A graduation makes you stop, look around, and see where you’ve come from and where you hope to go.

This week my youngest son finishes elementary school, my daughter finishes middle school, and my oldest son, a high school junior, will serve in the honor guard at graduation – a dry run for next year.

Like all transitions, bittersweet.

We leave behind good things we will miss. My youngest is already mourning recess, and I will miss the atmosphere of elementary school – the glue sticks and finger paints, the tiny chairs and apple decor.

But some things we leave behind gladly. Anyone want to return to the days of middle school insecurity or high school drama? Anyone? Anyone?

Transitions also can produce worries. The First Locker in middle school. Entering high school and knowing your grades really count now. College Applications. Will your friends leave you behind? Will you ever make new friends? Will you spend the next three years upside-down in a trash can?

But oh, the joy of a fresh start, a clean sheet of paper before you to fill as you will. The chance to improve yourself, to make deep friendships, and to take steps toward the future.

That’s what we celebrate – the joy, the hope, and the opportunity of a new start.

Something New: Today in World War II History

To commemorate the coming 65th anniversary of D-Day, I will be starting something new on my blog. In addition to my usual weekly posts, every day I will make a short post entitled “Today in World War II History,” which will highlight events that happened 65 years ago. On September 1, which will mark the 70th anniversary of the start of World War II, I will add entries from 70 years ago.

I hope you enjoy this!

Never Forget

On Saturday, we will commemorate the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings. On June 6, 1944, the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe from Nazi power.

In August 2007, I was privileged to stand on Omaha Beach on a misty, overcast morning not unlike the men faced that historic day. As I stood on that long stretch of sand and gazed at those high bluffs which once bristled with machine guns, I was moved deeply. We’ve all seen the movies and watched the footage – men dashing with rifles in hand, stumbling in the waves, beckoning their buddies onward, sheltering against debris – falling to the sand. But being there and feeling that sand beneath my feet gave me another level of understanding.

Today the Normandy beaches bristle with people on holiday – those who come to remember, and those who come to play. Children laugh and chase the waves and build sand castles. Tourists stand in silence, wipe tears, take pictures. This is as it should be.

Sixty-five years ago, 155,000 American, British Commonwealth, and Free French troops landed in the biggest amphibious operation in history, along with free people from many other occupied nations. On Saturday, take a moment and remember those who risked their lives, who gave their lives so we can live in freedom.

An Award!

I was so excited to learn today that my baby blog has received an award! Keli Gwyn at Romance Writers on the Journey http://www.romancewritersonthejourney.wordpress.com gave my little site the Lemonade Stand Award for a site showing “great attitude and gratitude” and the One Lovely Blog Award.

By the way, Keli’s blog is an amazing resource for writers on the road to publication, chockful of tips, resources, and interviews.

Fun with Pretzels

While I’m a firm believer in God’s mercy, when it comes to school projects, I think I may be cursed.

Last Thursday at fifth-grade Open House, my son Matthew showed off his state report on Kentucky. While enjoying the kids’ artwork, I noticed a handful of Big Projects – you know the kind with plywood and styrofoam and plastic trees.

“Um, Matthew,” I say. “Were you supposed to do a Big Project?”

His blue eyes stretch wide. He tucks his lips in.


“Um, yeah. It’s due Tuesday.”

“Tuesday?” I’m calculating – it’s Thursday night. I’m working Friday night, having guests for Saturday dinner, going to a friend’s house Sunday, holiday plans on Monday. Then comes Tuesday.

“I’m going to build Fort Boonesborough in Kentucky. I’m planning it in my head.”

My head hurts. Rewind thirty-odd years. In fourth grade Mrs. Dickey (whom I adored) assigned the Big California Mission Project. I made plans in my head, fabulous plans, but I did nothing. In fifth grade Mrs. Bush (who kind of scared me) assigned the Big US History Project. I made lovely, detailed mental plans. Again, I didn’t turn anything in.

This – this is my punishment. Three children. Six Big Projects. And this is the sixth time it’s been sprung on me close to – or after – the due date. I need Motrin.

Thursday night: Internet search on Fort Boonesborough, convert mental plans to paper plans, notice that pretzel sticks look like tiny logs.
Friday afternoon: buy craft supplies and jumbo bag of pretzels, send desperate Facebook plea for recipe for fake dirt.
Saturday while cleaning and cooking for BBQ: Matthew constructs fort from cardboard and pretzels.
Sunday & Monday: mix sand, paint, and white glue to make glop for ground. Matthew sets in buildings and trees. Trees fall over. Hot glue trees. Burn self with hot glue gun.
Tuesday: Matthew carts project to school. I eat chocolate. And pretzels.

I can’t wait for the seventh-grade Big Cell Model Project. Hmm, pretzels would make great microtubules…


Grandpa laughed at his own jokes.

Rather than weakening stories, Fred Stewart’s laughter strengthened them. He’d tell jokes in his straight-backed chair, arms folded, and his shoulders shook with laughter. Old jokes. Corny jokes. But he told them so well, I laughed too, even when I was a too-sophisticated college student.

Grandpa was a World War II veteran, a businessman of wisdom and integrity, and a valued member of church finance committees. He enjoyed walks in the California desert with my grandmother and took his two sons white-water rafting after he retired. I am blessed to be his granddaughter.

When his heart gave way in 1992, his memorial service packed the sanctuary, and my grandmother’s home filled with out-of-town relatives, including a ravenous women in her third trimester (me). The logistics of feeding the crowd could have compounded Grandma’s grief, but the people of the church reached out with tangible love and provided meals. They stuffed the refrigerator with lasagna, enchiladas, fried rice – and peaches.

Grandpa passed away in August. Peach season.

We received peach pies, cobblers, and jam. Bags of fresh peaches covered Grandma’s kitchen counter. The scent of peaches permeated the house. As the week passed and the fruit piled up, we struggled to suppress laughter when yet another friend presented peaches with pride and delight. After they left, the laughter came, and with the laughter came tears. Grandpa would have relished the humor, he would have told the story often and well, and he would have chuckled when he told it.

Whenever I see a peach, I recall the rosiness of Grandpa’s face when he laughed and the sweetness of the gifts my family received in our grief.

The gift of peaches. The gift of laughter.

Arrogant, Overfed, and Unconcerned

Has the Lord ever given you the same message from different sources? It gives you goose bumps, doesn’t it? When God repeats something, it must be important.

My women’s Bible study has been studying “The Organic God,” a refreshing, powerful book by Margaret Feinberg. No, this is not about a tofu-eating, Birkenstock-clad Jesus, but about seeing God for who He is, in all the purity of His character. This week we looked at Ezekiel 16:49: “’Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.’”

Then today I prepared for my Sunday school lesson in Nehemiah and read: “’You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands’” (Nehemiah 9:29), and “’They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness. But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs’” (Nehemiah 9:25-26).

Arrogant. Overfed. Unconcerned. Sound familiar?

How can we follow the path of Israel’s restoration rather than Sodom’s destruction? We can look to Israel’s humble prayer of confession, acknowledging God’s sovereignty. “’In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong’” (Nehemiah 9:33).

In our land of prosperity and abundance – even in today’s economic crisis – these sinful attitudes subtly creep into our lives when we aren’t paying attention. Let’s be on the alert, humble ourselves before God, and cultivate concern for others.

Mucking Out

The plastic bag held something white and lumpy. The label said “ground beef.”

Today my new refrigerator was delivered, but first I had to muck out the old one. Unpleasant finds included the freezer-burnt beef, moldy leftovers, and liquified veggies. They were once fresh and tasty and healthful, but I shoved them to the back, forgot about them, and let them rot.

How much more important to muck out my soul!

Jesus saved His harshest words not for those living in sin or even for those who crucified Him – but for those who claimed to be devout. “‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness'” (Matthew 23:27-28).

If I don’t regularly muck out my soul, good things can fester. A fresh love of righteousness can burn into a frigid judgmental spirit. A tasty joy for God’s Word can mold into sour legalism. A healthy confidence in God can liquefy into putrid pride.

Lord, shine Your light into my soul, show me sin and hypocrisy, and help me muck it out!

Stealing Home

My ten-year-old son, Matthew, slid into third base. The ball arched high over the head of the third-baseman. Matthew scrambled to his feet and took off for home, legs and arms pumping hard. In one smooth move, he dropped into another slide and planted his foot on home plate right before the ball thumped into the catcher’s mitt. The umpire sliced his arms through the dust cloud. “Safe!”

With a giant grin, Matthew ran to his cheering teammates. His coach scooped him up, slung him over his shoulder, and whirled him in a circle. Four times at bat, and he’d scored three times.

Yet he never swung the bat.

This age division is the first where the boys do the pitching. Their skills are – shall we say – erratic. We see lots of walks and stolen bases, and very few strike-outs or hits.

Matthew’s ability to score without swinging seems funny because it violates all we know about success. Outside of Disney movies, dreams do not magically come true.

One of the reasons I wrote a book is because my grandmother never did. She had a gift with language, a deep knowledge of history, and longed to write a book. She turned 94 last week. She has Alzheimer’s. Her story will never come to be.

Unless we are ten-year-old boys, we will never score without swinging. However, we can look to how Matthew fulfilled his dream and stole home. First, he had the wisdom to listen to his coach and analyze the situation. Next, he had the courage to take a chance and risk failure in the hope of succeeding. Then he ran at full speed, ignored the conflicting screams of onlookers, and pressed on to the goal.

Do you have a dream? With wisdom, courage, hard work, and persistence, it may come to pass. And if it doesn’t? In the words of Mother Teresa, “God doesn’t require us to succeed; He only requires that you try.”

Drawing Winner

Marissa won the strawberry jam in the drawing! Thanks to all who left comments here or on Facebook.