Thursday, December 9, 2010

Simply Christmas

This year is a little different.

To help everyone focus on Jesus this year, we have simplified.

My side of the family exchanges names, so Tim and I bought just two gifts, including a donation to Heifer International, to help families in developing countries.  We bought 5 shares toward the purchase of a goat.

Tim's side of the family no longer exchanges names for adults.  We used to exchange adult names, then all get presents for the grandkids/grand-nieces/grand-nephews.  Now the adults exchange names for the kids, and make a donation toward a family in need.  This way, the kids just receive a few things, and the adults are able to bless someone in the name of Jesus instead of accumulating more and more stuff.

Tim and I have simplified our giving to the kids and to each other as well.  Our major purchase was a donation to our church's Beyond Our Valley Christmas Offering.  We bought one toy present for the kids (scooters for family time and exercise - sssshhhh, don't tell!), plus a few clothing items and their stocking stuffers.  

We want Christmas to mean something more than just presents.  We will be baking holiday goodies to give away to neighbors and friends at church with the intent of blessing them in the name of Jesus.  We will be buying canned goods to donate to our church's food basket giveaway in the name of Jesus.  We will intentionally give of ourselves without expectation of receiving anything but God's smile.  We will give.

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again." - John 3:16-17 (the Message)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Our Christmas Cards!

Good Blessings Religious Christmas 5x7 folded card
Shop Shutterfly for elegant custom Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Every Story Whispers His Name

The kids and I have recently been overdosing on Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre dramatizations of the Chronicles of Narnia, so I suggested a break.

We began listening to the Jesus Storybook Bible on CD.  We have been reading it as a supplement to our Bible curriculum in home school, but hadn't listened to the accompanying CDs yet.  

Imagine our delight to hear the same intonations and rhythm in the vocalization as we heard from the character of "Aslan" in the Narnia CDs!  We all looked at each other in stunned silence and wondered if it could be the same man.  It was!  David Suchet is the voice of the Jesus Storybook Bible.  I can't tell you how much more meaningful it is for us to hear how "every story whispers His Name" when it comes from such a friendly, lordly, great voice that we have come to love.

The kids and I highly recommend this terrific Bible and resource for all ages.

Friday, August 20, 2010

First, they came for the Muslims...

To be perfectly honest with you, the raging debate over the zoning issue in Manhattan regarding the mosque and activity center a few blocks from the site of the terrorist attacks 9 years ago has really not interested me.  I tend to avoid most news, because it just depresses and frustrates me.  Thank the Lord, we do not have cable, so I am not subjected to 24-hour news coverage of everything in America that the talking heads think is important (but really isn't).  I read Scripture, then look through my local newspaper in the morning, check in on what my friends think is important on their blogs and Facebook, then go about my joyful day, occasionally checking in with NPR for Morning Edition or All Things Considered. 

Yesterday, I listened more to Morning Edition than I usually do, since my kids were not in the car and not clamoring to listen to "Deliberate Kids" or "They Might Be Giants."  Morning Edition played a clip I remember hearing 9 years ago, and I remember being so grateful and overcome with emotion for the words and the president we had at the helm of our nation following the terrorist attacks.  

President Bush said, "I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world.  We respect your faith.  It is practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends.  Its teachings are good and peaceful and those that commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah."

Many Republican - and even Democrat - politicians are using this issue to attack the other side, and President Obama.  It's become a terrible mess that I'd just rather tune out.  

However, again on Morning Edition, I heard Newt Gingrich (from a program on Fox News) invoke the Nazis in his rant against the mosque.  He said, "The Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.  We'd never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.  There's no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center."

Normally, I think Newt is a pretty level-headed thinker.  I tend to listen to him when he speaks.  So this brought me up short.  And I started to think about the Nazis and the way they targeted people for their ancestry, their race, their religion, and the essence of what made them different from the Nazis.  The Nazis began by limiting freedom, then they escalated their hatred to horrors that still shock the world.  I was horrified as I began to wonder which typifies the Nazis more: insensitivity to those hurt by their actions, or the attempt to restrict the freedoms of those they hate?  

On January 6, 1946, a pastor by the name of George Neimoller gave a speech before representatives of the Confessing Church in Frankfurt.  His words should remind all of us, but especially Christians, of the dangers of limiting religious freedoms in America.  

Neimoller said, "They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.  Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.  Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Now, I'm not going to get into the facts of where the mosque is planned to be built, why it's going to be built, or even who is arguing against it or defending it. 

I just want us all to take a breath and consider the ramifications of limiting religious freedom in America.  If we limit the Muslims in where they can build a house of worship, what's next? 

David Ramadan, a member of a group of prominent Muslim Republicans, wisely said, "If 2 blocks is too close, is 4 blocks acceptable?  Or 6 blocks?  Or 8 blocks?  Does our party believe that one can only practice his or her religion in certain places with defined boundaries and away from the disapproving glances of some other citizens?"

As Neimoller warned us 64 years ago, if "they come" for the Muslims, who's next?  Will there be anyone left to speak up for the freedom of Christians?  Think about it.

Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them." - Matthew 22:37-40 (the Message)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Knock, Knock

While driving in the car today:

WILKIN: Knock, Knock
ME: Quien esta?

ME: That means "who's there" in Spanish.
WILKIN: Don't do it in Spanish.
ME: Okay.

WILKIN: Knock, Knock
ME: Thoo's Hair?
ME: Sorry.  Try again.

WILKIN: Knock, Knock
ME: Who's there?
WILKIN: OK, this joke is going to be a little bit different.
ME: OK, this joke is going to be a little different WHO?

uproarious laughter from the backseat...

Monday, July 5, 2010

More thoughts on Twilight (Eclipse in particular)

Since I couldn't write it better myself, I'm posting the conclusion of Plugged In's (Focus on the Family's movie review service) Eclipse review.  The body of the review is helpful as well, especially if you're trying to decide if there is anything positive about this movie - and guess what? - there is!  Just read the review.

Here is the conclusion of the review by Paul Asay, which makes the most sense I've read in a long time about this series and Eclipse in particular.

Before walking into The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, I expected the audience to consist mostly of girls in the 13 to 18 age range. You know, the demographic that might go to a Justin Bieber concert.

I was wrong.

Granted, there were plenty of young women. But many were in their 30s and 40s. Even 50s. And let me tell you, they were 
into it: They cheered kisses. They cheered shirtless appearances. They saved their biggest hurrah for Edward's proposal. I don't know whether this was the "Team Edward" vs. "Team Jacob" dynamic at work, or whether these fans were just absorbed in the story, but they couldn't help applauding whenever any of 'em exchanged lip gloss.

In short, these viewers were 
engrossed in the film's fantasy world—and I'm not talking about the whole vampire-and-werewolf fantasy. I'm talking about the film's fantastical view of love. Eclipse, like all the Twilight films, is far more about romance than horror. And almost all romances, by their very nature, idealize both love and the lovers involved.

In some ways, that's manifested pretty positively here, and some of these values 
should be idealized. It's great to see Edward being so careful with Bella's virtue and so gentlemanly throughout, for instance. More folks in the real world should aspire to such chivalry.

But  Eclipse takes that romanticism to another level, giving us two male protagonists who are practically godlike: Edward is a knight in shining skin who props his beloved Bella on a pedestal; Jacob is a dark-haired pinup idol, sensitive and vulnerable even as he's virile and strong. They are creatures of pure imagination—preternaturally powerful and kind and desirable and desirous. No wonder teens who are still mulling what true love looks like are attracted to these characters. No wonder grown women—many of them who fell in love, got married and found their relationships weren't wall-to-wall passion and joy forever and ever—find themselves drawn to them, too. (emphasis mine -jeh)

In this sense, I suspect 
The Twilight Saga, particularly Eclipse, feeds our already unrealistic, sky-high expectations about what romantic relationships should look like. I don't think a lot of teens will walk out wishing to be vampires or werewolves. But many of them (and more than a few adults, it would seem) may pine for the sort of love and attention Bella receives from her supernatural suitors.

The film—which is better artistically than the first two—has some other problems as well. I mourn the fact that Bella is so bent on becoming a vampire. Setting aside, for a minute, the ethics of becoming undead, the fact she wants to jump into this irreversible decision feels terribly hasty. Bella's own father comes across as practically powerless to influence his daughter's life, yet another reason for sorrow. (emphasis mine -jeh)  
Eclipse is also darker and more violent than the first two entries in the franchise. The decapitation scenes in particular were especially jarring. And sex is obviously becoming a bigger and bigger issue for Edward and Bella.

As I left the theater, though, I thought less about those things and more about the American inclination to idealize love. That inclination can sometimes make real love—an undeniably great and wonderful but complex roller coaster—feel a little like a disappointment.

It's telling, perhaps, that 
Eclipse's supposed love triangle isn't much of a triangle at all. Bella is Edward's girl. She always was, always will be. She chooses a charming, bloodless, idealized man over one of flesh and blood who's arguably more fallible, more real.

And I can't help but wonder, how many 
Twilight fans are being encouraged to shop for love in the very same way? 

From Paul Asay's review on Plugged In:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Issues With Twilight

"In the end everything will be all right, nothing can harm you permanently; no loss is lasting, no defeat more than transitory, no disappointment is conclusive.  Suffering, failure, loneliness, sorrow, discouragement and death will be part of your journey, but the kingdom of God will conquer all of these horrors.  No evil can resist grace forever." - Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

I've read the entire Twilight series, and seen every movie that has come out so far.  While Stephenie Meyer is not a terrific author, and the movies don't meet my high standard of quality in filmmaking, I have been reasonably entertained.  The storyline is fascinating and very creative (witness all the people trying to copy it - from True Blood to The Gates).

Down through history, many stories have featured romantic love and obsession, and the books allude to stories such as Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights to (not-so-subtly) flesh out the relationships in Twilight.  Just as in works by Shakespeare and Bronte, these characters are consumed with themselves and with each other.  Twilight's prose is of a lesser quality, but the themes are not new.

However, as a wife and a mother, I have some deeper issues with the series and its characters.

Bella is a whiny, bratty, self-absorbed girl, and I don't want my daughter to be anything like her.  She is described as plain, klutzy, very ordinary.  That's fine.  Every teenage girl feels this way, whether she admits it or not.  However, Bella somehow manages to attract a beautiful, "perfect" specimen and his every desire is directed toward her.  As a former teenager, I can tell you that this is a recipe for disaster.  She is now desired for her scent, her blood, and sex.  He wants her body and soul, and she is all too willing to give it all up for him.

This flies in the face of the wisdom taught to us in Proverbs - the desire of particular types of people (and to be desired BY them) invites destruction.  The opposite of wisdom is death.  Bella comes to see death as a desirable outlet, and living without her boyfriend is impossible.  Wow.  I am teaching my daughter to be obsessed with Jesus, and her mind, soul and strength belong to him.  While she may marry someday, her first love is Jesus.  God's blessings will be given to her through her husband.  Her husband should not be the center of her existence.

He is so beautiful and perfect that mere mortals cannot compete.  All of the vampires are portrayed as having "remarkable good looks," and they have the money and clothes to complete the whole package. Bella longs to be accepted by them, no matter the danger or the cost to her family.  In the first movie, Edward even tells Bella, "I'm the world's most dangerous predator.  Everything about me invites you in.  My voice, my face, even my smell.  As if I would need any of that.  As if you could outrun me.  As if you could fight me off.  I'm designed to kill." 

At multiple points in the book, Bella feels pain and anguish over the absence of Edward.  Beyond the warped desire to be with a boy who wants to hurt her, this screams of female lust to me.  At the risk of seeming stereotypical, there are different kinds of lust for men and women.  Men look at women and desire, and women want to be looked at and desired.  There is the sin of lust for both men and women, and the danger of destruction in both the desiring and the being desired.

Edward is set up in the books as a savior for Bella, the person who can deliver her from her normalcy, the mundane aspect of her life.   I don't want my daughter to think it's okay to be fascinated with a boy to the extent of her own destruction, especially a "bad boy," a dangerous person.  An obsession with Edward (or Jacob, for that matter) feeds into the idea that a woman needs danger and fear in a relationship.  No!  I want my daughter to yearn for a godly, upright man, who loves Jesus more than he loves her.  With those priorities in order, she will live a blessed life.  God will be her constant, her steadfast companion.  "For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you." - Isaiah 54:10

The biggest challenge I have is with the idea of "imprinting."  Jacob and his wolf brothers can become imprinted on a person, instantly experiencing love at first sight, and a deep connection to that person as a soul mate.  The last thing Elisa needs is to feel like she has no choice in the matter when a boy falls in love with her, or when she falls in love with him.  Young love will come and go.  True love is a choice, a decision that mature people make every day.  Love is work, not hormones or instincts.

Every decision Bella makes leads her deeper into danger.  We need to realize the consequences of our actions and our choices, and question where our steps are leading us.  There is not much in the way of redemption in Twilight, beyond the good "works" and choices made by the Cullen family to help humanity instead of kill people.  There is a great deal of struggle over whether the vampires are damned because they have been transformed into vampires.  Vampire legends are rooted in the idea that vampires sold their souls to the devil in exchange for eternal life.  Twilight vampires do not have the same choice (although Bella seems to choose vampirism even with the chance that her soul could be eternally lost). 

I almost wondered at the idea of works salvation - how the Cullens seem to be trying by their actions alone to be "good."  Their fate was chosen for them, so they did everything they could to fight their nature and do good works/deeds.  Bella even says, "you couldn't be damned" because she sees Edward (his actions) as good.  People/vampires/wolves seem to be relying on good works instead of relying and trusting in the goodness of God.  The topic or personhood of God is not introduced into Twilight saga at all, beyond the concept of damnation.  No vampires, wolves or humans are introduced to God or his offer of eternal life.

Yes, but only with me reading along with her to discuss themes and choices made by the characters.  I want my children to know that I'm not able to be shaken by what interests them, and we can talk about anything.  I don't want to be the "cool mom" that lets them participate in all aspects of the world.  However, I want them to see me seek after God while in the culture, either contributing to it or battling it, and finding true joy by seeing Christ in my fellow man and maybe even in the culture around me.  I don't believe that ignoring Twilight or any other aspect of culture is the way to do that.  My mom caught flak for my obsession over Michael Jackson in fourth grade, but she knew that withholding and restricting me from all things Michael would only feed my desire and create a stronger devotion.  My parents helped me balance my interest in "Thriller" with more wholesome pursuits and helped me develop into a person who could - not always successfully - navigate my teen years IN the world but not OF it.

I would also allow her to watch the movies, with me, and with my finger firmly on the pause button.  I do this with most movies.  I don't want my children to absorb things without questioning the legitimacy of the worldviews and statements put forth in movies and TV shows.

I am aware that evil comes in many disguises and is made to look alluring and fascinating to appeal to our senses.  Like Twilight, like many things in our culture.  Many times songs and images have become embedded in my mind and I realize that I need God's divine help to remove them from my soul.  I know that Twilight has become just such an obsession for many people.  I'm not ready to call Twilight evil, but I am recognizing its dangers and drawbacks.  Twilight is deeply in the American culture, and we need to find ways to discuss it and transform its followers into devotees of the true God, grateful recipients of the real sacrificial love of Jesus.

Interesting article for teens and how to talk about Twilight at

Friday, June 25, 2010

Observations on Marriage After 15 Years

Many words have been spoken, many books written about marriage and how to make it work.

After 15 years, I'm not saying I have it figured out.  In fact, I look forward to many more years trying to figure it out with Tim.

We had an attraction from the beginning.  Tim was cute and had great legs from playing soccer, and Tim said I caught his eye because I was different from the other freshman girls at Milligan College.  Apparently he had never met a girl who knew how to shoot a rifle and thought the East Tennessee mountains were mere speed bumps compared to the "real mountains" out west.

Solid marriage - even a solid dating relationship - isn't based on attraction, though.  I could list hundreds of "beautiful" people who started out with attraction and fizzled shortly.  In fact, I'm shocked to hear how short some Hollywood marriages are.  

To rely solely on attraction and chemistry reduces the relationship to a flimsy shadow of love, simple lust.  In fact, it makes one's beloved into an idol - the object of our hopes and desires - instead of a partner in life.  When I set my beloved up as an idol, the Apostle Paul writes that I have "exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator." (Romans 1:25)

Antoine De Saint-Exupery said, "love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction."  Beyond the attraction (which does cool somewhat over the years, by the way),  Tim and I had found similarities and common experiences that helped us understand each other and appreciate each other more.  Even deeper than that, we knew we had a shared faith in God and commitment to follow Jesus Christ with our whole lives.  As we continued to date, I knew I had found a man who loved God more than he loved me, and I knew that God would bless me through him.  

We spent a summer apart in 1994.  We had separate internships - mine in North Carolina, his in Indiana.  The disconnection from each other was deeper than loneliness, and stronger than absence.  We realized that summer that we were better together.  I was a more effective person, better at my job - a better woman when he was by my side.  He found that he was a better minister, worker and person with me working alongside him.  We knew it was time to talk about getting married.  

The thrill of a common purpose and a shared passion keeps us together - beyond attraction, beyond the promises we made on June 24, 1995 (and renew in our hearts every time we attend a wedding),  and beyond "staying together for the sake of the kids."  We are a team in life, in parenthood, and as disciples of Jesus Christ.

When I was a girl, I thought I wanted someone who would be my "everything."  I wanted to be "everything" to someone, too.  But after 15 years of marriage, one thing I do know is that I am NOT my husband's everything.  His heart belongs to Jesus.  And that's just the way I want it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart

Just to know Timothy Paul Hatfield would have blessed my life beyond measure.  

But 15 years ago, I married this man and my life has been overwhelmingly blessed with his wisdom, sense of humor, love, and passion for Jesus and His church.  

Marriage hasn't always been easy or fun, but it will always be worth the work.  Thanks for being my life partner, Timbo.  I respect you and the way you care and provide for us more than I can say.

Happy Anniversary, sweetheart.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Locavores and Neighborhood Living

I recently read Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter.  While I thoroughly enjoyed following her adventures as a city farmer in Oakland, California, I vacillated between admiration and guilt.  Admiration to the point of researching Roanoke's laws about livestock, and guilt to the point of realizing how far my family has fallen from the agrarian sufficiency of our grandparents and, to some degree, our parents.  I don't even grow a garden.  The idea of weeding my flower beds in the summer heat makes me hyperventilate.  Can you imagine what a whole garden would do to me?

That's why I'm pretty grateful that Roanoke has THREE Farmer's Markets available to me now - two are a simple walk or bike ride away, and one is as close as a $1.50 bus ride downtown.

I'm planning on frequenting the West End Community Market, opening in the parking lot of the West End Center for Youth at the corner of Patterson & 13th.  That's the neighborhood that's "across the bridge" from us, what Roanoke residents consider a rough part of town.  I consider it my neighborhood too - if it's less than a mile from me, if I drive through it every day, it's my neighborhood.  My house would fit in right along with the other houses.  By an accident of birth, it just happens to be on the other side of the bridge.

So, tomorrow between the hours of 4-7 pm, I'll be riding my bicycle over to the West End Center to sample some local produce.  Check out this great article in the Roanoke Times about the Market and how they're even accepting SNAP payments for low-income families.  Support your local farmers.  Buy locally.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Summer School Adventure

Now that Elisa is out of school for the summer and achievement certificates have been granted, the summer fun school begins!
Wilkin and I didn't get everything accomplished last school year, and Elisa overachieved, getting straight A's in every subject.  As a result, we're going to do some learning this summer.  Wilkin will be doing more in the way of math, reading and handwriting.  Elisa will be devouring a spelling/vocabulary book and working on her math computation.  Who knows, she may even get fifth grade under her belt (haha).  We will also be traveling to Washington, DC and learning some history and civics along with that trip.

So - today is the day!  Time to learn, to get some knowledge!  

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yesterday was a long day but I'm counting my blessings

1. Appointment with the "Ick" doctor to start my day
Blessing: I'm healthy and am old enough to be scheduled for an annual mammogram.  Thankful for a proactive doctor.

2. Had to make a really tough call in small group leadership
Blessing: Strong clarification and reiteration of the purpose of groups at Living Water, and a little bit of correction and discipline from God to me.  It's healthy and very helpful, even though it's painful sometimes.

3. Wilkin is invited to his former class's picnic and I make awkward small talk with his teacher and other moms about homeschooling
Blessing: I realize that it's OK that my son isn't reading The Boxcar Children books yet or not taking the "much more difficult" ITBS test rather than the CAT standardized test.  Wilkin is progressing just right for him and I'm going to continue to chill out and be proud of him where he is.

4. Wilkin slams into another kid at the class picnic and gets the worst gusher from his nose ever (he's had too many for me to count, but this one was pretty bad)
Blessing: Dr. Mowery was at the picnic with her son (not the poor kid on the other end of the collision, thank the Lord) and knows just what to do - palpated for fractures, he's fine.  Retains his sense of humor when he recounts the incident: "We were going in opposite directions, and that was toward each other."  Ice cream on the way home helps too.

5. We pick Elisa up from school and her sore throat is pretty definitely strep
Blessing: We get an appointment quickly at the pediatrician and get her first dose in her before dinner - hoping she can still play in soccer game on Saturday.  

6. Because of Elisa's infection, I cannot attend worship team practice, as I had promised
Blessing: I get to cuddle with my kids and pretend they are small again.  When Elisa feels sick, she wants her mommy.  When Wilkin is bleeding, he wants his mommy.  I've been reading books about helping my children transition into responsible pre-teens instead of simply obedient children.  Thinking of the looming tween and teen future sometimes makes my heart ache.  Days like yesterday remind me that I'm still needed - not just for the preparation for their next phase of childhood, but for the current one.  I can still provide tender comfort and they can still fit in my lap.

P.S. Wilkin woke up with a crick in his neck.  He can only look to the left and it hurts to even try to turn his head forward.  Probably either slept on it wrong or really whacked into that kid hard yesterday and gave a jolt to his spine.
Blessing: Our chiropractor is open on Saturdays.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How am I mirroring Jesus to the world?

Our imitation of God in this life ... must be an imitation of God incarnate: our model is the Jesus, not only of Calvary, but of the workshop, the roads, the crowds, the clamorous demands and surly oppositions, the lack of all peace and privacy, the interruptions. For this, so strangely unlike anything we can attribute to the Divine life in itself, is apparently not only like, but is, the Divine life operating under human conditions.
C.S. Lewis, from his book The Four Loves

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day, Grandma!

By the time you get this email, I will have been through two services at Living Water, singing the special music: "Perfect People" by Natalie Grant.  The lyrics go something like this: 

There's no such thing as perfect people
There's no such thing as a perfect life
So come as you are, broken and scarred
Lift up your heart and be amazed
and be changed by a perfect God

The sermon is about the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, which sometimes makes me feel guilty about the Mom/Wife/Woman I'm NOT.  Sometimes it challenges me to be a better person, but it always makes me grateful that God's grace is sufficient for me.

The sermon also will have a speaking part for one of my best friends, who is going to talk about how she is working to change her family history and be a better mom than her mom was to her.  Her mother is an alcoholic, and just a couple of months ago, I went to babysit while she and her husband drove to pick up her mom who was too drunk to drive home. I spent that evening thinking about you, Grandma, and how grateful I am that you raised such a powerful woman of God, my mom.  I know you faced adversity in your own home life as a child, and watched imperfect people make a life together and struggle through.  You, yourself, took a broken background and changed my family history.  You raised a daughter who loves the Lord more than anything in her life and strives to follow him wherever he leads.  You raised a daughter who puts her husband second, teaming up with him in ministry and in life.  You raised a daughter who raised her children to love Jesus and family, to be adventurous and independent, while still tethered with the bonds of faith and love.

My friend is struggling to reinvent what family means for her, her husband, and her children.  She is determined to change her family history and raise her daughters in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  I know in the not-so-distant future, her granddaughters may be sending her this same message I am sending you ... a message of gratitude for her faithfulness and determination.

With the help and grace of God, you and Grandpa - two imperfect people from imperfect backgrounds - were the turning point for me and my mom and therefore my own family's history.  Because of you and how you raised my mom, I don't have to struggle with so many challenges my friends face with their own parents, spouses, or children.  I still fall short of that virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 - that passage will forever convict and inspire me to do better - but I see you and Mom all the way through that passage, and I am encouraged that I can achieve that perfection only because of Christ Jesus.

There's no such thing as perfect people
There's no such thing as a perfect life
So come as you are, broken and scarred
Lift up your heart and be amazed
and be changed by a perfect God
Who lived and who died to give new life
To heal our imperfections
So look up and see love and let grace be enough

Be changed by a perfect God
Be changed.

Happy Mother's Day, Grandma.  I love you.
PS: I could have written this just as easily for my Grandma Dorothy Hardenbrook.  She faced so many challenges growing up it devastates me just to think about it.  What she did to overcome that pain and be the woman of God she was is a real inspiration to me.
This is my second Mother's Day without Grandma Hardenbrook, but my gratitude and love for her are still being conveyed through my prayers for my own family every day.  

Monday, May 3, 2010

Elisa's Poem for Isabelle

We have friends who are battling leukemia with their daughter, Isabelle.

As I was preparing my grocery list for today, I turned a page in my notebook and found an acrostic poem written by my 9-year-old daughter after participating in Isabelle's fundraiser:


I love you
Saying "I love you" makes me smile
A warm hug makes me stronger
Being sick is no fun
Everybody is beautiful
Loving to the heart
Like a strong laugh
Eyes of warmth and grace

Sick with cancer
Isabelle Simmons
My life is a painful story
My life is a loving story
Outstanding life
Never the same
Save me Lord
-by Elisa Hatfield

Please pray for Isabelle and her parents, Tabitha and Ben.  More information on Isabelle and how to pray can be found here.

How Not to Talk to Your Kids

My friend Josie sent me this amazing article from New York Magazine by Po Bronson, written in 2007.

Josie is traveling along with me on my journey of home teaching my son, Wilkin, and constantly supporting me with wisdom, tools, and encouragement.  We all know that Wilkin is smart - sometimes too smart for his own good.  But we also know that it's a struggle to help him learn, especially when he doesn't want to.

I'm learning more about him and myself as we travel this journey, and this article was incredibly helpful to me.  It takes a while to read, but I hope it will be as beneficial to you as it was to me.  Maybe, like me, you are you are your child's primary educator.  Maybe you're an engaged parent ... I like to consider myself a co-teacher along with my daughter's fourth grade teacher, even though she is the primary educator of my daughter.  Maybe you're a person like my friend Josie, who is invested in your friends' children because you care very deeply.  If you fit into any of those categories, you'll benefit from How Not to Talk to Your Kids: the Power (and Peril) of Praise.

I welcome your thoughts.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Dilemma of Keeping One's Word

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. - Matthew 9:36 (NLT)

Tomorrow is the 31st Annual Virginia Championship Chili Cook Off in downtown Roanoke.

For the past seven years, Living Water Christian Church has participated in some form.

It all started about eight years ago, when the Hatfield family was at the Cook Off and Paul said to us, "I would love for Living Water to be a part of this some year."  Way to think outside of the evangelism box, right?  So we started working on it, and became a fixture at the event back in 2003.  For the first five years, we cooked gallons of chili to be sampled by the masses.  Starting in 2005, we began providing a diaper changing station over in the Kids Fun Area where parents could find a clean changing table, free diapers, hand sanitizer and wipes - just an unexpected service to families who needed it.  A few years ago, we introduced helium balloons to the Chili Cook Off.  Well, last year, we couldn't find a chili cook able to take off Friday and Saturday from work to be able to cook the sheer volume of chili needed to be prepared for such an event (about 50 gallons).  So, we just set up the changing table service and the balloons.  Still, a great way to reach out to the community and show that we care about families (and that we're kind of fun to hang out with too).

I have come to believe very strongly in our participation in this event: we can trace three families in our church directly from the Chili Cook Off.  For the cost of the helium, balloons, T-shirts, giveaways, chili ingredients and man hours all those years, we have gained three families that we can't imagine doing life without at Living Water.  Three families who now know the love and grace of Jesus and are imparting that to their families, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  

This weekend is a busy one for Living Water.  About 10 guys are attending the Men's Retreat at Blue Ridge Christian Camp and one of my most dedicated set-up people is the point man for the retreat.  A bridal shower is being held tomorrow for one of my most dedicated balloon girls.  Her fiance's family has always been a big part of helping with the diaper changing station.

My daughter has two soccer games tomorrow, which I am going to miss because we aren't appropriately staffed for the event.  I'm faced with a huge dilemma.  Do I keep my word to Greenvale School, the organizers and beneficiaries of the Cook Off and be at the event with the two or three volunteers I can wrangle, or do I cancel the helium tank and go to my daughter's soccer games?

It's a dilemma further deepened by the knowledge that thousands of people will see our balloons, be blessed by the service to their families, and maybe consider church or Jesus for the first time.  Is God telling me he is not directing us toward this event this year, or is he wanting me to overcome the challenges that have been put in my path?  What should I do, friends?  What should I do?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Today I Will Fly! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) Today I Will Fly! by Mo Willems

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This series is finally inspiring my 7-year-old to read eagerly. The clever illustrations and witty dialogue, coupled with "I Can Read It" prose, has made the "Elephant and Piggie" series a significant game-changer for us.

View all my reviews >>

Battle of Wills with Wil

He's up in his room.  And I'm down here.  Waiting on him to be ready to complete his assignment.  He didn't do it perfectly, and he started to cry.  Who knew I had ANOTHER perfectionist kid on my hands?  Actually, I don't.  He just likes to do things well, and when he doesn't, he expresses his frustration.  At the second outburst of tears, I sent him to his bed with the instruction to come down when he was ready to finish.  

It's been a few minutes and the tears are done.  My guess?  He's totally forgotten about the whole rumpus and he's looking at a book.  Time to call him back to the table.

I've been working through On Becoming Preteen Wise: Parenting Your Child from 8-12 Years by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam.  Although Wilkin is still seven, I am beginning to see many of our challenges and disputes through a much different lens.  As we transition into the "tweens," he will be accepting a lot more responsibility for his own actions and behaviors as I prepare him for responsibility, not just obedience.

I'm off to retrieve the boy and complete our assignment.  Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart, but it is a terrific way to learn more about my son ... and myself.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


My seven-year-old son Wilkin has an imaginary friend named Stanley.
It all started with his cousin, who had an imaginary friend named Stanley.  His cousin's Stanley was a playmate when he needed one, as his sister is 11 years older and not always keen on playing Hotwheels.  Wilkin adopted his own Stanley shortly after being introduced to Josiah's Stanley, even though Elisa has always been a close friend and they play well together.  I figured Stanley was harmless, just another expression of Wilkin's desire to be just like Josiah.
However, Wilkin's Stanley has hung on over the years, and evolved over time.
Stanley began as a silent confidant and understanding friend who always shared toys and let Wilkin go first.

As Wilkin has matured and faced various challenges in schooling and in relationships, Stanley has become the friend that always lets Wilkin have his way.  When Wilkin was struggling with confidence, Stanley would forget how to play games and Wilkin would always win.  When Wilkin tried to sound out words, Stanley didn't even know what the letters were.  When Wilkin felt he couldn't do anything right, Stanley always let him take his own turns and Wilkin would always come out on top.
Yesterday, Elisa and Wilkin were playing Connect Four.  Wilkin was losing.
Wilkin challenged Stanley to a game of Connect Four.  Stanley forgot the rules.  Wilkin won.
Today, Elisa kicked Wilkin's tail in "thumb war."  
Wilkin challenged Stanley to a thumb war.  Wilkin won.  "Stanley is so weak, and I am so strong," Wilkin crowed (yes, he was using his own thumb to represent Stanley's thumb).
I long for the day when Wilkin feels confident enough to challenge and, maybe even, defeat someone his own age.  Until then, there's Stanley.  And I'm grateful for the way he keeps letting Wilkin win ... and keeps building up his budding confidence.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Reading Breakthrough?

I have been trying to find a series of stories that would spark Wilkin's interest in reading.  

The Magic School Bus
Richard Scarry
Dr. Seuss
Thomas the Tank Engine

Well, he loved all of those books, but not enough to read on his own.  

Wilkin adores the Pigeon books by Mo Willems, but the writing style is more a "Read It To Me" than an "I Can Read It," if you know what I mean.  Leonardo the Terrible Monster was a huge hit at our house, but again, more of a bedtime storybook than his style of reading.

Today at the library, while Wilkin was on a learning computer, I again was in search of something to spark his interest.  I just know that once he "gets it," he will take off.  I found the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems, and I knew Wilkin would like them for three reasons: 

  1. easy words he already knows structured in easy-to-read sentences to build confidence; 
  2. hilarious but kid-friendly story lines; and
  3. very cute and funny illustrations.  
I checked out all 5 books they had available: Pigs Make Me Sneeze, I Love My New Toy!, Are You Ready to Play Outside?, Today I Will Fly!, and I Am Invited to a Party!

Wilkin started off wanting them read TO him.  Instead of arguing and saying, "you can read this yourself," I allowed Elisa to read them to him first on the way home from the library.  By the time we were almost home, Wilkin had read one book all by himself, giggling the whole way.  He earns two stickers in Inventor School for reading one book.  Today, he earned 10 stickers just for reading.

Could this be the reading breakthrough I've been praying for?  We'll see!  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Today my daughter's best friend buries her great-grandmother

In January 2009, I traveled to Idaho for the funeral of my Grandma Hardenbrook.  It was a painful but joyous time as I and my family members looked back at her life, cried a lot, and laughed even more.  Tim and the kids were unable to come with me, and I missed their presence and the lost opportunity to be present for the memories and the finality of the burial.  I especially wished my children could have participated in that.  For long-distance family relationships, my kids may go months or even a year without seeing grandparents and great-grandparents.  Elisa and Wilkin grieved when she died and know they will see her again in heaven, but there is a benefit in participating in the funeral.  When my mom's dad then passed away in June, I again traveled without my husband and kids.  I wondered what Elisa and Wilkin were missing by not being able to participate.

On Sunday, Elisa's best friend had rushed with her family to be at the side of her great-grandmother as she took her last breaths.  When I shared this with Elisa, a tender-hearted nine-year-old, tears sprang to her eyes in compassion and sorrow for her friend.  She also knew Mildred - she had been at Taylor's house a few times when Elisa visited - but Elisa's tears were for Taylor.  When I offered her the chance to travel to the funeral with me, she quickly nodded her head, unable to speak.

I know the emotions are still fresh for me, just 15 months after Grandma Hardenbrook's funeral, but I feel like this might be a very meaningful experience for my daughter as well.  As she is physically present for Taylor today, she can also experience the finality of this funeral and grieve for her own beloved great-grandma and great-grandpa.

I will feel the emotions afresh, too.  Having experienced loss oneself makes one better equipped to help those who are going through it.  My friend Marcia very wisely stated yesterday, "There's nothing like losing a parent.  All of a sudden, you're an orphan."  She had that shared experience with Gracie - Mildred's daughter and Taylor's grandmother - that I (thankfully) do not have.  Today, I will be in Clintwood, Virginia to honor Mildred for my friends Gracie and Tony and Rhyanna and Brian, and Elisa will honor her best friend's great-grandmother.