Friday, September 20, 2013

Sappy love notes ... thanks, but no

Zach is growing up really fast.  And I'm not just talking about the fact that he'll be in double digits next week and wears a men's small t-shirt, size 14 pants, and size 8.5 shoes, but his personality is getting more manly!  He watches grown-up television, takes notes in grown-up church, obsesses over ball games and sports statistics, and often hangs with the adults while the "little kids" play around us.

And... He's now embarrassed by notes Mom sends to school!  I guess they're for little kids.

Since he doesn't want grandiose love notes scrawled on banana peels or encouraging Bible verses Sharpied onto his sandwich baggies anymore, I've moved on to another approach.  Jokes, trivia or little announcements that he'd get excited about...tucked discreetly on post-its in his snack or lunch bag.

We'll see.  I sent one today.  Hope it makes him happy to know that Mom thinks about him when he's gone, but is trying to grow with him.  Darned kid (er, future man), outgrowing mushy Mom.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

VBS in pictures

This was my third year teaching Zach's class at VBS.  There are about 110 kids in his grade, and in the past these kids were divided into 4 or 5 classes.  This year, they were divided into two.  I LOVED THE BIGGER CLASS!!  

Having been at the church for 10 years, at the boys' elementary school for 4 years, and being a small group leader in Zach's Sunday school class for the last year, I knew about half of the kids in our class personally.  This was such a blessing!  Having a personal relationship with the kids makes it so much easier to connect with them; to reach them where they're at and grow from there.  And it was an extra special treat to get to hang out with my Sunday school girls for twelve hours in one week.  

I love these kids.

And I love that my husband was able to join us for half of the week.  He has such a heart for these kids, and they love him too.

Incredibly blessed. 

Now...  To figure out how to clone myself so I can teach both of my boys' classes for the next two years.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My sons: "God's Word makes me feel loved."

I love the time we get in the summer.

I love plugging into my family without distraction.

Love.  LOVE.  LOVE!

And I love this book.

It is rocking my world!

It is the perfect companion to my heart's desire to be intentional in all things.

Confession:  I have not read the entire Bible.  Until 10 years ago, I didn't actually know that all those kids' Bible stories I'd heard when young were actually in the Bible, so don't be surprised when I say ... that I didn't know who King Josiah was until yesterday.

That dude was AWESOME.

(2 Kings 22-23...for a more complete picture of his character in spite of his circumstances/influences, back up a couple of chapters to read about his dad and grandpa.)

Today's 5 Conversations chapter was summed up with, "Men like Josiah are not born; they're made.  Yet without an awareness of sin and wrongdoing, a tender and humble response to sin is unlikely.  Our sons are growing up in a culture which the lines between right and wrong are blurred; it becomes easy to sin without a second thought.  As mothers, we must not hesitate to call attention to wrongdoing we witness in our sons' lives - not in an effort to beat them over the head and "guilt" them but rather to encourage them to respond in a manner pleasing to God."

I kid you not, as I was reading these very words, my sons began to misbehave.  (Seriously, it was the first time of the day that I'd had to correct them in any manner!)

As I read, "it becomes easy to sin without a second thought", I could hear them playing with the hose after I'd told them not to.

And, as I finished the part about "calling attention to their wrongdoing", one of my sons lied, "I'm not doing it.  HE IS!"  Although he was the one who turned the hose on and stood there watching and laughing...

I calmly asked them to turn it off and put the hose back, and then to come sit with me when they were done.  They came over, sat down, and looked at me with these huge, hungry eyes and sweet smiles.

I told them the entire story of King Josiah (and his father/grandfather)...and landed on the above quote about godly men not being "born" that way, but rather "made"...and that it's a parents' responsibility to discipline and teach their children.  As I pointed out their sinful behavior - disobeying their mother, and then the one child lying - they were still happily taking it all in!

I am constantly awed by how hungry and eager my kids are for God's Word.  Even when it's a part of discipline!  They never find it dreadfully boring.  Never empty.

I mentioned to them later that they always look so happy and curious when we sit down with the Bible (which, during summer, is every day - at any time throughout the day), and asked them what they are feeling when I ask them to sit with me.   (Often, these conversations will happen in the middle of play.)

"Happy.  Excited.  I love God's Word!"

"Yea, me too!!  It's cool, Mom."

"I really feel loved.  By God and by you.  Thanks, Mom."

Have I mentioned that I really love summer?

Love.  LOVE.  LOVE!

Friday, June 7, 2013

On friendship and love

I was 30 before I really began to understand friendship.  And, as with anything, it has been a growing process.  My 30 year old understanding of friendship is different than my 39 year old understanding.

Funny...  (Or God timing?)  This blog post popped into mind as my heart overflowed with LOVE for a dear friend as I prayed for her this morning.  Prayed over something so deeply personal and emotional, you can only share it with your closest and most trusted friends.  I am beyond blessed by the trust we share, and in the gift of getting to carry this burden with her through prayer.  I'm blessed to get to encourage her - to walk beside her - as she takes this journey.  And I'm blessed by the fact that I can (and have) popped in, called, texted and emailed her with ANY and EVERY need, EVER.  And she has walked beside me every step of the way.  Generously, without fail.

Precious friend.

But I couldn't have friendships like this without first understanding LOVE.

Love.  Our first fruit that we'll begin studying as a family next week!  (Oh, that God...  He's never early, never late, and always working, isn't He?)

Maybe I'll wade into our virtue a little today.  Seems like a pretty natural way to begin our study.

As I researched yesterday in preparation for our Fruits of the Spirit summer, I came across this:

"When God's spirit is at work, amazing things happen.  The person's whole life blossoms and bears beautiful fruit.  The most wonderful fruit is the giving and receiving of true love."

Truer words were never spoken.

Discovering that love is not merely a feeling or emotion (and certainly not a weapon)...and learning to generously give and fearlessly receive love...has been a most significant life changer for me.

Praise the Lord!

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  1 John 4:7

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:13

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:34-35

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer bucket list

By the first of April, I am really looking forward to summer.  I'm completely sucked in by the promise of warmer weather, coming out of hibernation, regaining full control over our family's schedule, staying up late and sleeping in, traveling, exploring, playing.  With summer comes freedom and loads of incredible, intentional family time.  After months of adhering to school schedules, I embrace the change with wide open arms...and a bucket list.

This year is no different.

We're two weeks into our summer and have already checked a couple of things off our list!

On the list:

Vacations to Disney, Memphis and Colorado
Road trips to explore our great state of Kansas
Our dear friends visiting from out of town for two days
A week at VBS and another at Upwards basketball camp
Visits to the Truman and Eisenhower Presidential Lirbaries
Lots of bike rides, pool days and family runs
Many trips to Worlds and Oceans of Fun
Firepit nights with family and friends
Hours spent playing outdoors
Pick up a new instrument
Community service
Read every day

Reading is a big deal for us every summer.  We read a ton of various fiction, and I have always read a book of the Bible with the boys over the summer.  Months ago, I felt God leading me to something a little different this summer.  Instead of one book of the Bible, we will be studying the Fruits of the Spirit in depth.  Nine fruits, over nine weeks.  As the boys approach their 7th and 10th birthdays, their character (fruit) is something my husband and I are acutely aware of.

(My goodness, I had no idea how much hard, intentional work is involved in mothering!  I've said it hundreds of times already and I'll say it again...becoming a mother was the most arrogant thing I have ever done.  I thought I could do this, but I absolutely could NOT do it well without God.  No way.  Praise God for do-overs and his instruction manual, The Holy Bible.  And for godly friends and mentors.  And for my incredible partner - my stud-muffin husband.  Without you all, I'd be a hot mess...and so would my kids.  But, I digress.)

Beyond flip flops and sun dresses (which I adore!), I love that summer is a time to say yes more often than no.  I love that it affords us the opportunity to pour into our kids without other commitments or distractions.  I love that it is a time for reconnecting with friends and family, and a time to foster new and different friendships too.

I love the possibilities that summer offers - new adventures and discoveries, new growth.

What a gift it is to get to spend these precious months of uninterrupted time with our boys.  Our future men.  I pray, men of godly character.

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."  Galatians 5:22-23

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Blessed...on our birthday and always

Bryan is not one for huge parties.  Nor is he one for shallow friendships.  He prefers smaller groups and deep, meaningful connection.  I'm totally with him on the meaningful connections, but my circle of friends could eat his circle of friends for snack (we're talking quantity only here).  If given the opportunity to create a guest list, you'd better fetch me a couple of sheets of paper and brace yourself for an eclectic group.

However, this year I really wanted to do something that focused solely on Bryan and would bless his socks off.

I knew he'd love a date night with his closest friends.  And I knew he'd love one restaurant in particular.  So, I sent the invite...and waited a few weeks before calling the restaurant.  Bad idea.  Bad.  When I called four days in advance, they were already booked for Friday night.

You can see how experienced I am at this.

So, I moved on to another restaurant.  Then another.  Then another.  I even reached out to my foodie brother and friends for creative suggestions.  And ended up at Houlihans.

It's a fine restaurant, but not what I was aiming for on this special occasion.

The good news is...  We were at my back-up restaurant's, back-up times ten.  But were with first rate friends.

As I glanced around the dinner table, milestones, memories and inside jokes coursed through my brain.  Schooling, baseball, graduation, weddings, divorce, babies, miscarriages, infertility, adoption journeys, promotions, lay-offs and countless entreprenurial ideas.  Suffering, sick parents, death.  Worship, Bible study, tears shed, hands held, prayers whispered.  A sibling found, vacations taken, retreats attended, ministry served.  Hospital visits, family dinners, holiday celebrations, spontaneous get-togethers, nights out.  Babies first words, cheering on kids' sports, preparing boys for their freshman year of high school.  Exchanging encouragement, advice, and a listening ear.  Hours long phone calls, coffee and lunch dates.  And unexpected, no-reason, gifts, cards and flowers.  These are people we've done a lot of life with.  People we count on.  People we trust.  Our go-to people.

Eric and Kellee
Robert and Lynne
Brian and Emily
Aaron and Christina

As I thought about all that we've been through over the course of our friendships, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.  And my heart swelled out of an abundance of love.  These are brother/sister-friends.  Dear people, without whom our lives would be so very different.

On this morning-after, I'm still basking in the glow of a great night celebrating my man (who is now in his 40's - gasp!) with great friends and the many calls, texts, and birthday wishes from countless people I'm blessed to call friend, family, brother and sister.

Happy birthday to us, indeed.

As the vase says...  So very grateful for simple blessings.  My girl Lynne brought the flowers to the party.  Of course she did.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.  Psalm 100:1-5

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Getting closer to a Shrader Family 5K

The boys ran their first 5K on April 20, 2013.  I'd expected that we'd start and finish together, and in between there would be some sprinting, walking, whining, sitting, and even a little crying.  I was right and wrong. 

As we pulled into the parking lot, Luke asked if anyone was feeling nervous.  He shared that his tummy felt a little funny; that he was excited and a little intimidated.  I remember feeling that way before my first 5K.  And I remember the following year, when Sandra had to go to the bathroom 3 times in the 20 minutes we waited before the race.  She was so nervous, and she's on TV every day!  I could totally relate to my guy's nerves.

(I love that Luke always wears these gloves backwards.  The design you're seeing is the rubber non-skid surface meant to be on the palms!  He prefers for it to be decoration.)

But, once we gathered in the chute, he was beaming with excitement.  As we crossed the start line, he was shouting like a maniac, "I can't believe I'm doing this!  I'm really doing this!  I'm running my first 5K.  That is THREE MILES!!!  I'm in a race!  A real race!  Can you believe it?  This is AWE-SOME!!"  It was the most adorable thing I've ever seen.

About two tenths of a mile later, Zach was sprinting uphill and Luke was tired.  He needed to rest, but his brother was getting away from us and I hadn't talked to the kids about what to do if we got separated.  Who knew that Zach would have so much energy and determination??  So, in an effort to try to keep up with Zach, I hoisted Luke onto my back and ran uphill with a passenger.

You should try that.

When we got to the corner, I put Luke down and he ran a few more blocks.  Then, back on my back, then running again, then walking, you get the picture...  Zach waited for us for about 3/4 of a mile, then a friend of mine asked what he was waiting on.  When Zach said, "My mom and Luke", the friend told him to stop waiting and make his mom proud by running on to the finish.  I didn't see him again for over two miles.  And I had no idea that this conversation had transpired - Zach recognized the person, but has no idea who it was.  I prayed the entire way that he'd have the wisdom to wait at the finish line, and not get distracted by the table of donuts, his friends, or the pancakes calling his name from inside the cafeteria.

Luke and I covered the entire 3.10 miles together.  He was such a champ.  He did get tired, but he never whined or stopped.  He only asked for rides for very short distances; just enough to catch his breath.  He wanted so badly to win his age group, and when the reality set in as we headed downhill into the last mile, he began to cry.  He wasn't going to finish first among 1-10 year olds.  At that point, I picked him up and cuddled as we walked - no piggy back for crying guys.

When we turned into the school parking lot - approaching the final few tenths of a mile - Zach came running over to finish with us.  Prayers answered.  He'd waited.  And the three of us crossed the finish line together!  At their first 5K.

I could not be more proud.

Zach sprinted/walked the race with friends from school.  His goal for next year is to run with buddies, and not wait around for me at all.  He wants to finish in 25 minutes.  It's good to have a goal.

Great job, boys.  I love running with you.

Luke, I will always remember training for my first 5K.  I'd run the 1.5 mile loop around our house twice.  You'd come out front to wave at me and bring water between my first and second lap, and then you'd ask to run with me when I was done.  You and I would run a block...and sometimes even the shorter quarter mile loop.  You were at my first 5K - this very race.  You crossed the finish line with me, wearing your blue jeans and a KU sweatshirt.  You were 3 1/2.  I will never forget.  I'm moved to tears to have crossed this finish line with you again; but this time with you wearing a bib and timing chip.  Way to go, Buddy!  You've come a long way.  We all have.

Next time, Daddy needs to run.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

We Rocked the Parkway

I have trained a great deal with Tiffany since last June.  First we did our sprint distance triathlon in September, then we were on a Marathon Relay team in October, and then we traveled to Memphis together (running different distances) in December. 

She can be quoted as saying, "You can talk me into no one else can."

Like swimming.
In a like.
She says she's still on the fence for this year's tri, but I know she's not.
She'll triumph over that lake swim again.

This past weekend, she ran her first Half Marathon!  I am honored to have been a part of it.  I have loved sharing our running journeys.  So many accomplishments, so many conversations.  Occasional bouts of doubt and discouragement overcome by more determination than I'd previously known possible.

There is something about distance running.  You learn a lot about yourself as you push through pain and head for a finish line well beyond what you think is possible.  A distance well beyond anything that you will ever need to run in everyday life.  As you realize you're dousing yourself in biofreeze ... to keep covering miles, propelled by your own two feet and sheer will, knowing that you'll ice for the next 24-48 hours.  Especially when you think back to 12 months ago and remember that your furthest distance was a 5K.

(And this was my second Half Marathon.  Someone pinch me.)

Race day is the culmination of all the hard work of training.  It's the day we get crowded in with other runners - hip to hip, heel to toe - to cross that start line, enjoy miles of scenery, bands, spectators, running partners, and the spiritual experience of running, cross the finish line, and collect that medal.  I really love the medal.  It's a day of celebration.

You train for months to get to race day.  This winter we were able to run through mid-February without any trouble, but then it started dumping snow on us and temps were miserable.  Running outside just didn't happen as often as we'd planned.  And I simply can't imagine 10 miles on a treadmill, so our training was interrupted...  Tiffany didn't run at all between Feb. 27 and early April.  That last February run was 7 miles, then she sat out for 5 weeks and came back to a 5 mile training run, then a 9 mile run two days later.  That 9 mile run was the furthest she'd been ever, so every step beyond that was a new PR for her.

A week later - 2 days before the Half - her shins and my back started screaming.  But we did not bow out of the race.

We popped some Motrin, donned cheerful tutus and rainbow socks to offset all of the odds stacked against us, and high-fived spectators for 13.1 miles.

Rachel didn't run the Half, but she came out to cheer and take photos.  She also carried jackets and gloves that we discarded (and then I had to pick some up off the ground a mile later because I have wimpy cold hands) and she was our pharmacy.  Thank God for Rachel!

She caught us passing through mile 5.  You can see Tiffany's tutu...I'm off to her right.

And she was there again (I'm guessing mile 9?) when we were in pain.  At this point I bathed in her little packets of biofreeze.  This is my DRUGS, PLEASE face.

From here on in, my left knee was bothering me and I had to be very mindful of each step, but there's no stopping when the finish line is a 5K away.  We can run 3 miles in our sleep!

I love when you reach the point in the race that you stop counting up and, instead, count down the distance remaining.

Till you reach the finish line.

Where we were photo bombed.  Or maybe she thinks we photo bombed her.  Either way, note to self:  don't finish directly behind someone if you can help it.

I am always so blessed to get to spend time with these girls.

And with Rachel ... who isn't in a single picture I have from Saturday.  Thank you, Rachel, for cheering us on and being behind the lens so we have proof that we ran 13.1 miles in 2:50. 

Congratulations to Tiffany on her first Half Marathon!  You have got oodles of determination and sheer will...and you are somehow relatively immune to injury and exhaustion!  Sometimes I think I ought to check you for batteries, as you don't know the meaning of the word quit. 

The 2013 race season has been kicked off just right.  

I'm loving life.