Monday, October 29, 2012

Grandma Camp

It was a crazy idea.
Grandma Camp with four grandchildren.
Crazy because the children stair-step in age 4-3-2-1.

So from the beginning I determined that "camp" would be pretty simple.
Like, really simple.
Maybe as uncomplicated as just having a play-at-Grandma's, kind of day.

For months I've been contemplating what four children, ages four and under would like to do with their Nana.  Formal planning just wasn't happening. Staying true to my nature I made an executive decision.
The decision?

To just go for it.
This is my loose translation of how it went.

The Plan:  Monday morning. •For half a day. •White t-shirts with the iron-on logo. •A few craft ideas. •Some food.  •End of planning.

The theme:  "Jesus Journey"
(Actually I didn't have a theme but the amazing Tara Kautz sent me a logo she made and that's what I used.) It is adorable, yes?

The verse: I didn't really have one. I just kept telling them that "Jesus loves you." And then I would ask "Who loves you?!?" And they would all chirp, "N-a-n-a!"
Well that is true too.

Before the fun could begin, I had to get them to my house. So I pull out of the garage at 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning. This Grandma has yesterday's hair because there was no time to shower. I wear my sweats and no make-up. Being up past 2:00 a.m. and getting back up by 5:30 a.m. to vacuum dog hair was pushing things.

It had to be done.

One thing this Nana is not good at is the correct installation of car seats.  The grandchildren can tell you. There has to be humor in my grandma gymnastics as I climb over seats and little people to reach more little people to click the belts. Just as I'm congratulating myself on a mission accomplished, I hear a little boy gasping for breath and squeaking " ....Nana.." The seat belt had pinned him tight as if I had slammed on the breaks and the belt would not release. It might have been funny if I wasn't so busy wondering how I'm going to cut him loose.   

After some shifting of car seats we are off. All the beautiful happy faces make me glad that I'm doing this Grandma Camp thing after all. We sing silly songs. We sing loud and we make up new words to old songs. Now two children are hungry and the car has the distinct smell of a diaper that needs changed. Things were pretty good for about nine minutes. So we reach our destination and the little people pour out of the car. Phew! No really.

The little men and little princesses are excited to arrive and the dogs are running and barking and there is me looking for coffee. Every toy is brought out and the boys fuss over Tonka trucks and the one pick-up truck with a horse trailer that has a broken hitch. The girls cried because there is only one shopping cart and then one eats purple chalk.

Seeing that free play time is clearly over we decide to try a group activity of duck-duck goose. That worked really well for three of the four kiddo's. One little doll just wanted to hammer the pegs hard on the antique toy. So the rest of us sat on the floor. Each time a child would walk around the circle bopping each person on the head saying, " .....GOOOSE"! Then everyone would shriek shrill squeels and they would ALL jump up and run around the house finding every little narrow places to squeeze thorough and come back to the place they began declaring,  "I win!"  This was repeated many times and they seemed just as pleased with themselves each time as they had been the time before.

I fix snacks. Don't be impressed. They were fruit snacks with little nutritional value but a full days supply of vitamin C and some fruit shakes. To save the white t-shirts this Grandma decides to remove the girls shirts until the blueberry smoothie is finished.

We read the books I made them. Each simple book tells how Grandpa and I were excited for them to be born, what a miracle each one is and how much we love them. The one year old and the two year old pretend to read out loud with jabbering toddler words while nodding their heads and pointing at their pictures.

At first, playing with clay wasn't too exciting. After dividing the colors evenly, we rustle through kitchen drawers to find tools to work with. Pizza rollers, straws, little bottles, child size silverware and screwdrivers made it more interesting. They make balls and long rope like things and smoosh the clay flat and cut out shapes. We sit and talk about colors and  what kind of things they like to do in life.

For over thirty minutes it is mostly quiet. Every child just sitting content and creating things. I love seeing their little hands and minds work. The expressions on their faces are priceless. Oh how I believe that the Creator of the Universe gives creative ability to everyone, but that too often we don't take the opportunity to sit quiet and develop those God-gifts.

With butcher paper found at a thrift store we cut lengths of paper to trace their body outlines. They loved seeing how tall they were and sat on their papers and signed their names and we talk about how amazing God made each one of them. This grandma wanted to keep their little body pictures in the 'grand-kid room' but they insisted their parents needed to admire them. Rolling them up made instant weapons which  I convince them would have to be telescopes.

We play worship music and we all sing and some sway and lift their hands. Oh be still my heart! The favorite song of the day however was "monkeys jumping on the bed." It has to be sung loud and over and over. We changed it to  "...four little monkeys jumping on the bed, falls off and bonks his head (We all do the action of bonking our heads with our hands because the smallest one loved to do it.) Then I'd ask, "Which little monkey falls of the bed this time?" They'd scream a name and we'd go on singing, "...three little monkeys jumping on the bed..." Before the game was finished there really was one little monkey who fell and bonked his head.

 A simple lunch with cheese puffs being their favorite things and the smallest one gets heavy eye lids and the wheels began to fall off the proverbial Grandma Camp bus from there.

Dancing and singing to worship songs.

More fun than duck-duck-goose.

Serious business.

Love your brown eyes!

She has all the clay is tiny pieces in her shirt.

The boys are now looking to hunt deer in the yard.

I wanted to do a bento box food idea.  Well ya.... about that.....

The time went fast and then the little people were to be delivered home for naps. As I strap each one into their car seats one angel fills her diaper and the car with an aroma so strong that the issue cannot be ignored.

Diaper bags, paper body outlines, bags of goodies, cups with juice, and blankies loaded,  I leave the three grand-kids strapped in their car seats while I run back in to change the smelly angel. She is rolling off the couch complicating the project. There are not enough baby wipes to contain the matter. I'm trying to hold her feet and the whole mess escalates when our fourteen year old labrador somehow comes running through the house. She is old and a little nervous and losing control of some of her body functions. So as she is running to the back door she is leaving large plopping piles.

This has become quite the situation.

I'm chasing the dog and the now diaper-less angel face through the house trying to tame the moment. It was a lot of poop for one pooped grandma at the end of Grandma Camp.

At this very moment (you can't make this stuff up) the oldest grandson comes running back into the house yelling, "Nana! NANA! NANA! CJ has a play knife and IT'S NOT A GOOD THING!" 

When this boy says "it's not a good thing" you can trust his word. 

Can we just say it is now complete chaos and the house is utterly trashed. There is a child crying in the car, a child running without a diaper and this grandma with only three hours sleep thinks that four hours with four angels who range in age from four down, was enough for the first annual Grandma Camp.

Was it a re-do?


It was a crazy, messy, funny, exhausting, wonderful time. Isn't that how life is? And I'm glad that I didn't wait for the perfect moment or a better plan. It truly is an honor and a privilege to be part of their lives.

One additional thought.
I think the next "Grandma Camp" will be renamed,
      "Grandpa and Grandma Camp."

♥  We welcomed our newest grandson to the family on Friday.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

The Broken

It's five o'clock traffic and I just want to be home. My mind is distracted with the crazy driver that just cuts in front of me. This heart feels cold and impatient toward life.

There is this rushing from one point to another like it's so important. And for all the time that I've wasted, everything is urgent to get to the next thing on my list right now.

I caught just a glimpse of him.  A man loaded down by the world with bundles and baggage. His clothes looked heavy and soiled. And as he walked his long wild hair frames a sunken face that was cast-downward.

That was it.

I fly past him without hesitation. Another broken person walking the streets in a broken world.

Then the heart-tug begins.

In my harried-rush this thought presses in to go back and give him money. 

Continuing down the busy main street where traffic congestion lessens and I'm only five miles from home, I blurt out loud, "I don't even have any cash!" But the $20 dollar bill neatly stashed away in my billfold comes to mind.  This conversation with myself coupled with my over-the-speed-limit driving has now taken me well beyond where I saw his obscure image. I'm protesting and whining when all of a sudden, as if I lost the battle with myself, I sigh heavy and flip the blinker light to signal my change in direction.

Still I'm only half-serious about finding the man. How could I know if the Lord pressed it on my heart to go back or if it was just another racing thought in my head?

My eyes search up and down each street. The blocks roll by. "He could honestly be anywhere by now," I'm muttering.  Peering down each avenue. No lumbering figure. Nothing. I continue this search far beyond what I felt like he could have traveled.

Now I'm fully convinced how ridiculous I am, looking to find a homeless man I only saw for a split-second, to give him the little-bit-of-nothing money I have on me, because I think God told me.

Finally I resign to the fact the man had slipped away and the only voice I am hearing is mine. As I pulled up to the stop sign ready to resume the route that will take me home where I just really want to be, I look once to the south. Then to the north. Back to the south.

I literally jump when the man is there and walking right toward me.

Fumbling for the money I reach over and make sure the doors are locked. Not exactly a big faith-filled moment. He's looking at me as he approaches. He's a man of great stature. He has a pronounced limp. 

There is this moment.

A moment when my heart is pounding hard.
A moment when he realizes I'm waiting there for him.

This moment when my cold heart melts for his broken heart and when True Hope rises.

As he enters the  crosswalk I tried to think of what to say. 

I see his demeanor change, his walk quicken and his face light up. His downcast face lifted into this ear-to-ear smile that only flashes a few random teeth.  It was a beautiful smile that touched something deep within me. 

He took the pitifully small gift from my hand and replied, "oh may God bless you ...oh may God bless you.." 

Beaming I told him, "Well actually sir, Jesus wanted to bless you. He sent me back to find you."

As I'm pulling away I'm overwhelmed with the simple encounter. His face full of light. The heavy spirit that was transformed in an instant. How the gift of grace sparked hope and love. 

Perhaps the bigger thing is knowing that the Lord DID want to bless him. And strangely it is me that receives the gift. As I am driving away it is my heart that's bursting full of the blessing. I drive slower and tears fill my eyes. Tears because I am going to a home, to people who care about me and there is more money and resources available than I deserve. There is an overwhelming sense that the Lord let me be part of something weightier than just an encounter with an unshaven man and the giving of a small gift. There is  healing in the poverty of my soul.

After this, it was my husband who had the idea to do some simple cards that could help communicate that Jesus is why we give when opportunities present themselves to extend pure grace.

We call them our "True Religion Cards."

The homeless man opened my heart to be more sensitive to the Spirit about people in need. Opportunities abound to love people right where they are. The waiter, the motel cleaning lady that doesn't speak English, the person sitting outside the library, the young man at the sandwich shop.

I don't want them to think I'm just "a nice lady." 

Because I'm not really. 

I want them to know Jesus gave the blessing.

There are lots of opinions on giving to the homeless

This is what I've been learning. If the Lord puts on my heart to give to someone, then it's my responsibility to obey and it is the other persons responsibility what they do with the gift. 

Isaiah 58:6-14 is what I want to flesh out in such a way as to leave Jesus fingerprints on souls.

Now there is money tucked in little places, prepared for those moments.

The Word says that we should visit those in jail, tend to orphans, widows and foreigners in their affliction. 

Jesus didn't ask me to evaluate worthiness or be the one to clean up a life. He did ask me to pour myself out. It took a man clothed in garments of brokenness to refocus my shallow heart on eternal things.  

The Broken
by Bebo Norman

* Feel free to copy and print the "True Religion Cards" for your own use to bless others!

Linking Up With A Holy Experiencing today.
Oh you must check out her blog and her heart!

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Seasons of The Soul

I snap pictures as if trying to capture all of autumn before the colors fade into winter's dark. The wind is rising and tawny leaves make a light crunching noise as they seem to chase each other across the road. I have an affection for autumn. Behind the sharp click of the shutter I wonder why some trees are still burning red and some have not one leaf left clinging, while other trees don't appear that hard frosts have fazed them.

In a recent conversation with a friend I heard in her voice a woman speaking from a cold hard place. Even though the weather is warm and leaves are still falling from the tree in her front yard, the season of her soul is winter. This mommy with constant demand of little ones. Small hands that challenge her from sun up to sun down. The beautiful dark skinned children they brought home from across the ocean came with little secrets and hidden shards of glass that only God can reveal or heal. The blustery winter season that seems to have no end like a long dark tunnel all full of the unknown.

The chill of loneliness matched with emotions of being overlooked and misunderstood lay any soul out bare. Oh I remember autumn seasons in my life that turned to winter in one moment, one phone call or one hard day. Days when sweet music felt like fingers on the chalkboard or vinegar poured over soda on my soul. Even as the nights stay dark longer now I try to encourage my friend that each season will be followed by another.

Hard seasons of adversity often produces the most fruit. It makes no sense that a howling winter season of the soul could produce more fruit than gentle breezes and sunny days. But it most often does. 

I speak to her that what she is doing is weighty and that she is important and God has not forgotten her even though the hands on her clock don't seem to be moving. 

Seasons are marked out by days and the moon risings, but the God who created it all is timeless and we are just time-worn while we wait. 

Seasons of the soul aren't as much about time as they are about us.  Just the word has a sense of bringing something to sweetness and maturity. And the eternal Father loves us too much to leave us where we are.


As we stumble through days, it's important that we understand our afflictions are never wasted. We have limited perspective. Spring, summer, fall and winter each have purpose and beauty and bear fruit expressed in different ways. The Word everlasting says that 'we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.' So we seek God and give Him thanks for seasons of burning bright and of clinging and being unfazed because what we do with today may be the fruit that we harvest tomorrow.

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© Rhonda Quaney