is a clean slate. 

Having a plan in place for the entire day makes it easier to stay on track, but if I blew it for that half-hour between picking the kids up from school and figuring out what’s for dinner, then I start over by approaching the dinner meal as the next shot. It’s about writing down what I ate, then continue to write down the next meal, too. There’s a finality in putting it on paper, instead of replaying the mistake over and over in my head. Not a good idea. For me, it’s about watching what I think about, and then I can have results with my actions.

Most importantly, hitting the “x” for me is when I reach out for help, either from God or friends or both, when I’m having a weak moment and want to eat instead of coping with the feelings I prefer to avoid.
 
This verse helps me:
Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I PRESS ON toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Targeting my thoughts…now that’s a worthwhile competition.

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Broken Faith

A faith-buddy gave me a cherished gift which adorned my powder room sink for many years. It was a ceramic knickknack of the word “FAITH” written in all capitals, painted a cheery lavender and adorned with yellow and white daisies around each letter.

I was extra klutzy one day and, not surprisingly, dropped it on the hard tile floor of the powder room. It split cleanly into two pieces, “FAI” in one piece with the emphatic “TH” separated from it. Broken faith still contains the components of faith, I thought. I just needed to put it back together. One dose of hot glue and it dried back into one piece, with only a fine line separating the ‘I’ and the T’ evidencing the damage.

I think life is like this sometimes. My faith gets broken and needs repair. Sometimes the repair line is noticeable, but hopefully, most of the time, it is not.

I had been working on a submission for “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” but had a dragging, nagging, sagging day and felt my little roots of doubt settling in. I wondered if my ideas were interesting, or if my writing was valuable, or if I should be writing at all. I hadn’t experienced a hefty dose of self-doubt in, say, two or three days, so I was due for this episode. Regardless, I managed to spend time working through and completing the article.

The next day I planned to review, edit and send the article to the Chicken Soup folks. A dark cloud of self-doubt promised to accompany me each step of the way. I started my day as usual, with my steaming cup of coffee, bible and journal. I asked God for guidance and maybe a shot of confidence to go with it.

My doorbell rang. It was a neighbor, handing me a brightly-wrapped red and white package, with a note taped to the top. “This is for you,” she said. “I saw it and thought of you.”

It was a copy of Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul.

Faith repaired is still faith.

 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What Goes In A Nativity Scene?

For many years, our family had a nativity set which consisted of MOST of the required pieces.

There was a stable, with its scattered straw, and the porcelain figures of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. The angel, shepherd, cow, and two of the three wise men finished the scene. Somewhere along the way we lost a wise man and a donkey. Odd.

Well, not so odd. It was me, not my children, who dropped and broke the missing pieces. At least I didn’t drop baby Jesus.

This year, we finally replaced our nativity set. As I was packing up our Christmas decorations (yes, it’s always a letdown, huh?) I discovered an extra visitor in our nativity scene.

 

 
 
How did the chocolate Santa get there?

I found another notable nativity scene this year in Cape May, New Jersey. I wanted to take a picture because it seemed so big and complete.

 

 

 

It was more than complete. If you take a close look inside the stable door, my reflection appeared in the photograph, too.

My kids’ response: “Gee, I didn’t think you were THAT old.”  

What doesn’t get old, though, is enjoying these traditional nativity scenes to remind me just what Christmas is all about. God with us, in infant form, to give us hope in a sometimes messy world. Even today, more than 2,000 years later, it’s still a messy world. It helps to peek through the stable door and remember the hope I found in the form of an infant bundle.  

Now that’s even better than a chocolate Santa.

 

 

Friday, January 9, 2015

New Year's Resolution...Resolved

Another new year, another new year’s resolution to lose weight.

I penned this line ten years ago for the first time and almost every January 1st since.

Wow, ten years…? Good thing God is patient. Finally I see differently.

God doesn’t want another new year’s resolution. It’s just my made-up way to perform so I feel like I am pleasing Him. No, God already loves me and is pleased with me (most of the time, at least). However, God does want me to have discipline and in that regard I know taking care of my health and weight are important. But they are not to be the gods of themselves. God is to be the God of Himself. This means God is to be my priority and focus, and practicing discipline in eating can result from having God first.

What does this look like?

Take this morning for instance.

I worked out for a half hour. Check. Then came breakfast. I measured and wrote down my Weight Watchers’ allotment for the day. Check. I packed a baggie of veggies and a bottle of water to have later this morning. Check. Most importantly, though, I sat down and read my Bible, prayed, and gave myself time to be still in God’s presence before I left the house. Check. Check. Check.

Spending time with God is my key to weight loss. It’s how I can know God loves me and has plans for me. It’s the boost to my health, not just spiritual, but my physical and emotional health, too.

How do I know this is important? I recited a memory verse I hadn’t thought about in months:

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will always provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

This verse has been my lifeline for many years and is familiar to me. But today I noticed the next verse, too. Check it out:

1 Corinthians 10:14 (NIV)
“Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry.”

To me, it was a way of God telling me to make sure my goal of losing weight itself doesn’t become more important than Him. To make sure the Weight Watcher plan isn’t an idol. To make sure my exercise program isn’t an idol. To make sure my own new year’s resolution doesn’t become an idol.

The first and second of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 speak about worshipping only God. If these are the first two of the Ten Most Important Rules written by God Himself, I must have to pay attention, huh? When I am worshipping God, my obedience to Him in discipline and self-control can then follow naturally. It’s not about the “after” photo, it’s about the “after” life. Life with God in eternity where I want to hear Him say “Well done, Lisa.”

Headed to the coffee shop, I knew in advance I'd order only coffee. Those muffins and cookies wouldn’t be a problem for me. At least not for today.
 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

God's Word at Christmas



Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

I still remember chanting this line during my elementary school years. Interesting defense, but it doesn’t work. It’s a lie.

Words can hurt me.

Words can also heal me.

Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, a man name Isaiah prophesied the first Christmas.

Isaiah 7:14
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Immanuel. It’s a Hebrew word which means “God with us.”

Imagine that. GOD with us?!

We’re talking about God here, not a celebrity, not a top dog in a business organization, not a sports-team owner, not a major scientist or Nobel Peace Prize winner. We’re talking about the Almighty God, the Creator of the world, who chooses to be with us.

And how about the preposition “with”? God WITH us.

“With”…in the middle of, among, alongside. Not above, around, behind, before. God sent Jesus to be with us. God’s presence is with us in the middle of the messes, the joys, the funny slices of life, the scary nights.

And how special to know God wants to be with US. You and me, personally, one on one.
No matter what kind of month we had, what kind of year it is, whether we are joyful or sad or hopeful or afraid, God chooses to be with us.

Now that’s the best Christmas present of all.

Words do matter.

Luke 2:16
“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.”

Yup, that’s a pretty good line right there.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Letting Go at Christmas



It’s the weekend before the big news. My son applied to Princeton and his early-decision response should arrive next week.

Yes, he’s qualified. The boy is not only insanely intelligent, but bright, sensitive, loving and thoughtful too. But Princeton has more than my son’s personality and abilities to consider. They have a school to fill; a student roster to generate; a package of incoming freshmen which will add credibility, talent and diversity to their university package.

Regardless of Alex’s statistics, there is a randomness to whether he will be selected.

This is where I need to trust God.

I believe God already knows where Alex should spend his college years. I believe God knows who Alex will meet, what Alex will learn, and how Alex will experience his young adult years. I believe it’s not only the education which makes a school special, but the relationships developed, the freedom to explore and the environment to grow as a young adult which factor into choosing the right college.

While I sit on my hands waiting impatiently for results, I believe God has Alex’s plans for good.

Maybe it’s hard to grasp this belief all the way to the core of my being, but I will write and say and read it until I get it.

I’m excited for him but know there’s a bottomless well of tears ready to flood the uncertainties and pain of letting go I need to experience as a Mom.

This is why, during this year’s Christmas season, I wonder what Mary, the mother of Jesus was thinking.

She is the rock star of letting go.

The Bible says she ‘treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’ when the wise men and shepherds visited. I get that. As a woman and a Mom, I notice things which at times amaze me. All I can do is package up the experience and treasure it, like a personal Christmas gift.

I also get the fact that Mary, in her last stages of pregnancy and the start of labor, wanted an actual room to stay in, not an animal manger. Was she annoyed about the lack of reservations being made by the oh-so-godly husband of hers? They certainly could have enjoyed a nice bed and breakfast with perhaps a birthing room and midwife to help, but instead roomed in a stable with animals and a straw bed. But she had to let go of those desires, too.

Instead, she treasured up these things in her heart. The blessings. The fact that she knew, deep down, there was a bigger experience going on when her little boy was born. He was going to be the Savior of the world.

Now this is a version of letting go I can aspire to.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Diving into Christmas

Every Christmas season, I dive into a new book or devotional to discover more deeply the meaning of Jesus being sent to earth for me. This year, I am guided by Ann Voskamp's new book "The Greatest Gift" and it already feels as if there’s a new depth to the diving. There’s always fear, though, when it comes to diving. I fear falling in and I fear not being able to get out. I’m reminded of an article I wrote about a fear I experienced in childhood, shared below. This is the way I want to experience Christmas this year, fears and all.

Heights of Fear

Parents trickled into the cavernous room, immediately overwhelmed by the stench of chlorine and oppressive humidity. Dissonant sounds of unclear origin echoed the children’s pounding hearts as they lined up against the gray cement wall on the far side. Moms searched the line for their own children, sending reassurance with a wave and a forced smile. The adults continued to methodically fill the metal bleachers while the swim coaches entered, quietly reminding the children of the basics taught over the past eight weeks. Meanwhile, the high dive platform projected its majestic presence thirty feet up, commanding acknowledgement from its royal subjects.

Staring down at the pattern of tiny gray tiles under my pudgy bare feet, I tugged at my white rubber cap again, wondering how to make the ominous white platform disappear. The muddled sounds of the coach’s voice reminded me to glance up at her lips to glean a word or two of the instructions she was giving. I couldn’t wear my hearing aids in the pool since they couldn’t get wet. Goosebumps and the knotted pit in my gut accompanied my walk along the slippery poolside plank as I waited my turn for the final requirement to finish my swim class. I didn’t want to look up as the first kid tentatively climbed the ladder to his fate at the top. I couldn’t help peeking though; I held my breath for him as he climbed and climbed and climbed some more; then skipped forward off the board to make the dreaded descent. Thwomp. It was a loud landing into the dark descent of the deep water, even to my ears. I bet it hurt. I continued to hold my breath, shivering, until I saw his dark shadow moving closer and closer to the surface of the water. He doggie paddled his way to the side of the pool and climbed out. I exhaled.

After what seemed like an eternity, it was my turn. I stood at the bottom of the ladder looking up, wondering if it reached heaven. Taking a deep breath, I started to climb slowly, keeping my focus straight ahead. I didn’t even want to try to see if my mom noticed me from the bleachers because it meant I had to look somewhere else. One-two-three. I’ll just count my way up there. Four-five-six. Taking my time, I considered going down instead of up again. Seven-eight-nine. The goosebumps and pit in my stomach were now accompanied by the fact that I couldn’t breathe. Inhale, exhale. Ten-eleven-twelve. Inhale, exhale. Thirty four- thirty five- thirty six. I was at the top. The grit of the board scratched the bottom of my feet as I took tiny steps forward to reach the end. There were a couple more steps to take and I stopped and peeked. All I could see was a black square of motion down there, and it didn’t look big enough to catch me.

Time froze; bile caught in the back of my throat, threatening to give me a new way to embarrass myself in front of other people. I swallowed. I slid my right foot forward; dragged my left foot to meet it. I did it again. Oh God I can’t do this. Will I die now? One more step to go. At the end of the board, I knew I had to move fast or freak out, big time. I sucked in a short breath and jumped forward. I don’t know if the screaming was in my head or out of my mouth but it was all I could hear. Falling falling falling until I slammed into a cold wet wall. That hurt. Flailing, I sank sank sank for what seemed like another eternity. My chest tightened with fear, my nose flooded with pool water. At last, I stopped sinking and was still. Silence surrounded me; isolated me; threatened me.
Motivated by my need to get out of there, I finally remembered to move my arms and legs. My chest tightened more. Blowing out through my nose, bubbles tickled my cheeks as they swam to the surface faster than I ever could. I followed the bubbles up the water. Swim swim swim. Swim some more. My arms got heavier but I moved them anyway. The light from the top of the water started to get brighter. I swam some more. Breaking through the wet ceiling, I sucked in air while I kicked my way to the side of the pool. My chest was still heaving as I grabbed the ladder and climbed out. Dripping, I looked in the bleachers for my mom. I took a few steps and finally saw her frantically waving from the sea of parents. I walked the slippery path back to the group of kids in my class to join the land of the living.


Today, I understand how the jump off the high dive was a critical turning point in learning how to trust. No matter how many swim lessons I had, there was a level of trust beyond my understanding which propelled my jump. To trust the God of heaven to love me so much to send His Son—for ME!--is a jump into overwhelming love which I hope catches me each time I fall.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sunrise at the Beach

It was the last day of the 16th birthday bash for my daughter and her two friends. This was the second year of their tradition to go away together to celebrate. Last year, they went to a cabin house in the woods, but this year’s setting was the Jersey shore. A perfect ending to a perfect weekend would be to see the sun rise on the beach.

The girls plotted their morning wake-up plan using their cellphones as alarms. My own body clock turned out to be more effective. I woke up at 6 and after throwing on my sweats and an extra sweatshirt on top of my pajamas, I walked into the girls’ bedroom where their three bodies morphed as if they suddenly fell asleep playing Twister. I shook them awake, offering them the option to stay asleep. Not happening. They got up, brushed their teeth, found their sweats, hats, scarves and gloves while shuffling to the living room for their shoes. Within minutes, they were ready. It was only two blocks away, but we loaded up in the car and drove to the beach entrance, saving as much time as possible so we could beat the sun’s appearance over the horizon. The girls bounced out of the car and hurried up the wooden ramp to the beach entrance.

At the end of the ramp, we stood silently, just staring. The ocean danced ferociously under the expanse of a glorious sky painted with bold varieties of oranges, pinks, blues and greens. Breathtaking. The wind threatened to take our hats and scarves but we held on tighter and after a few minutes decided to forge ahead to the water’s edge. I snapped photo after photo hoping to capture the sunrise at the precise postcard-perfect moment when it peeked through. I found myself thinking about life and friendship and God and love while watching the trio of young ladies move ahead. Within moments, the colorful sky brightened, as if a God-sized light switch was flipped and suddenly we saw it. The sun blazed its appearance at the edge of the horizon.

The girls wrapped their arms together and, together, received.

I began a silent prayer:

God, you’re showing off for these girls, aren’t you? Thank you, God. Thank you, too, for the chance to spend time with them this weekend. This sunrise is the perfect show of what you have for them. Bless them, God. Be with them always. And thank you for loving them.



Then I cried.

God was showing off for me, too.




Friday, September 12, 2014

Hearing from God

I wear two hearing aids. Seems like yesterday when I got my first one at the age of five. Suddenly, the refrigerator didn’t hum in the background anymore, it roared. Car engines became airplane engines. I even heard my mom call me from the other room. And the toilet flushing? I thought a tidal flood came through our little bathroom.

I didn’t know what I didn’t hear until I heard it.

It’s the same with God.

Really?

Could I actually hear something? Well, it’s God, so I imagine a choir of a gazillion angels or the clanging of a huge bell or perhaps the thunderous sound of a voice which shakes the ground I’m standing on. Or perhaps there’s no sound at all.

As a hearing aid wearer, the best way to “hear” things is to read them. I agree, God could help me to hear despite my hearing aids. But I’ve always lacked confidence in my ability to hear clearly, and reading the closed-captioning on the TV helps. My aids are much more high-tech than they used to be so I can skip the words on the TV most of the time, but hearing from God is still a tough concept. The Bible, however, is the ultimate in closed-captioning. Messages are written just for me.





Earlier this year, I experienced a spiritual rut when I was less sure than usual of God’s plans in my life (aren’t we all?) I found my prayers shifting to a passionless recitation of familiar words which were on my mind but not in my heart. I basically felt abandoned by God because, well, feeling ignored is a familiar “button” for me, and I wasn’t connecting with God in the busy schedule of my routine.

I attended the Beth Moore event in May of this year…solo. I was able to pick a seat from the general seating area by myself. Each of the chairs had a hand-written bible verse on an index card meant for the person occupying it.

My verse was Psalms 9:10:
“Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

I looked up a definition of “forsaken.” It means abandoned.

I heard the message, loud and clear.


I’d love to hear your stories: how has God spoken to you through Scriptures?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

First Day of School



The cool breeze suggested the beginning of Fall but the calendar read August 25th---still summer. Regardless of the season, the first day of school arrived again.

My daughter, now a sophomore, bounded down the stairs, the slight scent of powder trailing her. She looked at herself in the mirror, smoothed a couple stray hairs and adjusted her blouse. She then turned, peeked over her shoulder to check the final view from the back, and smiled. Satisfied, she joined me in the kitchen.

“Good morning, precious!”

“Morning, Mom!”

“How are you?”

“I’m okay, thanks. Except I’m a little nervous about the new building. It might be tough to find my way around.”

“I understand,” I said.

More than thirty years have passed since I started my sophomore year in high school. How odd to remember the details to this day. I wore a blue uniform, and remember checking from the back to make sure my blouse collar was laying properly, my socks pulled up, my hair smoothed down.

My young man, now a high school senior, walked down the stairs a few minutes later. Confident and calm, he no longer resembled the little boy I used to escort to the bus stop.

“You ready to take it on?” I asked.

“Yup!” he said.

After breakfast, they each posed for the obligatory first-day-of-school photo. They know to stand in front of the door, so I can see how tall they’ve grown since last year. The photo tradition gives me a chance to capture the moment, hoping to make it stand still. Tears threatened, but I held off. My chickadees hadn’t left the house yet.

“Time to go,” I said. “Let’s put on the armor of God, okay?”

We had been reciting our personal version of Ephesians 6 since my son started Kindergarten.

“Thank you, Lord, that you give us the belt of truth…”

And we go through the hand motions putting on our invisible belts.

“And for the breastplate of righteousness…”

Hand-motions to strap on a chest plate.

“…and our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

Hand motions to tie on our shoes.

“Thank you, Lord, for our helmet of salvation, and the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Strap under the chin, then left arm bent at the elbow and lifted up to hold the shield.

“…And for the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

Right arm wielding a sword, ready to take it on.

And my two young adults walked out the door, stepping out of this momma’s nest to fly.

Letting go is not natural, but necessary.

I cried. The first day of school gets me every time. I think I need a box of tissues to go along with the armor.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Smoke Break

Today, I watched as an employee at a local retail store took a well-deserved smoke break on a bench just outside the front doors. She was disengaged from the busyness around her, enjoying the breezy afternoon with just enough sun to be comfortable. With each puff, she seemed to take in a dose of stillness. She seemed so…calm.

I’m old enough to remember the days when it was normal for businesses to allocate time for their employees to take a “smoke break” as one of the company benefits. Smoking was all the rage, but only the cool people smoked, and I certainly wanted to be cool.

Remember the Marlboro Man?




Okay, I admit I tried smoking back when I was a teenager (sorry, Mom) but didn’t like it very much. Thankfully, it’s not a habit which interested me. As a result, you may consider me odd but I looked up “how to smoke” on Google. (Ironically, my teenage daughter caught me and seemed wary of my excuse that it was blog research. But that’s another story.)

I’m thinking I want this sense of…calm…when I’m praying.

The Google smoking instructions contained five basic steps:

1) Flame
Obviously, lighting up requires well, a light. Fire is required for smoke.

So many times I am pushed to the limit with feeling out of control in my life that a touch of heat…a flame…a scorch of awareness…is all I need to remember God is really the one in control. It’s a good way to get started in prayer.

2) Inhale a Little
The instructions mentioned it best to inhale just a little bit of smoke, slowly, so as to avoid singeing your throat, and to give yourself a chance to taste the cigarette.

Taking in only a little of the Bible at a time helps me to get a deeper sense of what God wants to say. Recently, I have been reading the book of Proverbs, one chapter at a time, and then selected a single verse in that chapter for reflection. I am able to apply that one verse more tastefully than if I simply sucked in the entire chapter.

3) Hold
The next step is to hold some of the smoke in your mouth, for enjoyment.

Reminding myself of the single verse at various times during the day gave me a chance to savor the lesson. The other day, Proverbs verse reminded me to “guard my heart” and it helped me stay calm when I felt overwhelmed about preparing for my schedule the following day.

4) Inhale Further
Next, the smoke is to be inhaled all the way down to the lungs.

Sometimes, the message I learned the day before (such as the “guard my heart” reminder) needs to get deep into my being. I decided to dwell on it for the next couple days as well. It made a difference.

5) Let Go
Finally, there are various ways to demonstrate your “coolness” by the stylistic way to let go and blow out the smoke.

For me, this means to let go of what I think I can control and simply breathe out my own efforts to let God work instead.

Thinking through these steps, I inhaled a dose of peace instead of tobacco. Drew in some stillness. Exhaled some stress. When I returned to my work later that day, I was more productive and energized.

And I was as cool as the Marlboro Man.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Connections

I had an interesting perspective at Beth Moore's Living Proof Live conference back in May. My special seats afforded me a clear view of wires. Lots of them.



Can you see the two thick bunches of cables coming down from the ceiling? There must have been at least three dozen individual cords in each bunch. Each of the cable ropes connected up to the ceiling, and then fed into the blue cage. You can track the cage across the arena ceiling at the top of the photo. The cage then opened just above the center stage, where the ropes were freed. The ropes then dangled to the stage and were plugged in somewhere below the stage.

Who, I wondered, is in charge of making sure everything is connected? Looking to my right, I found this guy.



Okay, there’s always someone behind the scenes, right? We know he’s done a great job only when we manage to forget he’s even there.

Prayers are a familiar go-to response when life goes poorly. Kind of like when one of the wires gets unplugged.

But what about when life goes well? Could I still remember who’s behind the scenes, keeping all the cables connected properly?

I woke up. Early. God did that.

I have a bed to sleep in. Comfy. God did that.

I have food in my fridge. Plenty. God did that.

I received another annual “we analyzed your mammogram results and there is nothing wrong” letter. Relieved. God did that.

My husband is the love of my life and best friend. Always. God did that.

My children continue to bless my life. Abundantly. God did that.

I can read the Bible. Anytime. God did that.

I can pray and connect with God. Again.

God always does a great job behind the scenes. Even when I’ve forgotten He is there.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cleaning the Inside

Any fellow coffee lovers out there? Like you, I’m constantly on the search for the perfect cup of coffee, every time. About a year ago, I rediscovered the beauty of the electric percolator…you know, the kind my parents used when I was young. I enjoy the traditional drip coffee makers and also the Keurig single-cup appliances, but when a friend gave me a cup of coffee made in her percolator, I was hooked. My coffeepot was on its last leg, and when it died, my next model was shiny and silver.



After a year of using my percolator, day after day, sometimes twice a day, the inside was—ahem—black. My coffee, like my heart and the words that come out of my mouth, can get bitter with long-time residue left unattended.

It was time to clean the inside.

The tiny quarter-sized well at the bottom of my percolator was impossible to reach, let alone clean. Yes, I tried scrubbing. But as with most coffee makers, the stains became permanent. I considered a popular vinegar method to clean it but was skeptical because I didn’t want the taste of vinegar mixing with my beloved cup of coffee.

Then I tried another method: the dishwasher soap method. I took a dishwasher tablet, placed it in the pot, added boiling water to the top and let it sit for a half hour. The coffee stains practically removed themselves from the inside of the pot and my coffee tastes delicious again. The reason my coffeepot is sparkly clean now is not because of my efforts, but because of what I used to clean it.



This reminds me of the bible verse where Jesus speaks to the Pharisees about cleaning the outside of the cup and dish, not the inside.
Matthew 23:25-26
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

I am making efforts to clean my attitude about eating healthy---again. I am always making these efforts. But the question is:

What am I using as my cleaning product?

The only thing that works…the only thing that EVER worked…is daily prayer. It’s the ultimate dishwasher tablet. Not Dawn, not Cascade, but Prayer. The residue of life’s leftover gunk in my heart practically removes itself when I do this. My heart, like my coffee, becomes better, not bitter.

What’s your version of the ultimate cleaning product?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Pound Cake Prayers

In my prayers the other day, I started by asking God for help in managing my food choices. Again. God can and will help me with this, I know. I’m using food as a drug to avoid difficult emotions. Yes, I’m aware of this. Yes, I still do it. And so I pray again.

God, I know you can help me deal with food these days. Help me to eat healthier and make better choices. Thank you in advance for being there for me. Oh, and help me not to eat the batter for the pound cake I’m about to make.

I make a mean chocolate cake, smooth butter cookies, crisp pizzelles and to-die-for anise biscotti. Nana would approve with a smile, a hug, and a cup of espresso to go with the cookies. But pound cake? Its secrets to baked perfection elude me.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are special techniques to pound cake. Room temperature ingredients. Measure properly. Beat the batter for no less than twenty minutes. Check the oven temperature. I reread the page of scribbled notes I took while watching my mom bake yet another perfect pound cake. And I followed my notes and special techniques perfectly.

Raw.



Time to try those prayers again. Time to get raw. What is it I really want to say? I heard it suggested to sit still long enough as if a butterfly could land on my shoulder. And so I sat. And sat.

God, I don’t know if I really want to stop eating. The food helps me to deal with life, y’know? I’m stressed about my daughter’s headache today. I don’t want to panic or overthink it, but is she okay?

Is it okay that I’m afraid sometimes?

I want to let go and let You be in charge. I’ve taken care of myself and everyone else for that matter for so long that I don’t know how to let go.

What about my son’s college plans? Will he make the right choices? Will he get in? What about the finances?

What about my husband’s health? Will he stay stable?

What about my schedule? Am I doing too much? Too little? Am I good enough? Do you love me? Do you even hear me? How do I know you’re here, God?


Maybe, just maybe, the pound cake didn’t turn out to help me avoid eating it.
Raw. Perfect for prayers, not for pound cake.

How do you get raw with God?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summertime Gifts

Summer break brings a smile to most school-age children, but for us moms, it can elicit a sigh or two. Sure, we enjoy our children. Sure, we want to spend more time with them. The total lack of structure, however, makes this—ahem—difficult. No wonder so many summer camps are filled to maximum capacity. Yes, I know, those camps are (and I quote) “educational.” Educational or not, I feel those camps are a gift for us parents, so we can have some form of structure. Please, give me a schedule, a plan, some type of order—anything.

My children are teenagers now, but when they were younger, I found the summer slowdown an ideal way to get to know them more. I believe we are all born with unique talents as a gift from God, and one of my favorite responsibilities as a mom is to discover those talents in my children. I’d set us up on the back patio with some chalk, bubbles and a garden hose, and soon their preferences became evident.

My daughter loved to try new things and didn’t mind getting messy or wet. She’d spend hours on extra-large sidewalk drawings evidencing the colorful world in her imagination.

When my son tried something new, he usually preferred to do it over and over until he figured out how it worked. We once had an extra-large bubble-wand-thingy and he spent the entire afternoon figuring out how long the bubbles took to pop.

The toughest thing to juggle then was figuring out how to get my house chores done, too.

This summer, we are juggling my son’s part-time job, my daughter’s two volunteer gigs, and my own part-time job. When my daughter and her friend offered their services to clean my house, of course my answer was a resounding “yes!” This is a new way to get house chores done, I’ve learned.

Two and a half hours later, my daughter and her friend presented me with the sparkling list checked off and finished to perfection. Their organization, energy, competitiveness and joy shone through the wiping, mopping and scrubbing. I discovered more of my daughter’s talents again, along with those of her friend. I noticed their passion for life, their work ethic and their willingness to help. My summertime sigh was converted a summertime smile. What a gift.



How do you set up a sense of structure for your summer? And what are the gifts and talents you’ve discovered in your children?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Slowdown and Slurpees


Ahhh. The first week of June and summer is not only on the calendar for this month, but on my mind. There’s something about switching to June that reminds me to Slow. Down. Whatever happened to the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer?”

I scheduled them.

No more lazy, hazy or crazy allowed. All it takes is a slight touch on a phone and voila! Life is booked. Overbooked, in fact.

When I was a kid, summer meant slowing down. Only then could I enjoy playing with an old chunk of white chalk and draw a masterpiece on the sidewalk, then use the hose to wash it away. I’d enjoy time with a bunch of neighborhood friends where we’d play freeze tag at the parking lot down the street where more neighborhood kids would join in. We’d walk around to the back driveway and grab our bikes to take a ride around the block. We’d play hairdresser and try new styles on each other. We’d ask our moms for some balloons and fill them with water for a short-lived balloon toss game. Then maybe we’d go to the 7-11 down the street for a Cola Slurpee and get brain freeze while drinking it on the walk home. The only way to thoroughly savor a Slurpee to the last drop is to drink it slowly. There’s no slurping a Slurpee.

Today, summer means figuring out the schedule for my teenagers, husband and myself. Driving to and back from appointments, work, volunteer gigs. It’s a good season, though, and I plan to watch for 25 mph speed signs and slow down enough to enjoy the ride. Just like a Cola Slurpee.

How do you plan to slow down this summer?