Thursday, May 31, 2012

Step Up My Game

In life, I’m all about the little things. Little things add up to make a big difference, after all. But in my wardrobe.

I could blame motherhood or life-juggling, but the truth is that I haven’t had a knack for putting together complete and total outfits since, well, ever. Top covered + bottom covered = dressed?

Then I went to Ireland. Where I fell in love with scones and round towers and James Joyce and flats. Not apartments—shoes. At a store called Dunnes I found four pairs of adorable flats, and every last one fit my feet. (Note--I bought all four pairs and spent about $30...not Euro, dollars!)

my favorite Irish shoes

You need to understand that I have short-wide (aka duck-foot-shaped) feet. I usually wear one to two sizes too big in shoes just so my wideness can have room. I’ll have an inch or so in the toe but be breaking out the sides.

I have Irish feet?

When my parents returned to Ireland a couple of years later, my mom asked me what I wanted as a souvenir. Flats.  As many as you can fit in your suitcase.

May 1st started our Summer of Healthy Living, which means better eating, exercising, reading, praying, and (because I love to pile on the goals), for me, a challenge to play with my “look.” I want to add accessories. I want to do stuff with my hair. I want to find a mascara that doesn’t flake into my eyeballs. I want to experiment with color and texture.

At least two days a week, I am going to think outside my style box. Look—I bought a headband. Now you know I’m serious. 

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

No One Told Me I Needed to Know How to Juggle

On the job description for motherhood, no one told me I needed to know how to juggle. And today I feel like someone keeps hucking chainsaws into the mix. 

My youngest (seven-month-old Jonas) has spoiled me by sleeping in for the past many months. So two-and-a-half-year-old Jack and I get up at about 7:30, come downstairs, turn on cartoons, and eat breakfast while I work on writing and emails and checking Groupon (shameless addiction). But little Jonas has been waking up earlier, and neither of us can adjust to the new routine. When do I write? When does Jack get his morning close-to-mama time? There's this baby wanting to eat his morning fruit and cereal mush. Before I even have my coffee! He's happy on the floor after his breakfast for a good chunk of time, but it's like he knows when I'm going to start trying to be productive. Then he demands my attention. Men.

Jonas rarely cries, and Jack's talkative nature is generally entertaining. It's just that, this morning, all things fell apart.

I'm not good at actual juggling. Why? It's hard for me to catch and think about catching at the same time. Again and again. I want to plan. Please give me a few minutes after saying, "Hey, a ball is coming your way," to let it all sink in. Then I can figure out where in my schedule to put the ball-catching, working it in between everything else. But juggling doesn't really go that way. And life doesn't always either. At times we don't even get a "think fast!"

Luckily, in this case, my desire to plan will play to my advantage, as long as I am willing to be flexible enough to alter my routine now that Jonas is demanding it to be altered.

But I had things down pat.

Oh well. Time to put down the whine and pick up the slack.

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield!"(Tennyson l. 70)

Tennyson, Alfred. "Ulysses." n.p. n.d. Web. 30 May 2012. 

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Monday, May 28, 2012

8 years and 6 days

A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I actually suffer from the illness known as “hopeless romantic syndrome.” It’s quite serious, and there is no known cure. Some people think being let down in romance is the best medicine to alleviate this syndrome, but true hopeless romantics still hold on to a constant desire for fulfillment.

“Husbands, love your wives…love your wives as you love yourself…he who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:25–28).

I’ve often reflected on God’s call for women to be submissive and men to love their wives. In recent years, I’ve come to the conclusion that this call is for us to go beyond what is natural for us. I hate to use sweeping generalizations, but women tend to find it easy to lead, and men usually have little trouble in taking care of their own desires. So God asks us, in our marriages, to do the opposite of what is easy for us—women: step back, and let your husband step up; men: put your wives’ quiet desires ahead of yours, and cherish her openly and honestly. That cherishing makes a passionate marriage.

Genesis describes the union of marriage as two people being united into one (2:24), and this union is supposed to continue on in passion throughout growing old together: “May you rejoice in the wife of your youth…may you ever be captivated by her love” (Proverbs 5:18–19). Notice that Proverbs doesn’t say, “May you endure your lives together.” These verses ask for the blessing of a forever passion: captivated in love.

As of today, I've been married 8 years and 6 days. It's not always easy, but I pray for that captivation in our lives. Truly, I hope my hopeless romantic syndrome is hereditary, that it brings a level of romantic and passionate fulfillment (and not frustration) to the marriages of my children.    

May 22, 2004

5 years married, with Jack in womb

Take a look at us now!

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

See You Later, To Do List

I've learned this morning that it is incredibly difficult to write with a two-and-a-half-year-old sitting on your right arm. Why?

1) Truly successful typing necessitates movement of both upper limbs.
2) Concentration is difficult with a wiggly, talkative, snuggly, toddler companion.

But then I found the irony in the fact that I was writing on my book about praying for my children, as I was ignoring my eldest son.

Life is like that. I think sometimes our goal-reaching gets in the way of the heart of our goals. I want to write. I tend to write about my boys. And yet I sometimes miss out on quality time or great lessons from them while I tickity-tackity away on my laptop. I cannot abandon my writing dreams, but I do need to take a couple more breaks with Jack before he's too old to think sitting on my right arm is an acceptable communication of his affection.

So I clicked out of Microsoft Word, and we had a little photo shoot.

Playing with Jack when I have a lot on my to do list is not a waste of time.

"The most wasted day of all is that in which we have not laughed" (Sebastien-Roch Nicolas Chamfort 236).

Now, if you will excuse me, it is time to play trains.

Chamfort, Sebastien-Roch Nicolas. “Laughter and Smiles.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of
Quotations. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 1992.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Girls Night Out: Pottery Painting

I learned last night that my talent lies not in painting. Yes, the above finished product of all my efforts looks nice, but you didn't see how many times I took the wet sponge and obliterated my mistakes. (If you don't believe me, I've got kind witnesses who kept encouraging my every attempt.)

Once I found a flower stamp I could embellish, I thought I had struck the preverbal pottery gold--but even with a stamp, I still made mistakes.

Even in life, when an obvious template is before me (even she couldn't mess up this one, right?), I still make mistakes.


Sometimes it's not mine to know (Acts 1:7). I'm imperfect, and it's going to show all over this vessel that is me. But, thank goodness, God will get out His sponge named Jesus and wipe off my mistakes, making me white as snow again (Psalm 51:7, Isaiah 1:18, John 1:29). Then I can rethink my strategies and start all over. If I keep trying with Him in mind and spirit, I'll end up being something God doesn't mind claiming as His own as He tells me, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23).

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Minor Celeb, Major Courage

Finishing up my last sip of lemon water on a lunch out with my parents and friends, I looked up and saw him, recognizing instantly his characteristic dreadlocks from season seven of American Idol: Jason Castro was about to be only feet away from me.

Now, living in downtown Franklin, Tennessee, you see your fair share of celebrities, ranging in levels of famousness. But I never do anything about it. I just tell someone later that "I saw so-and-so" with absolutely no proof to support my story--not that anyone has ever doubted me.

But today the twelve-year-old girl inside of me said, "You should have your picture taken with him." I'm not the type to ask, though, so we left the restaurant. My mom was outside, and I asked her, "Did you see him?" She didn't know who he was, even when I explained. "You should ask him," she said. "Did he win?"

"No," I told her.

"Then he'll love it."

So. I. Did.

And here is the proof.

Believe it or not, my intent with this blog isn't to brag to you about my brush with fame today (though, aren't you wishing you'd been with me?). When I re-walked out of the restaurant, my friends and my mom asked what I said to him. "I just asked if it would be weird if I asked him to have his picture taken with me." Why didn't I say more, they wanted to know. "Because my boldness level for the day had reached its max capacity."

I have too many I once thought I should have done this but I didn't stories. Today, for some reason, I decided I was going to have an I once thought I should have done this, and did it, by golly story.

It's not really a huge deal, in the grand scheme of life, but for me, popping my happy comfort bubble made me skirmish at that moment, but has turned into a story filled with reward rather than regret.

“Be strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31:6, 31:7, 31:23; Joshua 1:6, 1:7, 1:9, 1:18, 10:25; 1 Chronicles 28:20, 2 Chronicles 32:7). I think that was the longest in-text citation I have ever typed. God must be serious about courage. We are told to be on guard…"be courageous, be strong" (1 Corinthians 16:13), “stand firm” (Ephesians 6:14), and to “rise up” when a particular matter is up to us to deal with, to “take courage and do it” (Ezra 10:4).

So today's particular matter was a silly bit of fun, but it showed me I can do things outside of myself. No matter the size or importance of the task--"I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

baby drool and peanut butter smears--a mother's fashion accessory

I was so glad to guest post for paNASH Style's blog. Below is most of that article.

You know those moms who always look perfectly put together? They wear makeup and have hairstyles and, except for the child at the hip, look completely un-motherish.

I’m not that woman.

I used to babysit for a work-at-home mom. She’d come downstairs to say hello to her two-year-old son, hugging him and asking how he was doing. Somehow she’d return upstairs completely clean after this interaction. Just looking at that kid covered me in peanut butter.

But I never give up. It’s easy to fall into a rut with your post-baby tummy making your old wardrobe ill-fitting and with a two-year-old pulling at you as you try to brush your hair, but I’ve learned a few tricks that help me from becoming “that mom” who obviously doesn’t care anymore.

1)   Buy new clothes!
a.     Once you’ve lost some of the weight, don’t wait until you get back to your pre-baby weight to buy anything new. Find things that can transition with you but still flatter you as you are now. I have become quite the fan of dresses with a high belt.
b.     Get out of those maternity pants as soon as you are able, even if it means buying a pair of jeans in a size that makes you cry at first. Which brings me to my next point.
c.      Don’t freak out about the numbers. Remember how, even before the baby, you’d be two sizes smaller at one store over the other?
2)   Maybe it’s time to reinvent your style.
a.     For some reason, it took the birth of my children for me to truly come into my own fashion sense and style. I think it might be because I rewarded myself with X amount of money to spend on clothing after I reached certain weight-loss goals, and I decided to spend it on things I really wanted—things that made me feel feminine and fun again.
b.     Don’t let yourself make excuses anymore. If your fashion icon is Lucille Ball, go get yourself an I Love Lucy dress today!
c.   Get help! I'm lucky to be around fashion students at O'More College of Design who give me advice and say YAY or NAY to an outfit I'm experimenting with. And there are professionals out there, like Lori Bumgarner of paNASH Style. You can hire her to make you look the best with what you've got. (And what you've got is good!) Visit her website!
3)   Figure out little things you can do to make yourself feel pretty. Every day.
a.     I take a daily shower. Sometimes kids are screaming while I get clean, but I feel more able to conquer the day after washing off yesterday.
b.     I wear eye shadow and eye liner, even if I’m in workout clothes cleaning the house. When I look in the mirror as I wash my hands seventy times a day, I prefer the way I look with this one-minute investment. Worth it.
4)   Don’t compare yourself to other moms.
a.     This is, of course, important advise on all levels of mothering!
b.     Maybe so-and-so looks exactly as she did before, only three weeks after her twins are born. Your body may change shape in some ways permanently, but it doesn’t mean you cannot look thin and fabulous with your new body. It also doesn’t mean you won’t get back to your old body eventually. It’s hard work, but those babies are worth it!

Yes, those babies are even worth the extra mom-accessories of leftover food and drool I find on my shirts.  When I dress up these days, my two-year-old son says, “Mama, you’re beautiful.” The other day I was in yoga pants and a tee shirt when he said it: “Mama, you’re beautiful.” I looked at myself and almost protested, but then I realized—I’m his mama, and that does make me beautiful. All the time.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Self Portrait

Wishing for a new post today? No problem: visit GLAM Ministries' website for my guest blog debut! A portion of that post is below.

Sometimes my husband catches me in the act—of taking my own picture. Repeatedly.
There are a couple of reasons I do this. First of all, it’s usually a day in which I look in the mirror and think, “Oh, well, that’s nice” (as opposed to the “oh, ugg” days we all have). Secondly, it’s because I generally feel more comfortable with myself as a photographer than with anyone else. And, thirdly, I like to have the power of pressing the delete button. Also repeatedly. I often take forty photos to get one fantastic shot.
I’ve always found self-portraits fascinating because they are a revelation of how the artist sees herself. For me, as a photography-enthusiast, it might be all the deleted photos that would tell you about me: my insecurities (freckles too obvious in that one), my perfectionist nature (windblown hair too natural in that one), my love of creativity (what if I take my picture through this reflection?). And staring at photo after photo of myself sometimes leads me to one of the largest (yet shortest) questions ever formed.
Who am I?
This possible identity crisis affects some more than others, but I think most of us deliberate on our distinctiveness, at least once in a while.
Who am I?
I’m trying my best to stop asking that question—to replace it with this one: Who do I want to be?
I love the focus behind G.L.A.M. because it aligns perfectly with my philosophy in life of advancement towards goals.
You can keep worrying over who you are, or you can figure out who you want to be, and “commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him” (Psalms 37:5) as you start working on becoming her. 
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Sunday, May 20, 2012

weedy or not, here they come

Today was a perfect day to meet my mom’s love language of Acts of Service (Chapman 87-102) and to finish up her delayed Mothers’ Day present of weeding together. Although I hate bug spray (which is a must any time this tasty morsel that I am works outside), I don’t really mind pulling weeds. First of all, it fulfills my love of accomplishment. Secondly, it takes advantage of my squatting talent. (If our sons become catchers on a baseball team, I’ll feel like I’ve given them my one sporty skill.)

As I plucked weed after weed, I started thinking about roots. The part of weeding I’m not so good at—which is sadly the most important part—is getting to the root so that the offender won’t come back again. This made me think about how, in life, we too often find a temporary solution for our troubles, or take away the visible signs (the top part of the weed) without really fixing whatever is wrong. Things will look good for a while, but when we leave the root, the problem will soon sprout back up again.

For some reason, the larger weeds are much easier to pull up, perhaps because they have shallower roots or because they have more to hold onto, better ensuring a firm tug. It’s tempting to focus on these, because success is simpler. But we cannot forget the value of challenging ourselves in life, even if failure is a possibility.

Finally, I am always astonished by the resilience of weeds. They can take root in tiny crevices of pavement that we don’t even know exist, until that green comes popping through. And some weeds require a lot more digging. My mom told me to use the trowel on nut sage: the roots were just too deep for me to get at on my own. That trowel made me think of my good friends, who build me up and call me out: play with me and pray with me.

Who knew a day of digging in the dirt would bring such inspiration? Answer—Henry David Thoreau: “My profession is to always find God in nature.” Sounds like a good career to me.  

Chapman, Gary. The 5 Love Languages. Chicago: Northfield, 1995. Print.

Thoreau, Henry David. “Nature Quotes.” Barbara Jean. n.d. Web. 20 May 2012.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Are You Excited By This?

I just finished teaching a summer short course: The Fundamentals of Speech. We somehow crammed fifteen weeks worth of material into five days. Class ended exactly two hours and twenty-two minutes ago, and, needless to say, I’m exhausted.

Many a life lesson was learned in this class: not just about public speaking skills, but about these thirteen girls who shared their personalities and passions through the course of this course. They range from the helpful to the hilarious, and I’d like to share just a few, giving credit where credit is due (just like I taught them):

1)   Don’t carry a coconut around in the airport; it may be mistaken as a bomb (Sophie Franken). 
2)   Joseph Stalin was surprisingly smoldering looking as a youth (Stephanie Reith).
3)   Bambi took seven years to make, because Walt Disney sent some of his artists back to school to learn how to better draw animals (Courtney Allen).
4)   Sloths only go poo once a week (Sarah Keaggy).
5)   Domesticated foxes might be one of the cutest pets ever (Malerie Serley).
6)   The Vulcan “Live Long and Prosper” hand salute was created by Nimoy and inspired by a Jewish blessing (Rachel Conrad).
7)   Companies with excellent branding have subtly worked their way into my everyday life; I probably recognize their iconic logos or packaging without thinking twice (Kailey Haraburda).
8)   Textile designers generally have other jobs as well, such as teaching workshops or writing (Anna Michelle Johnson).
9)   Building structures that will last is a form of sustainability (Lauren Elwell).
10)    Making paper in a blender is a fun activity I can (and will) do (Lauren Finley).
11)    A simpler interior design will help people from all cultures feel more at ease in a space (Maryam Jahani).
12)    The perfect title gets people excited (Ashley Balding).

Sometimes life is a little intimidating, like spending an entire week, all day, in a class on what Forbes lists as one of the top nine most common fears (Van Dusen). Yet the survival rate for the affectionately title “Suicide Speech” course was overwhelmingly high (100%, to be exact). No one even ran screaming for the hills.

Our group was able to tackle something “15 million people” are afraid of (Van Dusen) and to come away stronger, smarter, and more sugared-up from all the presenters’ food analogies.

Besides the interesting bits of knowledge I’ve shared from my students above, I want to leave you with one more point I always make to all my students—both in writing and speech classes. Never forget the importance of a resonating, memorable, and powerful conclusion. You don’t want to just trail off into nothingness at the end and

Van Dusen, Allison. “Our Most Common Fears.” n.p. 14 December 2006. Web. 18 May 2012.

The textbook I wrote for The Fundamentals of Speech course at O'More: designed by Amy Lyon and illustrated by Jennifer Britton.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Time for Tea

Whatever happened to teatime?

Tea and tête-à-tête 

In my travel opportunities, I’ve been blessed with two trips to England, and both times I was giddy at all the chances for tea and conversation. And that’s part of it; it was always have tea with someone with the sole purpose of enjoying the taste and time together.

Today we are too busy with being busy. We have to do at least three things at one time to feel as though we are accomplishing anything at all.

This past October, I gave birth to my second child. There is nothing like a baby to make you slow down and realize you cannot do everything at every time. I was frantic with my first son by how little I felt I accomplished each day, and I think part of that is our society’s definition of daily accomplishment. We must always do more to be more, or so we are told.

And yet half of the things we do are really a waste of the valuable moments where we could just be.

The time of tea and tête-à-tête is one spent in enjoyment of being: being together, being thoughtful, being warmed, being welcomed.

I want to bring teatime back to our culture, or at least into my own culture.  Moments away from our to do lists will be invaluable for relaxation and clarity.

This gorgeous photo is by Emily Mae Anderson.

But a cup of tea need not always be with another. Still holding to the idea of teatime as be time, I also recognize the worth of this chance for inspiration-abounding solitude.

As a mother of two, time alone is rare.  I find myself piddling too much of it away on brainlessness when I could let my mind wander over a warm brew. Something about tea and quiet seems to help me unwind. My mind doesn’t stop thinking (ever), but it does get the chance to think about whatever it wants. Every once in a while I have to steer it away from the dinner menu or whether I need to put diapers (and which size) on the shopping list, but I can take another sip and reign it back in to something I want to truly contemplate.  I don’t ever solve the world’s problems in my private reflections, but I do sometimes notice something beautiful.

Trouble yourself for tea
Tea is taste, touch, sight, smell, sound: it is a complete sensory package to be shared with a friend or group over a mash of ideas or to be enjoyed alone, freely sequestered from the world.

Tea is not much trouble; boiling water is easy. The only trouble is taking the time for tea, but it is a trouble you simply must get into. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Mother’s Prayer to The Father

God knew Hannah’s heart, her tearful prayers for a son, and out of her misery He drew her. Naming her son Samuel, meaning heard of God, Hannah took the young boy to the temple to live a life devoted to the Lord. Before she left the temple, Hannah prayed again to her Creator:

My heart is happy
because of the God
who has delivered me.

He is the
only Holy God,
who brings down the proud
and gives strength to those who stumble.

He is a
prevailing God
who has control over hunger, barrenness,
life and death, wealth and destitution.

My heart is happy
because the God
who has the power to destroy His enemies
and exalt His chosen
heard my prayer
and answered the hope of my heart.

1 Samuel 1–2:11

Hannah’s prayer is interesting to me, because it does not simply praise God for the blessing of a child, nor does it focus on concern for the little boy she is about to leave at the temple for the Lord’s service. Hannah expresses gratitude, but her prayer focuses on the supremacy of her Maker in all things. God revealed His power over her barrenness, and Hannah learned of His power over all.

God reveals Himself to us during our time in prayer.

And, truly, God knows what is in our hearts and on our minds whether or not we commune with Him in prayer (Matthew 6:8). Still, Jesus—who was of God—took the time to pray words of praise and requests for Himself, His disciples, and all believers (John 17). In following His example, we draw ourselves closer to our Creator.

Think of how much you enjoy spending time with your friends talking, going places, and just hanging out. Until we get to Heaven, we won’t have the chance to hang out with God. Our opportunity to be intimate with Him lies in our time in His word and in prayer.

I am thankful to all the mothers in my life who have taught me examples of God’s goodness. You are one of the answers to the hope of my heart.

My heart is happy. Overwhelmingly so. Thank you, Father, for making me a mother. 

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

When Peace Like a Jonas...

My second son, Jonas, displayed signs of peace even from the first days of his life. I have always been in awe of the beauty of his spirit. I’m not saying he doesn’t ever get upset, but I feel a strength radiating off of him, and have from within our first moments together, that I can only describe as peace. 

Jonas’s peace has a positive reaction on me; peace isn’t really a part of my make-up, but I’m beginning to better understand what it is now that I have stared into its big brown eyes.

“Grace and peace to you….” And so begins Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude. Peace is obviously an important blessing the writers wish to grant to the readers of these letters. 

George Crabbe writes, "People are…calm inasmuch as they are exempt from the commotion which at any given moment rages around them" (549). How wonderfully that is worded. Every morning, the commotion of the house rages on around us, but Jonas sleeps in. Jonas takes his precious time eating breakfast, a short thumb sucking chaser between most bites (pictured above).This little boy is teaching me to slow down, to remain calm. Big lesson from a little boy.

Crabb, George.  Crabb’s English Synonymes. New York: Harper & Brothers Publisher, 1917. Print. 

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

If Jack Wrote My Blog...

“Jack, what should I write about?”
“What about Colorado?”
“Go to Colorado and play playground.”

Jack is two, and there are two reasons Colorado is “randomly” on his mind this evening. 1) His MiMi is there this week. 2) Today his daddy showed him a bunch of pictures from our trip there last summer.

Minutes later when I ask Jack what he’s thinking about, he tells me, “School.” “What did you do at school?” I ask. “No push Malachi at school.”

Good. We’ve been working on that.

I’m a worrier. I worry about being worried. I worry about making others worried. Jack doesn’t. He thinks about the stuff and the people he loves. I guess you could argue that he’s too naïve to know there are things to worry about, but that’s a naivety we should all consider reverting to.

Do I really believe that “we are more than conquerors” and that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37–39)? (What a powerful list—maybe we should read it again.)

Right now, Jack believes nothing will separate him from my love. When he gets in trouble, I do my best to reinforce this faith. I am an imperfect parent, but my children don’t know that (yet). I worship the Perfect Parent, and I seem to forget that (often).

So the next time we start to worry, maybe we should take a lesson from Jack. Life is full of more important things to think about, such as being nice to our friends and enjoying the proverbial “playgrounds” of blessings from a Father who wants us to “worry not” (Matthew 6:25, 28, 31, 34, etc) but to  “look at the birds of the air” and remember that the same Creator who takes care of them takes care of us as well—and likes us better than birds to boot (Matthew 6:26).

 Jack trusting his daddy to carry him safely through the mountains during last summer's Colorado hike.