More Wise Words from the Baker Family

The Baker family came last night for their annual visit.

If you recall, this is the family of seven with the mother who claims the sign of a happy childhood is dirty children. This family–with no television or video games–has instead developed musical abilities, a deep love of reading, excellent conversational skills, and even entrepreneurial adventures.  From afar, the Bakers have cheered the Neighborhood Fitness Group by supplying our beloved double-dutch jump ropes. 

Every time they visit, they delight us with musical performances (even the dad plays riotous piano!), rewarding conversation, literary insights, and wisdom–from the high schooler right down to the second-grader! Just like always, the older daughters want to spend time with me and their mother. They give me all sorts of advice about managing middle school.

Last year, I listened to how the mother talked to her teenage children and said, “I just love to be with you.” During that visit, I learned the importance of telling my daughters over and over that I love to be with them. 

This time, I ask the oldest daughter what communicates the most love to her from her parents. She says, “I love it when my dad asks how he can help me.”

How can I help you today? What a beautiful question for parents to ask! What a great question to ask spouses, too.

I tuck the question away for later with the other bit of advice I learn from the mom:

Earlier in the evening, the mother reminds me that people like to feel like they’re experts. She says,”I love to ask others to tell me everything they know about something. I also don’t assume I know more than they do about anything.”

Tell me what you know about. . . 

I file this into my list of great conversation starters for both children and adults. So often we want to display our own knowledge instead of genuinely wanting to learn from others.

I love it when the Bakers visit!

Here’s a photo of our after dinner walk in the woods. (Some children aren’t pictured because they’ve run ahead!)



Roll. Don’t fold.

After 11 years, I’ve finally figured out how to deal with everyone’s clothing. Folding clothes in stacks doesn’t work for us. The drawers become a disaster in one frantic search for the right t-shirt.

So we roll every shirt and pants into little tight cylinders, from the bottom up, so you can see the shirt’s design. These rolls–like spinach lasagna rolls!–sit snug against each other. We save so much room! We save time searching!

And, like when you pack for wrinkle-free clothes in a suitcase, each piece of clothing stays nicely pressed.
Roll. Don’t fold.

4 Questions: A Current Events Challenge

This semester, I’m asking students to refresh their brains with some current events challenges. I clearly remember when I asked my college freshman some simple questions about our political leaders and basic geography. One student couldn’t name the Vice President of the United States. Once, a student thought Mexico was in Europe.

I’m not kidding.

Most students realize they could educate themselves on what’s happening in the world around them, especially when I remind them that entertainment news is not really news. Knowing what the Kardashians are doing or whether or not Selena Gomez is back with Justin Bieber isn’t news.

I want to be an educated citizen with some national and international literacy. Test yourself with these four questions:

1. Can I point out Syria, North Korea, and Pakistan on a map?

2. Can I name at least a few current US Cabinet members? Do I know what the Cabinet refers to?

3. Can I articulate what’s happening in Egypt right now?

4. Do I know where to go to vote?

Did you pass?


He Cuts Things Out

As my climbing roses grow, I find myself carefully tending them more than any other plant in the garden. I prune anything dried or diseased and gently guide the branches towards their trellis.

This morning as I read my Bible, I’m reminded of John 15 where Jesus claims, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Jesus says that he is the vine and we are the branches.

I think about the pruning work of God in my own life. I often forget to see any confusing or painful circumstances as God’s pruning work intended to make my life even more fruitful. 

When God cuts something out (a relationship or activity) or redirects my plans, I remember that it’s pruning.

It’s pruning. That is what’s happening to you, and it’s a glorious thing.

God knows what must be cut and where we must climb.

Climbing Roses Beginning to Grow 

Climbing Roses, 3 months and Pruned 

Do you find that God prunes in order to make us more fruitful? I see that in so many relationships and even in my writing!


“If you lose your mind, you lose it into the hand of God.” Elizabeth Goudge

A new friend recommends one of her favorite books to me. It’s The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge. It’s a wonderful book! One character who fears for her mental state as she battles depression receives wise counsel from a spiritual friend. When she expresses how terrifying it is to lose your mind, the man replies, “If you lose your mind, you lose it into the hand of God.”

As someone so afraid of returning to depression, I find such comfort here.

Even my mind can rest in the loving hand of God. I don’t need to worry; my soul–different and distinct from my brain–doesn’t deteriorate or fail. It doesn’t waver or betray. My mind, however, might–and most likely will–betray me in the end. I will not fear.

If I lose my mind, I lose it into the hand of God.

Isn’t this a great comfort and a great curiosity to consider the mind as different from the soul?


Down This Forgotten Path

I return today to a little park that I once frequented with strollers and juice boxes–back when my oldest started kindergarten instead of middle school.

So much time has passed! We walk down a familiar path that we’d forgotten about: the butterfly garden trail that six years later has grown indeed.

Well-planned and perfectly tended by a whole community of experts, this garden attracts the most beautiful butterflies.

As I walk down this path, I note how much beauty can grow up in just a few years.  The seeds planted all those years ago have grown into this:

We grow up, too, in this community. Walking down the path with young ladies instead of toddlers, I’m thankful for a garden path that reminds me how the seeds parents–and the whole community– plant into the lives of children do one day bloom.


Spinach Lasagna Rolls (Cheap and the Kids Make Them!)

Today my youngest requests one of her favorite meals for dinner: Spinach Lasagna Rolls.

For under $10.00, you can make enough for two dinners, and children love to make them!

Here’s how:

1. Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions.
2. Meanwhile, cook and thoroughly drain one package of chopped frozen spinach.
3. Then, mix a large carton of ricotta cheese with one egg, drained spinach, a dash of salt, pepper, oregano (and if you’re feeling fancy, a dash of nutmeg).

4. Spread ricotta filling on your noodle and roll it up.

5. Place seam side down in pan, cover with your favorite jar sauce (it can even be a white sauce), and cook at 350 degrees until bubbly.

Yum. Yum. Yum. Your children will fill two pans, so go ahead and freeze one for your crazy back-to-school week dinner!

(Yes, you just made two dinners for under $10.00, so you can spend your savings on school supplies. I’m so happy, I’m about to go brag to the Italian Mamas who trained me well.)


Add This Verb to Your List

This morning, my friend asks me to pray for forbearance.

Nobody has ever asked me to pray that they might forbear.

I’ve actually never used this verb in writing before, so I decide to look it up. I assume it means something like persevere or strengthen, but it actually means to restrain even when provoked.

To restrain even when provoked! To stay quiet, calm, and in control!

Did you know that this word appears three times in the Bible to describe the great patience of God who restrains from treating us as we deserve? It’s also a more accurate word to describe the fruit of the spirit in Galatians; instead of patience, other translations use forbearance.

I think about all the ways I might show restraint when provoked. I think of slow, gentle, quiet responses that persuade better than anger and loud speech.

Might I forbear.



“Missing this, we miss everything.”

I find myself reading the old classic, We Would See Jesus. In the introduction, the authors make the claim that if you miss the concept of grace in coming to Jesus, you’ve missed everything. 

In fact, they argue that, “the moment we have to do something to make ourselves more acceptable to God, or the moment we have to have a certain feeling or attribute of character in order to be blessed by God, then grace is no longer grace.”
We have nothing to offer. Everything is bestowed freely because of Jesus. If we miss this, we miss everything.

Big or Little

We pass a sign on the road for automotive repair. It says, “No problem is too big or too little for us to handle.” 

It’s a funny sign that appeals to our insecurity in either direction: either our problems seem too big or too little for anyone’s attention.
In God’s economy, remember that the sparrow and the nation of Israel both receive tender care. The tiny and the large matter deeply. The problem of too little wine gains our God’s attention as does a dying girl. 
If I think my problem is too big or too little, it’s not.