8 Things You Kids Will Complain About Now But Thank You For Later



Children complain. They are children after all. But valuable skills and character are formed when we are prodded to do things like lessons or household chores. It may seem easier at the time to manage things on your own, but teaching these life lessons benefits everyone in the family and sets patterns for ongoing participation. Teaching children how to contribute to the family gives children both a sense of accomplishment as well as a sense of belonging by having a positive role in the family. Children feel good when given opportunities to contribute to family life.

Here are just a few meaningful life-long habits to help your children cultivate:

Friends, will you join me at Family Fire?

How Do I Keep My Family Safe?

FamilyYou might hear about a drive-by shooting, or a sexual predator, or a crashed car full of teens not far from where you live. It’s hard not to worry about the safety of your family. It seems like no one is safe anywhere. There is no socio-economic group free from the random acts of violence in today’s world. And there have always been dangerous times–from war, famine, plagues, or grizzly bears. Each generation experiences present danger.

So how do we create a sense of security for our children? Consider King David, who was constantly in danger. It seemed that once he rid himself of one enemy, he was pursued by a different one. Yet he consistently praised God for deliverance and security. How did he do it?

Read the rest of this article at Family Fire

When Tragedy Strikes Too Close To Home



Our girlish chatter stopped mid sentence as the car turned the corner revealing two blocks of emergency vehicles blocking our turn onto my street. I muttered something unintelligible to my friend as I hopped out of the car still rolling to a stop. “Excuse me ma’am, who are you?” A police officer stopped me before I could step foot on my block, “I live on that block,” I didn’t wait for a response and pushed past the police office and into the street.

My son had been home while I was at a women’s ministry dinner, and the iPhone he keeps telling me is ancient had batteries long ago dead. My heart pounded in my ears…was it my house causing all of that smoke? Had my son been calling desperate for comfort or even worse help? Turning the corner I saw ghostly grey plumes of smoke rolling in my direction. I sighed with relief. It was not my home. My son was in the front yard, camera in hand, waiting for my return.

On the way to my house, I must have still looked ashen as a neighbor grabbed me and held me saying, “No, it’s not your house, thank God.” And my son greeted me with the irritation that only comes when worry builds and communication fails, “When are you going to get a new phone Mom? I’ve been trying to call you for an hour!” His arm wrapped around my shoulders.

Two of my old Home Bible study members ran onto the block with admonishments similar to my son’s as they had tried to reach me to see if I was alright but to no avail. Arms all tangled in tearful hugs of relief, our eyes could not peel from the glowing embers of what was once home to a single mom and her two young adult children.

It was difficult to sleep that night as blue and red flickered on my ceiling past four a.m. There were sounds of hammering and staple guns as they boarded up what was left of the house. And then I remembered, in the midst of my relief, that it is still my neighbor’s house destroyed. The one I had invited repeatedly to my ladies’ Bible study on Wednesday mornings, but who had never come. My relief meant that someone else was suffering.

It was real to them. It was their two dogs killed by inhaling that ghostly vapor. It was their baby pictures and favorite sweaters and grandma’s afghans that had been roasted and then soaked. It was their life that had gone up in smoke. I went to sleep relieved but I woke up ashamed. I was relieved to be untouched while my neighbors had been devastated.

Sometimes, when tragedy hits closest to home, in our gratitude we forget to be sympathetic. Sometimes it’s easier to sympathize with the Christians on the other side of the world than it is with our next door neighbors. I wonder why?

Could it be that in our love for what belongs to us we grasp too tightly unable to see anything beyond ourselves? Could it be that our own neighborhood sees when our lawn needs to be mowed and hears our teenager shout angry things through the summer open windows? Could it be that placing ourselves in our neighbors shoes demands hand to hand interaction in a social media world, and we just don’t want to get involved? Could it be that we don’t know how to answer the awkward questions of why, and so we avoid putting ourselves in the position of being asked to begin with?

It is true. I am grateful for angels protecting my home. But in publicly acknowledging their presence in my home am I telling my neighbor that they were absent from hers?

Human nature hates the messiness of these questions. We default to what is easy, and sometimes what is easy is to turn away. But this is when I want His nature to overcome mine. His nature stands with us in the middle of crisis, never leaving us. His nature doesn’t run from unhappy endings and headlines, but runs to the rescue, sits beside those who have lost. Prays for those who are hurting.

The house is boarded up now. An empty container of what once was a home. And though I’ve since reached out to them, they have not responded. I can only pray that they have found the Source of all comfort. And yes, I pray for the persecuted on the other sie of the world because what they are experiencing is unthinkable. But sometimes my neighbor’s tragedies are forced on my realities and I would rather shove the pain of it aside than make it thinkable. Maybe the truth is that I am afraid to feel their pain.

It’s easier to send a nice check to the starving and hurting than to sit quietly with my neighbor as she sorts through charred memories. Maybe when tragedy hits too close to home it hits too close to home.

…and I chronicle His grace here

Making Memorial Day Memorable


In the United States, the Memorial Day holiday has come to indicate the official beginning of the summer vacation season. Many spend the day focused on cookouts, pool openings, and a day off from work. However, its origins are more somber. After the American Civil War, citizens put aside a day to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers–to memorialize them. Eventually, this became a nationally recognized event. Yet through the years, the day has lost its original significance of remembering veterans. Grilling has taken priority over gratitude. It’s meaning has been forgotten along with the soldiers who served their country…join me at Family Fire to find out some fun new traditions for Memorial Day.

Helping Your Children Find Their Giftings


These days, parents feel the need to get their children involved in sports, band, and community activities in order to expose them to various experiences. They do this to help their children find their giftings.

According freedictionary.com, a gifting is “something bestowed or acquired without being sought or earned by the receiver or a special ability or capacity; natural endowment; talent.” We know that God is the giver of these special abilities, but sometimes they can be difficult for a parent to help their child discover. Here are a few tips that might help. Join me at Family Fire for the rest

All Roads Lead to New Glarus Pt. 1- A Travel/Memoir Series – Retelling of a Story

My father once said, “All roads lead to New Glarus.” Throughout the years a small town in Southwestern Wisconsin seems to have repeated itself in significance. Our tapestry has been woven traveling through, in and around this lovely weekend getaway spot. The rolling hills and deeply cut valleys reminded the early Swiss settlers of their homeland.

I’ll never forget the first time I found myself in New Glarus, Wisconsin. It was a late August afternoon, and the air was starting to smell like newly sharpened pencils. Locusts played their organ-grinding songs, and all that grows grew golden. Thoughts of going back to school lurked in the back of my mind, causing me to capture each moment and savor it like a piece of creamy, milk chocolate melting slowly over my tongue. Every hour was precious freedom.

My family strolled down the main street of a town proclaiming to be “America’s Swiss Village.” With almost-black rough wood beams criss-crossing over white stucco, the buildings looked like they could have been in Glarus, Switzerland. Under the windows, geraniums spilled out of flower boxes. Passing a storefront with sausages hanging in the window, my nose crinkled trying to distinguish the fragrance of spice and uncooked red meat, an odor foreign to my young nose. Church bells broke into exultation, signaling that it was half past the hour.

New Glarus Photos
This photo of New Glarus is courtesy of TripAdvisor

As my father opened the door to the New Glarus Baking Company, the unfamiliar tunes of an accordion playing bouncy polka music blasted into the street. A shaft of light streamed down the staircase and beckoned us to follow it’s guidance to the pinnacle and into the tea room.

I sat on the smooth, wooden chair, my feet almost touching the ground. the side of the table at which I sat was against the wall, facing the window. My parents sat across from me. They were surrounded by the bright sunshine, which created halos around their forms like the paintings on Eastern Orthodox icons. The tables were adorned with white linen cloths and napkins and in the center of each one was a bud vase with a silk red carnation reaching towards the ceiling. The waitress came to take our order wearing a customary Swiss peasant dress. She looked like a member of the Van Trap Family.

New Glarus Images
This photo of New Glarus is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Soon after ordering, my father was drinking a cup of coffee. Mother was checking a glass for water spots. I, on the other hand, was about to dive into a biscuit with a creamy chicken gravy, topped with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream. My mouth watered. The sound of silver on china now accompanied the accordion as the velvety flavors exploded in my mouth.

Looking down on the last bite, I realized that just as I was about to enjoy the last of this delectable treat, I was also enjoying the last moment of my family vacation. Surprisingly, new notebooks, pens and shoes seemed like a welcome adventure after spending lazy days in the summer heat. I leaned back in my chair satisfied with my meal and with my fifth grade summer vacation.

To read the next installment of this story click here.

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The Tick Tock of My Heart – Guest Post By Sandra Heska King for TOYS

Sandra’s Blog was one of the first ones I stumbled upon. She hopes to be a Deep See Diver, and I know that she has inspired me to dive deeper. Her words are like honey, and she always finds practical lessons in hidden places. This particular post particularly resonated with my heart. I love history, and this piece drips with it. If you are familiar with Sandra’s writing you know you’re in for a treat, if you’re not prepare to be dazzled.

Egg salad sandwiches. I’m pretty sure that’s what she served. And sweet gherkins in a glass pickle dish. We probably drank iced tea while seated knee-to-knee at the formica table right here, our backs to the window.

And pie. I suspect we had pie. Or heaping bowls of ice cream.

It was the first time he’d brought me to meet his parents—this couple with a Tow-Low in the drive, a Mercedes in the garage, and a John Deere in the barn.

She showed me her “museum” downstairs—farm implements and pictures and memorabilia and old calendars attached to the barnwood-covered wall.

The whole house ticked and tocked from an array of antique clocks that chimed every fifteen minutes upstairs and down.

In the evening we traveled back to the 1700s as we sat cross-legged on the living room floor. We turned pages of albums and scrapbooks and listened to stories of the past.

“Be careful of the bull,” she warned before we went up to the barn. So when pasture-grazing Bozo took a step towards us, I executed a speedy, though not-so-graceful, dive-and-roll under the electric fence. Dennis, who fed and bedded the resident bull (always named Bozo) when he lived at home, folded in laughter.

We were married six months later. That was more than forty years ago. I grew to love this house and its stories. And there seemed to be a place for everything with everything in its place. But she could hardly wait to move. I was broken-hearted when they finally sold it and built a house next to the creek on the south farm. She only got to live there for a year before she died.

I wonder what she’d think if she knew how God orchestrated a job opening for my husband. How our Georgia house sold on a whim. How we were able to buy the house back and build our own memories over the last twenty-three years.

How we sleep in their bedroom and how those sliding closet doors still stick. How my son grew up in Dennis’ childhood room, the room that’s become my writing place. How the cuckoo clock, though silent now, sits in the exact same spot. How I serve sweet gherkins in a glass dish.

Bozo is gone, and the barn collapsed, but the corn is almost waist high. I try to imagine my husband perched on the gray Ford tractor as he pulled the cultipacker through the field. He was only six, and his feet didn’t even reach the pedals.

I walk the perimeter of the yard and wonder about the old log cabin that used to sit on the site of the Great Lilac Massacre. I see rocks set deep against the fence in places where Elsie Dog used to dig and where she treed a woodchuck, where Rose Dog chased two balls and then flop down to rest.

“Hi! Welcome to the rabbit barn.” I refuse to erase my daughter’s pink-chalked words scribbled on black fiberboard. We once had thirty bunnies housed in cages in the little shed attached to the garage. There’s where the goat pen was, just outside that shed. We had a couple of LaManchas. I often had to fuss at Seeley who’d stand with her front feet tapping on the window of the back kitchen door.

There’s another shed on the east side where my father-in-law raised peafowl. We had chickens out there for a couple years. I miss them. As still-under-the-light-but-moved-out babies, they even returned to spend a night in our bathtub during a power outage.

Our pool is gone. I hear echoes of laughter and the splashing and remember quiet nights when I floated alone and gazed at the stars. Two giant pines crumpled it during the storm that took the barn. I smile big at the memory of my son as he demonstrated how to show a goat. Seeley bolted and ran around the yard with him backwards on her back until she finally skidded under the pool deck, and Jeremy tumbled to the ground.

When we first moved in, I announced they could bury me under the porch. I wasn’t moving again.


Yet there are days I stomp frustrated feet at keeping up with a continuing-to-age-150-year-old farmhouse. Then I remember how we stepped into a whim and how fast God took over and carried us home.

This is where I’m supposed to be, but I know the day will come when I can no longer navigate the stairs. When the house becomes too big to care for. And mostly I dread it. Because the walls seep sacred, and the ground hums holy and the land pulsates with history.

And if I close my eyes, I can still hear time tick.

Won’t you join me on Fridays for a new series and linkup called, “Take Off Your Shoes, You’re On Holy Ground!” or TOYS? Each week a post will be shared about the significance of a place and you will be able to share as well!! Just 1) Write a post about how a place has ministered to you. 2) Add your post to the linkup. 3) Add the button to your post. 4)Visit and encourage your neighbors!


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I Want To Soar Like A Spider (Repost)

So, I’ve had a bad cold the past few days….which really stinks because my Mom is here and I had all kinds of fun things planned. All she has done is serve me. I am so disappointed as it is almost time for her to go home. Anyway, in order to spend what little time I do have with her, I’m reposting something from a long time ago. If you’ve never read it before, I hope you enjoy it! It was published in an on-line Chicago magazine which is pretty cool. My son took the amazing picture! Gotta fly…or should I say gotta soar like a spider! 😉

Today my son and I went downtown. He edits video promotions for our church and he needed some good footage for an upcoming conference. So, he asked me to come along. Actually, he asked someone else, but they couldn’t go. It’s interesting how moms are always last on the list…

So we found ourselves romping around the city for a few hours. One of the places at which he decided to do some shooting was at the Hancock building. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about going to the ninety-third floor on the fastest elevator in North America. (It takes only 40 seconds!) The things we will do for our children. But, once we arrived the view was spectacular! It was a beautiful, clear day and visibility was particularly great.

While sitting in a chair waiting for my son, I noticed a spider in the corner of the window…on the OUTSIDE of the corner of the window, thankfully. I wondered how he got up there. Did he walk? If so, how long would it take a spider to walk from ground level to the 93rd floor? Fascinated, I asked my son to take some pictures.

I couldn’t stop thinking about these spiders, and after some investigation I found several of them all around the observation deck. When I got home, I did a little research and this is what I found…and I promise, I am not making this up.

Fellow blogger Mom2Mom stayed on the 15th floor of a hotel across the street from the Hancock building recently and received the following note left on the bed:

Dear Guest:

We request that you do not open your windows in your suite during this time to avoid the annual migration of High Rise Flying Spiders.

A Chicago Phenomenon…..

Lake shore high-rises, Willis Tower and Hahn Hancock are noticing the annual influx of flying spiders spinning mini-masterpieces as high as 95 stories.

Baby spiders release silk from their spinnerets to create a balloon-like contraption. The spiders then use the balloon to hitch rides on uplifting air currents from the lake. The spider is the Larinioides sclopetaria, an orb-weaving spider that is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In natural environments, these spiders live on rocks overhanging water. In the city, they have found the next best thing; tall buildings and high-rises. What makes high-rises so appealing is the light shining through the windows.

Thank you for helping us provide you with a comfortable stay.

There are no “rocks overhanging water” in Chicago so they found the “next best thing”. I want to be found as adaptable as these little critters. When they find themselves outside their typical environment, they don’t complain, they don’t sit around feeling sorry for themselves, they adapt. Then they use their spinnerets to create little hang gliders that carry them to the most spectacular view in the city, where they construct a beautiful home for themselves.

May we be like these little creatures, using the resources God has given us to create a beautiful environment for ourselves and those we love. And may our creation cause us to go soaring on the wind to greater heights. May we be undaunted by a change of environment and plans. Yes, it’s official, I want to soar like a spider.

Giving thanks with Ann:

68. Pine cones with a touch of bronze glitter.

69. Snow swirling snow globes.

70. Taking walks with my beautiful mother, downtown.

71. Golden light from a globe lamp.

72. Tis the season to be thankful for your KitchenAid.

73. That I’m feeling better. 🙂

And learning with Michelle:

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And I have a playdate with Laura:

My Salvation Army Heritage

Salvation Army worker
There’s nothing more “Christmasy” than hearing a Salvation Army bell ringer. I wonder if you’ll take a look at my past with me? A stroll down memory lane if you will…

I had the most beautiful upbringing in the whole world. Part of this heritage includes a family with its roots entrenched in the Salvation Army. My father, the eldest son of Salvation Army officers started his young family where his foundation lay…at the SA. My mother had her life changed when at 15, after a Billy Graham crusade, she filled out her followup paper work with SA for Saint Ann’s Catholic Church, and the Salvation Army showed up at her door. I have a plethora of family members that has served as officers of the Army and are now retired. As someone who has had the pleasure of watching their lives from the inside, let me tell you, they do the most good.


My own spiritual formation took a turn when I was 14. An uncle from my mother’s side started a non-denominational church and we began attending there. However, there have been key moments in my life when I have found myself right back where I started…at the Army. Two times stand out in particular. Once was the… Please click here to read the rest of my story…

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A Big Mistake – New Glarus Series – Saturday Morning Serial Linkup

If you need to catch up in the New Glarus Series click here.

Photo by Matt McGillivray

John and I arrived in Wisconsin on the unseasonably warm Friday evening before Memorial Day. My father was just finishing the mowing on the acre of property. Their home, being an “earth home” had the unusual feature of having grass on top, and the riding mower was grazing the roof at the time. Mama was outside finishing Wisconsin brats on the grill, and I pulled into the long black driveway, shaking away the remnants of memories from the accident. Sue was gone now. After almost a year, Steve had been interested in me, but I told him to go away, and now he was dating someone else. I was surprised at how much that stung. John was unbuckling his seat belt, climbing out of the car, and running toward Papa so that he could ride on the mower with him.

I sat in the car for a moment watching the light turn the trees into black shadows against the almost green sky. Mama’s face showed up in the window. It startled me.

“Are you gonna get out?” she said giggling.

Darkness deepened as the evening wore on, and Daddy, Mama, John and I went to the back of the yard to make a campfire to roast marshmallows and s’mores. It felt as though summer was official, with the first real cookout and campfire. The trees flickered orange and the flames warmed our front sides in the chilly late spring air…and I wondered. What would it be like coming up to Wisconsin, to New Glarus, or living life for that matter, with Steve and the kids? Would it have been so terrible?

Mama was running back from the garage with John. They were going to look for flashlights. Daddy leaned back on a log, “You seem awfully quiet this visit. Is everything okay?”

“I’m just glad to be here for a few days. It’s good to clear my mind,” I answered.

“Mommy! Grandma and I are going to go for a walk in the dark, do you want to come?”

“Okay,” glad to escape my father’s probing, I responded with fake enthusiasm. The first fireflies flickered in a circle around five-year-old John’s head, crowning him prince of the land, for that was what he was.

“Grandma! Lightening bugs! Can we get some jars and catch some?” Mama and John skipped back into the house to look for some mason jars to poke holes in, leaving me to amble across the nearly black lawn alone. Daddy was putting out the campfire, and my hands were sticky from marshmallows, so I decided to go in and wash them.

As I opened the connecting garage door, I heard this, “Spencer and Esther have never caught fireflies. They don’t have a mommy anymore.”

“Yes, honey, I know,” Mama responded.

“I think they might get a new mommy soon though. Spencer said that Kevin might be his brother soon.”

“Really? That would be so nice for all of them!”

“I wanted to be Spencer’s brother.”

The wind caught the door behind me slamming it shut.

I jumped as though I’d been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.

“Hello, you two!” I quickly recovered. “My hands are all sticky, but I’ll help you catch fireflies when I’m done washing them.”

My heart pounded as I went to the bathroom. I heard Mama and John chatting, and I looked in the mirror above the sink. Eyes rimmed pink, and face splotchy from tears, it was then that I realized, I had made a terrible mistake.

To continue on with this story click here.


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