Building The Perfect Dad

I haven’t blogged in a long time. There are a few reasons for that. Time is little and precious, as are my children, and I am often called upon to draw horses with my kids. Sometimes I’m too busy, and a lot of times I’m too tired.

But mostly I’ve been occupied with my latest project.

I’ve been writing a book about my dad. I’ve written about him many times on my blog and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I tell my kids stories about him, I remind my little sisters of things he did with them because they were too little to remember him.

So one day, I decided that it wasn’t enough to just write about him occasionally or share a few stories about him with my kids. I want them to really know what he was like, to understand his humor and what made him tick. Even though he is not here in the flesh, I want them to see his face and hear his laugh as they read about the man that loved me so much.

I realize, though I only had him for sixteen years, I’ve been given a very precious gift. I had a dad worth telling about, that was faithful to my mother, hard-working and honest. I’ve never doubted his love and I knew he was always rooting for me. He thought so highly of me that I tried my best to exceed his expectations because I wanted to make him proud. He’s been gone more than half my life, but his influence still compels me to live intentionally.

I know not everyone is so lucky to have a dad they can be proud of. My own dad did not enjoy a happy childhood. My grandfather terrorized his family with beatings, squandered the little money they had on beer and women and crushed hope daily with his fists. My dad was raised in brokenness and didn’t know what a good father was until he learned about God’s unfailing love as an adult. He learned that what his dad sought to destroy, God our Father set out to redeem, take into his arms and make whole.

What I am increasingly aware of as I write my dad’s story is that his story can’t be told without being constantly reminded of God’s grace and love. That they are so inextricably intertwined that the first doesn’t make sense without the other. Grace is what holds it all together, makes sense of his darkest days and is the underpinning of his greatest moments.

Because my father chose to receive God’s forgiveness and love, he became the kind of dad he never had. He defied the odds and lived a life that showed me if a great man like my dad believed that God was faithful and worthy of our praise, then he must be.

My dad’s greatest legacy and the one thing I want my kids to know about him is that God can redeem anything and anyone, and nothing is beyond his power. Whether it’s building a father out of a broken man, or raising his son from the dead, nothing is too impossible for God’s grace and love.

Strong Like Samson

Dinnertime at my house growing up was always the best time of day. Mom would make some sinfully delicious meal oozing comfort and butter, but my dad’s stories were always the showcase of the evening. I remember my dad telling my siblings and me stories about his childhood and somehow he could share the most disturbing incidents from his life with humor and without a trace of anger or resentment.

He told us about how he ran through his neighborhood as a little kid and tripped and fell on jagged shards of glass and slashed his soft belly. He had a smooth, raised scar like melted plastic right beside his navel to prove it. It was about six inches long and as wide as one inch at the thickest point. His parents were dirt poor and rather than take him to a clinic, they poured gasoline on the wound to cleanse it.

I remember hearing this as a child absolutely horrified that anyone would do such a thing. It was barbaric and nonsensical – didn’t everyone know you’re supposed to go to the doctor for things like that? Didn’t they know they were hurting him?

But my dad’s parents did all kinds of things with little regard for his life. With no thought to the kind of person they were developing. They beat him, they emotionally tormented him. Things like locking him up on Christmas day for some insignificant offense and turning a deaf ear to his screams to be let out, his desperate promises to be a good little boy and his day-long sobbing.

Yet somehow, my dad always had us laughing. His retelling of his life was animated and full of hilarious impersonations and audacious details, but his suffering was merely a footnote. The way he recounted these tales, you almost forgot that a tender young child was being broken as the story unfolded.

I understand that now that I’m older. I also realize more and more that my dad’s resilience was extraordinary. Many who survive a childhood as painful as my father’s end up drug addicts, victims of chronic depression or turn into abusers themselves. My father was nowhere near perfect, but you would have never guessed that he lived through so much hurt.

He was so strong, so confident despite all the things that threatened to finish him. He was born that way, just naturally solid, even before he knew Jesus. But rather than rely on the inherent strength that sustained him for so long, he readily gave that all up for the love, power and effectiveness that he gained through Jesus.

I struggle with that….a lot. I’ve never suffered quite like my dad, though I’ve had my share of ugliness and misery. But I don’t give up my power as easily as he did. Instead I find myself being a lot like Samson in the bible, living off of God-given strength, using it as I please and congratulating myself on my cleverness.

I know that it will not bode well for me if I leave this pride unchecked. Samson reminds me of this.

One of the saddest verses in the bible comes from Samson’s story. He had long taken his strength for granted and began to believe it was all his. Then in his most foolish move, he allowed himself to be manipulated into sharing his most sacred secret and was shaved, betrayed and overpowered.  Samson, however, didn’t know this and woke up to attackers thinking he would shake free and come out strong as he always did.

Not so. The bible says in Judges 16:20, “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”

What a tragedy. To be so deluded and calloused by your own power that you no longer seek or sense God’s presence.

How many times have I done something by my own might and just assumed God was going to come along and help me fulfill my agenda? How many times will I trade in his presence for my plans?

There is much to learn from Samson’s story. But what has sprung from the pages is that there is hope for even the most out of control pride, person and circumstances. God is not stumped by our recklessness.

Just as it started to look like Samson was useless and ruined, God used him in a final dramatic blow to the Philistines. Humbled and blind, Samson with one faith-filled heave pushed down the columns that supported the temple of a pagan god. Surrounded by drunken revelry, his last words were, “Let me die with the Philistines,” (Judges 16:30).

Like Samson, I have some pillars in my own life that need a good shove. I need my old self to die and those ugly qualities to be crushed along with it. I need to be humbled and blind to everything but God’s will and grace to let it all go.

I thank God that his mercy and goodness never run out. I thank God that I have my dad’s example and my Heavenly Father’s grace to help me turn my failings into a story where God’s life-giving joy is the highlight and my negativity is an afterthought.

Angie D 6/1/12 ©

Learning From My Deeply Flawed Mother

My mom would be the first to tell you that she’s made a lot of mistakes as a mother.

There have been many times in my life I wondered why she didn’t protect me, encourage me, comfort me or know me. I think we all ask our moms those pointed questions, whether it’s whispered in the back of our minds or voiced aloud in strained tones.

I fully expect that my kids will have lots of hard questions for me and try as I may to be the perfect mom, I will fail them many times.

But while imperfection is the lot of all humans, letting God’s light shine through the cracks in our character is an opportunity we all share.

When my dad was sick with cancer, I watched my mother transform. Normally indecisive, light-hearted and a most bubbly extrovert, my mother became our rock.

Strength doesn’t come naturally to my mom. That was my dad’s job; he was the firm one, he was the decision-maker, the unwavering one. His confidence made my siblings and I believe that no villain, disease or calamity would ever dare to darken our doorstep.

But then dad got sick and it became mom’s turn to make us feel safe, and honestly, she didn’t have it in her. Ask her and she will tell you that the strength she had to care for five kids and a sick husband for three and a half years took supernatural power from God.

It took supernatural energy to bathe and dress my father, to administer his round-the-clock doses of medication and still be a mother to four kids and a newborn.

It took incredible strength to watch my dad suffer excruciating pain and keep praying.

It took profound reliance on God to be her source of love and security. Cancer didn’t just destroy my father’s body, it stole his spirit. I can’t imagine how especially difficult that must have been for my mom.

You see, my dad absolutely adored my mother. He showered her with gifts every occasion that called for it and was extravagant with his compliments, always telling us that we had the most beautiful mother in the world. I can’t fathom how heart-wrenching it must have been to care for a man that could no longer give that kind of love to her and often forgot who she was.

Despite her painful and lonely circumstances, I remember my mother’s joy. She wasn’t falling apart or filling the gaping holes in her life with quick fixes. She let God be her everything: father, husband, friend and savior – and in Him she lacked nothing.

I’ve known people in similar situations that felt so tired and alone that they had affairs or turned to drugs and destructive behavior to find relief from their misery. But mom never did that, even though she could have done all those things and my dad would have never known because his mind and body were so helpless and deteriorated.

While I could easily make a list of my mom’s faults, nothing compares to her example of whole-hearted faith and explicit trust in God. When I think of my mother, I think of how God took a deeply flawed woman, riddled with holes and cracks from the blows life has dealt, and shined his light through her. She didn’t patch those holes or seal any visible cracks, she gave it all to God and he made her a beacon.

I am so thankful for my mother’s example. My prayer is that I too would have that kind of faith in my savior so that when my kids see brokenness in my life, they will just watch for God’s light to burst through.

 

Angie D 5/21/12 ©

Sibling Rivalry: Trying to Distinguish Yourself When You’re Wearing the Same Genes

There are five of us siblings in my family, and if you asked each one of us what the most annoying thing about being in a large family is, I’m sure you’d get five different answers. But I’m guessing we’d all agree that one of the most irritating things about having siblings is the comparisons people always make.

When we were little kids, I remember my brother getting a lot of attention. People would stop my mother everywhere we went just to gush about how adorable, how handsome, how blah, blah, blah beautiful he was while I stood by, completely unnoticed.

My brother and his beautiful bride-to-be

While my brother was a little Adonis, I was paunchy and hirsute. I evoked all the beauty and charm of a badger and the constant furrow of my eyebrow (yes, just one) completed the picture of hissing discontent.

It would only take a quick glance in my direction to snap them out of their beauty-induced reverie. Then with a faltering attempt to recover from my evil glare, they’d squeak out, “Oh…but you’re all beautiful! This one really looks like her dad.”

As in, I looked like a hairy little man.

Then as a teenager, my younger sister Christina stole the show. She was the budding star of our youth group: she sang beautifully, she was a bold speaker and a natural leader, so she was very popular. She looked almost identical to me, so people often thought I was her, which wouldn’t have been so bad except that once they realized I wasn’t her, they would start asking if I could do all the things she could do.

Was I a great singer like her? She’s so funny, was I hilarious like her? Did I always look like her?

And on and on it would go.

After a long list of asinine questions, it was always topped off with, “I just love Christina, you’re so lucky to have a sister like her!”

(L-R)Christina, me, mom, Rachel and Becca

Yes, so very lucky.

Now I feel that way…but when we were younger, not so much.

These days I don’t really mind being compared to my siblings because I know it’s just a natural part of being human and living in families. Comparisons are the simplest way to understand something.

Sometimes I wonder how Jesus’ siblings felt about him.

I don’t doubt that Jesus would have been the best brother to ever have. The kindest, the most compassionate, not to mention the most perfect.

But did they ever feel like they were in his shadow? Did people compare Jesus’ brothers to him and speculate if they’d be as wonderful as he? Were his brothers ever bitter about the multitudes that followed after him just so they could hear his voice and see his face?

Nothing could stop God’s plan for Jesus, but I’m curious if it was ever difficult for his siblings to make room for his greatness.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph had to remind the others that they were also loved and talented and that they needed to be happy for Jesus. I remember my parents doing their best to teach my siblings and me to support each other and encourage one another. It’s something that will be important to communicate to my own kids – especially the part about being happy for the other’s success.

I believe this goes well beyond the bounds of family life, especially as Christians. We can’t concern ourselves with the comparisons people make, we must instead lift each other up and believe in the perfect plan God has for each of us, even if it seems greatness is given to one and not the other.

I wonder how long it will take some of us to finally realize that we aren’t just in the shadow of a brother or sister, we are in the hands of the Most High. God had a magnificent plan for Jesus and though it was specific to him, the victory was for everyone. As God’s children, he has great plans for us as well. We need to be content with that and instead of fearing that our brothers and sisters will outshine us, we need to root for each other and let the world see our light shine as one.

Angie D 4/5/2012 ©

Celebrate Loss and Remember Your Roots: 16 Years Without Dad

I was recently pretty offended. And I’m not an easily offended person. I tend to let rude comments and behavior just roll right off so I was kind of surprised at myself.

I mentioned to someone that my husband was frustrated with a contractor that so far hasn’t shown up for their scheduled meetings. Additionally, since no one but the contractor can speak English at this particular site, my husband wasn’t able to do anything while there.

I expected to get some sympathetic commiserating about how inconsiderate some people are with others’ time.

Instead, it set off a whirlwind of venting about the appalling number of people in America who don’t speak English. She then ranted about a time she was at the gym and a couple of women were speaking their foreign “jibber-jabber” in public. Her harsh tone and words made it clear that their foreignness was indecent and should have been hidden away.

Being a first-generation American child of Spanish-speaking parents, this really bothered me. It was hurtful on so many levels; she had no idea how many groups of people she devalued in one fell swoop.

I did my best to be diplomatic and respectfully replied that English is difficult for many to learn. I left it at that and keep my irritation to myself. I have been thinking about this awkward exchange for the last couple of days.

She couldn’t grasp nor did the thought enter her mind how hard it would be to completely uproot from your native country, language and culture to live in a foreign one. They weren’t doing anything rude or suspect. Those women just may have been enjoying a small piece of home when they were speaking their native tongue.

Apparently, she has forgotten her own roots; maybe doesn’t even know them. In any case, those insensitive words made me think of how easy it can be to dismiss someone when you don’t relate to them.

As I sorted out my feelings about why this really got to me, my thoughts kept leading me back to my dad.

Maybe it’s because today marks sixteen years since he died of cancer – I’ve lived half of my life without him now. Among the many cherished memories I repeat in my mind, I also replay the difficult ones. Even the ones that make me cry; these too are savored in their own way.

I don’t believe in clinging to the past and refusing to heal. But I don’t want to ever forget where I come from or where I’ve been and put so much distance between me and my past that I forget what it’s like to hurt, be an outsider, and in need.

I don’t want to forget what it was like to listen to my dad tell us crazy stories in Spanish about his dogs “Rebelde” and “Sin Calzones” and become impatient with the store clerk that is struggling to help me because English isn’t his first language.

I don’t want to forget how thin and weak cancer left him. How hard it was for my dad to be carried and dressed by his own children and know that after the baby was fed and tucked in for the night, he would be wrapped and swaddled next. I pray I never dishonor these memories by responding to need as simply giving to charity rather than contributing to dignity.

And I hope to never block out the wild-haired, tear-stained mess that was my four-year-old sister the day our dad died. Sitting alone on her bed, her agonizing cries for daddy pierced the air. Over and over she screamed for him, voice breaking from the screeches that scraped her throat.

She screamed for all of us – it was like hearing the full-throated wail of my own heart.

It tears me up even now, but I don’t want to forget how fierce pain and loss can be and neglect to show compassion when someone is hurting.

I go back to the day my dad died many times. It might seem odd or macabre to post the anniversary of someone’s death on Facebook, or take some time to settle into the grief again after so long, but for me, it’s to keep his memory close and my touch soft. Remembering my roots, both physical and spiritual is not just about being in tune with the people around me but to be ready for whatever God has for me.

Angie D 1/28/12 ©

My Family Killed the Birthday Song

Birthdays are a really big deal in my family. As there are thirty-one birthdays to squeeze into just twelve months (that’s not even including the out-of-towners), we do family birthday parties every month or so and celebrate several at a time.

Now we are a pretty frugal and eco-conscience group, so we don’t require cards and presents for everyone and we certainly don’t spend lots of money on food, décor or location. It’s a potluck style dinner at my uncle’s house every time.

But while we are never extravagant with the menu and trimmings, we go completely overboard with singing Happy Birthday.

This would be my grandma’s fault.

She insists on singing it to each and every person. The most recent party was for nine birthdays. Now the song is already naturally aggravating, but imagine singing it nine times……my eye twitches just thinking about it.

To make matters worse, we thoroughly abuse the song with the musical equivalent of kicking Happy Birthday in the groin: kids punching every few beats with “cha-cha-CHA”, grandpa’s slow operatic bass rumbling along the bottom, grandma’s thick Cuban accent pummeling every syllable with over-enunciation and only a few of us trying to keep some semblance of the song by staying vaguely in tune. Alas, the once sprightly song has been beaten down and bedraggled from having every note stretched out to accommodate all the weirdos in our group.

Our rendition of Happy Birthday sounds more like a dirge than a celebration.   

It’s annoying, it takes forever and it feels like a reckless waste of precious minutes – and we are working with some very short attention spans.

But she will not bend or budge. To my grandma, it is of upmost importance to honor every single family member celebrating a birthday. While the rest of us are cringing every time another child sprays a mist of hot breath and spit on their round of candles and song, grandma is beaming. To grandma, they are precious and worthy of stopping everything to honor them and sing their name. After all, if they weren’t born, we would never have the pleasure of knowing them, so the day of their birth is an important anniversary that calls not only for celebration, but deliberate recognition.

Sometimes, I hate to admit, I treat Christmas with the same impatience as our family parties. Every year seems to go quicker and time for squeezing in the festivities gets away so darn fast. In my selfishness, I want to just have the parties and treats and skip the honor and recognition because it brings everything to a screeching halt.

The family of God is crazy bunch. Weirder than my relatives, stranger than any uncle you may have (you know, the ones that corner you to tell you the much-too-intimate details of their colonoscopy), yet he welcomes us – that alone is enough to get excited about. But more than that, he truly loves us, enough to give us the ultimate gift of his Son.

So let’s stop the party in its tracks to honor him this Christmas, because if Jesus wasn’t born, there wouldn’t be a party for all of us weirdos to celebrate.

Angie Derrick 12/9/2011 ©

My Father’s Song

Fact: I hate to cry.

I find it exhausting and rattling. It does not give me relief as it does for many to “have a good cry”.

I don’t remember ever being told that I shouldn’t cry or that crying was bad. In fact, I clearly remember my dad making a point of telling my brother and me many times that we should never believe the lie that boys aren’t supposed to cry.

As a kid, I remember seeing my dad cry sometimes. Then he got sick and cried a lot. Cancer not only destroyed his physical functions, but his mental and emotional as well. He was like a small child towards the end, all kinds of little things made him cry. Sometimes we had no idea why he was crying and I really doubt that he knew why either, he was so baffled and delirious much of the time.

I’ll never forget one particular bout of tears. My dad loved to hear my mom sing and play the guitar. One day I could hear my mom in their bedroom starting up several different songs only to hear my dad wail miserably each time, “That’s not the song!”

My dad was falling apart. He cried bitterly, shaking his head every time my mother tried to figure out what song he was so longing to hear. My poor mother was really trying and after probably twenty attempts, she had given up. She had no idea what song my father needed.

Then my fourteen-year-old brother, a beginner guitarist at the time, had a moment of inspiration. He walked sheepishly into the room with his guitar, sat down beside my dad on his hospital bed and started playing the guitar and singing, “We all live in a yellow submarine…..”

A look of recognition and then pure elation slowly spread across my dad’s face as he lifted his teary eyes and looked at my mother, brother and me. With a tired but satisfied smile he said, “That’s the song.”

We were stunned. I still have no idea how my brother thought to play that song. This is one of the funniest, oddest, most pitiful memories I have of my dad.

At first it was hilarious that after all the songs my mom played that were treasured favorites from their eighteen years together, it was the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” that soothed my frazzled dad.

Then we were faced with the harsh reality of how much of my dad was lost. He was no longer strong but like a frightened little boy trapped in the withered body of a dying man.

Memories of my father’s desperate sobbing have come back to me a lot lately. His sadness was so reckless and disproportionate. My dad was so sick he couldn’t control what he cared about; he couldn’t tell you why he was sad or even what he was thinking. He was like my young son during a crying fit: a wild mess of tears with no explanation. I can’t think of anything more scary or frustrating.

I know that’s why I hate to cry – when my dad got sick, crying left a bitter taste that I never got used to. I hated the feeling of coming apart and losing control. I hated that he died and crying wasn’t going to do anything to bring him back.

It’s been almost sixteen years since my dad died. I don’t have to stop myself from crying about him anymore. I rarely ever cry about anything anymore, and when I do, I’m extremely uncomfortable, especially in front of people.

Most often when I feel like crying nowadays it’s during worship at church. I usually stop myself even though I really want to melt into the sweetness that envelops me. But as they say, old habits die hard. 

I think I fear what those songs will draw out of me; that the song I so need to hear will make me a spectacle. There’s nothing pretty or clean about crying, and I am definitely an ugly crier.

I think tears are humbling for a reason. When we are moved to tears, we have surrendered our composure to something or someone greater than our control. I believe when God’s love moves us to tears we can choose to be just like the woman that washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. Like her, we need to just surrender our tangled mess and love him back with a reckless abandon that Jesus would call “a beautiful thing”.

So I think I’m going to start wearing waterproof mascara to church and just dissolve in the pureness of God’s love and presence because “That’s the song” I need to hear.

Bittersweet Sixteen

My youngest sister recently celebrated her sixteenth birthday and she has come a long way these last sixteen years. She has become a beautiful, extremely talented and very sweet young woman. But as a young child, my little sister was a hellion. My siblings and I used to call her “The Spawn of Satan” because of her noisy tantrums, cold angry stare and her vindictive behavior. She was the most difficult child I have ever met.

Perhaps the circumstances she was born into were to blame – my father had been living with cancer for six months when my mother found out she was pregnant. He then died when my sister was only eighteen months old. So maybe her evil behavior and fits of anger were her infantile display of grief and feelings of disenfranchisement. Whatever it was, she had the ability to suck energy and patience from even the most saintly person.

She was no one-trick pony, however, and was quite versatile. She not only had a talent for volume, she also had a knack for sneaking away and stealthily wrecking havoc wherever she pleased.

While we were getting ready on the morning of my dad’s funeral, my little sister pounced on the opportunity to get into trouble. She took a whole jar of Vicks vaporub and smeared it into her hair and then slapped some across my mom’s bedroom walls. It was a mere fifteen minutes before we had to leave and we were washing Vicks off the walls and out of her hair. Mom tended to my other little sisters while my brother and I took turns holding the shrieking toddler’s head in the kitchen sink and shampooing out the greasy balm. Four washings and her hair was still slick, her head probably sizzling in the sharp January air.

Being fifteen years older than my sister, I have countless stories, but I’ll spare her any further embarrassment. Needless to say, she is no longer a beastly child, but a joy to be around.

I have her to thank for so many memories, many being of my dad’s final days. Her ornery and spiteful nature actually made it impossible to not remember her and what was happening during that time.

So as I was watching my sister and her friends sing karaoke and devour a tower of cupcakes at her birthday bash, I couldn’t help but think of the stark contrast of my own “sweet sixteen”. There were no balloons or pink frosted cupcakes, and definitely no party.

My dad, who was given only six months to live, had been sick with cancer for over two years by the time my sixteenth birthday came. That year was a year of milestone birthdays for our family. My father turned forty in the spring, my baby sister turned one in the summer, and with the fall came my sixteenth birthday. But I don’t remember any one of us having a party to celebrate, we were all so tired.

It was on the day of my birthday that my father’s fragile condition took a turn for the worst and we called his nurse. After a quick evaluation, the nurse immediately called an ambulance and told my family to say our last goodbyes and prepare for him to die.

I can still see her standing at the top of our stairs giving us these dreaded instructions. The ugly chandelier hung behind her in our stairwell like a ball of radioactive light, slowly killing everything in the wake of its sickly yellow glow. Like a reluctant angel of death, she stood in the dull haze that coated her sandy hair and aging body.

My father didn’t die that day, but his cancer picked up speed and he began to deteriorate as rapidly as my baby sister was growing. Before that day, he was usually coherent and he was only changed physically for the most part. But now, he was delirious or catatonic, not even a trace of what he once was.

This has always made me sad, more for my dad than my sister. Though they lived in the same house, I don’t think either of them realized the other existed. She was so little when he died and he was bedridden and unresponsive long before then, so she never really knew him.

But my father…..I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him to have so few memories of her and then to feel them fading away…..to know that he would soon become as helpless as his youngest child. His cancer crippled and weakened him early on so he couldn’t even attend her birth. Hers was the only birth out of the five of us kids that my dad didn’t witness and it broke his heart.

Though his time with her was brief, I know she was precious to him because we were all precious to him. He was a great father, a loving husband to my mother, and I know he loved God with all of his heart. Of all the things I am thankful for that I learned from my dad, it’s the love and faithfulness of God. My dad’s great love for us was simply a demonstration of the generous love that God had shown him.

I firmly believe that God truly does work everything out for a reason, even if He keeps it to himself. I feel like this is especially so when it comes to my sister. Watching her grow up reminds me, that God can cause life, blessing and love to grow even when surrounded by death and negativity. He always gives us glimpses of hope for the future and if we choose to look back and remember, we’ll see that He gave us reason to hope all along.

Angie 7/29/10 ©

What I Really Want For Mother’s Day

I know Mother’s Day isn’t for a few more weeks, but I’m already thinking about it. This is the day that I get to call the shots, get what I want, and do what I want. I realize this is selfish and not very mom-like, but I have to be honest, I really look forward to not changing diapers or cleaning a single thing for one whole day. This time around, I think I just want to be left alone with my notebook, some coffee and a big fat pastry.

My evil wish will probably come true because this year money is a little tighter. However, what I may not receive in lavish gifts and luxurious spa certificates will be made up tenfold with lumpy gluey school projects from my daughter. She loves to make me pictures, jewelry and all sorts of handcrafted creations that usually need some explaining.

Maybe I’m a vain woman, but even as much as I love my little girl, I struggle with modeling her creations. The hardest part is that she truly expects me to wear them at the next, most public function that we have on our schedule. Granted, her jewelry crafting supplies are limited, so her options are blunt, large and so safely designed that she could only injure someone if she loaded the beads into a gun and shot pointblank into someone’s eye.

She has tried many different combinations of beads, but somehow every necklace she makes looks like a giant beaded WWJD bracelet. But the infant toy appearance doesn’t make me think, “What would Jesus do?” it makes me ponder, “What would Judah do?”

I’ll tell you what he’d do: he would chew on it and let the slobbery strings dangle from his mouth.

This of course, makes me want to laugh, but I can’t laugh at my kid’s lovingly made gift, and definitely not in her face. Maybe I’m a bad mom, but to me the best part about getting the homemade gifts are the laughs I get out of them later, when I’m not being stared down by her big, brown, puppy-dog eyes.

This year, like every year, what I really look forward to can’t be bought in a boutique or put on a card. I want a good day, and if I know my Natalie, she will make me mountains of gaudy and laboriously made presents that will keep me smiling long after Mother’s Day is over.

Angie 4/15/2010 ©

The Rotten Eggs of Easter

I have always loved celebrating Easter. I have very fond childhood memories of wearing fluffy pastel dresses to church, egg hunts, baskets stuffed full with chocolate and jelly beans and of course the crown jewel of the Easter meal: Ham. Having had such positive experiences with Easter, I have done my very best each year since my kids were born to create a memorable experience  for them.

But as most parents know, your kids don’t always appreciate your efforts. My kids were particularly unappreciative this year, but rather than be completely annoyed, I found that it made Easter even more relevant for me. It dawned on me that God also planned a great gift on Easter Sunday that many of us take for granted.

Our church hosted a big egg hunt after each service with sections of the campus flagged off for different age groups. My son and I waited with other toddlers and their parents and right away I knew Judah wasn’t going to hunt for eggs.

It had rained the day before so Judah was wearing his black and yellow galoshes looking like some squatty little farmer. He lazily trudged past hundreds of bright eggs until my husband and I directed him to pick up the eggs and put them in his basket. Instead of picking them up, he stomped on them. It was like the scales fell off of his eyes and suddenly he noticed a whole field of eggs before him to crush. He tore through, knees high and ready to drive his heavy-booted foot down on each unsuspecting little egg.

Marching to the beat of some wacky little drummer, our tiny delinquent started to alternate smashing eggs with stealing them out of the hands of his wide-eyed peers with the occasional basket snatch. Apparently, our son was the only greenhorn in the group and his ignorance about egg hunting etiquette was painfully obvious.

My daughter, Natalie, on the other hand, is ten years old, has eight more years of experience and so was much more sophisticated in her approach. Even though she wanted to cram her basket with as many eggs as possible, her main objective was to find the golden egg. This egg would be her ticket to winning a basket with toys, candies and other goodies. So as Natalie deftly scooped up shiny eggs, her eagle eyes constantly circled the premises for the golden egg. Though she had three opportunities to find this prized egg, she came up empty-handed after each service and was as a result, unbearably moody the whole morning. Clearly, getting a new dress, a basket from grandma, a basket from mom and dad, gifts from friends and three egg hunts were not enough to soothe the beastly child.

My son and daughter had absolutely no idea the time that went into stuffing each plastic egg with candy, how early people came to the church to hide them, how much money went into it, or the long hours of planning that culminated into this one event. They just saw eggs dotting a field and did what they thought seemed best.

I, just like my kids, am guilty of doing what I think sounds good without regard for the planning and sacrifice that went into what was prepared for me on Easter Sunday. There were hundreds of years of preparation, countless messages, daily orchestration of people and events and much, much pain and sacrifice that led up to Jesus. My silly preoccupation with candy and decorating eggs was just as boorish as my son’s egg-stomping. In the Easters to come, I hope that I won’t ever again forget that a lot of thought, work, planning and love went into the greatest gift I have ever received.

Angie 4/5/2010 (c)


  • I believe in Jesus, loving people, living fully and creating good things. Whether it's art, food or finding solutions, I am always in "creative mode". With this blog I hope to encourage and help others to live in whatever "mode" God has called them to.

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