When Your Child Struggles

With one lap to go, my child fell behind his teammates running around the soccer field. From the look on his face, I knew something was wrong. Not something as simple as a stitch in the side or a sore ankle, but a wound that burned far deeper.
As soon as practice was over, he followed me to our truck. “I don’t think I want to play soccer anymore,” he confided, head hanging.
“You don’t?” I asked. “Was it hard today?”

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Jumping in Whole Hog

No way did I plan to come home from the Litchfield Fair with a pig. Sure, when our family moved to the rural countryside of Maine my husband, Dana, and I had talked about the benefits of raising a couple of pigs. Humanely raised meat. Fertilizer for our garden. Less dependence on the grocery store.
Only, we don’t eat much pork. And there was the whole process of pig farming, which we knew nothing about. There didn’t seem to be much risk, however, in entering our youngest son, Ezra, in the pig scramble at the local fair. While my husband and Ezra sat in the bleachers of the exhibition barn, waiting to see which children’s names would be drawn to participate, I wandered off with our 8-year-old to hear the results of a free bike raffle.

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A Rescue Story

She was rescued from the middle of a Florida highway, a soft brown ball of fur surrounded by whizzing cars. One driver stopped, scooped her up and brought her to an animal shelter. Ten days later, when no one claimed her, she was vaccinated, spayed and trucked to Maine by an animal rescue organization.
“We’re getting a puppy,” I told a friend.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said with more certainty than I felt.

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When Life Changes, Keep Trusting

“If we get lost, let’s meet by the big tree where we play,” my 5-year-old, Ezra, said to his 8-year-old brother on their way to school. It was my younger son’s first day of kindergarten. Listening to his sage reasoning – reasoning I’ve long suggested about what to do in a crowded space where we might get separated: pick a meeting spot – wrenched my maternal heartstrings. What was I doing, sending my youngest child off to school? All year, I’ve wrestled with the decision of whether to begin by teaching my youngest child at home, as I did with four of his siblings. My motives for homeschooling are not purely academic. As a writer who works from home, I enjoy having my children near me. Reading together, snuggled under a blanket on the couch, is one of my favorite activities. And I’ve learned from experience that once you send children away, you don’t get them back in the purely devoted way they needed you before.

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Visiting the Relatives

Summer is for visiting relatives. So this summer my family and I spent two months visiting different churches. After all, scripture says that it is the community of believers together who make up the body of Christ – not just those who worship under the same roof or denominational title. “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it,” the Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12:27 (NLT). When those words were written, denominations didn’t even exist. Basically, if you are a follower of Christ you are related to every other follower of Christ. While we may have different strengths and weaknesses, we all have a place and a purpose in the whole.

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Praying the Armor of God

I was blessed this week to share at Ladies of Hope, a local monthly Bible study, about a practice that helps prepare me for my day: praying the armor of God. Plenty of people pray the rosary of the Lord’s Prayer. When we pray, it is often helpful to have a guide or template. Such forms give our prayers structure and can help us relate our concerns to God when we don’t know what to say. One passage that helps me pray is Ephesians 6:10-17, which urges believers to put on God’s armor: The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes to spread the Gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, God’s word.

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When Making Do Won’t Do

When the zipper pull for the cotton cover on our living-room futon broke, I didn’t know what to do. It was a minor problem. The rest of the cover was in good shape, but without a zipper, the cover bulged and flapped and slipped off the couch. It looked awful. Sewing on a new zipper wasn’t an option. For one, where do you buy a zipper that long? For another, replacing zippers is above my expertise. I considered gluing on a giant Velcro strip but settled on snaps. About 40. It took several hours to sew them all on. Some didn’t quite match. But with a little tugging and tucking, I got the cover back in place and it looked good. Until I sat down.

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A Recipe for a Good Life

I rustled around the kitchen this week, measuring flour and cornmeal and milk and cracking eggs into a mixing bowl to make corn muffins. Just as I was about to measure the baking powder, the phone rang. As I chatted away, I carefully counted out six teaspoons of the chalky rising agent, having doubled the recipe. Only, when I removed my muffins from the oven a short time later, I was dismayed to see two dozen hard, flat disks lining my tins. What had happened? Had I miscounted my teaspoons? I didn’t think so. Nevertheless, something was clearly wrong.

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Book Review: A Light So Lovely

Growing up with few books on an Oregon farm, the first author whose name I recall hearing was that of Madeleine L’Engle. I was at CFO, a Christian summer camp, on the coast with my mom and older brother. There was a table of books for sale. Mom said I could pick one – any one I wanted! – to read at rest time. A rare treat! If it wasn’t from Goodwill or a garage sale, we hardly ever bought anything. What to pick? An almost impossible dilemma for a young child. Was I seven? Or eight? Someone – My mom? – recommended A Wrinkle in Time.

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Police Appreciation Sunday

Summer is for visiting family. And since the church is supposed to be one big family – albeit with many different personalities and a few crazy cousins – this summer my family has made a goal of visiting a different church every week. That’s how we were invited to Richmond Corner Baptist Church’s Police Appreciation Sunday this weekend and discovered the moving story of Lewiston Officer David R. Payne, who was ambushed and shot to death by someone he was trying to help thirty years ago this week.

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The value of life

Like many around the world, I watched the news and prayed this week as twelve soccer players and their coach were saved from a flooded Thailand cave after nearly three weeks underground. The scope of the rescue was staggering: thousands of volunteers, more than one hundred of the world’s top cave divers, Thai Navy sea air and land squads, medical experts, helicopters, ambulances, a hospital and more than a week of planning.

“Do you see how precious life is?” I told my 8-year-old son as we watched the drama unfold.

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Spend Less to Share More

This past week has been one of the hottest in Maine that I can remember. Two fans and wide-open windows offer little relief from what feel like record-cracking temperatures. Yet, I have no desire to purchase an air conditioner. Without a medical reason to keep our house cool, I find a measure of discomfort to be a good thing. Like trying to stretch through a week of groceries without running to the store. Or living in a three-bedroom house with seven people (when they are all home). Or giving away something I could use for myself when someone else needs it more.

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A Time of Great Violence

We were enjoying a peaceful walk along the Kennebec River with friends when our young children stopped to play on the bank of a muddy pond. Perfect childhood bliss. Then, across the pond, three hunting dogs crashed through the brush and sprang into the water. It happened so quickly, it took a moment to see that one of the dogs carried something in its mouth: A mound of soft brown feathers.
“Oh, no,” my friend said.
We realized at the same time that the dog had found a duck. Our children froze, wide-eyed and watching the life-and-death struggle. Somehow the duck escaped. Quacking in terror, it flapped across the water with all three dogs swimming in pursuit.

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A Cautionary Caterpillar Tale

These days I am feeling a certain kinship with Job, who lived a couple thousand years before Christ. I’m not certain they had browntail moth caterpillars in the land of Uz, where he lived with his flocks and family, but it seems likely, given that his skin was covered with a rash so painful or itchy, he scraped his skin with a piece of pottery.

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A Father to Celebrate

Every Father’s Day my mother bought herself the same present: a tool. Might be a new hammer or a shovel or a set of wrenches. With my father living in another state, a farm to run and two children to raise, she filled the role of both father and mother and accordingly treated herself to a gift on the big day.

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In the Master’s Garden

Little inspired me to plant a vegetable garden this year. The spring air seemed abysmally cold. I’d waited too long to start my seedlings indoors. And each day I looked out my kitchen window at my little plot of soil, the weeds stood taller. But I had a choice: Spend all summer watching the weeds grow taller or get out there and do something.

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Book Review: The Choice, Embrace the Possible

One reward of attending the Christopher Awards in New York this spring was coming home with a bag full of books from other award winners, stories of hope and friendship and of overcoming great obstacles to do great good. Only, one story I wasn’t sure I wanted to read. It is the story of Dr. Edith Eva Eger, among the few remaining Holocaust survivors who was sent to Auschwitz with her parents and sister.

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When Schools Become a Battleground, Who is to Blame?

My husband, Dana, and I were on a bus, headed home from New York City, last weekend when we crossed into Maine and saw an American flag lowered to half-staff. “What is it this time?” I asked. Only after we arrived home did we learn of the school shooting that morning in Sante Fe, Texas, in which two teachers and eight students were killed. It seems that our flag is often flying lower these days. We are a country perpetually in mourning.

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For Mothers When it’s Hard

This one is for the mothers. The ones serving in the hardest places. Those whose children have special needs. Those whose children are battling addiction or illness or struggling to overcome difficult choices. Those who love children they have lost. Those raising not just their children but their grandchildren.

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