I Love My Kids But I Want To Vacation Without Them

I didn’t realize it had been too long since Kory and I traveled alone, until we kissed the precious cheeks of our three kids, said goodbye, and walked out the door without them on August 6. It was the day … Continue reading

Twelve Words That Have Changed My Family For The Better. Maybe They Can Change Yours Too.

“Dinner time,” I hollered from the bottom of the stairs up to the second floor of our home where our daughter was doing homework in her room. No response. “Dinner time!” (A little louder this time.) “What?” she hollered back.  … Continue reading

A Christmas Break: Our Family’s Vacation From The Chaos

I’ll never forget the first Christmas holiday Kory and I spent together as newlyweds.  Because it wasn’t just a Christmas holi”day.”   It was more like a Christmas marathon.  Two weeks almost of parties, family get-togethers,  outings, and church activities, … Continue reading

Would you like to save a life?

After Kory and I got married in 1999, we joined a young couples mid-week Bible study at the church we were serving.  The group was comprised of about 10 engaged and newly married couples without children.  This was our first “community” as a married couple.  And it was a special one.

It was a tight-knit group.  We met weekly to study the Scriptures and to pray with and for one another.  We had regularly scheduled socials and retreats.  And we engaged in missions outings together.  

In the Fall of 2001, though, tragedy struck our community.  One of the wives was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 34, and she battled the cancer for almost a year before it took her life.  During that time, our community grew even closer to one another as we joined hands to rally around this couple and their family.

We did a lot of things to show our support.  We cooked meals.  We helped around the house.  We visited when visitors were allowed.  And we prayed for a miracle.    

We also organized a bone marrow drive at our church in honor of our friend, with the hope that a match might be found to cure her blood cancer.  We worked in partnership with Be The Match, the bone marrow registry operated by the National Marrow Donor Program.  And though we didn’t find a match for our sweet friend, the drive was a huge success, adding hundreds of donors to the registry all in one Sunday afternoon.  

I didn’t know much about the Be The Match registry or bone marrow donation prior to the drive we held, but I came to understand the importance of it through that process.  

According to the Be The Match website, “[e]very four minutes, one person is diagnosed with a blood cancer. Every 10 minutes, someone dies from a blood cancer. That’s more than six people each hour, or 148 people each day.”

That’s a lot of people.

To make matters worse, seventy percent of all patients who need a transplant don’t have a matched donor in their family. Yet according to the NMDP, there is an estimated 76-97% chance that a patient will find a matching donor on the Be The Match registry, depending on race and ethnicity.

Those are good odds.  But the odds only stay good as long as people continue to join the registry.  

Once on the registry, the statistics for donation are as follows:

“1 in 40 registry members will be called for additional testing. Additional testing can be used to narrow the list of potential donors and determine the best possible match for a patient.

1 in 300 will be selected as the best possible donor for a patient. These potential donors will have an information session with their donor center representative to learn more about the donation process. Due to changes in the patient’s condition, not all donors who are selected as the best match will donate.

1 in 500 members will actually donate.”

It’s been almost twelve years to the day since I joined the Be The Match registry.  And I haven’t really thought about it much except when we’ve moved, and I’ve needed to update my address.  But yesterday, when I went to the mail box, a letter from Be The Match was waiting for me.  

I’ve been identified as a “possible match” for a patient considering a transplant.  I’m the “1 in 40” referenced above.  After all these years.

I spoke with a representative of Be The Match yesterday evening.  She explained the two procedures that are used to collect bone marrow, confirmed my willingness to donate, and walked me through a preliminary wellness screening to determine my eligibility.

She told me that I would receive word within two months if I am, indeed, a match and further screening needs to be done.  She also said that if I don’t hear from her within that timeframe, it means that they do not need my bone marrow at this time, and I will simply remain on the registry.  

If anything comes of this, I will post updates along the way.  But in the meantime, I felt compelled to take a minute and highlight the importance of bone marrow donation.  

Would you please consider joining me as a member of the Be The Match registry?

Don’t underestimate the significance of your decision.  The cure to blood cancer lies in the hands of ordinary people like you and me.  You could be the only person who could save someone’s life through the gift of bone marrow donation.

So what do you say?

For more information about the Be The Match registry, the National Marrow Donor Program, and bone marrow donation, visit www.bethematch.org.

The Priority Our Marriage Needs

Kory has said it in a recent sermon.  I mentioned it in response to a question while serving on the women’s panel during worship.  We’ve talked about it in the Bible study we led together the past seven weeks.  We’ve referenced it over the years countless times as we’ve mentored other young families through parenting curriculum.  And we spent time with a More Than Moms group just this week talking about it again.  

Because we’re wrapping up a seven week sermon series on marriage at church, it’s been on my heart incessantly.  And I’m passionate about it.  So I’m going to share it again here for my own benefit and the hope that it might bless you too.  

Are you ready?  

If we want to be the very best parent we can be, we must first be the very best spouse we can be.  

Said differently

We will never be a better parent to our children than we are a spouse to our husband or wife.  

As a result, our marriage must be the priority relationship within our family.  After our personal relationship with Christ, our marriage must take precedence over all other relationships, including the relationship between parent and child.

I believe this with all my heart, and my heart breaks when I see entire households struggling because the marriage component of the family unit is breaking down.  

I won’t pretend that Kory and I have this down perfectly.  We don’t.  And we are constantly working on improving the quality of our marriage by trying to get better in areas where we are weak.  

I also won’t pretend to understand the hurts that men and women in broken marriages are experiencing, nor can I begin to grasp the unique challenges that single parents face while raising their children.  But I believe this principle applies to all of us with children, whether we’re married or single.  It’s just that the application is different.

Make no mistake about it.  Our kids need to see us engaged in healthy adult relationships.  Period.  

Whether we’re single or married, this begins with our relationship with God.  

If we’re single, this continues by modeling healthy relationships with other adults, whether it’s a person we’re dating, or our family and friends.

If we’re married, it can and should involve these other adult relationships, but our marriage should be the priority relationship in our family.

This isn’t easy.  And it requires work.  Everyday.  And no doubt that we’ll all go through seasons where the quality of our relationship with our spouse ebbs and flows.  

But so often, the couples we’ve counseled who are struggling, admittedly struggle because they’ve let their children become the center of the family.  

This usually happens over time, not overnight.  And it most always occurs in the name of good parenting.  No doubt it’s well-intentioned.  But it’s also subtle.  It sneaks up on us.  And before we know it, we realize we’re in a marriage with little to no spiritual, emotional, or physical intimacy.

The unfortunate reality is that while we may spend tons of effort catering to the needs of our children, what they really need is to know with assurance that mom and dad love each other and that we’re committed to one another.  

Indeed, we are the head and the heart of our families, and we need to act like it.  We need to function in such a way that, through our relationship, our children see tangible expressions of the fruits of the spirit.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. And self-control.

Every day.    

It’s a tall order.  But there are some things we can do as “preventive medicine,” to increase the quality of our physical, spiritual, and emotional oneness as married people.  These practices will allow us to enjoy the fulness of God’s design for our marriages and bless our children all at the same time, even in the throws of the most challenging parenting years.  And they will help us keep our marriage the priority in our families.

There are countless ideas we could include on this list, but Kory and I put our heads together, and this is our Top Eleven:

1.  Pray together and for one another.

2.  Schedule standing date nights every week if possible.

3.  Practice “couch time.”  (This is a concept we learned during a parenting class years ago.  It involves 15 minutes of conversation between husband and wife at the beginning or end of the day in front of, but not including, the children.  This serves as a tangible reminder that mom and dad’s relationship is the priority relationship in the home.)

4.  Get out of town together, even if just for one or two nights, and even if just for an inexpensive road trip.

5.  Worship together.

6.  Join a couples Sunday School class or Bible study.

7.  Go to a marriage enrichment seminar or retreat once every 3 to 5 years.

8.  See a counselor 1 to 2 times a year whether you “need” to or not.

9.  Read marriage books together.

10. Find a hobby to share.

11. Spend time with other couples who share similar values.

There is no doubt that if we truly love our children, we will commit to make our marriage relationship a priority.  

Our children need to see us enjoy each other’s company, show affection to each other, laugh together, and do things together.  And when we do have disagreements, our children should observe us resolve those conflicts in a healthy way that demonstrates the love and grace of Jesus Christ.  

If we do this, our children will be richly blessed. 

Do you want to be the parent of your kids’ dreams?  Then love your spouse well.

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” 

Genesis 1:27-31 (emphasis added).

 

 

Oops, I’m not a four year old! Will you forgive me?

It’s been a bit of a tough week.  Work was busy for both Kory and me.  I had briefing deadlines, and he had a week packed full of meetings.  And then, in the wee hours of the morning on Tuesday, I woke from a sound sleep with a ferocious, but unmistakable, stomach ache.  I laid in bed in total denial of what I knew was about to befall me…for hours.  And then it hit like a ton of bricks.  The stomach bug.  

Kory quarantined me to our bedroom all day Tuesday.  He took our youngest to church with him, and my mom came in the afternoon to help with the kids as usual.  (She’s our nanny when I’m working).  By Wednesday, I was returning to the land of the living, but I had no energy.  So I drafted the brief that was due to be filed at the courthouse from the comfort of my bed and billed a 10 hour day.  In. My. Jammies. I was toast by the time the sun went down and went to bed at 8:30.

I limped my way through Thursday.  Though all of the worst stomach bug symptoms were long gone, for most of the day, I just wasn’t myself.  I was dizzy and weak.  But I was optimistic that no one else in the family was going to fall victim to the virus.  Friday, I spent a full day at the office to catch up, and by the time I pulled into our driveway at the end of the day, I was exhausted.

Fortunately, Kory had fed dinner to the kids before I got home, so I nestled into the sofa to eat dinner alone and watch some TV.  Our two oldest children were watching a movie upstairs in our playroom.  And our little one was in bed.  Finally, some peace and quiet and a weekend to really recover and get back to myself.  Thank goodness!

And then I heard the unmistakable sound of the playroom door opening with a sense of urgency that only brings bad news to a mama.  Someone was sick.  Or in trouble.  But who was it?  And what was wrong?

Turns out the stomach bug was still lurking in the cracks and crevices of our house.  Yes, no amount of Lysol, Clorox disposable wipes, and Germ-X could defeat it.  And believe me.  We had tried.  

 

But despite our carefully orchestrated military operation to confine the germs to the master bedroom, the stomach bug had found our middle son and taken him down.  And because I had already had this virus, and because Kory needs to stay healthy enough to preach on Sunday, I got clean up duty.  

Lucky me.

Well, I can tell you what didn’t happen.  I didn’t glide up the stairs with the grace of the dancer I once was.  I didn’t put on my nursing apron and approach the playroom with a spoon full of sugar and a dose of nurture.  And I didn’t have a smile on my face.

No, it’s sad to say.  Jennifer left the building.  And in her place?  Someone, from somewhere, deposited Ursula the Sea Witch.  My children gasp when this ugly creature appears in our home.

She stormed up the stairs huffing and puffing.  And I’m pretty sure she made some snide remarks in the direction of my innocent husband who had done nothing wrong.  

And to my son, instead of asking, “Are you OK?”  she asked, “Why didn’t you make it to the toilet?”.

Yes.  It’s confession time.  Instead of looking at this as an opportunity to serve my family and demonstrate the love of Christ to my son, I allowed my alter ego to take over.  

And I chose to look at this whole ordeal as My Burden.  My Cross To Bear.  My Misfortune.  And I was mad.  Not at my son.  But at the scene.  At the couch cushions I had to strip down and wash.  At the carpet I had to clean.  At the furniture I had to bathe with disinfectant.  And at what I knew this meant for the rest of our weekend. 

Our youngest son’s birthday party?  Cancelled.  Our invitation to a Super Bowl Party with new friends?  Declined.  And church on Sunday?  Missed.  

And, as if I was having an out of body experience, I could see and hear myself acting like a four year old, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop behaving like an idiot.  (Well, four year olds aren’t idiots, but you know what I mean.)  Looking back on it today, it was so ridiculous, I blush at the thought of it.  

Geeze.  I hate it when that happens.  Does this ever happen to you?  Or am I the only one?  

But the funny thing was that the longer I cleaned, the better I felt.  And I found myself acting my way into a new way of thinking.  Something I hear Kory reference in sermons all the time.  

And by the end of it all, I was able to get my son in the bathtub for clean up and put him to bed with a smile on his face and mine.  I was able to console my daughter who was very upset that the birthday party was being cancelled.  I was able to take the note from Kory to take and shower and get some rest (“notes” aren’t always easy for me).  And I was able to crawl in bed next to my husband and ask him to forgive me for behaving like a four year old.  

Will you forgive me?  For the “choleric” that I am (a/k/a Lion; Extroverted, Sensing, Thinker, Judger; Gold/Blue), those words are really hard for me to utter sometimes, but I’m always so glad when I finally get them out.  

And today?  I have a new outlook on my “lot” in life this weekend.  Despite the fact that I have one sick boy and another telling me he doesn’t feel good, we’re having a great day.  I’m getting caught up on laundry and dishes.  I’ve got dinner on the stove.  I have a date with my oldest to teach her how to play a new game tonight.  I’m getting to blog.  And if my youngest gets smacked between the eyes by the stomach bug today…I’m prepared!

It really doesn’t get much better than this!

“Do all your work in love.”

 1 Corinthians 16:14

Happy Saturday, everyone!  If you haven’t already done so, will you take a minute to give us some “like” on Facebook?

 

 

Turning The Trash Into Treasure

Kory takes the trash to the curb every week. I hardly notice that he does this chore. Except when he forgets. Because when he forgets, we have to go two weeks without a trash pick-up.  The trash can and recycle bin fill to overflowing and things begin to get a little stinky. (On these occasions, I’ve heard him wonder out loud if all we do while he’s at work is sit around make trash!  Sometimes I feel that way.)

I rarely tell him “thank you” for taking out the trash. Strike that. I NEVER tell him “thank you” for taking out the trash. And I never offer to do the job for him. In fact, when he’s out of town, chances are that the trash won’t be taken to the curb. Why? Because sadly, I don’t know when trash pick-up day is, and I just don’t think about it when he’s gone.

Same thing with the cars. If something needs to be repaired, it’s Kory’s job. Not mine. Pest control, yard work, and house repairs too.  They all fall into the same category. Kory’s work. But don’t fret.  I have my own list of jobs around the house that are my responsibility.  Bills, grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning to name a few.  And generally speaking, I handle these jobs on my own.

I don’t recall that Kory and I ever sat down and made a list of “his” and “her” jobs around the house when we were newly weds.  But over time, as we’ve learned to manage our marriage, careers, and children, different responsibilities have settled onto each of our shoulders, and now we have somewhat clearly-defined roles that help us keep our home in order.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  But Kory’s new sermon series on marriage, “More Than Just Married,” and the marriage Bible study we’re leading together on Sunday nights has caused me to think about our roles a little differently.  

Last Sunday night during our first Bible study session, we began discussing the difference between our “desires” for marriage and our “expectations” for marriage.  No doubt that we both had dreams and desires for marriage before we said “I do”.  But what about after we walked down the aisle?  Did those hopes for marriage stay in the category of dreams and desires or did they transform into weighty expectations that we began to dump on each other?  

As I’ve thought about this question, I’ve had to acknowledge that at least as far as I’m concerned, there are certainly some things that I “expect” of Kory.  And I know that I expect these things because when he doesn’t perform to my satisfaction, my response may be fueled with anger, sadness, or frustration.  I’m sure he feels the same way about me sometimes.

But when we carry around the weight of expectations, it dramatically changes the dynamic of our relationship with our spouse.  Why?  Because the covenant of marriage is transformed into a contractual relationship where each spouse’s decision to perform is contingent on whether the other is doing his or her part.  This is score keeping at its finest, my friends.  And the problem is that no one gets any credit for contributing because, after all, each of our contributions is expected by the other.  It’s the baseline.  The moral minimum.  The very least we can do.  To get ahead of the game, we have to do the bonus questions and earn some extra credit!  

Now I know that Kory and I are getting some things right in this department.  There are certainly things I consciously appreciate about him.  But there’s always room for improvement if we really want to experience the fullness of God’s design for our marriage.  So I’m taking some time to identify those things I expect of Kory, and I’m committing to transform those expectations back into desires.  

On Sunday night at Bible study, I discovered two tools that I’m hoping will help me do this:

1.  Expressions of Gratitude

2.  Acts of Service

First, I’m going to try to start being more intentional about saying “thank you” to Kory for all that he does for our family.  From taking out the trash to providing for us financially, he does so many things that are a blessing to me and to our children.  He deserves some words of thanks and affirmation for all that he does and all that he is for our family.

And second, the next time I notice that Kory hasn’t done something that is part of “his jobs” around the house, instead of getting angry, sad, or frustrated, I’m going to do it for him.  And while I do it, instead of grumbling about it, I’m going to try to consider it an unexpected opportunity to serve my husband and to show him the love and grace of Jesus Christ through the ordinary details of our life together.  

Now I know this will be easier said than done because there’s no doubt I’ve formed some bad habits in this regard.  And, as you know, habits are not easily broken.  So in the coming weeks, this will be at the top of my prayer list as I try to change my way of thinking!  

Now I better get going because I’ve got some trash to take out!