The Creepie Crawlies of Life

I tweeted last week about Boo's first encounter with a snake. It was surprising to hear my typically-fearless little one "scream like a girl" (as Hubs would say) and see him stand sobbing, paralyzed in fear after he saw a snake in our yard.

In all fairness, I can't blame him. I encountered one of our l-a-r-g-e native lizard-eaters in our garage a couple years ago. That thing was nearly as big around as my wrist and a good 5 feet long--maybe more. I screamed at him, he hissed back at me and for months I used extreme caution any time I needed to go into the garage.

Judging from Boo's reaction, I fully expected that encounter to keep him from playing outside for--maybe--ever. I also figured he'd want nothing to do with snakes either.

But this weekend we went to a birthday party at a nature center and guess who wanted to touch the snake the guide was showing to the kids?! Not Bug.

Talking later with my friend Lorry, she made the point that she tells her classes that when it comes to 'bad' things like smoking or doing drugs, it isn't some big scary guy with gnarled, yellow teeth and bad breath who will entice them to start a health-killing, ugly habit. On the contrary, it's going to be someone they like. Someone they trust. Someone they want to impress.

Isn't that the way it is with sin in general? It isn't the scary unknown that sucks us in; it's our 'friend.' A loved one. Someone we want to impress. When someone lovely holds the temptation, it's easy to give in. We override our own innate sense of caution to partcipate.
After God set Eve and the Serpent at odds, He gave us the inborn sense to flee when we encounter slithery things. But we can become de-sensitized to that natural response by continually creeping closer and closer to the very thing that once repelled us.

This is why I believe it is so important to make a standard, set a boundary and do everything you can to give that boundary a wide berth. It's not always easy. It is more fun to flirt with the edge.
I'm not going to bother to spell out those temptations. They differ for each of us and if I name one or two, it's easy to dismiss the point with a "well, that's not an issue for me." But we all have our weaknesses.

Your creepie crawlie could be a big serpent. The kind that trips you up when you encounter it. It might be just a little caterpillar, slowly chewing away at your resolve to live the life you desire--the life God desires for you.

My prayer for each of us is that we nurture that desire to flee the things that God has told us will bring us harm--no matter who is holding it.
"Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." Matthew 26:41

Ruby Tuesdays--Supportive is as Supportive Does

Welcome to Ruby Tuesdays. Join me and others every Tuesday as we blog something related to Proverbs 31. My theory is this passage is included in the Bible to inspire and uplift, not discourage us; to portray the endless possibilities of a woman's life, not to confine us to prescribed roles. I have far to go to become all He's created me to be, but I hope you'll join me as I blog about the journey.

"She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." Proverbs 31:12

When I was growing up, the complaint I most heard from my parents was how selfish I was. It got to the point where I felt like 'selfish' was my middle name. You know, when you were really in trouble and your parents used your whole first-middle-last name to get your attention. I could easily have been named "Mary Selfish Pielenz" during those years.

While I'm not immune to bouts of selfishness as a mom, I struggle more in my relationship with Hubs. There's something to that old maternal instinct that makes it easier to set aside my wants for my kids needs. That's not as easy with the other grown-up in the house though.

I won't say I always get it right, and I'm certainly not the most self-sacrificing wife around. I try though.

A few weeks ago I shared about Mt. Hermon and some of what it meant to me this year. It was all much understated. Those five days are probably the ones I look most forward to all year. And it's not as much about 'getting away' as it is being there among like-hearted people.

Hubs is a great dad and I have no worries about him handling things with the boys while I'm away, so once I get there, it's easy to relax and make the most of the time.

This year though, Hubs was scheduled to preach that Sunday. Usually that means he spends some time Friday and Saturday preparing, but I was going to be gone and there's not much quiet time around here when you're running things solo. There's also the "Sunday Morning Factor;" that dynamic that sends things spiraling downward when you're trying to get everyone ready for a lovely, worshipful time at church.

I wanted Hubs to be able to prepare as he needed and to get to church without the usual Sunday morning stress to distract him. I had arranged for a playdate so he'd get some study time and some Sunday back-up to help with the kids, but that fell through a couple days before I left.

He would never have asked, but I offered to leave my conference to come home on Saturday evening so he could focus on preparing and getting himself to church on Sunday and I'd handle the kid stuff.

I didn't like missing a day of the conference, but in the grand scheme of things, it mattered more that I be there for Hubs than be at the conference for myself.

It's possible that things could have gone smoothly for him if I hadn't come home. And it's likely that even if they weren't smooth, the end result would have been fine. It wasn't a lack of confidence in him, but a desire to do my part to help him be at his best.

As I type this, I remember that that's even what brought us together as a couple way back when. Things aren't always easy between us (what close relationship is?), but we've always wanted the best for each other and do what we can to bring that about.

I know I don't always get it right in this area. I could speak more kindly to him much of the time, and be more patient and accepting of our differences. I do think though that one of the strengths of our relationship is that we intentionally don't tear each other down to others. (There may be another whole post in that topic.)

I have far to go to really be a Proverbs 31 woman. But I do think it is absolutely one of the most important parts of the passage.

"The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1

If you blog about anything related to Proverbs 31 (gardening, home business, budgeting, frugal living...virtually any aspect of home-making) sometime during the week, you're welcome to use Mr Linky so others can see your post (please use the URL from the specific post itself, not just your blog URL).

You can also grab the Ruby Tuesdays button code and place it in your sidebar so more of your bloggy friends can come along. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesdays to discover more ways we can become the 'gems' God intends us to be.

The Stuff of Childhood



Birthday Cake






An Epidemic of Hopelessness

Every day this week the headlines have spoken to a rampant hopelessness. I have nothing to offer in the way of analysis or understanding. I'm rather at a loss for words. (Not a good thing when you've got a blog to to fill.)

Thankfully, another Author has penned better than I could attempt:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:11

I wait for the LORD,
my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
Psalm 130:5

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.
Hebrews 6:19-20

Ruby Tuesdays--Bugged

On a recent afternoon I was at the park with Boo and some preschool playmates. The air was filled with winged-creatures, flitting, diving, racing. After we picked up Bug from school (no pun intended), I noticed that they filled the air along a main boulevard. So many swirled in the breeze they resembled fall leaves that never hit the ground.

We were all charmed and entranced by the "butterflies." Until later that afternoon, that is.

"Mom! Mom! There's a big butterfly in the back. It can't fly." The boys came in all excited about their find.

"Leave it alone. It will take off on its own."

"We tried to get it to fly, but it can't."

Remembering some vague elementary school science information about butterflies not being able to fly with wet wings or if the powdery scales on their wings are disturbed, I though I'd better go see for myself to possibly protect the delicate creature from the enthusiastic curiousity of my guys.

I was soooo not prepared for the small-bird sized MOTH on our patio rug. It totally creeped me out. I stifled the scream that wanted to escape and beat a hasty retreat back inside, with an over-the-shoulder reminder to leave it alone and it would take off. I'll spare you the details of what I'm afraid happened to the ugly thing.

The next day as I watched another flock of fluttering bugs fly out of the vineyards, I realized that all week we'd been fascinated by smaller cousins of that big moth. Remembering the dull, brown spots and markings of our icky visitor, I started to wonder why moths are creepy when we consider butterflies beautiful. After all, they start out basically the same, as varying types of caterpillars. They go through a transition that turns them into a completely new creature. But why do we value the slender-bodied, colorful winged version over the plump, plain counterpart?

Unlike their plant-pollinating counterparts, moths are pests. They can destroy entire crops by nibbling away at them. In our homes, they ruin clothes and food. And there's something about them that makes them visually repulsive.

From a distance, it's hard to tell the difference--unless you're an entymologist, or maybe a farmer. But up close, it takes barely a second look to see that a moth is really a homely imitation of an attractive species.

It got me thinking that people can be the same way. Flitting about, charmingly beguiling from a distance. But a closer look reveals characteristics that make one want to turn away. Conversely, when we encounter the truly beautiful version we're drawn in for a closer look. The kaleidescopic nature of God's best handiwork on display almost begs for more investigation.

I don't want to be a moth. I want to be sure that I am transformed into the true beauty of His creation. I hope to be the kind of woman that people are drawn to because they can't resist His handiwork, rather than the sort that looks interesting as long as I keep moving and keep people at a distance.

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." Proverbs 31:30

If you'd like to join Ruby Tuesdays, add the URL to your P31-inspired post to Mr. Linky below (be sure to use the address of a specific post, not the general URL to your blog). If you grab the code for the button or link back here or mention Ruby Tuesdays in your post, it would help your readers find other posts they might enjoy too.

Bye-bye Baby!

Did you keep track of all your kids' "firsts?" First tooth, first words, first steps. I suppose I have some kind of loose record of those events someplace, but I have a whole different set of things I track.

Hubs laughs at me because I'm all about the "lasts." I've always been that way--about life in general, not just about my kids.

I know I'm not alone. Karen Kingsbury has a lovely book, Let Me Hold You Longer, that's all about the lasts that slip by when you're not looking. The last time they sit on your lap or sit still for a bedtime story, the last time you tie their shoes or drive them to school. (It'll make you cry, but it would be a really nice Mother's Day gift nonetheless).

I'm not one of those moms who rushed my guys' milestones. I didn't shave 3 months off the age they sat up/rolled over/walked/talked/memorized the pre-amble to the Constitution. (Ok, neither of them has really done that last one.)

I was perfectly content letting Bug sit in the middle of the floor for his first 8 months because he hated being on his hands and knees and never crawled at all. I didn't even do color or ABC flashcards before they started preschool. I don't hold them back, but I just kind of let things happen when they will.

Today we hit a 'last' I've been dreading. Today was Bug's last day with all his baby teeth. I know most moms get excited about planning that first tooth-fairy visit, but all I can think of is how all the photos I've taken with his beautiful, evenly-spaced pearly whites will be replaced with several years of snaggletoothed smiles.

I've known it was coming; most of his kindergarten classmates are in varying stages of jack-o-lantern grins. But I never got that week or two adjustment period where that first little tooth gets wiggly. My little guy got ahead of himself and his first adult tooth pushed through without bothering to displace the baby tooth. (Maybe I'll feel better if I call it a "secondary" tooth instead of "adult?")

So Monday we'll make an appointment with the dentist who will probably have to pull that baby tooth and it's nearest neighbor--just like another dentist did to his mom when she was about 6 too.

And while I outwardly enthuse about this great milestone (I wish I could have captured on film the way his eyes lit up when I pronounced his tooth "wiggly;") inwardly I'm going to be just a little sad that the next time I blink everything about him will be grown up.

(Is this why moms hang on to the disgusting discarded teeth?)

There will be showers of blessing...

"When it rains, it pours." So the saying goes. It applies to good things too though.

Sometimes life feels like endless same ol' same ol'. And then comes a spate of blessing that almost seems too much all at once. That's what these two weeks have been/are/will be for me. (How's that for a whole lot of 'passive voice' in one sentence?)

Last week I got to be at Mt. Hermon, surrounded by some of God's greatest beauty (and most brilliant people), soaking in God-designed inspiration.

At the end of the week I got to take my boys back to that neighborhood for fun with their cousins and grandparents, riding the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Steam Train.

This week, our family heads off to the Central Coast; another place filled with beauty and precious friendships.

The only drawback to our lovely cabin in the woods (if it can be considered a drawback) is virtually no cell reception or internet connectivity.

So I don't know where inspiration will strike or internet will be supplied, but I will do my best to post a couple of times, even if just to share my latest scenic observations.

So, ta-ta for now!

Kids Inspiration--He is Risen, Indeed!

I wanted to re-write this for you, but it's been a crazy few days, so I thought rather than waiting any longer, I'd post it now the way I found it on this site. Last year we did the rolls where you wrap crescent dough around a marshmellow, but I like how this one gives such a complete picture of Easter and incorporates more mystery. Whichever you may try, I hope you have a very blessed Resurrection Sunday.

Photo from
Empty Tomb Cookies

You will need:
1 cup whole pecans
1 teaspoon vinegar
3 egg whites
a pinch salt
1 cup sugar
a zipper baggy
1 wooden spoon
scotch tape

These are to be made the evening before Easter. Preheat oven to 300F.
*** (this is very important --- don't wait until you are half done with the recipe).
Place pecans in zipper baggy and let children beat them with the wooden spoon
to break into small pieces. Explain that after Jesus was arrested. He
was beaten by the Roman soldiers. Read: John 19:1-3

Let each child smell the vinegar. Put 1 teaspoon vinegar into mixing bowl.
Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross He was given vinegar
to drink. Read: John 19:28-30

Add egg whites to vinegar. Eggs represent life. Explain that Jesus gave His life
to give us life. Read: John 10:10&11

Sprinkle a little salt into each child's hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest
into the bowl. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus' followers,
and the bitterness of our own sin. Read: Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the
sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. He wants us to
know and belong to Him. Read: Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16

Beat with a mixer on high speed for 12 to 15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed.
Explain that the color white represents the purity in God's eyes of those whose sins
have been cleansed by Jesus. Read: Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3

Fold in broken nuts. Drop by teaspoon onto waxed paper covered cookie sheet.
Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus' body was laid.
Read: Matthew 27:57-60

Put the cookie sheet in the oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF.

Give each child a piece of tape and seal the oven door.
Explain that Jesus' tomb was sealed. Read: Matthew 27:65-66


Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight.
Jesus' followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read: John 16:20&22

On Resurrection Sunday (Easter) morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow! On the first Easter Jesus' followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read: Matthew 28:1-9

A Pregnant Pause

I have two boys--one born under the influence of an epidural, and one born drug-free. I know, you're expecting me to say that I asked the anesthesiologist to marry me, or go on about how you don't really "forget all the pain" in a drug-free birth, but none of that's true. I actually preferred the drug-free birth.

See, the first time around, I got psyched out when the doctor appeared in the doorway at 1 a.m. while I was laboring in the tub, listening to Michelle Tumes and trying to stay focused.

"I don't think you'll deliver while I'm on duty, so I came to say good-bye."

"What time does your shift end?" I asked.

"Seven a.m." he replied.

"What makes you think I won't deliver before then?"

"You're clearly not in enough pain."


I figured if that wasn't enough pain, I couldn't possibly survive the next 6+ hours of "real pain," so I'd better get the drugs after all. (Turns out he was wrong and Bug was born at 4:05 a.m. The "I told you so" in my mind helped ease the pain in the area where the epidural didn't take.)

After yielding the first time to that moment where every fiber of your being says "I can't do this! Bring me drugs!"--I was determined to do it differently the second time.

Not quite 3 years later, I found that by overpowering the uncertainty, the relief that follows delivery is the most indescribably delicious feeling ever. (Bet you've never heard it described in quite those terms before!)

But it's true. Maybe it's that weird psychological thing that the harder you work for something the more meaningful it is when it finally arrives. I don't know. But I do know that when Boo was born (all 9 pudgy pounds of him) I had the conscious thought that "this is the best feeling ever."

You've probably seen the birthing analogy applied to writing many times over. It's easy to find on the acknowledgment page in books or on the 'writer's journey' posts on assorted blogs. And it fits. It really does.

One of the most important things I learned at the writer's conference this week is that I've been in the 'transition phase.' In giving birth, it's the period where the mom-to-be loses her confidence and calls for back-up/drugs, like I did.

But in writing, there is no back-up/drugs. When a writer loses confidence and gives in to the uncertainty that threatens to overtake them, there are only two options. 1) Give up and call it quits or, 2) power through the doubts and keep moving.

I left for the writer's conference at Mt. Hermon feeling more uncertain than even I recognized. I went, looking for assurance that now is the time to get back to writing in a way I set aside a long time ago. At the very least, I hoped for confirmation that writing is still on God's agenda for me.

He gave me that confidence in many ways, including agent Judy Mikalonis' class where she shared a quote from Art and Fear, "Uncertainty is the sign of opportunity and impending birth." I so needed to hear that!

And in case I missed the point, God was gracious enough to send a new industry friend who said "You're a writer." When surrounded by so many who are more prolific, more published, probably even more talented, I needed to hear that too.

If you've been around here for a while, you likely weren't even aware at the beginning that once upon a time I was a 'real' writer. I didn't put it in my bio, I didn't have my books in the sidebar. I didn't want to claim it because I've lived so far from that place for a long time and was afraid of putting it out there and having people expect me to "prove it."

So here I am admitting that yes, I AM a writer.

And I am going to follow through with sending out the things I promised to editors and agents. And I am going to move forward through this birthing process again. I don't know how long the labor will last or what the next baby will look like. But I'm going to power through the uncertainty and keep going and see what God delivers when the time comes.

Has God been calling you to something hard? Are you at the point where you're ready to move forward or quit? I know the feeling. I'd love to support each other as we go through the transition phase.

(Thanks to the suggestion from Angela at Becoming Me, I entered this post in Scribbit's April Write-away Contest. Check her site for other inspiring writing, or to submit your own entry on this month's topic, "Mom.")

Ruby Tuesdays--Contented or Not? (Guest Blogger)

Welcome to Ruby Tuesdays. Don't forget to leave a comment today to enter the "Afternoon Tea in a Box" giveaway. I'll choose a winner on Wednesday. I'm away for a few days, so I asked my friend Sue Donaldson to write a post for us today. You can find more of Sue at her site Welcome Heart.

Contented, or Not?

A while back, a new friend invited me for lunch after she had had lunch at my house. Her home is larger than mine – I knew that – I didn’t care (I thought)-- but she did say 9,000 square feet…?

At the time, I was thinking I needed a bigger kitchen – I figured her kitchen just might be bigger than mine…

The morning I was going to her home, I told my husband: “Mark, you better pray for me today that I don’t covet – I’m going to Janet’s house for lunch…” He just said, “That’s your problem if you do covet.”

He doesn’t sound very sympathetic does he? (He does have very good bedside manner – I just think it’s all used up by the time he gets home.)

Well, he was right on that point—any coveting I might do is my problem. It dawned on me later that maybe he responded that way because I made him feel badly. Maybe I implied he wasn’t providing for me all that I wanted – I wasn’t acting content.

When we aren’t content, it grieves God.

He says, “Look at all I’ve given her – and she’s not looking in all the right places. If she would only see what she does have…”

We don’t want to break God’s heart – maybe that’s the biggest motivation we can have for cultivating contentment.

I did pray for myself that morning. Maybe Mark didn’t – I think he was a little disgruntled. I don’t blame him. But I prayed. I just wanted a bigger kitchen – I didn’t need 9,000 feet – but I knew I’d be seeing something big.

God answered. I had a great day.

I ood and ahh’d and didn’t covet at all – I just admired and enjoyed and we became friends. Janet didn’t want me to love her for her home – no one wants to be loved for their possessions – just for themselves. And, God doesn’t mind grandeur – look at the temple He designed – think about the house He’s preparing you in heaven. (That remodel will be finished by the time you get there…)

He wants us to be content and not covet – coveting just gets us in trouble, and its sin besides. And makes us miserable. Contentment is what’s good for us--and gives God joy.

Being Content is how God intended us to live – just like He made us for the Garden of Eden – and we blew it and stepped out of it. He’s intended us to live with contentment, and yet, I can step out of it several times a day.

What strikes me is that God’s intention is not only we be content just to show what a good Christian looks like – but it’s for our good.

That motivates me, and helps me want to want it more.

It’s like when I tell my girls: “If you get sleep, you will feel better - period – and it adds to all of our contentment when you do…

“It’s not something I’m trying to punish you with or burden your life with – it’s to bring you joy. Sleep is not an option (neither is God or integrity but that’s another lesson…”)

God says to me: “Sue, be content. I’ve intended you to function better when you are. It will bring you joy. Let me do that for you.”

Not only is it for my good, contentment pleases my Heavenly Father.

Have a contented day!

Take a couple minutes to follow these links and see what some other people are thinking today. If you've got a Proverbs 31 post or blog (meaning just about anything related to home and family, working from home, gardening, teaching, etc), add your information to Mr. Linky and link back here from your blog--grab the button code from the column on the right to make it easy. (Remember to link to a specific post, and not just a general blog link.) Thanks for joining us!

Where I've been....

When through the woods,

and forest glades I wander,

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.

When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur

And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,

How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

I'll be here through Tuesday (look for a guest blogger for Ruby Tuesdays). Wish you were here...I'll try to soak in enough of God's beauty and inspiration to share when I get back.

Practicing what I preach...

I'm getting ready to go away for a few days--leaving tomorrow. Between getting my things ready to go and the boys things ready to stay, in light of my own words on 'idleness,' I really don't have the time to make the post that's in my heart today.

So, if you haven't been following me from the beginning, maybe you could check out some of my previous posts (June and July were good months). I'd love to hear if you have a favorite from the past.

Check back over the weekend though; I'll be in one of the most beautiful (and inspiring) places on the west coast. And I'm taking my new camera! So I'm expecting to have some photos of God's handiwork to share.

Love and blessings,
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