Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sumner County Holiday Sampler

I just found this article from the Sumner County FCE Holiday Sampler I visited in November. What a wonderful group of ladies!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Publisher's Weekly Review

I was tickled to find this Publisher's Weekly review of my latest release, An I Love You Prayer.

Keep an eye out for it--you can't miss the red foil cover!

And let me know what YOU think. . . . 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thank You, God, for Jesus

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You, God, for Jesus,
Your one and only Son.
A Savior sent to save the world!
Yes, Christmas had begun!

Thank You, God, for Jesus,
Your perfect Christmas gift.

When God sent the King of kings, the most Royal of royals, the Savior of the world, He didn't need purple robes, huge palaces, or royal declarations. No, this was not an earthly king, this was a heavenly King, sent to earth, “God with us,” Immanuel.

This King would be announced by angels, signaled by a star, worshiped by the wisest.

The main characters of the Christmas story would all respond to these God signs and this newborn King--the Star of the show--with faith and humility. They recognized and responded to God’s true calling. And as a result, they’re playing a lasting role in God’s miraculous story.

When we, too, respond to the calling of God, He is able to work God signs through us and to further His story here on earth. We, like these characters, are called to obey, serve, spread the news of, follow, and worship this Baby born in Bethlehem: Jesus, the Savior of the world.

The One who would give His life for each and every one of us.

Oh yes, Christmas had begun.

My Christmas prayer for us all is that we hold in our hearts the indescribable joy of the Christmas story, and accept our own roles that we are called to play in God’s miraculous story. A joyous Christmas to you all . . . 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thank You for the Bright Star

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You for the bright star
That shined and led the way,
So wise men found and worshiped Him,
As we still do today.

Thank You for the bright star,
Your precious Christmas gift.

For over two thousand years now, scientists have been trying to explain “the star in the east” of Christmas story fame. But the wise men in the Bible, they needed no explanation.

Their one line says it all: “Where is the baby who was born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east. We came to worship him” (Matthew 2:2 ICB).

These wise men knew exactly what the celestial phenomenon was about, and they set out on a long journey to worship the newborn King. They journeyed all the way to Bethlehem, the star leading the way. When they did find Jesus, under this magnificently bright star, they worshiped Him and presented Him with precious gifts. 

If you’re a Christian who has heard this story countless times, this is just another part of the Christmas story. But to put it in a more modern perspective, imagine Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Stephen Hawking (yes, I know, but imagine . . .) dropping everything to go to the Middle East and present an unknown child with precious gifts. It would raise an eyebrow or two, no?

Still, these wise men were so certain of their mission, so certain of the evidence, that they weren’t concerned with what the world thought of their journey. They had one goal: to find this King and express their allegiance to Him.

Thank You for the bright star that these men had the wisdom and faith to follow. It’s no wonder that thousands of years later, we’re still calling them “wise.”

Are you playing the role of a wise man today?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thank You for the Shepherds

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You for the shepherds,
Who heard of Jesus’ birth.
They saw the angels in the sky
Announcing peace on earth!

Thank You for the shepherds,
Your precious Christmas gift.

When we hear the story of the shepherds, there’s that iconic scene: shepherds on a hillside, gazing at angels in the air, who are praising God and announcing peace on earth. What a glorious sight that must have been! Oh, what I would have given to be a shepherd that night!

Today, as I was reading back through the scene in Luke 2, a couple of new things came to light.

One, it’s what the first angel says. Before the multitude arrives, there’s just “an angel.” He tells the shepherds not to be afraid. (Why are we so scared of angels?) And then this: “Today your Savior was born” (verse 11 ICB).

I wonder how differently people would feel about Christmas if an angel came down from heaven, approached each and every one of them personally, and said, “Today YOUR Savior was born.” I bet there would be a whole lot more, “HEY! Did ya hear? It’s Christmas! Today, my Savior was born!”

The second thing that jumped out at me was what happened after the angels left. The shepherds turned to one another and said, “Let us go to Bethlehem” (v. 15). There was no theological debate, no whining about the long walk, no calling the kennel for the sheep. Just, “Let us go.” And they went.

What an amazing gift to the shepherds, to be of the first to hear, “Today your Savior was born.” For those of us who have experienced the joy of hearing those words whispered to our hearts, “Let us go” and worship and always remember the impact of those words.

Just as importantly, there are many among us who have a void where that joy should be. They haven’t yet heard the message that on Christmas Day, a Savior was born for them too. Let’s help out the angels by reminding the world of the joy that came to earth that day.

Hey, did ya hear? YOUR Savior was born! Spread the word!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank You for the Manger

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You for the manger,
A bed made out of hay.
And thank You for the cows and sheep
That shared their food that day!

Thank You for the manger,
Your precious Christmas gift.

The manger is ranked even lower than the donkey in the Christmas story. At least the donkey has the role of  an "extra." The manger is merely a prop, a place to lay the Baby Jesus.

But I’m a firm believer that our God is a God of significance. With Him there are no accidents, no coincidences. And I believe that the manger was chosen to further His message of humility and sacrifice.

First, obviously, the King of Kings wasn’t born in a palace, on a throne, or even wrapped in a royal robe. Nope, God didn't need our earthly concepts of royalty to crown His King. He chose one of the lowliest places—not even a dirt-floored human home, but a stable for animals—as the first home for His Son, the Savior of the world.

Second, Jesus’s very first accommodations relied on the kindness of strangers. There was no room in the inn, but they were allowed to seek shelter in the stable. And there was no bed, but I can just see the cows and sheep patiently standing by as a little baby was placed on top of their fresh food for the night. Perhaps this is our first hint that having Jesus in our lives is going to require a little earthly sacrifice.

So, let's say thank You, even for the little prop of a manger. Thank You, God, for reminding us that Your ways are not our ways. That Your idea of royalty is not the same as ours. And that in your kingdom, the least can and will become the greatest. Thank You for the knowledge that when we sacrifice our earthly comforts, our heavenly rewards are far greater that we could ever imagine.

Who is a “least of these” that you may have overlooked? What can you sacrifice, what can you give, in Jesus’s name today?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thank You for the Donkey

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season. . . .

Thank You for the donkey
That helped them all to leave
And got Mary to Bethlehem
In time for Christmas Eve!

Thank You for the donkey,
Your precious Christmas gift.

“Thank You for the donkey.” That always gets a giggle out of the kids.

I’ll ask them, “How many of you have a donkey on your Christmas list?” There’s always one who raises his hand. (And I’m saying “his” because it’s usually a boy with a wry grin.) I then ask them, “How many of you have ever said thank you for the donkey?”

That gets a lot of funny looks. I mean, why would you? He’s just an extra in the Christmas story. Donkeys, in general, are an awkward version of the majestic horse. They have huge, bucked teeth, and they even make a ridiculous sound. Hee-haw!

But for some reason, God chose the donkey as the star of several biblical stories. A donkey spoke to His prophet, Balaam. A donkey carried Jesus into Jerusalem on that fateful Palm Sunday. And a donkey carried God’s unborn Son and Mary all the way to Bethlehem.

Can you imagine if a very pregnant Mary had to walk all the way to Bethlehem? (I’m guessing Christmas would have come a couple of days earlier. . . .)

The donkey is our sweet, unsung, unsuspecting hero. It humbly carries its load without complaint and without thanks.

And that’s all the more reason to say, “Thank You for the donkey.”

I know Mary did.

What unsung heroes should you thank God for today?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thank You, God, for Joseph

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You, God, for Joseph,
Who trusted Your good plan.
He took Mary to be his wife.
He was a faithful man.

Thank You, God, for Joseph,
Your precious Christmas gift.

“He was a faithful man.” That’s quite the understatement, isn’t it? 

We know that Joseph is a good guy even before Gabriel visits him. Mary, the woman Joseph is engaged to is [My six-year-old is reading over my shoulder. How do I explain?] going to have a baby, but they’re not even married yet. Of course, we know Mary didn't do anything wrong. She did everything right. It’s God’s baby. [Six-year-old interjection: “Mo-om, all of us are God’s babies!”] But Joseph, not yet privy to this information, decides to divorce Mary quietly.

Matthew even hints that Joseph is only divorcing her in order to follow the law. Still, he must have been hurt, must have felt betrayed, must have thought all of his life’s plans were ruined. Yet he doesn't want to embarrass Mary with a public divorce. He still chooses to put Mary’s feelings first.

Sounds like the perfect man for the job.

God has known the quality of Joseph’s character all along. In fact, God has been planning this whole thing for a long, long time. The prophet Isaiah foretold hundreds of years earlier that Jesus would come from David’s line, and guess what? Yup, Matthew 1 tells us that Joseph is twenty-eight generations after King David, who is fourteen generations after Abraham.

So it’s no huge surprise, when an angel speaks to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take Mary to be his wife, that Joseph obeys. God had planned it all along.

He knew that Joseph, like Mary, would sacrifice his own personal plans for God’s omnipotent, perfect plan.

Would God know the same about you? What plans are you holding onto, despite God’s calling in another direction? Be a “faithful man” today.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thank You, God, for Mary

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You, God, for Mary.
She let faith lead the way:
“I am His servant girl,” she said.
“Let it be as you say.”

Thank You, God, for Mary,
Your precious Christmas gift.

Mary is probably the second most-celebrated star of the Christmas story. And it’s no wonder.

One night an angel shows up and tells her that she’s going to have God’s Son. And Mary agrees. There are so many elements to this that blow my mind . . . and make me want to be more like Mary.

We don’t know exactly how long it took for Mary to make up her mind, but by all accounts it seems to be a done deal in that one visit from Gabriel. It's a carelessly quick decision, considering the gravity of God’s proposition to Mary, wouldn't you think? She’s young. She’s not married. And she’s engaged to Joseph.

Consider the fear of being a first-time mother. Consider the unknown with such a mysterious conception. Consider her options as an unmarried mother in her society. Consider the glares of a less-than-understanding community when she turns up pregnant by someone other than Joseph. Surely Mary’s mind flashed with these scenarios.

And maybe when Gabriel said, “Don’t fear,” he sensed this. He wasn't just talking about the present moment. He knew that her fears grew far beyond a shiny stranger invading her home.

Still, Mary does not falter. We all know the young girl's humble yet amazingly faithful response: “I’m God’s servant. I’ll do whatever He says." (See Luke 1:38.)

She didn't say, “Let me think about it,” “Let me sleep on it,” or even, “Let me pray about it.” She doesn't give excuses, and she had plenty: “I’m too young,” “I’m already engaged,” “I could never explain this to my parents.”

But Mary’s young heart is sure. She immediately recognizes the pure calling of God and. Just. Says. Yes.

How could you be more like Mary today? How would it change your life? How would it change the world?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thank You, God, for Gabriel

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . . 

Thank You, God, for Gabriel,
Who brought news of great joy.
He said to Mary, “God chose you
To have His baby boy.”

Thank You, God, for Gabriel,
Your precious Christmas gift.
                            A Christmas Prayer

While we could point to many beginnings of the Christmas story, Gabriel’s announcement to Mary sets it all in motion. 

This one scene amazes me.

Imagine yourself as a teenager, when an angel visits. An angel visits. Don’t gloss over that phrase. Imagine a glowing man standing right there in your bedroom, illuminating the room and everything in it, telling you that God has chosen you to bring a Savior—His Son, no less—into the world.

Of course, we know him as Gabriel, but we don’t know if Mary even knows his name. From the looks of things, it’s pretty safe to say that she doesn’t.

She apparently reacts to God’s messenger as we would have. Gabriel’s next words are, “Don’t be afraid.” I’m not sure that a shiny, unexpected visitor telling me not to be afraid would make me any less afraid. But he tries. And we get a clear glimpse of Mary’s emotions at that moment.

The story would come across much differently if Mary had said, “Oh, hey, Gabe. Got any God messages for me?” But Mary is clearly no more familiar with daily angelic encounters than we are. She’s just an ordinary girl with an extraordinary visitor.

Gabriel continues: “God likes you. He’s found favor with you.” How would you react to, “God thinks you’re a good person”? Especially when it’s an angel speaking to a teenager! I’m not sure that I’d understand why God liked me, but I’d want to hear more. Wouldn’t you?

Still, a million questions must be blazing through Mary’s mind at this point. “Is he for real? How’d he get in here? What will my mother say? What will Joseph think?”

How will Mary respond? How would you?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Join Me for a Season of Wonders!

Pat Whitaker, from the Rutherford County Extension office, has invited me to be a part of their Season of Wonders event--and I'm inviting you! 

In one stop, you'll find holiday ideas for decorating, gifts, cooking, and a homemade lunch to boot! Join us and learn a lot from these ladies who put the home in homemaking

I'll be offering a Christmas card craft and signing copies of seasonal titles too.

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

AND Pumpkin Prayer Is #7 on CBA!


Yesterday I announced that A Pumpkin Prayer was #6 on the ECPA Bestsellers list, and today I found out that it's #7 on the CBA list! See the CBA Best Sellers [sic] list here.

And if you happen to be one of the reasons that I'm on this list, I thank you ever so much.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Pumpkin Prayer Is #6!

The sweet, little A Pumpkin Prayer is #6 on the ECPA Juvenile Bestsellers list for November 2011. See it--and the other bestsellers!--here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Creative Rain

As necessary as it is to life, rain is a pretty unpredictable commodity. Even the professionals seem to have trouble nailing it down. You really never know when it's coming.

If you think back to elementary-school science, it's really a miracle it ever rains at all. Tiny droplets of water evaporate from large bodies of water. Those tiny droplets gather to make clouds. And if you're really lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perspective), the wind blows the clouds over your garden just when they can hold those droplets no longer.

And. It. Rains. 
Refreshing drops burst onto the parched earth, quenching and replenishing all with its vital gift of water.

Miraculous as the event may be, it's not always welcomed. Weddings. Parades. Days at the beach. In fact, the only time I'm certain it will rain is the day I've washed my car. And fixed my hair. And left my umbrella at home.

But really, how can we be so finicky with such a vital component of life?

Creative inspiration is quite the same, isn't it? Necessary to life (both spiritually and financially!) but a bit unpredictable. It rains down on you in buckets when you're driving down the road or in the shower, neither situation being very conducive to laptopping.

And when it comes--when inspiration rains down--how do we react? Do we run and grab our buckets? Are we out there eagerly gathering the blessing of creativity raining down on us? What do we do when unthunk thoughts are passing through, when the Vein of Gold is pulsing wildly?

Well, if you're like me, you ask it to come back later . . . when you're sitting at your desk with a fresh cup of coffee. When the house is quiet. When the laundry's done. When the other project is complete.

Then, even in that perfect storm, when all of the droplets gather, blow overhead, and burst onto me while I'm perched at my desk with a semi-quiet house, what do I do?!

That's right. I doubt it. I rationalize the idea away! I discard that gift of creative rain like a gum wrapper. That title's already taken. . . . I'm sure there's someone more qualified to write about that. . . . Well, I called, and they never called me back. . . . I'm sure there are a thousand books about green unicorns who eat purple Popsicles all day. . . .

How finicky we are with such a vital commodity . . . with such a miraculous gift.

If we're truly wanting to create, if our purpose and passion is to change the world with new information, thoughts, and ideas, we will have our buckets ready. Our front yard will be full of them. (Or we'll at least have a notepad in our bag.) We'll stand in our freshly coiffed hair beside our freshly washed car and lift our arms in thanksgiving as the rain falls and we're washed in that rare moment of inspiration.

The rain of inspiration will not wait for our creative utopia to be built. It comes. It rains. And life is revived as a result.

Trust the rain. Trust its timing. Trust its message. And be bold enough--be grateful enough--to share its life-reviving qualities with the world.

Originally posted 6/29/2009

Monday, October 17, 2011

You ARE Organized!

(my desk. shhh . . .)
Imagine my surprise when I overheard Hubby telling someone, "Amy keeps us organized."

I almost spit out my teeth. 

"Organized?!" I interrupted.

If it had not been for a rare loss for words, I would've continued, "Have you seen my desk?! Or my inbox?! Have you noticed my blogstipation--ahem, the irregularity of my blog posts?!"

Few people would dub me organized. 

But that amazing Hubby of mine--the one who has the rare gift of seeing and proclaiming the best in me--he noticed.

Upon being chastised, he back-pedaled a bit. "Well, I mean that you keep our lives organized."



He was right.

Sure, the laundry's piled up and you could hide a dinosaur on my desk. But when it comes to life--birthday cards and school stuff and being at the right place at the right time (or close enough)--it's true. I'm on it. 

(I live in a house full of boys. I really have no choice.)

So for you fellow scatter-brained, T-shirt-stained, got-hit-by-a-train moms: Everything may look like a crazy, chaotic mess. But underneath all that, where the growing hearts and minds of this world reside, where life happens (and the only place it really matters), you keep us organized.

Laundry can wait. 

Love can't. 

Life won't.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Kid Wisdom: Baseball in Heaven

"I'll bet there'll be baseball in heaven," the seven-year-old thinks out loud. "And all kinds of other sports."

"Except it'll be called God-ball.

"And if you win, you'll get to sing God songs.

"And if you lose . . .

"You'll get to sing God-songs."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Be the Change!

From my website:
Wow. A super-sweet article from Deb Simpson ran in the Murfreesboro Post this weekend. She even plugged Hubby's new business

Thank you, Deb!

Deb Simpson is changing the world with her words too. Not only is she making little authors like me feel special, she is also--much more importantly--using her books to help children find their safe place. She also writes poetry and nonfiction.

God gave us all the tools to change the world. How can you use yours--today? 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What I Learned at Story

"Beauty will save the world." ~Fyodor Dostoevsky
If you are connected to me at all on Facebook or Twitter, you are well aware that I have just attended the Story conference in Chicago . . . which from this point forth (at least as far as I have the authority to dictate) will no longer be called the Story "conference," but the Story experience.

There's really no other way to explain it.

I can't tell you what I learned.

Sure, I can recite several new poignant quotes and tidbits of trivial information. (For example, Ed Saxon, producer of Silence of the Lambs, did a cameo as a head in a jar in that film. And his grandmother was a Rockette. And he didn't inherit those genes. And I have the video to prove it. ;)

But what practical information did I learn? What new skill will I be taking home to apply to my craft?

Well. I just don't know.

I do know this:

When I exited that building today (or technically yesterday), I chose to walk back to the hotel, instead of taking a cab. (Okay, so that may be rationalized as a life-saving effort, but there's more . . .)

As I crossed through the less desirable part of town, I didn't see poverty; I saw precious people.

I didn't dwell on the gravel-lined, chain-link fence. But I grinned at a lone, purple flower defying its environment.

I didn't feel fear; I felt the protection of God.

When a passing cab driver yelled obscenities to the horse-drawn carriage that was slowing the pursuit of the American dream, I was reassured by the strength and power and rhythm of slow and steady hooves.

I was lifted by the orange and yellow ruffled flower pinned to lapel of the weathered lady who was carting her life's treasures behind her.

Tonight, as I finally get the chance to rest and reflect, I'm not whining about the industrial glare through my hotel window; I am grateful for the light, casting cross-shaped coronas just for me.

And when I could be snuggling into a comfy hotel pillow, I am choosing to press on, hold my little instrument, and write.

So, what did I learn from the Story experience?

I'm sorry; I can't tell you.

But keep watching, my friends, and I promise, I'll show you.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Tip: Check Out These Monkeys!

Okay, I'll admit: I only found this site after it had reviewed and was giving away my Daddy book. (And after connecting with Angie, I blushingly realized she had given away three other books in the past!)

BUT once I got there, oh good golly, what amazing stuff I found!

If you're a parent, take care of children, like to craft--if there is a kid anywhere within a fifty-mile radius--you'll want to check out this site. Parent-friendly product reviews and giveaways galore overflow from the pages of this Disney World (you know, you could stay forever and still not do it all) site.

So, don't take my word for it. Stop reading this post and check. them. out.

You're welcome. ;)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dismissing God's Glory (An Idiot's Guide)

When A Night Night Prayer sold 50,000, then 100,000 copies, I regarded it as a fluke.

When A Christmas Prayer bobbed up to #33 in Parable's Top 50, I dismissed it. "It's the Top 50. Everybody makes the Top 50."

Then, when Thank You, God, for Mommy made Parable's Top 50, then Top 10, I told congratulating family, "Well, it's seasonal. All the seasonal books rank in their season."

Finally, today, when Thank You, God, for Daddy ranked #7 for the month of July in the entire ECPA, I decided to just shut up.

It took me a while, but I've realized that I'm actually just rationalizing away God's immensely deserved glory. (It's not even mine to rationalize away!)

So, my friends, I'm tickled to announce a #7 ranking (coincidence that it's #7?). But more than that, I'm here to celebrate that, after years of whipping me into shape, God is using this tiny career for something that points back to His glory. (Do I think God really cares about bestseller lists? No. Do I think He tries to speak in our language? Of course.) When God uses our little ant-selves for His glory, it is nothing to dismiss or take lightly. Not to get all preachy here, but isn't it our entire purpose to glorify God here on earth?

Don't get me wrong. I realize that I'm a babbling, toddling, idiot trying to feel my way through. As my pastor, Allen Jackson tells us, "God doesn't use the brightest and most talented to do His work. That's how I got the job." Absolutely none of this book publishing, chart-ranking stuff is my doing. And it's not at all humanly deserved. I'm just a grace-kissed girl, finally starting to realize that maybe I should listen when He calls.

And when that happens, well, there's just no telling where we'll go together. 

(That goes for you too.)

Stay tuned, my friends. And to God be the glory.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Extra! Extra!

Well, after much deliberation (and, I admit, procrastination), I am tickled to announce that I've signed with an agency. Since the signing, I've received so much confirmation that this was indeed the right decision. I cannot wait to see where it goes from here!

Read all about it!

Thank you, as always, to all of you who support me and pray for my career. I'm here to tell ya: it works. :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It's True!

Have you ever opened your mouth, gotten harsh looks, then defended it with those two words: It's true?

Guilty. Repeat offender.

If it's true that it's true, what's the harm in saying it?

Well, think back on some of the not-so-shining moments in your life. There's a lot of "truth," isn't there? But are they all truths that we want proclaimed? Probably not. I know I'd like to omit a few.

True, Truth can keep us accountable. Truth is an efficient teacher. But usually, Truth doesn't need our help.

As with most questionable issues, the Bible clearly instructs us on this one: "Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 (CEV)

Did you see it? The and? That's an inclusive conjunction, friends. 

So if we can defend our words with, "It's true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper!", case closed. Innocent as charged. Otherwise, we'll need to keep our mouths--and our minds--on something else.

(And the next time you hear me saying, "It's true!", remind me of this, would ya?)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Four Fathers (The Boycott of Beer, Gas & Golf Jokes)

Father and Sons
When Father's Day comes around, I have four dads to buy for, so I do a thorough review of the entire card section before finding the perfect card for everyone. But this year, instead of finding heartfelt sentiments, I was struck by just how much junk there was out there. It seemed the majority of the cards were filled with bad jokes about beer, golf, and gas (ahem, not the kind you buy by the gallon).

Is this how we celebrate our fathers? Really?

I can't believe that. 

I cannot believe that the one day of the year we set aside to truly celebrate our fathers, we're going to hand Dad a card about air that comes out of our backsides. And I refuse to believe that we are maliciously unappreciative of our fathers. Maybe we can't sum up the impact of a father in fifty words or less. Perhaps we simply aren't as comfortable expressing our feelings for the masculine leader of the family. And oftentimes to mask discomfort, a (really bad) joke comes out.

There are so many things to thank our fathers for. Yes, even if it's just, "Thank you. Without you, I would not exist." (And, well, that's a pretty big one.)

Thinking of the four fathers I have in my life--Daddy, Gary, Hubby, and Mr. Parker--here are just a few:
  • Thank you for shepherding our family.
  • Thank you for taking responsibility when you didn't have to.
  • Thank you for treating me like a princess (when I wasn't one).
  • Thank you for loving our boys in ways that only a father can.
  • Thank you for wisdom and guidance.
  • Thank you for tolerating me (um, that goes for all of them).
  • Thank you for showing me the Heavenly Father's love by being my father.
This year, my cards may say any of the above, but they will not joke about beer, golf, or gas. That's just not what daddies are all about.

In an event this past weekend, I asked a smiley-faced girl with braces if she would like to make a Father's Day card. She shook her head no and broke into tears. Her aunt later informed me that her father had passed away. I know that if that red-headed girl had the chance to hand her father a card, she would tell him exactly what we all should say. 

If you have a living father to celebrate, make the most of that opportunity, every day. And if your father is no longer with you, spend your days wrapped up in the memories of him. If you have no father to speak of at all, well, just know that your Heavenly Father loves you more than all of the daddies combined. (And that goes for all of us.)

Daddies matter. So much.

How would you say thank you to your father today?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Tip: 7 Ways to Summer-ize!

Celebrating summer!
When we winterize our homes, we seal the windows, insulate the pipes, and brace ourselves for the iciness of the season.

And when summer comes, I'm a strong advocate of doing quite the opposite: throw open the windows, turn on the sprinklers, and dance in the warmth of the season!

Of course, summer can get too hot for comfort, and if you have children at home, summer boredom can quickly set in too. So, to help stay focused on all of the lovely things that summer has to offer, here are seven simple ways to summer-ize:

1. Whenever possible, open the windows! In Tennessee, this is more of a springtime event, but I always prefer fresh air over recirculated air. Old wives (and new studies) will tell you that this just helps to make your home a healthier place. Plus, it conserves electricity (cha-ching!). 

2. Plant something. Anything. Whether you're in a one-bedroom apartment or on a hundred-acre farm, you can grow something. (Trust me: I can. You can.) In the process, you can also work in a little science lesson for the kids. Sunflowers are a rewarding choice, if you have a nice spot to plant them outside. They grow quickly (for impatient gardeners :) and last until fall. Zinnias are easy growers and will usually reseed to grow next year. Herbs and aloe grow well in pots and are quite handy to have around. Tomatoes will do well in patio planters, and radishes are fun, especially when their red tops peek through the dirt to be quickly harvested. (Don't tell the kids, but in my experience, growing your own vegetables encourages vegetable consumption. :) No matter what you plant, playing in the dirt is both productive and good for the soul.

3. Stock up on summer fun! Make it a point to restock your summer supplies for the year. Most importantly, toss and replace any expired sunscreen. For the fun stuff, kids of all ages love bubbles, and something about the controlled breathing and floating, iridescent spheres induce a settling calm. A sprinkler does double-duty, watering the lawn/garden and the kids at the same time. Water-squirters are cheap and entertaining. And I've been known to soak in a ten-dollar, plastic pool on occasion. In fact, just yesterday, we called a Water Day at our house: an easy, two-hour event where the host just needs water and cold treats! A great way to beat the summer heat (and boredom)!

4. Fill the freezer! Ice cream, smoothies, and sundaes, oh my! When sun-strained kids get moody, a cold, sweet treat may be the only attitude adjustment they need. And when you want to limit the chocolate and artificial cherry, stock the 100% fruit varieties too. Frozen blueberries and smoothies are another great way to sneak in some cool, healthy nutrients. The season is always sweeter when your freezer is stocked with these summertime staples.

5. Explore a book (or ten!). Books are super-portable, inexpensive entertainment for any time of year. If you're not vacationing this summer (or even if you are!), let your kids take their own wild adventures to places like Treasure Island or Narnia. Enroll in your library's summer reading program, and check out story times and other library and bookstore events.

6. Make lemonade. Fresh-squeezed or instant, lemonade just says summer. Add a bowl of lemons to your kitchen decor, and use them to squeeze up a summertime drink. You can encourage your kids to have a lemonade stand too. It'll teach them a bit of entrepreneurship, persistence, and the value of money along the way!

7. Hit the beach (or lake or pool)! I know it's obvious, but how many times have you looked back at the summer and wondered where it went? Choose your favorite water destination, and put at least one trip per month on the calendar for June, July, and August, so that you'll be sure to go. It's a great way to pack a little vacation into a day, and the kids sleep so well after a day of water play. :) 

No matter how you celebrate the season, be sure to replace your "Ugh, it's hot!" with "Who needs ice cream?!" and show your family how to fully enjoy the wonderful warmth of the summer.

How do you celebrate summertime?