Monthly Archives: September 2007

How to find out if a food is gluten-free

10/02/07  UPDATE:  Tater Tots DO appear to be gluten-free.  You can read more about that in this post:  https://onlysometimesclever.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/confusion-about-the-gluten-free-ness-of-ore-idas-tater-tots/ )

I get lots of searchers who stumble upon this blog trying to find out if oranges or sugar or Trix or Tater Tots or whatever is gluten-free.

Some foods, specially those that are single ingredients, should be easy to tell.  Corn, rice, potatoes, dairy, meat, fruits, veggies and many alternative grains are all g.f.  But, when you start talking about foods that are made of several ingredients, it gets iffy.  And, it can be terribly brand-specific.  For instance, your store brand to “tater nuggets” very well may be gluten-free, while the Tater Tots name brand, made by Ore-Ida, is not!  Some taco seasoning is gluten free, like McCormick, but others, like Lawry’s, are not (McCormick, unfortunately, is not dairy/casein free, though… but that’s a whole ‘nother topic).  So, just to ask, “Are Tater Tots gluten free?” or, “Is taco seasoning gluten-free?” isn’t enough.  You have to know which Tater Tots you’re talking about, and which taco seasoning.  It’s all very complex and can be extremely confusing.

Here are my suggestions:

  1. You must read labels.  Lots and lots and lots of labels.  All the time.  Even for foods which you regularly purchase.  Ingredient lists can change, production processes can change, company policies can change….  You must be a regular reader of ingredient labels. 
  2. Arm yourself with lists of gluten-free and NON-gluten-free ingredients, so you know what to look for on those labels.  Five years ago, when I first started on a g.f. diet, I printed these lists out, carried them everywhere, and reviewed them frequently.
  3. Call manufacturers’ toll-free phone numbers, usually listed on the back of a product.  Visit their websites and look for a “special diets” section, or the like.  MANY food manufacturers now have a list on their website of foods that are gluten-free.  Five years ago, I used to pray that the customer service rep on the other end of the phone had heard of gluten;  it used to not be well-known.  But in the last year or two, I can’t remember coming across any ignorance;  most phone reps are extrordinarily helpful.
  4. Become acquainted with companies that are special-diet-friendly.  For instance, both Kraft and General Mills are very helpful to those on gluten-free diets.  Kellogg’s and Campbell’s are NOT.  (General Mills doesn’t have info on their website, but I have found both their phone and e-mail reps to be very helpful and knowledgable.  Campbell’s doesn’t have info on gluten on its website, either, though you can request a list of g.f. products, which they will send, snailmail.  However, they list foods containing MSG as “gluten-free.”  MSG often does contain gluten due to the manufacturing process.  Also, for special-diet questions, Campbell’s basic stance is for consumers to educate themselves, sending questioners offsite to a food allergen website.  IOW, they are not going to make it easy for consumers by providing information, or developing products that accomodates those on special diets.)  Smaller companies vary widely.  You will find some (like Lundberg Farms) which are hyper-aware of gluten issues, prominently label their packages, and educate their employees.  On the other end of the spectrum, some small companies seem rather offended when one inquires about gluten issues, and have obviously no idea if their ingredients and products are g.f..
  5. Purchase magazines (like Living Without) or books that help you both discover new g.f. products, and avoid gluten-containing ones.  All the g.f. cookbooks I’ve seen have some tips and instruction about gluten-free foods, and many of them have extensive glossaries with info on websites and addresses of useful resources. 
  6. Get used to cooking and baking for yourself, or your family member who has celiac disease.  Simple foods, made from scratch at home are your best bet to keep your diet gluten-free. 
  7. Be aware that the food labelling standards vary GREATLY from country to country.  So, if you’re travelling outside of the U.S., do your best to educate yourself in advance about how friendly the country is to g.f. issues.  Generally, though, most countries, world-wide, are much more aware of celiac disease and gluten than the U.S. is, and it’s quite easy to travel to the U.K. and Europe and maintain a g.f. diet.  For instance, I didn’t find out until I’d ordered some odd-tasting sausage at the airport in Inverness, Scotland, that the British government typically only requires sausage to be around 7-10% meat.  The rest of the sausage typically comes from oats and bread.  However, even out in the remotest of countryside villages, the gluten-free section of the Scottish grocery stores typically have more product than large, American city grocery stores. 
  8. If you’re really scared, consider ordering from a website that features gluten-free or allergy/intolerance-friendly foods, like Gluten Free Mall.  Or, find a local natural foods store, if you have one in your area.  Many carry extensive g.f. offerings, and many times the staff can help guide you, or at least refer you to someone who might be able to help.
  9. Find a gluten-free friend, ideally one IRL, and one who has been g.f.  for a while.  I think I’ve shown my pantry to 3-4 people over the years who have been recently dx’ed with celiac disease and feel like they can’t eat anything.  It’s really helpful to have someone show you the g.f. ropes, and who can alert you to local products you may not have known even existed! 
  10. If all else fails, read the label again.  😛
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Leading worship for kids!

I think I have posted on here before about my experiences leading worship for a special girls’ discipleship group that meets once a month on a Friday night at my church.  Those times have been great.  For me, they’ve been all the joy and none of the stress of leading worship.*  I just have a loopy grin on my face for much of the time, because there are few things more satisfying than seeing and hearing a whole bunch of kids singing their hearts out, worshiping God.

After the last event, I had a conversation with the children’s ministry pastor, Heidie, where she asked what I thought about maybe, at some point in the future, leading worship on Sunday mornings for what our church calls SuperChurch, for the 6-12yos.  (This part of our church’s ministry is burgeoning, thanks to a successful bus ministry, with the “bus pastor” having received training at Bill Wilson’s Metro Ministries in Brooklyn.  We typically have 70-85 kids on a Sunday morning, which is a lot for a semi-smallish church.)  I didn’t know there was a need for another worship leader in there.  There is a man, a faithful brother in Christ, who has led worship for SuperChurch for… uh… at least a decade.  And I know that, from time to time, he helps train up other worship leaders to help lighten the load, and that SuperChurch is in a continual search for ways to help kids really connect with God in worship.  However, I did not know that they had been in prayer, for more than a year, for some serious help with worship.

I don’t think I would call myself “serious help,” but after some folks who decide such things had several conversations about the topic, I was asked to lead, approximately half the time, starting in October.  I’m very excited about it. 

I think it’s fine (and often necessary) to set goals, and to pursue accomplishments, but for me, it often feels more pure — specially in areas of ministry — when one gets asked to do something.  I hope that makes sense.  It just feels right in that I was asked to do it;  I didn’t pursue it.  I wasn’t looking for a stage, I wasn’t hoping for a “promotion.”  Heidie asked, I said I would make myself as available as possible to meet whatever need I could, and that was that. 

To accomodate me leading, I’m no longer going to be teaching the 4s & 5s at church every 5-6 weeks.  This past Sunday was my last time teaching;  I’ve been doing that for seven years.  Oddly enough, since Wesley turns SIX today, and next Sunday will graduate to SuperChurch, we both had the same Sunday as our last day in preschool.  Happy-sad.  🙂  😦    

————

* There is no stress because there is a lot of grace extended in the skill area.  NOT that we’re called to have sub-par skills in any environment, and I certainly will be working to improve, but certainly compared to a great many other guitar players, mine leaves a lot to be desired.  However, I do LOVE to worship.  I don’t think I have a fabulous voice (I’m always sadly startled, the few times I’ve heard myself recorded), but it does have presence;  I can lead.  However, in the other environments in which I’ve led, mostly women’s events, I get really self-concious about my guitar-playing, or that someone with musical skill will be critiquing the fact that all the songs I’ve chosen are in “D,” or I feel compelled to pick songs that aren’t just three-chorders, but then they’re so complex I can’t memorize them, and I spend all my time staring at my chord chart.  But, in leading for kids, all that stress evaporates.  They don’t care if I flub a chord, they don’t care if all the songs are in the same key, and as far as complexity goes, many times, the simpler the better.  So, without my thoughts cluttered, it becomes very easy for me to get down to the thing at hand:  WORSHIP. 

Ethan’s first Little League game, and an unfortunate meeting with an old friend

And I don’t have a pic to show for it, because — bad mom! — I forgot my camera.  Another mom volunteered her camera, saying she’d e-mail the pics.  I took some nice ones, but neglected to give her my e-mail addy.  Duh.  I’ll do that tonight, as there is another game.

Anyways.  The game was Saturday.  His team won 7-6.  It’s Fall Instructional League, so, honestly, it wasn’t the smoothest, nor the quickest of games.  They called the game at the 1:45 time limit, and the boys had only gone four innings. 

Not that I’m biased or anything 🙄 , but I think Ethan did great.  As a batter, he went 0 for 1 with one walk and a strikeout.  He played an inning at 2nd base, one at 3rd, and sat out one inning.  But, he also pitched an inning, seeing a little of everything:  he struck out two, walked one, hit one batter, induced a slow-rolling groundout, and gave up one hit.

In odd news, we saw an old friend, another mom whom Martin and I used to know, used to go to church with, back when we were all single.  It was very strange.  She in short-shorts and a sleeveless top and kitten heels, speaking of her divorce, and how her 7yo son is her “life,” and how she sold her old house and downsized to 3400 s.f., and about her business, and how’s she’s building a state-of-the-art facility for her women’s fitness training and motivational speaking business.  She looked at me pointedly, “And what are you doing?” 

Ugh. 

I hate that moment, when I know that my answer of, “I’m being a stay-at-home mom to our four children and homeschooling the oldest three,” will be viewed as “less than” and inadequate, even when I KNOW it’s a valuable “profession.”  I rather let myself be excused, finding some reason for which one of my children needed me, elsewhere, leaving Martin to fend for himself, noble and capable man that he is.  😀 

Martin and I talked briefly about it afterwards, and came to the conclusion that she’s just gone down a different path with different values, and oh, well.  What can you do about it, except hope not to see her in the future?

In other news, not for the weak-of-stomach, 17-month-old Audrey is ill. She’s had diarrhea since LAST Sunday.  For a day or so, she’ll look like things are healing, but then it kicks back in with a stinky vengeance.  She’s not dehydrated, but I’m starting to get concerned. She ate two Goldfish crackers on the sly last Sunday in the church nursery, then, she ate a handful of sand here at home (and our dog’s been relieving herself in the sandbox lately — UGH!!!).  Even if the gluten bothered her, it wouldn’t go on for a whole week+.  I may have to bring her to the doctor, but historically, doctors just don’t help much with gastrointestinal issues, and I fear it’ll be a waste of time.  But, now she’s running a fever, and my heart just goes out to my daughter.  I feel like I have to do something.  
 

More Micah Owings (a couple of days late)

I have been following Diamondbacks rookie pitcher, Micah Owings, since he was drafted from Tulane, the university I attended.  Micah has been kind of like the little girl with the little curl in the nursery rhyme:  When he’s good, he’s very, very good, and when he’s bad, he’s horrid.  Before Tuesday night’s game, his outings over the previous month had all resulted in losses, or no-decisions, and the last couple of starts, in particular, were painful to watch.  However, on Tuesday night, as the Diamondbacks struggle to keep their lead for the NL West pennant over the Padres, Micah pitched a GEM.  It was a complete game two-hit shutout.  Him giving the entire bullpen a day of rest proved to be extremely valuable last night, as Doug Davis only went 4 2/3 innings, and we needed four relief pitchers, plus Valverde as closer, to pull out the win.

I’m going to ask for a Owings jersey for Christmas.      

Stretched

I have conflicting thoughts circulating about my too-busy mind.

First, the good:  I am encouraged that I seem to have a better handle on homeschooling than I did, just a few years ago.  This year, with 1st grader Wesley and 3rd grader Grant, I am re-visiting Sonlight Core 1 and Science 1, which I did with my now-5th grader, Ethan, four years ago.  At the time I went through Core 1 with Ethan, it was all I could do to get one week’s worth of assignments done in 1.5 – 2 weeks.  It took us a solid 18 months to get through the 36 weeks of material.  And, according to the notes I made, I was entirely inconsistent with Ethan’s math and English.  Back then, I was homeschooling only ONE child.  Now, I’m homeschooling three, plus I have a toddler to care for, yet I am easily covering each week’s subjects within the week, plus doing math and English consistently.  As a homeschooling mom who often feels like I’m not doing enough, and doing well enough, it’s encouraging that I’m at least improving.  We’re doing more, but it doesn’t feel like it.  It doesn’t feel like we’re rushing through the material, or trying to learn too much.  It feels quite natural, and is only taking 3 hours, at most.

The “bad news,” now:   Right now, life is a little too busy for what’s comfortable for me, which I find stressful…. I’m stretched in my abilities to make everything happen when & where it needs to happen.  We have a lot going on, which I don’t do well with.  I do best with a plodding, slow life, and get overwhelmed fairly easily.  I’m embarrassed by that, because it’s not like there’s anything happening that millions of other moms haven’t handled successfully.  But, Ethan’s now on a Little League team, and we’ve had two, two-hour practices per week for the last couple of weeks, which extracts a chunk of time from my day, and makes it difficult for me to fit in what I would normally have done with that “lost” four hours or so, weekly.  His first game is on Saturday.  Also on that day, I’m hosting the worship team for a quarterly meeting here at our home, which means up to 20 or so people over… Next week is two more baseball games, and my youngest son’s birthday party.

Really, I like having folks over.  I do.  I love our home to be full with chatting friends, eating together, building relationship.  And, I don’t even have to cook, as the event is a potluck.  But, I do need to prepare other things for the get-together, and have my house spic-and-span. 

And, I am SO THRILLED that Ethan is now “officially” in Little League.  I don’t remember if I’ve blogged about this before, but Ethan has suffered, for nearly four years now, from the aftereffects of post-strep arthritis, which cause his joints to painfully flare up, and makes participation on a team sport virtually impossible.  But, he adores baseball (boy after my heart that he is!), and my heart as a mother is brimming with thankfulness that he’s able to participate on a team, as his flare-ups are now only about every 2 months or so.  And, his coach said that he would definitely be pitching on Saturday!! 

And, we’re having a joint birthday party for Wesley, and for a friend of ours, Joel, who shares the same birthday;  I’m really enjoying working with the Joel’s mom, Allison, who is a new friend.  We have different strengths, and together are coming up with some fantastic party plans.

And, of course, there’s the normal, everyday life of being a wife, homeschooling, housekeeping, mothering, taking care of my own self, etc.

All of that compounds to a general dreaded sense of “looming” that I feel; so much to do, and not enough time, energy, imagination, efficiency, or directed attention to be able to make it all happen, and happen well.   

Peeved about pencil sharpeners and warranties

When I was a kid, I can remember our family having one pencil sharpener.  It wasn’t anything fancy;  just the small, handheld kind, made of metal, with nothing to catch the shavings.  It disappeared from time to time, as things will in a family with four kids, but it always worked.  I think it had a removable blade, which my dad must have sharpened occasionally.

Maybe the longevity of my childhood sharpener is why I’m annoyed by the temporal nature of our pencil sharpeners.  Granted, as a homeschooling family with three kids regularly using pencils, we probably sharpen more than your average family.  Still, we go through a good 2, 3, 4 or sometimes more sharpeners, every year.  I’ve purchased the cheap ones.  I’ve purchased the more expensive ones.  They break, or they habitually snap the pencil lead instead of sharpening it, or they continually get jammed, or get dull nearly immediately, or worse, they never sharpen well in the first place.  Or, they get lost.  After five years of pencil sharpener frustration, I thought, “That’s it!  I’ve had it with these sharpeners!  I’m going to go to Office Max and get a REAL sharpener.  It’ll be sturdy and enduring!”

A new Office Max had opened fairly close to my house, and they had sent out coupons in the mail, $10 off any purchase.  Great!  So, I went out a couple of days ago, coupon in hand, set on finding a reliable sharpener.

I really wanted a wall-mounted one, the metal kind one finds in classrooms.  But, I (correctly) suspected that my husband wouldn’t want to mar our walls with a sharpener, so I settled upon one that appeared to be built similarly, but had a suction device on the bottom, attachable to any nonporous surface.  The shavings collection container was made out of transparent plastic (I’m always suspicious of plastic), but it seemed to be the best bet for my needs.  It was $9.99.

There at the store, I round up all of my purchases (WHY must printer cartridges be so expensive?!!???!!) and head to the checkout counter.  The checkout guy fiddles with the package, turning it over in his hands.  Haltingly, he tells me, “These pencil sharpeners are prone to breaking.  For only $3, you can buy a no-questions-asked warranty.”  I look at him, disbelievingly, “They’re prone to breaking?  Where are they weak?”  He fiddles with the handle, “Well, the handle can break off, you know, with turning it.  And this part here,” pointing to the plastic shavings receptacle, “if you drop it, it can shatter.  But, even if you were to back over it with a truck and smash it, if you buy the warranty, we’ll replace it for free.”

A myriad of thoughts are going through my mind at this point.  “Why would Office Max knowingly sell flimsy equipment?  In order for warranties to be profitable, in this case… well, less than 30% of people purchasing the warranty would need to make a claim on it.  Does that mean that the sharpener would only break 30% of the time or less?  Or that they break, but people don’t bring the sharpener back in for replacement?  Or, is this guy — SADLY — trained to cast doubt into the mind of customers, leaving them questioning the soundness of a product, when, in fact, it’s structurally solid, JUST to compel them to buy warranties?  Is the warranty necessary, because the product is weak?  Well, that’s just wrong, because then they shouldn’t sell $10 breakable sharpeners.  Or, are they just trying to profit from the sale of unnecessary warranties?  Well, that’s just wrong, too.  Golly.  Lose-lose.”

I decide to hedge my bets, hoping that he was just trying to sell me an unnecessary warranty, and that this sharpener, on which I’d placed many hopes, would, indeed, be sound and sturdy.  I looked at him again, and firmly said, “No.  I’m not going to buy a warranty.”  He started with another, “Are you sure?…”  I cut him off with my well-practiced Mom Look that lets the speaker know that the subject is closed.

However, just in case the sharpener is of low quality, I’ve put it on top of the fridge.  It is now one of my sons’ weekly chores to sharpen all of the pencils in the pencil box, and the sharpener will come down from the fridge for this purpose, just once a week.  This limits the exposure of potentially flimsy sharpeners to frequently careless boys.

*Sigh*

My friend Shellie tells me that it’s my melancholy personality that longs for high quality items on a low-quality budget.  She’s probably right.  Maybe I should just have bought one of these.   

“Waaahhhh!!!” I wail, “It’s working!!!”

Even after four kids, I don’t know what’s worse when bringing my wee ones to the church nursery:

  • The toddler wails, plump tears dripping down his face, all available body parts clinging to me, eyes wide with terror, the epitome of “separation anxiety.”
  • The toddler wobbles off, eager to play with new friends and new toys, with nary a backward glance to The Mom.

I’ve been thinking that, all this week, as I’ve viewed the apparent success of my plan to have my 10yo, Ethan, do most of his schoolwork independently.  I made a month of lesson plans, putting an asterisk next to the assignments which we would do together.  He does the bulk of his schoolwork Monday-Thursday, with Friday reserved for only two regular assignments, and any corrections he needs to make to that week’s work.  Most of his work, I’m not even checking daily — my first time ever.  I’ve told him that I’ll check it all on Friday;  the fewer corrections he needs to do, the more free time he’ll have that day.

I was certain he’d be Toddler #1, as described above.  Instead, he’s Toddler #2.  I’ve been checking in on him, “Are you sure you don’t have any questions?” 

“Nope, Mom.  I understand what I’m doing.” 

“Would you like to listen in as I read Charlotte’s Web to Grant and Wesley?” 

“Nope.  We read that together, plus I’ve read it on my own, plus I’ve seen the movie.  I’m OK.”

This week, I’ve only read his science to him, and gone over his science work with him.  Oh, we also have done a small devotion together, and today, we did some history discussion questions. 

~sigh~

I felt so much like I’d been abandoning him, I sat down as he watched his Latin DVD this morning.  It’s a review lesson, as we actually got through the first 7 weeks or so of Latin, last year (w/o the DVD).  He looked at me in some bewilderment.  Clearly, I was not needed.  Still, though, I put my hand on his leg, and sat with him for 20 minutes or so…

Odd.  I homeschool my child — this is our 6th year doing so — and I feel like I’m not seeing enough of him.

I don’t know whether to be happy or sad. 

First day of school

Today, among other tumultuous events, was our first day of school for the 2007-2008 year.  It went really well.

I think success with new school plans are rather akin to a professional sports team’s preseason.  It doesn’t really count when the team wins, but it sure does make one feel more hopeful about the team’s trajectory.

Alas, also in my “talent” for finding the black cloud in every silver lining, I told my husband that good days are somewhat discouraging… because it lets me glimpse what is possible.  That then lends further frustration to the situation when things don’t go right, and I’m pulling my hair out at boys who don’t appreciate all my efforts, and the blessings of homeschooling, and it’s 2:00, and we haven’t gotten through 1/3 of the day’s goals and I have to throw up my hands in exasperation, and just try again tomorrow.  KWIM?  It’s one thing if my hopes for each school year (or even each school day!) are proven unreasonable, and I have to scrap such-and-such because it obviously isn’t working.  It’s another thing if I can see that it should work, but then finding it not working, at some later point.

Or, maybe I should just be happy that today went off with only one minor, workable hitch, and hope for more of those, and fewer of the hair-pulling variety.

The Permissive God

The last few days, I’ve really felt God speaking to my heart about the nature of His permissiveness.  Many think of Him as a strict, tight, unbending God, but He’s not.  He’s so not.*  There are so many choices that I, as a Christian, can make that are unwise, hasty, with poor motives, without prayer, with too many assumptions, etc.  And yet, He still brings me back to Himself.  He doesn’t squash me under His thumb, kick me out of the Body of Christ (that is, excommunicate me from Himself), or punish me.**  It is His continual drive to pull me in, closer to Himself.

BUT, His permissiveness and His best are not the same thing.  His best path is found via that set of choices, made with humble submission to His will and His ways, which lead to blessing***, to fruitfulness, to peace, to fulfillment, empowerment and anointing.  Him just allowing me, permitting me to do whatever won’t get me to the place I actually want to go, which is that path of blessing***.

There are so many things He allows.  But I believe it’s God’s desire for me to seek His BEST, and to follow that — to apply my efforts in that direction, wherever it may be, and wherever it may take me (or not).

I think I’ve turned a corner in my understanding of prayer:  It’s not just for hopes that He says, “YES!” to my requests, but for Him to reveal His best path to me, and that I’m wise enough and strong enough to recognize it and take it.

Now that I’ve ruminated on this for a few days, I seem to remember, in the deep recesses of my mind, hearing some teaching on the permissive will vs. the perfect will of God.  That’s probably the same thing.  But, as so many of His teachings and principles, it takes a personal revelation, a personal enlightenment, for it to truly sink in, which this has, now, for me.

This also brings to mind the angst of my mid-teen years to early 20s, when I really took on Christianity as my own.  I was immobilized by the fear of making any decision that wasn’t “just right.”  In that sense, I’ve come to understand that God isn’t a perfectionist like that;  He’s not just looking at me with a clipboard in His hand and saying, “Oops!  She took a left, and not a right!  Her future’s blown now.”  I think there’s so much to be said for the motive of the heart:  Am I really attempting to stay within the protection and blessing of God?  Or am I trying to get away with as much as possible while still labelling myself “Christian,” still just trying to get into heaven?? 

IOW, there’s sort of a fine line there:  I believe God does have a perfect will, a perfect path.  But perhaps he reshapes it a bit when, in our honest, unintentional failings (IOW, not out of sneakiness or rebellion), we’ve rendered His first choice for us nonoperative.  I’m not sure about that.  Or, maybe, for each new situation, He has a “new” best for us.  I’m not sure about that, either…. Though, I’m confident He is God of both the Big Picture (the overriding, grand perspective of the world and my place in it) and of the Tiny Picture (the minute details of each day).  Somewhere in there, there’s a balance.  I really don’t have all that figured out, and I’m unconvinced that it needs to be figured out.  What I do know is that it’s important for me to be listening to Him, to be making decisions submitted to what I believe He’s saying, and to follow where He’s going, to the best of my ability, but w/o listening when the enemy speak lies, accusation or curses about my trippings and failings in that area.

I just want to be as close to God as I can, and to live in the green pastures of His blessings, and under the protection of His shepherding hand.  I have come to trust that His plans and intentions towards me are tender and magnificent, and He does nothing that’s not out of love for me, His daughter, even if I don’t understand all of what He does and why He does it, and why He wants me in the deserts of Arizona, and not the lush mountain meadows of Colorado.  😉

So.  That may be as clear as mud, but lemme tell you, I feel a billion times better about the general state of Karen’s Life than I did last week at this time, and I feel closer to my God, and that’s a really good feeling.     

__________

* However, He is HOLY, which is another topic in itself.
** However, He does DISCIPLINE me, which isn’t the same thing.
*** I’m not necessarily referring to material blessing, like a good job and a nice home.  I do think, though, that often, those things can be byproducts of a life that is wholly submitted to God and His principles.  Not to say, though, of course, that everyone who is living with material wealth is submitted to God, nor to say that every poor person isn’t.  My definition of “blessing” is not bounded with dollar signs;  it’s wider than that.    

…so how does a mom of four get some real privacy?

She goes to church when no one is there.  Of course, she has to have a key, and the alarm code, so that doesn’t work for everyone, but it worked for me!

I’ve had a lot on my heart, a lot of thoughts tumbling about my mind.  Confusion and depression were at the threshhold, and I didn’t want those to take hold and set up camp, so I needed to *really* meet with God, without self-consciously wondering who was listening on the other side of the door.  So, to church I went.  I was able to pray out loud, to play my guitar and sing worship songs, to spew tears and snot freely. 😀

On the downside, I was surprised at how much fear I had, being there from 9-10:20 at night, like some bad guy was going to bust the door down, or be waiting for me in the parking lot.  I wrestled through that, though, and it ended up not distracting me much at all.

I was also a little surprised, because I thought that there’d be instant presence of God, there at the altar, and it wasn’t quite like that.  I had to work a bit to clear my mind, to focus my thoughts and attention on Him.  It didn’t take long to get dialed in. 

I left feeling purged, happier, freer, more at rest, calmer, and less fatalistic about things in general.  Just voicing my worship, and verbally laying out my thoughts, feelings, concerns, commitments and hopes sorted them out profoundly.

I have wanted, many times before, to go to the church and do that, but I never have.  I’m thinking it now may be a semi-regular event for me. 

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