What Not To Do The Night Before Vacation

Nothing bonds and relaxes our family more than a vacation. We all turn it down a few notches. We sleep more, read more, talk more and play more together. The kids fight less, I cook less and Mark is on the computer less. It’s bliss and I live for these trips together.

The only part I dislike is getting ready for them.

We recently returned from a trip to Florida. The night before we left, our daughter Anastasia, had a swim meet. Weeks before I had promised her that we could still make the meet. I would work extra hard to get the packing done so we could leave for the meet with the suitcases packed and all we had to do after it was sleep, shower and head out the next day.

As you can imagine, life didn’t work out that way. I underestimated my “to do” list and overestimated the time I had to do it in.

Our pet sitter needed to stay a few nights at our house so I wanted to do deep cleaning of the house. However, my ADHD often goes in hyper drive when I clean. There is always so much to distract me from what needs doing.

The night of the swim meet was no different. I had just finished cleaning our tub and decided to clean the drain. I turned the water on full force to speed the process.

Squirrel! We’re late!! I better get Anastasia going!!

Six hours later we returned from the swim meet. Anastasia headed downstairs to hang up her towel. “Ew…it’s wet down here.”

Aw man! Did one of the dogs wet the floor. That’s ALL I need right now.

I headed downstairst to assess the damage when my foot steps on the carpet and is immediately covered with water. “The tub…I left it running!!! #$@!*&%$#” (I’m pretty sure that’s how you spell it.) Two inches of water covered the entire downstairs.

The next hours were spent moving all our furniture and belongings from the downstairs to the upstairs, calling a restoration crew and then finishing the packing at 2:00 in the morning.

Everyone worked together and no one complained – well, except for me. I was beating myself up, “What an idiot! What was I thinking? I need more margin in my life. I’m sooo sorry…”

I’ve heard it said that one of the tests of someone’s character is how they react in stressful situations. I’ve gotta say, my husband and kids have great character. This flood was the last thing we needed before leaving town. Not to mention that it the insurance deductible took a big chunk out of our play money. But no one pointed that out.

I share all this, not to brag on my family (although I am J). Mark remained calm and didn’t get angry at me for making a stupid mistake and this helped me to move beyond it. Beating myself up would not make it better but only drain me of energy – energy that was needed to move furniture that night too!

Being on the receiving line of Mark’s grace was a gift and it reminded me that I need to keep my pointer finger on my hand and not in someone else’s face. So the next time one of my kids feeds the dog the rest of their taco and then forgets to let them out or when Mark balls up his sweaty clothes and leaves them under our bed for a couple of weeks – instead of pointing a finger, I’ll use them instead to help clean up the mess.

Jesus seldom used his fingers to point blame. Instead He used them to help, hug, heal and to show the way.

When others screw up around you, what is your natural response?

Have you ever been on the receiving end of grace from another?



I Too Have Pre-teen ‘Tude

Family bike rides are similar to a toddler’s birthday party. They can be fun and filled with great memories, or they can be a disaster with random family members melting down in the middle of it. Unfortunately, you never know which one you’re going to get – you’re in the middle of it and it’s too late to turn back.

We had great weather in Boise yesterday so we decided to attempt a long bike ride with the kids. Our plan was to bike out so many miles, stop, eat lunch and give everyone a break and then return home. Fortunately our kids have outgrown toddler meltdowns but we’re heading full swing into the pre-teen moodiness and know-it-all phase.

Oh mercy!

Mark led the way, followed by Noah and Anastasia with me bringing up the rear (I’m trying hard to be mature and ignore the many uses of a pun here). Noah began to fall behind (oh the potential puns). His legs were spinning fast but producing little speed.

I pedaled up next to him and noticed he was in the wrong gear. “Hey buddy, if you change to your bigger ring, you’ll be able to go faster.”

“No. I don’t need to – I’m doing fine here.”

Okay, maybe I didn’t explain it well.

“The gear you are in now is better for going up hill. We are on flat pavement so a bigger gear will make it easier for you.”

“Nope – that one hurts my legs.”

Our banter went back and forth and we continued to fall further behind Mark and Anastasia. They eventually stopped and waited for us and when Mark heard our debate, he too tried to convince Noah.

After a while we succeeded but I was on the verge of a toddler-like meltdown myself.

Why must he challenge me on everything?!

Later that night I was praying for guidance on how to handle this new “don’t tell me how to live my life” ‘tude that has invaded my awesome little dude. I was in the middle of blaming it on his father when it hit me; I do the same with God.

How many times has He tried to give me instruction and I blow Him off, “No thanks. I’m comfortable where I am”?

At times He’s directing me to a bigger gear and to me bigger often sounds harder. But if I’d only listen and obey, it wouldn’t take long for me to discover I’d accomplish more with less effort – the same way Noah went faster with fewer pedal strokes once he changed gears.

It’s not always easy to accept the advice or give up control. But, when it comes from a loving and all-knowing God (not to be confused with know-it-all), it will always be in our favor to do so.

How about you, is it is easy for you to receive correction from others or God?

Do you ever give the pre-teen “tude” to God’s direction in your life?





Why Can’t I Sleep?

My energy was low the other day due to not sleeping well. Why do our problems and concerns seem to magnify at night?

I woke up at 2:00 a.m. and began thinking about an issue involving our 11-year-old son Noah. It was nothing major, just some ongoing growing pains with our tweener. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to worry, feeding the issue and before long, it grew to Noah dropping out of school and making license tags behind bars with “mom” tattoo on his arm under a skull with crossbones.

I finally fell asleep and when I awoke in the morning, it all seemed frivolous but it had left me robbed of much needed sleep and an unproductive day.

Pete Wilson’s new book Empty Promises, shares how the ancient Hebrew mindset saw the beginning of the day starting at sunset. Even in the Creation Story in Genesis 1 illustrates this, “Evening came and then morning – that was the first day.”

He points out that our culture sees the beginning of the day at sunrise, the time that we begin doing. However, based on the Creation story, it appears God sees the beginning of the day when we’re resting and He’s on watch.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that we’re in the middle of a sleep-deprived epidemic. We pop pills to go to sleep and chug expensive drinks to stay awake the following day.

I’m not a good sleeper and after my sleepless nights, I’m a walking zombie, failing to emotionally connect with people or God.

“Uh mom, you haven’t blinked in 5 minutes.”

“Oh, sorry! I must have dozed off with my eyes opened.”

There are many theories to our struggle to sleep – artificial light, diet, lack of exercise/movement, too much screen time, hormones, etc. – and I’m guessing most of these theories are true. But I fall asleep okay; it’s the middle of the night and my worry-athons that steal my slumber.

I began to wonder if Pete has a point – am I invading God’s watch? If He is my refuge, my place of safety, why can’t I rest? Perhaps I’m preparing for the day a little too late by waiting until sunrise to put on my spiritual armor.

When I was a missionary in Russia, I went through a period where I had reoccurring nightmares. An older member of my team believed it to be spiritual in nature.

She advised me to pray on God’s armor (Ephesians 6:10), not just in the morning but also at night (the beginning of the Hebrew day). She shared, “Satan will have a hay day with your mind when you sleep unless you cover it with prayer.”

I was reminded of this after reading Empty Promises. Last night, before I went to sleep, I prayed on God’s armor. At 2:00 I woke up again, but instead of worrying, I passed my concerns back to God and thanked Him for keeping watch over us.

You know what, I slept the rest of the night. Thank God He’s got my back.

Do you struggle with sleep?

How do you handle anxious thoughts at night?



Never Judge a Person by Their Cover

This past week I worked at a conference hosting a booth with many of our books. People from all walks of life visited our table and it was interesting to see the different responses, especially to two of our books that are political in nature. One in particular, The Presidents and Their Faith, stimulated much talk on the faith of our current president, some harsh and some loving.

One gentleman approached the table and snidely said, “Well, well, the faith of the presidents. I want to know what you have to say about our present one.”

He picked up the book and began scanning the last chapter. His conservative dress, cropped hair and the sarcastic tone in his voice quickly told me what he believed.

I was a bit nervous – was this opinionated, loud-talking man going to make a scene? It was near the end of the conference and I was a bit “people-out”. I didn’t have it in me to politely listen and keep eye contact without rolling them.

He closed the book and the judgmental scowl on his face disappeared, “You know, I have a problem with anger. God’s really working on me with it.”

Within seconds he went from bitterness to humility. His critical words transformed into wisdom and love.

He began sharing how he’s doing a study on anger and how he believes many of the teenage runaways and drug problems are due to parents like him who respond to their kids’ quirks in anger or frustrated tones.

As he spoke I went from resisting him to receiving the message God gave him.

God spoke to me. I too had a judgmental spirit. I had jumped to label my new friend as small-minded with nothing to offer. In reality, he is a humble man, with an anger problem, who is proactively working with God on it and sharing his testimony to help others.

Later that night, my sister and I talked about this gentleman. His message had impacted us both. If I had of met him elsewhere, and based upon my premature judgments, I’d probably have mentioned something about being scheduled for an organ transplant and politely excuse myself the moment his banter began.

But…I would have missed God’s message – one I needed to hear.

Working behind a table kept me there that day but it made me wonder how many other stories and lessons I may have missed because I judged the person by first impressions. Being in the publishing business you would think that I’d know better than to judge a book by it’s cover.

Have you ever judged someone by first impressions only to discover a treasure inside them later?

Has God shown you any similar lessons that you’d like to share?










Neighborly Love

I enjoy yard work but loathe it when using cheap equipment and unfortunately that describes our lawn mower. It’s an old electric one with a dying battery that struggles to cut our tiny front yard before petering out.

A couple of weeks ago, Mark was out of town and I was trying to knock out cutting the grass before heading to a cookout. I tried a new technique of cutting the thicker, shaded areas first in hopes of having enough battery power to get me through the thinner, sun-scorched grass.

It didn’t work.

In fact, it left a horrible design on the yard that looked as if I had consumed a full bottle of wine on an empty stomach and then proceeded to cut it blindfolded.

Frustrated, I pushed and kicked at the motor, “You stupid piece of equipment!” (Okay, it was actually more colorful but I don’t want to pull you down with me here.)

The kids were sweeping as I was worked and Anastasia asked me, “Are you going to leave the grass like that?”

I had no power and no choice. “Yep. Let your father deal with it when he gets back.”

Yep, I was modeling mature behavior to the kids.

We headed in to shower and get ready for the party. A while later, as I pulled out of our garage, I see my next-door neighbor, Neil, cutting my front yard! He smiled and waved.

I jumped out of the car, “You’re the best neighbor ever!”

He laughed, “I figured you ran out of battery. I was on my way to cut Brenda’s. I just finish this up for you.” (Brenda is a widow, who lost her college age son in a car crash this year.)

This past weekend we had some water issues. I heard a strange noise out front and what do you know, it was Neil with a water vac, helping Mark and a friend clean it up.

Later that day I was working in a flowerbed and overheard him talking on the phone. He was helping someone figure out a computer problem.

As I continued working I began thinking about the many ways Neil has made our lives better. He’s always working on a project but he’ll drop it in a second to help out one of his neighbors.

Jesus summed up the God’s law telling us to love God and love our neighbor.

My days may be consumed serving at home and work but God reminded me this weekend to look outside with my serving –  to look around and cross the street.

Do you have any neighbor stories?

Is it harder for you to reach out to your neighbors than a stranger?