The things you learn sitting outside at a picnic table

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“She’s mine,” Megan said, about her big sister.

Her words warmed my heart, and I don’t know why it surprised me.

We were at church, and Megan was sitting next to me on a bench, outside in the sunshine.  Another girl came and sat down next to Megan, and asked how old she was.

“I’m five.” Megan said.

“I’m nine!” said the girl.  (Guys.  I’m horrible with names as it is, and our church has 100 kids.  NOT exaggerating!)

“Oh!  Kirstyn’s nine too!”

“I think I’ve seen Kirstyn…”

“I know.  She’s mine.” 

Megan spoke with a smile, and what seemed to me like pride.

My heart flipped.

I heard love, and bff inklings, and one of the reasons I have so many kids!  I loved it — loved growing up with five siblings, and I wanted the same childhood pals for my kids.  I always knew I’d have at least 6 kids, just like my mom.  (I joke now that I’m having a midlife crisis, having met my goals to be a SAHM to 6 kids so early on in life!)

Of course my childhood also had battles.  I won’t say which firstborn daughter (*cough* *cough*) was bossy and possessive and started stupid territorial wars.  I also butted heads with my parents — who would’ve thunk?  But I always, always knew I belonged.  I knew deep down that if for some reason I got pregnant out of wedlock, my dad wouldn’t kick me out, and my family would help me raise the baby.  (Yes.  As a teenager, I did think through this hypothetical scenario.)

“Family is where your story begins,” you know?  Mine was a good story.  IS a good story!  My sisters and I are still best friends.

When I hear about my sisters’ (or my brothers) newest parenting notch-in-the-belt, job, sports achievement, awesome dish, or really just anything they did, I’m like, “I know.  They’re mine.”

I love that this imperfect, fierce love is just a darkly colored image of what our Father says of us:

“She’s Mine.  I know her, that girl.  I made her and I see her and I will never, ever leave her or forsake her.”

I belong.  I have what every heart craves!  Acceptance. Love.  Loyalty.

Megan’s words reminded me.  They encouraged this often-weary mama heart that worries if the kids will be OK; and they reminded me that not only will my children belong to each other for life, they will belong to God for eternity.

Pizza night!

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Everybody loves pizza, right?  My kids are no exception.  They would be happy with pizza every week, so I’m doing my best to oblige!  I usually make pizza on Friday or Saturday nights.  (Saturday night pizza is nice, because then we have leftover lunch on Sunday, for the hour-long drive home from church.)

When I was little, my mom had personal pizza pans for us on pizza night.  We could put whatever we wanted on our pizza, and no one complained!  Personally, I hated pizza sauce and loved hot peppers.  I still love hot peppers, but don’t hate pizza sauce anymore.  I’ve evolved.

So — thanks to my sister for the idea — I bought mini pizza pans to relive my childhood!  And hopefully create special memories for my kids.

I plan to make pizza tonight, even though it’s Thursday.  My pans came in the mail yesterday, and I just can’t wait another day to try them!

(Plus, we’re road-tripping to the other side of Pennsylvania tomorrow, and I don’t have to cook for a few days!  Whoot whoot!)

My pizza will have broccoli and hot peppers with lots of gooey cheese.  If I had onions and green peppers, they’d be on my pizza too!  Ham and bacon are also yummy, and barbeque chicken.  Pepperoni is so-so, and I don’t care for sausage or mushrooms.  Or anchovies.  Does anyone actually like tiny fish on their pizza?   Half my kids like plain cheese pizza, and the other half like a mixture of pepperoni, hot peppers, and olives.  And meat.  My kids are definitely carnivores.

I guarantee there will be no leftovers!

Please share your favorite pizza toppings!  I love to hear about yummy food.

 

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Spring greetings

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“Hey ya’ll!”

(I’ve just been dying to say that since I took a buzzfeed.com test that said I should live in Georgia.  So now I dream about being a southern belle.)

My friend Ginger invited me to share a story on her blog, so I jumped at the chance to write!  I am so, so, SO bad at scheduling time to write about my darlings, and what I’m learning and doing with them.

They’re growing up!

So thank you, Ginger, for motivating me.

If ya’ll (such a fun word!) want to read about my kids, check out Ginger’s blog!  And keep going back.  Ginger is a great inspiration!

More advent in our home!

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I had another advent moment.

Please, if you’ve already been wowed by a moment like mine, just smile and nod and let me be excited!  I’m a slow learner.  Or a fast forget-er!

His mercies are NEW every morning!  Every year, and week, and month.  Good thing!  My heart seems to leak out thoughts and need new revelations… like my cells need to be renewed daily or else I’d die.

Anyway.

I was busy.  I was making the kids be busy.  It was Saturday, so we didn’t have school.  I thought, “Today we’ll focus on Christmas activities!”  I stayed home from a ladies’ get together, so we could finally get our Christmas tree up and maybe we could make cookies and gingerbread house.  It was snowing, and The Piano Guys holiday music was playing on Pandora.  Pretty and Peaceful and Fun were my goals.  I asked the kids to clean up the basement so we’d have a spot for the Christmas tree.  I was upstairs, cleaning up the kitchen so we’d have a spot to make gingerbread houses.

The bickering started.  The crying “because he punched me,” and the snarled out words — the ones where you can hear the eyes glaring — and you think, “Do they get that from me?  Is that what I sound like?”

Yes, THAT ugly bickering.

I marched to the top of the stairs, thinking, “Good grief, I stayed home for this?”  I called my sinful children up to the kitchen, and got ready to lay into them about how this is Christmas, and it’s supposed to be about Jesus, and why can’t they act like Jesus FOR ONCE?!  But I didn’t.  The Holy Spirit whispered to my heart in time, “THIS is why Jesus came… this IS what Christmas is about!”  The sin.  The crying and the fighting and the sin.  We can’t ever measure up to the rules, so He came to do it for us.

Because of Jesus, I was able to speak peace and love into my children’s hearts.  We talked about how Jesus came to help us love each other, and so why don’t we let Him do that now?  Oh, dear sweet children who can’t ever follow the rules… Mommy knows.  I can’t follow the rules either.  The only difference between us is I’ve grown out of the punching people stage!  I just punch with my words, and wound the heart.  But you know that already, sweet ones.  Forgive me.

I’m not sure the basement ever got cleaned.  The tree did not get set up, because my dear husband ended up spending more time than planned working on our Suburban.  We did make gingerbread houses, only with humble graham crackers instead of fancy, gabled gingerbread.

We turned up the music, lit candles, and ate WAY too much sugar!

So if my plans were the literal ones on a piece of paper?  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  I stayed home for “nothing!”  My sacrifices will never suffice.  But my plans of seeing Jesus and letting His love warm our hearts this advent season?  Yep — THAT happened.

We’re having ourselves a messy little Advent!

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Advent.  “The Coming.”   Doesn’t that word just send shivers of excitement down your spine?  Or a wave of peace across your heart?  What a special time of year, celebrating the coming of Jesus and anticipating the coming back.

The thing is, it’s not only a before and after thing!  He’s still here.  Immanuel.  God who is still with us!

With me.

He doesn’t leave and then come back when I have a better attitude.  Like the time I threw a toy down the stairs and broke it because I was tired of the kids fighting.

Nope.  He stays with me.  He loves me anyway.  And this constant presence is what gives me hope, peace, love and joy to pass on to my kids.  I can’t ban them from my good graces when they are being un-loveable, not if I want to share Jesus!  I can’t refuse to listen to them until they have a better attitude.  I can’t reject them until they’ve “shaped-up!”  I can’t begrudge the fact that they would use up every single minute of my 24 hour day.

Sin still sneaks around in my heart, so I know I’ll be less than loving at times.

But Jesus won’t EVER drop the ball in the love department.  I can tell my kids that, and keep telling them that, in hopes that even after I’m gone they cling to Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t withdraw.  He lives and loves right in the middle of our mess.

Want to see a picture of it?

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Yep — my table!  That’s an advent wreath, that should already have 4 candles in it, since December is well under way!  But I haven’t bought candles yet.  It should be surrounded by beautiful, empty table space.   We should be sitting around it with shining eyes, reading from The Jesus Storybook Bible.  But guys, it’s my kitchen table!  Where we eat, and do school, and just… live.

And see?  Jesus sits right there in the middle of us.

Lessons from our loveshack

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Derek and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary this past weekend.  TEN YEARS!  It is a good chunk of time, huh?  My family and my dearest husband himself has been hyping up that date for months now.  Me?  I am in awe of what God has been for us, what He’s worked in us as a couple, how He’s grown us up a little, but the number “10” meant nothing special to me.   Am I defective?  Not as “in love” as I’m supposed to be?

Maybe the answer is the opposite.  I am completely in love!  My heart is secure.  Sure we’ve had a few bumps in the road, some that made us hit our heads — like, really hard — but we learned to fight for each other and for our marriage.  We’re in it for the long haul!  Why is 10 years different from 9 or 11 in tallying up a marriage?  I will still be in love 4, 5, 16 years from now, because love is a choice and every time I make that choice my “feelings” of love grow stronger.

If for nobody else other than my sentimental self and hopefully my kids someday, I’m jotting down some marriage notes right here:

1. Be Best Buddies.  I’ve read a few marriage books that suggest husbands and wives find best friends outside of marriage.  Maybe this works for some people, but it makes no sense to me!  I would rather be with my husband than anyone else on the planet.  He feels the same way, by the way!  I’d choose a coffee shop with him over time out with my sisters or a girlfriend any day, and he’d rather snuggle with me on the couch and watch a movie than hang out with the guys.

2.  Stop Being A Daughter and Sister.  I learned this one early one, thankfully!  Obviously I’m not being literal here.  You can’t unmake your familial relationships!  But early on in our marriage, whenever my family came to visit, I’d put Dee on the back burner.  Never intentionally!  Somebody graciously pointed out this flaw.  Stuff like brushing off his invitation to sit in his lap because I was busy talking to my mom, or staying up late every single night playing cards or talking to my sisters instead of going to bed with him, or going out shopping with my sisters and letting suppertime get all screwed up without even talking to him.

3.  Cook His Food!  No, I’ve never poisoned my husband with raw chicken.  I’m saying if your guy likes taco salad, make taco salad even if you hate ground beef.  If he likes bean burritos with refried beans instead of black beans, make the burritos his way.  Maybe he likes chili and salsa with NO tomato chunks.  Well, spoil the guy!

4.  Go to Bed With Him!  Not every night.  I can’t do that!  I love to stay up late.  It’s my down time.  I enjoying being alone, so even after Dee and I have finished watching a movie, or talking, or reading, I still want to be by myself for a little bit.  But after we had some issues in our marriage, I realized I was leaving him alone too much at night.  Some nights I’d go to bed with him, have sex, and then get back up.  Um, husbands like emotional connection just as much as their wife!  Men can feel “used” too.  So now, if I go to bed with Dee, which I try to do on a regular basis, I stay in bed with Dee.  (I try really, really hard!  Some nights I’m still so wired I have to get back up and read myself to sleepiness!)

5. Let Him Touch You!  I’m not talking about sex anymore.  I’m talking about stopping the dishes so he can wrap me up in a hug, instead of me being annoyed, because “Can’t he see there’s work do be done?  I’m busy!”  Most of the time, the dishes and laundry are still there when the kids go to bed.  (I know!  I should be more organized and get it done during the day.  Yeah… not happening!)  Or I walk around straightening up from the multiple explosions of life with kids.  Most of the time, Dee will help me clean up.  He’s SO sweet!  But if he wants to just crash on the couch and have me join him, I try to drop the dishes and go sit with him.  He likes to nuzzle my hair (which promptly turns greasy!), or grab my hand and pull me into his lap at random times.

6.  Speak His Language.  I think Dr. Gary Chapman is a genius for presenting the 5 love languages!  My guy likes physical touch.  When we’re walking up to his mom’s house, he wants to hold my hand.  When we’re driving in the car, he wants to hold my hand.  He plays footsies under the table, and hugs me all day long!  No exaggeration.  Part of the physical touch love language is physical presence.  Dee loves it when I sit in the bathroom while he takes a shower, just to talk.  He likes it when I sit on our basement stairs while he’s building a fire in our wood furnace, and he likes it when I keep him company while he’s working on the car.  So if I want to love on my man, I just have to hug him and be near him!  Easy.  I used to write him notes and letters, because that is just THE most romantic thing ever!  I thought.  But after discovering that he didn’t devour my letters right away, but just left them in his truck all day, I realized that words didn’t mean the same thing to him as they do to me.  Bumping shoulders and leaning on each other as we brush teeth at night means “LOVE” to him!

(He’s smart, by the way, and buys me a card AND writes in it for special events like birthdays, anniversaries, and Mother’s Day!  And he knows that words of praise will help me recover from a rough day like nothing else.  Throw in a hug while he’s praising me, and we’re all set!  Both of our love tanks are full.)

7. Let Him Talk.  Guys know how to talk.  Really, they do!  I mentioned in an earlier post how Dee used to head up to his mother’s house and talk.  Partly, he just wanted somebody listen to him talk about work and trucks and other important things to a guy!  He didn’t want to come home and listen to me go on and on and on about the kids, or complain about his mom, or tell him he wasn’t meeting my emotional and spiritual needs.  (I don’t do that anymore.  Honestly!  Except the kid horror stories.  And only because Dee gets into them just as much as me!  We love trying to outdo each other with the latest Hunsberger Kid Escapade.)  He just wants to have a turn to talk too.  Even recently, I realized that I was shutting him out when he started rambling about what the guys said at work or how he fixed the broken something-or-other.  If I truly listen, and engage (meaning, I can’t be playing Candy Crush or updating my Facebook status), he will talk and talk and TALK!  Some girls think that guys don’t want to talk about deep issues.  Well, for one, a guy’s truck kinda is a deep issue.  I get that now.  (Black smoke = Good!)  I think too, us girls have to prove that we’re capable of listening before a guy is going to open up and spill his guts!

8. Don’t Talk Dirty.  Not saying this is an excuse, but early in our marriage, I had NO IDEA how negative I sounded!  I hadn’t figured out yet that there’s always two ways to say the same thing.  Like, for example, Dee asks what he can do to help.  I can sarcastically say, “Well – the dishes are still there!”  (interpreted: “Duh — are you so stupid that you didn’t even notice?”)  or I can sweetly say, “Would you mind unloading the dishwasher?”  My husband is way more motivated to whip out his superman cape when I respect him.  Another example: our shower.  I hate cleaning our shower.  It’s the ONE thing I ask him to do on a regular basis.  I can drop a snarky comment like, “Wow — looks like this shower hasn’t been cleaned for months!”  Or, “Hey Babe, do you think you could clean the shower this week?”  (I could go on and on and on…)  Two ways to talk — but we BOTH win when I speak respectfully, because of course my husband is going to feel like wearing that superman cape all the time!

9. Be Grateful. I wrote a post about a clothesline the other year.  My guy loves to be noticed and appreciated!  Don’t we all?  Men and women are not different in this area, for sure!  Even though we know our rewards are in heaven, we still want somebody to see us now.  To thank us for our gifts of time and service, however little.  This is where marriage is a beautiful thing!  Dee and I get to be each other’s witness.  To notice little details that the rest of the world misses.  When we express gratitude, we’re saying, “I see what you’re doing, and I appreciate you.”  It makes us matter.  Tonight, Dee had supper ready, the dishes done, and the coffeepot ready to go when I got home late from a long trip to the hospital with Kirstyn.  Maybe some wives would feel comfortable acting like that’s the least their husband could do!  I just gushed with gratefulness.

10.  Read Your Bible.  I find this funny, for some reason!  Often when I sit down to read my Bible in front of Derek, he compliments me and tells me he’s proud of me.  Um, okay!  I read my Bible to be closer to Jesus, but if it makes my husband happy, than it’s a win/win situation for me!  I think he just likes knowing that I’m with him on this hard road of marriage and parenting and life in general.  We’re on the same page.

I thought I’d irritate you OCD folks by writing about 9 or 11 things — ’cause I’m ornery like that — but 10 things just happened naturally.  Happy 10th Anniversary to me and Dee — feel free to send chocolate and happy wishes our way!