‘Tis The Season For Grace

I listen to the local Christian radio station, and every year around this time, the stories start coming out about “random acts of kindness” or whatever they are calling it this year.  I think it was “pay it forward” one year; this year it’s something about “drive-thru giving”.  Anyway, whatever the name, the idea is this: people “bless” others by randomly paying their check at a restaurant, paying for the car behind them at the drive-thru, etc.

It’s a nice idea, isn’t it?  The idea that we live in a society where, at least for a season, people treat each other the way they would like to be treated.  We recently experienced this when we ran to Sonic for dinner and someone had taped $5 Sonic gift cards to each station with just the word “Enjoy!” written on it.  I felt very odd taking the gift card, since I felt there were others who probably needed it more than we did, but in the end, my 12-year-old convinced me that since he didn’t have a regular source of income, he needed it as much as the next person.  I caved, but wondered if that’s really what the giver had in mind when they placed it there.  Did they imagine someone pulling into Sonic on fumes, with only $5 in their pocket, having to decide between buying gas or buying their next meal?  Would they be disappointed to know that my son is going to use it to buy himself ice cream some time in the future?  I really don’t know, but in the end, it was just a $5 gift card, so I took it without really giving it much thought.

But then, yesterday, I was at the elementary school, trying to maneuver around the carpool lines, when I saw a truck coming toward me.  I was pretty much in the middle of the street, and heard someone honk.  I thought it was the car coming toward me (in retrospect, I think it was one of the cars in the line, maybe even not honking at me), so I began to back my car up so he could pass.  I was looking backward so I didn’t notice that he was trying to move around me.  I zigged, he zagged, and we scraped bumpers.

My first instinct was to yell at the man.  I wanted to say I WAS TRYING TO BACK UP FOR YOU but instead of yelling the words, I managed to say them in a normal voice, to which he replied, “I was trying to go around you – there was plenty of room.”  I apologized then, because, of course, I was the one in the middle of the road, trying to rush around the line of cars.  We pulled over to exchange information, and I steeled myself for what I surely deserved – the wrath of a man whose truck was just swiped by a crazy lady with two kids and a dog in her minivan.  Instead, this man offered me grace.  He started out telling me he didn’t think any damage was done to his truck.  He said he rubbed on it and it looked like it would just wash off, like it was more plastic than anything.  Then he told me his brother was a police officer, and in this case, he didn’t think either of us would be issued a citation, so we didn’t need to bother calling them.  I was wary of his kindness, wondering if he was just trying to avoid getting in trouble himself, but he was clearly aware of my doubt and offered his hand, introducing himself to me.  He continued to assure me that this was no big deal, that his truck was just fine, and that these things happen.  He said several times “Don’t worry – this is really no big deal.”

I was caught off guard.  I was prepared for someone to ream me out; instead, he was nice.  He could have been so mean – but he wasn’t.  He was just – kind.  We did exchange information, just in case, but then he told me just to get the kids home and not to worry about it anymore.  So I did.  I went home and called Brad – who of course was only concerned about our safety and didn’t even care about the state of the car – and then I went on about the business of my day.  But when I had time later to stop and really think about it, I realized how rare a gift this man offered me.  It was…loving.  It was undeserved.  It was a reminder to me of what this season really is about.

Because God didn’t offer a random act of kindness when He sent His Son to earth.  God didn’t look down at humanity and just pick out a select few, then offer to pay for their sins.  He didn’t offer a band-aid, either – a temporary fix to our problem.  When God sent Jesus, He was offering His love in exchange for our hate.  He was offering His peace in exchange for our fear.  He was – and still is – offering us a way back into fellowship with Him.

I know there’s way more to it than that.  I am no theologian.  But I have seen God’s love in action this Christmas Season, and it humbled me.  Somehow, that’s what I think defines a true act of kindness – it is so undeserved, it brings the receiver to their knees in humility.  And maybe for someone who can barely afford their next meal to have someone else step in and pay – maybe that produces that same response.  Maybe that’s the point of the random acts of kindness – I’d like to think so.  But I still say it’s a whole lot harder to look someone in the eye who has just side-swiped your car and offer them grace, than it is to place a $5 gift card on the stall at Sonic.  That’s just my opinion.

I Finally Thought Of A Post

I’ve been experiencing writer’s block, in case you haven’t noticed.

That’s not entirely true.  I’ve had lots of ideas cross my brain but not enough time or energy to create an actual post from them.  So, sort of like writer’s block, only not.

But I have fodder, I have time, and I’ve had coffee this morning, so here goes!

Last night, I went to the mall to make some returns and decided to see what was going on in my favorite plus-size store – the Encore part of Nordstrom.  It’s pricey, but I only buy a few key pieces and can usually get them on sale.  Anyway, what I really needed was jeans, so I took the size 20W and 18W back to try on since I didn’t really know what size I was anymore.  Prior to joining UB, I was wearing some 22W, but they were tight, and I probably needed to be in 24W’s.  So I tried on the 20W, and they were a little big.  I put on the 18W, and voila!  They were beautiful!!!!  I went ahead and tried the 16W, and they zipped but were pretty tight, so I decided to wait until I was actually there to buy anything in that size.  But then I started trying on tops, and to my amazement, I fitted into 16W on top!  I am still in shock – I haven’t seen these sizes – anything in the teens – for probably 9 years.

Here are some pictures I took during my shopping session last night – just for comparison’s sake, I’ve included some pictures from Thanksgiving a year ago.

Looking at the old pictures reminds me of the pain – emotional and physical – I felt during that trip.  The 8 1/2 hour flight was the most miserable I’ve ever been in my life, mostly because I was squeezed into my seat like a sausage.  Everything we did required physical strength I didn’t have, so I was grouchy and exhausted the whole time.  But mostly, I was just sad that here I was in Hawaii, and I wasn’t fully enjoying it because of my size.

So today is Thanksgiving, and I want to say that today I am grateful for UB and what they have done for me.  I have my life back – and I owe it all to Trish and Corey, the 8:30 class.  You know who you are.  :)

It’s Officially V-Day

Valentine’s Day has taken on a whole new meaning for me.  I used to insist it was a day to be shared with the love of my life only.  (In case you are not sure who I mean, that would be Brad.)  But my heart has expanded to include some other young men, and now it is a day we all celebrate together as a family.

In the following pictorial display of our Valentine’s Day celebration, you may notice that we are all still in our pajamas.  For the sake of clarity – and in case any of our Sunday School class are reading this – we had planned to be at church this morning.  Early service, even!  But when Matthew came downstairs at 5am, coughing and running a low fever, plans changed.  The new plan was for Brad to take the two well boys and I would stay home with the sick one.  When Matthew came down at 5:45am announcing he had thrown up in his bed, we knew no one would be heading off to church this fine February morning.

Matthew was writing “I love you” with his lollipop stick.  And no, we did not let Matthew eat any of the candy.  Yet.

Peter, examining his Pez dispenser, said “Ooo!  Pez!  I love Pez!  And oh! It’s the VALUE PACK!”

Indeed, it was a Value Pack.  Thank you, Peter, for noticing – not the writing on the dispenser that said “I {heart} you” – but the “VALUE PACK” printed above it.  A true romantic in the making.  I feel sorry for his future wife.

Proof.  See – he IS sick!

You know what was so strange about Matthew waking up sick this morning?  He came into our room the first time crying and saying “It’s not fair I didn’t get to play in the snow, Mommy!  It’s not fair!”.  I tried to understand what was happening but my mind was not as awake as my mouth, apparently.  I started arguing back.  “But Matthew, you didn’t want to play outside in the snow!  I told you you could!”  Brad finally put his hand on me and said “He’s dreaming.”  Ah.  Yes, of course.  Someone who is coherent at 5am.

Samuel, school 005

Here are a couple of pics from Samuel’s Valentine’s class party last week.  After the cookies and juice packs and craft, the kids played “Ring Around The Rosie”.  I truly thought that was old school and was pleasantly surprised to see that kids still play that game.

Samuel, school 006

We all fall DOWN! (And hope we don’t get the plague, or something like that.)

Now, in other news, here are two more pictures I have been trying to post.  They are from Friday, when Peter and Samuel (and not Matthew – but not because I wouldn’t let him!) were playing out in the snow.

Me: “What’s in your mouth?”

Why, snow!  Of course!

And again, in unrelated news, I took some pictures close-up of the burned house last week.  I keep forgetting to post them so I’m just going to stick them here at the bottom of this post.  Because nothing says “I love you” on Valentine’s Day like pictures of a burned-up house.

005

008

011

If you are wondering why in the world I am posting pictures of a burned house on my blog, check out this post.

Finally, before I close, I must explain why there is a new banner ad at the top of my page advertising “E-mealz”.  I am a subscriber to E-mealz and have really enjoyed the change it has brought to our home.  It comes in two handy pages – one with a grocery list and one with a complete week’s worth of recipes.  There are all different stores and plans.  I started with the “everystore” plan for families and have recently switched to the “points” plan because I have joined Weight Watchers.  For $5 a month, I have all my meals already planned for me and put into a handy shopping list.  I have easily saved that much and more in non-impulse shopping.  So…please don’t feel any obligation to click the banner above, but if you do and you decide to subscribe, I will get a little bit credited to my own E-mealz account.  That’s the scoop.  Have a happy V-day, all!

Halloween Fun!

Dressed and ready for fun!

Dressed and ready for fun!

Halloween offered a bit more excitement than we bargained for this year.  As it was our first year in the new house, we were totally unprepared for the – how shall I say it?  TOTAL LACK OF PARTICIPATION ON THE PART OF THE NEIGHBORS.  In the old ‘hood, by the time the sun was starting to set, the littlest ghosts and goblins were already ringing our doorbell and by the time the big kids were coming around demanding candy, we were running out.  And I always buy 3 huge bags of candy, so that’s a lot of kids!

In the new place, the neighborhood formerly known as Christie Ranch (not sure if the name is The Estates now or what), it was well after 7pm before a SINGLE KID ever rang the doorbell.  And our 3 bags of candy?  We maybe gave away one.  Not that I’m upset, since I wisely purchased only my favorites!  (Ahhhh 3 Musketeers bars, we meet again for our yearly rondevue!)

So when 7:15 rolled around, the doorbell rang and suddenly we found ourselves face to face with ALL the neighborhood kids – in one very large group!  They were like a snowball rolling down the street, collecting kids as they went.  Our kids got caught up in the snowball and Brad and I found ourselves racing around the house, locating flashlights, bags, keys – then I went running down the street behind them yelling “Wait!  Wait!” while Brad stayed back to answer the door at the house.

Somewhere along the way, Matthew set down his gun.  This is not your ordinary storm trooper gun, either.  This was his $20 birthday present around which his entire costume was purchased built.  So after trick-or-treating down both streets that make up the neighborhood formerly known as Christie Ranch, we realized Matthew was missing his gun.

At this point, we were ready to head over to Ryan and Jillian’s neighborhood since let’s face it, ours was dead.  So we headed down Langdon, thinking we could spot the gun on someone’s front porch.  In front of about the 3rd house stood four adults, drinking wine and eating Skittles.  They said two kids had come by not long after we had and one of them had a white plastic gun that didn’t go with his nerd costume.

Brad knew just who they were talking about since they had come by our house too.  They were older kids – one dressed like a gorilla and one like a nerd – and the nerd was talking on his cellphone when Brad answered the door and – no lie – said to the person on the other end of the line “Hold on, I need to get some candy.  Trick or treat.”

So we were off like a shot, driving up and down streets, looking for a gorilla and a nerd.  It took us about 10 minutes to find them, and when we asked if they had seen the gun, the nerd produced it immediately (which I appreciated since it was hidden in his HUGE candy sack).  They could have lied, but how thankful we all were that they were honest, um, nerds and gorillas.

When we drove away, Peter told me that he had been praying for the return of Matthew’s gun, so we talked about how God was so gracious to give it back to Matthew after he left it on someone’s doorstep.  In the end, I found it quite poignant that God provided us a moment to teach the kids about Him in the midst of the most pagan holiday of the year.

Matthew at Fall Fest at church

Samuel at Fall Fest

Peter Fall Fest

Matthew stuck in the inflatable maze!