{ Substitute Babysitter }

The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.

Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.

So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.

First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.

Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.

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I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.

“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.

Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:

“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”

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As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:

“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”

It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.

When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.

But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.

I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.

I had run around barefoot in the backyard.

I had read books and given hugs.

I had learned their names and the house rules.

And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.

That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.

(c) Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credits:

Country Scene — Julian Schöll

Books — Robyn Budlender

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{ My Psalm 34 }

I will choose to praise God – all the time.

He will be at the center of my words, my whims, and my ways.

My soul is clean because He washed it. Anyone who feels low, or dirty or discouraged– take heart! My God can be yours, too.

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Join me in a standing ovation for God!  Applauding, dancing and shouting for joy is not enough!  I want to show everyone how huge, how powerful and how worthy God is!

He’s at the root of everything, and He is the maker of it all.

As for me…I constantly need direction, hope and help.

I often crave comfort, contentment and healing.

That’s when I go searching for God in my thoughts, my dreams and my prayers.

It’s as if He wants me to search for Him,

think about Him and

ask Him for every little thing.

Because when I search with all my heart, I find Him waiting there for me.

And He sends my fears flying.

My soul glows when I think of God– and I’m not ashamed that I need Him.

When I feel poor and needy and unloved, He hears me.

He saves me out of anxious thoughts and guides me out of self-made troubles.

His angels huddle protectively around me.

I will trust God on any pathway and through every valley.

He will always deliver me in His own perfect way.

 

Inspired by Psalm 34:1-7

© Lisa M. Luciano

Photo Credit:Matt Botsford

{What’s in Your Hand?}

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This is a wreath made from the abundance of healthy and aggressive wild cucumber vine that took over our yard last summer.

 

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘What is that in your hand?’” Exodus 4:2

When summer arrives, my children start thinking about making art projects for the County Fair.  Come rainy summer days, they pile crayons, markers and paints on a table and create potential first-prize-winning art.

Rather than load up a WalMart cart with manufactured foam shapes and fake gems, I try to encourage the young artists to forage around the backyard for art supplies.

In our “big outdoor art supply store”, they can glean grapevines, sticks, twigs and seed pods. They choose smooth rocks for painting and we grow birdhouse gourds that eventually become Mod Podge masterpieces.

When we create with these materials, at least we will know that — for better or worse — our projects will be unique.

After all, no one else could possibly bring the same oddly-shaped, wood-burned gourd studded with round pebbles to the County Fair.

Speaking of using what’s handy…let’s look at the life of Moses. When God chose Moses to approach Pharaoh, Moses objected. He doubted that he could persuade the king of Egypt of anything.

God asked Moses, “What is that in your hand?”  It was his shepherd’s staff– his familiar, occupational tool.

What power could an ordinary staff possibly hold? Yet, God eventually used it to confirm Moses’ prophetic message and showcase His own mighty acts!

We can also ask ourselves, “What do I have in MY hand?” What has God given me that I can use for my family’s needs?

What has God given me that I can use to help someone?  Bless someone?

When we put forth our everyday supplies (however ordinary they are) God seems to add something to them.  When we offer up ourselves and our humble assets, God can do amazing things!

 

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

 

{ If I Were a Rich Girl }

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Loosely written to the tune from Fiddler on the Roof…

If I were a rich girl,

Diddle, daddle doodle dadda dadda doo…

All day long I’d biddy boddy boo

If I were a wealthy girl.

 

Wouldn’t have to work hard,

Wouldn’t have to weed or scrub or lift that heavy load of clothes

If I were a biddy boddy rich, giggle gaggle gooda gadda girl.

 

I’d have no daily challenge wondering in the pantry,

“What can be made with these two cans?”

(Instead we’d eat the food that strangers make.)

 

I’d have a good supply of LP

And wouldn’t need to hang the clothes outside,

(And never smell the breeze on sheets again.)

 

We’d buy our kids the latest t-shirts and jeans,

And not even care about the price,

Forget about those bag sale / tag sale days.

(No more finding treasures on a rack.)

 

If I were a rich girl,

Diddle, daddle doodle dadda dadda doo…

All day long I’d biddy boddy boo

If I were a wealthy girl.

 

Wouldn’t have to work hard,

Wouldn’t have to weed or scrub or lift that heavy load of clothes

If I were a biddy boddy rich, giggle gaggle gooda gadda girl.

 

We’d frequent high-class black-tie dinners and galas

And full-price movies with popcorn,

(No more stuffing my purse with snacks from home.)

 

We’d go on airplane-flying family vacations

Without a thought about the fares

(No more of those fun and free so-called “field trips.”)

 

I wouldn’t be sitting here waiting for free wifi

At the parking lot in town

We’d have unlimited access back at home.

We’d have the internet 24 / 7 and could toss non-digital games

(No more Quelf, or my favorite – Taboo!)

 

Lord, who made the lion and the lamb,

You decreed I should be what I am,

Thanks for your delightful, sovereign plan,

I’m married to my love —  (a non-rich man.)

 

My sons came home yesterday from cleaning a 34,000 square foot new home.  They told me all about the features and benefits of this amazing living space.  It made my mind start exploring the features and benefits of NOT being rich.  I am content!

{ No-Complain Campaign}

complain2My son is looking forward to winter ( 😲 ) and he wanted to find out when the nearest ski hill opens.  He scrolled and browsed, and started laughing out loud. Turns out he was reading customer reviews from last year.  One said:

“…lines were too long and too many reserved spots at chalet tables.  Mentioned this to staff but they didn’t care; they already had our money.”

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It’s never funny when we are the ones complaining.  And, there is definitely a time to speak up and bring grievances effectively to the right people.

But if we could take a step back and see ourselves, our knee-jerk complaints can sound rather whiny.

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In our griping, we often:

  • Assign wicked and evil motives to those who have wronged us in some way
  • Build up small slights into mountain-sized offenses

Looking inward, I see at least one thing about which I have complained over the weekend.

I complained in thought and I complained twice to friends yesterday at church.

(But…I had a smile on my face and did it somewhat creatively so that perhaps it didn’t seem like I was grumbling?)

But I was.

People complain collectively about everything, from the weather to politics to jobs to  whatever. When we make a habit of griping at home, our children catch the wave and join in.

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Fussing, grumbling, and complaining are things we are trying to discourage here at home.

Instead, we are hoping that words like “thank you” become an almost involuntary response.  We would like to foster a daily regimen of gratefulness and promote an anti-moan-&-groan manifesto.

But how can that happen if Mama is (overtly or covertly) whining or moping about circumstances?

Some clear reminders for me today in God’s Word:

  • Do all things without grumbling or disputing. Philippians 2:14
  • Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. James 5:9
  • Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

Trying this week to advance a “no complain” campaign. Starting with the Mama in the mirror.

 

 

 

{ The Quintessence of Life}

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“Let’s process some quintessence!” –  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

Our lives are packed with sounds, sights, duties and desires.   If you are like me, each day ends with a sense that something didn’t get done. That something may be accomplished tomorrow, pushed off into next week or forgotten forever.

Besides this, the media is shouting at us to focus on the priorities of the current culture. As we consider, we are barraged with more noise.  With all the racket, it’s often easier to escape into our own world of Pinterest or gaming or…?

Have you ever wondered:

  • “Why do I feel like I’m busy all the time, pulled in ten different directions, but I still feel guilty that I’m not getting enough done?”
  • “What is the central, most important thing that I must do?”
  • “Why do I feel empty?”
  • “What is the quintessence* of life?”

I stayed home from church today– on purpose.  At my request, my family left me in an empty house (this is rare) so I could rest and think.  I picked up a Bible and found myself reading these verses:

But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:2b

Which made me look up a similar passage:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

Reading these verses reminded me to focus on some quintessential essentials:

  • Be humble before God and others.
  • Be contrite in spirit, seeking forgiveness and giving grace to others.
  • Read God’s word and just do it.
  • Let God judge people’s hearts and motives, He doesn’t need my help with this.
  • Be kind, especially when it doesn’t feel natural.
  • And one more time: Be humble before God and others.

If you are a Bible believer and Christ follower, it is easy to get encumbered by extras.  We forget the basics about love and being like Jesus because we clutter it up with fancy works and human additives. We add unnecessary fluff to faith-living, borrowing stuff from others because it looks good on them.

If you are not a Christ-follower, it’s possible that you feel pulled here and there by good things but are not really sure what is the best thing.

Nobody can do even the basic things above by their own grit —  for long.  And doing the things mentioned above don’t make me a Christian, don’t save me and don’t get me to heaven. Only through God’s saving, enabling, restoring power can I do anything spiritually worthwhile.

Tomorrow, I will still wake up and make breakfast.  I will teach school, check off my to-do list and meet family needs.  But it helps to have these words fresh in my heart, reminding me to stay focused on things that matter to God.  It’s a reminder to always return to the quintessence of life by searching for it regularly in God’s Word.

Word Prompt of the Day: Quintessence

*Quintessence: the refined essence or extract of a substance.

The Blueprint for Being Born Again

© Lisa M. Luciano

 

 

 

 

{ When Time Stretches }

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Sometimes, it seems like the universe slows down and allows time to stretch* such as:

  1. When you are caught in traffic and late for an appointment.
  2. When you are waiting in a line with more than one child.
  3. When you are driving on the highway in the middle of nowhere and you have to go to the bathroom.
  4. When everyone is waiting for dinner, forks in hand, and the rice isn’t quite done yet.
  5. When you say something courageous but possibly controversial and your words hang suspended in the quiet air.
  6. When the customer service representative puts you on hold and more than one child is in the room with you and the pot is boiling over on the stove and then someone rings the doorbell.
  7. When you cannot proceed with a plan until you receive a text back from a person and days go by…
  8. When someone is telling you their enthralling, but long and detailed, story and you know you needed to leave 10 minutes ago.
  9. When you are waiting for a bank deposit to land within the reach of your electronic fingertips.
  10. When Mom dashes into the fabric store saying, “I’ll be right back” and she takes 15 minutes longer than she’d planned. (this one was enthusiastically contributed by my 11-year old son.)

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*thoughts prompted by a homeschool lesson on Albert Einstein!

© Lisa M. Luciano

 

 

{ You can’t cover junior high pain with lip gloss. }

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It was the 1980’s and I was in Junior High.

Wearing a jumbo Bonne Bell Lip Smacker around my neck,  I tucked bubble gum Kissing Potion into the back pocket of my Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

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If you peeked into my purple LeSac purse, you’d most likely find a tin of green apple Lip Licker balm as well.

village lip lickers

 

Everyone has their personal struggles at that age.  One of my grievances was that I had embarrassingly large lips in a decade when thin lips were “in.”

When my sister and I would whine about our inflated-tire-styled lips, my mom would say, “You have beautiful, rosebud lips.”

What we didn’t know then: our big lips were 20 years ahead of trendy.

So in history class, I sat –hunched and quiet– behind popular Beth, who had perfect hair and a coveted, slim lipline.

She also wore teeny-tiny gold hoop earrings to match her teeny-thin body.

Note: I was not allowed to wear hoop earrings. 

After history class, I’d skulk over to my locker while smearing on an ounce or two of Bonne Bell. Mr. Marc’s writing class was next; an oasis in a desert of adolescent angst. Mr. Marc was a cool, kind and energetic teacher. On weekends he played in a 50’s band and he always wielded a dashing sense of humor.

I had a crush on him of course.

When the bell rang, students herded along the hallways, smelling like fruit (all that lip gloss) and hairspray. (The hairspray also smelled like fruit.)

There was a constant social stream ominously buzzing past, as I darted in and out of classes.

School lunchtime offered awkward social interaction, as well as limp rectangles of pizza. I walked slowly to gym class. Junior High co-ed swimming should be outlawed. Like everyone else, I was required to wear a school-issued drab green swimsuit. Mine had seen its share of chlorine over the years. The swimming segment of physical education lasted two weeks.  Sometimes I’d forget to hang up the swimsuit, and it would stay balled up overnight in a smelly locker.

The next day, putting the wet swimsuit back on was like squeezing into a cold, wet plastic bag.

Fast forward to the 21st century. Even though I now call it “lip balm”, I am never without a tube or two in my purse. And I now wear hoop earrings every single day.

Does this have its roots in junior-high-hoop-deprivation?

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Thanks, Sara for the Lip Lickers photo!

{ This Week in Pictures }

 

Bowls cover breakfast eggs, lovingly scrambled by a repentant Mama. (She had barked at her little boy when he asked her three times if she remembered her promise to make him an egg in the morning.)

Ms. Road Construction looked so fetching in her hat and trousers that I had to snap a photo.  What else was there to do for ten minutes while we waited in line?

My dear daughter is celebrating her 23rd birthday tomorrow. “Where has the time gone?”

We invited some dear little people to play with us last week while their Mama went out to lunch.  Back when I had my babies, I didn’t have such an awkward time getting up & down off the floor. Back then, I didn’t have to grab my reading glasses to see what the puzzle looks like. I have missed these little happy little folks who give you the opportunity to get down on the floor and make animal noises.

 

{ Summer Thoughts & Quotes }

Summer, in essence, is gone and it was packed with whimsy, struggle and adventure.

Road construction started on the very first day of swimming lessons on the very road we needed to take to get there.  We reached our destination through other dusty byways.  We met a family, made new friends and the young swimmers learned how not to sink in deep water.

Our power went out only once.

My older son discovered fishing and it became his new addiction hobby.

We didn’t go to the State Fair.

We were poor this summer and it was good. We found cheap food and visited the library, where you can always feel rich.

God sent work.  And He sent helpers, like people we know from college that are now employed in an appliance store and they are willing to give you free advice and discounted parts to fix your 10-year-old dryer so you don’t have to hire a handyman.

Gifts like these were real and we were grateful.

A daily summer job meant the boys made their own lunches every night, left in the early morning and sometimes forgot to tell Mama they had plans for the evening.  Dinner sat smoldering and so did Mama’s countenance as we plowed through these and other minor challenges.

We talked, we compared calendars, we conquered.

The growing of adults and the path to maturity doesn’t happen in one, exhilarating swoop. It happens in all the teeny tiny day-to-day ways.

It helps to have the attitude of love and patience toward one another. When I look back over my lifetime, I hope I will see a steady — if sometimes detoured — path of growth, maturity and the stripping away of petty, unimportant expectations of others.

As a parent, I can’t make everyone do right all the time.

But I can, by God’s grace, make it a goal to be a good example and ask forgiveness when I’m not one.

Beyond that, I just need to pray for my growing ones. As God poured patience on me in my young adulthood, so He will with my young adult progeny, who are pilgrims on their own pathway.

A few quotes from Summer 2018:

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“I like to smell the runners as they go by.”

– Jonny said it at the August 2018 half-marathon in St. Paul

 

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“All this corn everywhere….it’s so depressing.”

– Gino said it on a late summer drive through Wisconsin

tofu

 

Hanna, my vegan daughter, said: “Where’s my other tofu?  I know I bought two.”

I said:  “Keep looking – it’s there.  Nobody would snitch that.”

 

Photo Credits:

Runners:Mārtiņš Zemlickis