Don’t Wait

The complicated present world is going to give us all more than enough darkness and sorrow to bear – humanity has messed up from the beginning of time and we will continue to do so. But the God who loves, lives, and never leaves offers love, comfort, hope, and a future.

The world will not always be like this. Those of us who have read the Book know how it ends. There will be an epic battle – but there will also be victory and rejoicing and peace.

The thought of eternity might be thrilling or terrifying to you (maybe both) but I encourage you to embrace the forever hope we have in Christ. Embrace it, and pass it along to all those around you. Everyone needs hope. Everyone needs joy.

Don’t wait until life is perfect or until you think you are brave enough to speak truth. Truth is always a risk and life will never be perfect – all the prophets, apostles, and great men of faith who ever lived can testify to that!

Joy can always be TAKEN.
Hope can always be GIVEN.
Salvation is always OFFERED.
The Lord can always be PRAISED –
Because the Love of God is always present
and will never, ever, ever end.

Small Things in a Time of Crisis

Internet communication and media entertainment and information are helpful and convenient right now, but do be careful in how you think of yourself in the realm of all you see. We can’t all be COVID-19 media famous! We can’t all be volunteers in our communities, or first responders, or have shelter-in-place exempted essential jobs. But you are so very valuable and whatever you are called to do in this moment – whatever is in front of you right now – is important. Even the small things matter. Especially the small things matter.

My husband and I have three brilliant, amazing young adult children with special needs, still home. Two are on the autism spectrum and one has autoimmune disorders and is immune system compromised so we are being careful. I help out friends when I can but my time is primarily committed to keeping our family moving forward and de-stressed as well as maintaining the household. We are not perfectly organized, not frenetically sterilized, and definitely not ready for YouTube! Our house is a bit small for five people and four pets, and we live in every corner of it. We are a single-income family and my husband’s hours have been cut so we are also working to pinch those pennies extra hard, but he is at least still employed and I am thankful for that. It is a crazy time and keeping everything running relatively smoothly with moderate peace in our home is more than a full time job. This is our life right now. Can you relate?

I laugh when the news airs segments about what to do with all the alleged extra down time! How to self-improve, new books to read, what media to watch, how to get in shape, and so on. I love my family so much, but they are time-consuming. Anxiety can be a profound issue with our beautiful early-20s children and sometimes my most important tasks of the day involve giving loving care, compassionate comfort, laughter and distractions, reassurances, and especially prayer. All these activities are precious but also intangible – no matter the hours or energy I expend, most of what I do leaves no lasting mark that will breathe beyond me on the world stage. Yet my job is so very important and valuable in the moment it needs to be done.

So here’s the thing – I am never going to be famous for my accomplishments during this time. You probably won’t either. Most of us won’t. History books will not reflect my name or my non-income job as a mom, home administrator, home lay therapist, and caretaker and say, “Wow! Look what this person did during the 2020 corona crisis!” When I see people doing amazing things on the news, I need to be at peace with the fact that I am not one of those people. But the person I am right now is the person God is calling me to be right now, doing my best to be patient and loving with what is before me right now (some days are pretty darn great and others have some epic fails!), and staying as faithful and committed as I can be – right now, in this moment, and each day as we travel this wild and unpredictable timeline in world history.

Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” A slice of of wisdom that is both an observation and a challenge. Let’s meet that challenge.

Learning Outside the Box

This is an alert to all families suddenly finding themselves home educating:

You are not a public school and you don’t have to imitate one. Breathe deeply, relax. This is not so hard.

For just a few days or weeks, you have the rare temporary opportunity to help your kids educationally pursue their passions in a fun and interesting way. As a former home schooling mom, let me encourage you to step outside the box for this brief time in a way that will be less stressful for all of you.

I would like to suggest that you ask your kids what they are interested in right now and frame the lessons around their interests. After all – the internet is your playground! Do they want to learn about insects? Space travel? Trains, planes, and automobiles? Marine life? The history of media? The culture of another country? Grab that topic and run with it! Search topically, download ideas, projects, discussion guides, books, artwork, videos, crafts. So many sites – so little time!

Our dedicated public school teachers must adhere to curriculum requirements that many children find challenging, so teachers often don’t have the resources to light the fire of learning in each student. You can help. First, your children will come to realize that you hear them and value their interests – a relationship goal beyond compare. In addition, you have this unexpected opportunity to kindle your children’s interests and show that learning is a lifelong process that can be fascinating. Having fun with your children by spending time helping them pursue their personal learning goals can also show them how regular studies provide the tools for learning beyond the classroom.

Go forth and have fun!

Dear Grandpa & Grandma –

Today, I was reminded of the importance of keeping love and passion alive within. While sorting documents, I found this letter I wrote in 1989 in memory of my maternal grandparents. The memory of their faith and love lives in my heart.

Dear Grandpa and Grandma,

Keith & Lela’s Wedding Photo, 1924

I am writing this letter to you and sharing it with family and friends because I had to put into words what I learned from your lives. I’m sorry I didn’t understand it well enough to tell you when you were here, but maybe I didn’t know it then.

To live is to age. You taught me not to fear either. 

Lela Mabry, c. 1922

A few years ago, Grandma,  you told me about the time very recently when you were scrubbing the church floor with other women in the church. You felt a little faint from the odor of ammonia and stood for a moment, leaning against the wall. A younger woman came up and said, “Mrs. Roper, are you all right?” And you thought to yourself, “Good heavens, she thinks I’m old!” After you told me this, we looked at each other and laughed! Old? You? What a silly idea!

Keith Roper, Football Captain, 1923

And Grandpa, I remember after Grandma died – I came in and sat on the edge of your bed and held your hand and you told me about her last few days and moments and we both cried. Listening to you talk about Grandma touched me deeply. Your love for her was certainly mature and strong, yet still so fresh and incredibly sweet. I knew then that you were not merely mourning the loss of complacent companionship – you were mourning the loss of a wife beloved with a passion stronger and more vibrant than the day you were married.

I have watched the two of you never grow old, for you waited upon the Lord and He renewed your strength, and you have flown on the wings of eagles to stand before the very throne of God in all your beauty and youth and vigor – just the way you were intended to be.

You were young when I knew you . . . You are younger now.

1974. 50 years of love, commitment, faith.

Oh, I am not afraid to live.  In you, I have seen two who have followed Jesus to the last. I have learned that life is not so long that it is to be feared, and the reunion with the Father will surely be very sweet. I will always remember the maturity of your spirits and the sparkle of youth in your eyes, and I have great hope because your Lord is also my Lord and, like you, I will never grow old.

Thank you for loving me. I do thank God for you. I know that he understands how great a gift you were to me and I hope you understand it now, too.

I love you both and miss you, but plan to see you in the twinkling of an eye.

Love, Karen

Grandpa & Grandma’s 50th Anniversary Celebration with their children and grandchildren.

Geology

I have a geological relationship with my Lord.
He is my Rock, He is my Touchstone.
He is the Iron sharpening my iron.
He is my brilliantly shining pure Diamond.
He is the Refining Fire that purifies my ore.
He is the Silver in my hair, and the Gold in my heart.
He is the Rich Loam that feeds my soul.
He alone can gently balance the stones of my life,
Or topple them down if they become too much for me to bear.
When all else becomes dust and blows away,
He alone has been, is, and will be my Rock.

My (Lamp) Lit Pixar Diet

My daughter Maggie is fascinated by Pixar movies. One day each month we have Pixar Movie Food Day (PMFD), a concept she created and convinced us all to participate in. Maggie creates a day of menus based on a Pixar film and we all indulge, throwing dietary restrictions out the window for the day. To achieve the ultimate event of movie-based munching, Maggie reviews her movie choice of the month, researches possible food options, emails me recipe links and a grocery list, shops with me, and takes the lead on food prep. Unless it gets crazy, I am merely her sous chef. So, if you are interested in creating a fun day like this for your family – here you go! You’re welcome!

In August, we soared to infinity and beyond with gastronomical delights inspired by the world of Toy Story! How, you ask, did we accomplish this feat? Well! With photos ripped directly from my daughter’s Instagram page, here are the details –

BREAKFAST: Apparently, an acknowledgment of Poultry Palace from the Toy Story short film Small Fry was the best choice for breakfast. The photo says it all – chicken patties in biscuits, fries, coleslaw, chocolate milk, and pineapple juice drink (the only thing not Toy Story-ish).

LUNCH: Pizza Planet, from TS1 (Toy Story 1) is the only choice, of course! Is that two small pizzas with a hamburger patty between? Yes. Yes, it is. Along with bread sticks and alien slime (lemon-lime soda with lime gelatin powder). Dessert is a yummy LGM (Little Green Men) parfait – a layer of pound cake pieces and a layer of blueberries topped with yogurt (vanilla yogurt, green food dye), decorated with black icing and edible candy eyes.

NOTE TO ALL AREA 51 RAIDERS: NO ACTUAL ALIENS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS LUNCH!

AFTERNOON SNACK: Cheetos (TS2), cotton candy (TS4), and popcorn (TS3).

DINNER: Celebrating Mr. Potato Head – of course! – we had a Chili Baked Potato. This was an easy item to choose since it is a long-time favorite at our house. The potato is baked, sliced open while hot, covered in chili, topped with cheese (bacon bits, optional), and reheated to warm the chili and melt the cheese. That cute little 6″ cake with pink frosting was decorated by Maggie and inspired by Molly’s 2nd birthday in Toy Story 3. Under that frosting, the cake is gluten-free chocolate – not that anyone cared at this point since the GF goals were blown for the day, but GF flour is all we have in the house.

Aaaand – SEPTEMBER: I must admit that when Maggie said we would be eating A Bug’s Life meals in September, my response was, “Bugs? Uh – wait – maybe not – y’know . . .” so I was very relieved to see that NO ACTUAL BUGS were included in her menu choices. Whew! Bullet dodged!

BREAKFAST: Ants on a Log, each log made from two canned cinnamon rolls (regular size), unrolled, twisted together, baked, iced, and sprinkled with cocoa crispy rice cereal. And our own lovely, healthy version of The Ants Offering to the Grasshoppers, made from oat granola, assorted nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, and fresh blackberries (boysenberries were used in the movie, but we adapt with what we have!).

LUNCH: Inspired by P.T. Flea’s Circus – good times! Spinach salad, banana bug, popcorn, not-boysenberry pie (we cheated and used Marie Callender’s Razzleberry Pie – my favorite!), and candy corn. No carbs at all, as you see . . .

DINNER: Pu-Pu Platter, an assortment of Chinese and Korean appetizers (a bit different from how the movie defined pu-pu platter and we are so NOT going there!). Orange chicken, pork dumplings, two kinds of egg rolls, mini broccoli-beef skewers, and chicken fried rice. I would really like to tell you that we made all this from scratch! Really! That is what I would LIKE to tell you! Truth is these are all yummy prepared foods from the grocery freezer (mostly PF Chang’s), but Maggie and I DID totally rock keeping the little bags of sauces sorted to the right hors d’oeuvre!

For dessert, we made raindrop cake with caramel sauce. The sauce was great because – Smuckers. The raindrop – not so much. We tried it the traditional way with agar agar, but next time we’re going modern and just using gelatin. Pretty sure we overcooked it. Blech (and I mean that sincerely). We had the rest of the Razzleberry pie for dessert. Maggie is determined to try raindrop cake again. I’ll keep you posted.

Root beer was the only choice for beverage, specifically Mug Root Beer. Not sure why. Maggie just left to hang with her sister so I can’t ask. Speaking of my ignorance . . .

I am frequently unclear on the why and wherefore for several menu items, which means I definitely need to give Maggie credit as co-author on this and future PMFD articles. In spite of the fact that I have seen these movies, I do not have the retention level of my amazing autistic daughter. As I typed up the rough draft for this blog earlier, our conversation ran something like this:

Me: Maggie, why did we eat Cheetos?
Maggie: Toy Story 2
Me: What about the cotton candy?
Maggie: Toy Story 4.
Me: Huh. And the popcorn was just for fun?
Maggie: Toy Story 3.
Me: Okaaay . . . So Poultry Palace was from Toy Story 1, then?
Maggie: Poultry Palace was from the Toy Story short called Small Fry.
Me: Of course it was.

If you decide to try a movie food day of your own, just let your kids run with the creativity – so fun! Next month is spooky October, so guess what movie? Yup, you called it! Monsters, Inc. Stay tuned.

A Rant, Because We Weep

The shootings are incredibly tragic and everyone is seeking answers. I am weeping as I type this. We weep and we rant and we close our eyes to so much and put our faith in what we hear on the news. Seriously? (Warning: rant follows.)

As a society, we are interpersonally disconnected and profoundly media/internet influenced (dare I say brainwashed?) We all say, “Don’t believe everything you hear on the internet and TV” but many believe with no one in their sphere of influence to provide the voice of reason. It disturbs me no end that I do not see the mainstream media taking responsibility for their part in perpetuating the problem. Media sensationalism, media contagion theory, perpetuating racial/religious/political hostility, romanticizing/glorifying violence in films and shows — all of these have a huge impact on the emotionally and psychologically impaired and especially on our media-driven youth culture.

The media says, “Nothing to see here! Lookee over there, everybody! Focus on guns!” But it’s not the guns or the knives, or the molotov cocktails, or even the drugs. It’s the REASONS behind the misuse of those things. It’s people with mental and emotional health issues not being recognized, not getting help, not knowing where to turn (but thinking they do) because no one in their lives is willing to express opinions not embraced by popular culture, including the “You do you” attitude that unquestioningly says, “Whatever you believe is ok”. Equally disturbed people on the internet and in the media intentionally or inadvertently encourage the flawed belief structure that promotes violent behavior. How blessed are those of us with someone in our lives politically incorrect enough to say, “That’s crap, don’t listen to that” because a lot of people obviously don’t have that. Focusing entirely on gun control is like putting a bandage on metastasized cancer. Focus on what is being constantly streamed, uncontradicted, to the youth and troubled of society by the media and to some extent (tragically) our educational system that continues to compel teachers to alter their lesson planning to conform to media-driven culture.

And pray. Just pray. Pray for the victims and their families as well as the disturbed perpetrators and their families. But pray especially for violent perpetrators in the making – those who can actually be stopped right now from future violence. Pray that these future perpetrators will slip up in their hidden thoughts and hidden plans, and that someone in their lives, somewhere, will have the wisdom and insight to see what is happening and care enough to step in and do whatever it takes to help. If we really want to care, we need to get off our devices and pay attention.Be interpersonal. Be politically incorrect. I do believe that each of us actually can change the world, each from our corner of it, one person at a time.