Friday, November 30, 2012

The Hot Chocolate War

This isn't my typical post, but here is a cute story I wrote for my kids school "winter" party last year.  Thought I would share...

The Hot Chocolate War

December, 2008, that was the year it all began.  December 16th, 2009 to be exact.  It’s hard to believe it was only 3 years ago, that dreaded day. Who knew that our lives would be changed forever?  You see it was exactly three years ago today that the Hot Chocolate War began.

It started out innocently enough.  There were only 9 days left until christmas, and everyone was drinking hot chocolate 24-7;  Santa, the elves, the reindeer, even the snowmen.  Everyone was in full christmas frenzy trying to get everything ready for the big day and they were ALL drinking the stuff like it was going out of style, who knew it really was?

It was the elves who noticed it first, probably because they are the ones who are in charge of distribution.  But the truth of the matter is a cup of hot chocolate will pass through a lot of hands before it reaches its ultimate destination.  There are of course the elves who are in charge of making it, getting it into containers and distributing it in a timely manner.  But I bet you didn’t know that Santa is in charge of tasting and sampling every batch of hot chocolate that is made.  And when Santa is too busy with all his other Santa stuff to do the taste testing, production can fall behind schedule.  The reindeer (when they’re not playing reindeer games) are the ones who are tasked with taking the hot chocolate from its distribution center to the manufacturer or the middleman.  That middleman is the snowmen.  Now snowmen, I’m sure you know, are notoriously good businessmen.  No one can wheel and deal like a snowman. The next time you run into a snowman, go ahead and try to negotiate with him.  It’s impossible!  They just stand there and act like they can’t hear you until you finally give them what they want. Oh well, what are you gonna do, they’re snowmen. But I digress, you want to know about the Hot Chocolate War.

So it was December 16, 2008.  Only 9 days until Christmas and Santa ordered an elf to bring him another cup of hot chocolate. So all the usually malay ensued, Santa’s helper elf got on the miniphone (it’s kind of like a megaphone, only elf-size) and hollered to the waiter elf to bring Santa a hot chocolate.  The waiter elf grabbed the nearest reindeer and hightailed it to the kitchen where the kitchen elf was busy haggling with a snowman.  The waiter elf ordered up a hot chocolate for Santa, and one for himself while he was at it, and one for his friend the reindeer who had brought him all the way to the kitchen.    And while the kitchen elf was fixing Santa, the waiter elf, and the reindeer a hot chocolate, he decided to fix one for himself, oh and the snowman, after all it was almost christmas.  And then he remembered that he had promised Rudolph (you know Rudolph, the most famous reindeer of all?) that he would bring him and his buddies some hot chocolate right before the snowman had arrived.  So the elf poured out 15 cups of hot chocolate in all.  And then it happened, never in all the years of Christmas’s had this happened before! 

The Hot Chocolate Reserve Meter (the HCRM for short) dropped to the dangerously low level!  Santa Claus was almost out of hot chocolate!!  This was a catastrophe!  Well, the kitchen elves immediately got on the phone with the elves in production and demanded to know what was going on!  The elves in production blamed it on the reindeer and said they were taking too long in transit to get the hot chocolate to the snowmen.  The reindeer said it was the snowmen’s fault, they were taking too long haggling about the transportation prices. The snowmen decided it was Santa’s fault, he drank more hot chocolate than all the snowmen combined!     
Meanwhile Santa was still screaming for his hot chocolate.  So the elves delivered the hot chocolate, and the bad news. 
“We are almost out sir!”
“Out of what?” Santa asked.
“Hot Chocolate, sir.  We are almost out of hot chocolate!”
“WHAT!!!” Santa exclaimed, an edge of panic in his voice. 

As soon as the news of a Hot Chocolate shortage spread, chaos ensued.  Every elf, reindeer and snowman at the north pole ordered up some hot chocolate, hoping to get some before it ran out!  Well that dropped the HCRM to the critically low level and now people really started to panic! 

The kitchen elves were near exhaustion and decided they weren’t going to make one more cup of hot chocolate.  At almost the exact same time the snowmen tripled their prices, thinking they could really cash in on the demand.  The reindeer stopped ALL their reindeer games and instead of transporting the hot chocolate they started hoarding it away!!  Santa was so busy trying to maintain control that he had no time to do all the taste testing and production came to a standstill!

No hot chocolate was going out and the last few batches that had been sent for shipment the reindeer stashed away.  Any hot chocolate the snowmen had left on their shelves now cost way too much, even for Santa to afford, and the hot chocolate that was left in the reserve the elves refused to make for anyone.  The Hot Chocolate War had begun.

As the days got closer to the Christmas, the tension mounted.  The elves started throwing all their extra marshmallows at the snowmen.  They certainly didn’t need them for hot chocolate anymore since they could no longer afford to pay the high prices.  The snowmen went around breaking all the peppermint sticks that the reindeer had used to stir their hot chocolate and the reindeer were calling all the elves inappropriate names. Santa was at a loss, he really couldn’t function without hot chocolate.  The North Pole was in chaos, not the typical HO-HO-HO christmas chaos; but the everyone-is-getting-themselves-on-the-naughty-list kind of chaos.  It really was a miracle that christmas happened at all that year what with all the marshmallow throwing and name calling that was going on and NO HOT CHOCOLATE  to speak of!!

It’s been 3 years now and the Hot Chocolate War is still going on.  Production is almost non existent, the elves make only enough for themselves.  When Santa demands they make more, the reindeer stash it away instead of transporting it like they are supposed to. And when Santa cracks the whip at them, the snowmen still charge an arm and a leg for the stuff.  The Hot Chocolate Reserve Meter has remained at the critically low level for 3 years.  Santa finally had to ration every one to only 1 cup of Hot Chocolate a day.  THAT”S IT!! ONLY ONE!!!  No one can survive long term on only one cup of hot chocolate a day!  So I have decided to do something about it!

You see, I am one of the elves from production and I have a plan.  But I needed some help so I called in Santa and Rudolph (he is the only reindeer I trust) and Frosty (he has ALL the snowmen under his thumb).  I have been working day and night for too long to count now and I have quite a stash of Hot Chocolate, I just need Santa to taste test it.  Then Rudolph and I are going to spend the whole night delivering the Hot Chocolate to every elf, reindeer and snowman at the North Pole.  When they all wake up in the morning they will have more Hot Chocolate then they know what to do with!  Frosty has promised the snowmen will lower their prices back to the 2008 range.  And with all the hot chocolate that has been made the HCRM should finally hit the almost full level.  The Hot Chocolate War will be over!  And I wouldn’t be surprise if no one even bothers putting it in the history books!

The End

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Children Grow Up, Right Before Your Eyes

Today I had the tear-jerking joy of watching my children grow up before my eyes.  You see, today I sat down to write our annual Christmas letter.  

It's one of the few things on my to-do list I truly adore doing.  (Yes I know I was supposed to give up to-do lists and focus more on relationships but this time of year that's just not gonna happen!) And so this morning I wrote out my list and started checking things off.  When I finally worked my way down to the Christmas letter I felt a smile deep down in my soul.  So I poured a cup of hot chocolate, put a movie on for JT and sat down at my computer fully expecting to enjoy the next hour.  And oh I did!

It is my own personal tradition to re-read each of our Christmas letters from the past years before I start on the current year.  I love this tradition.  Every year it makes me laugh and makes me cry as I watch my kids grow up right before my eyes.  And this year was no exception.  I once again wept when I read the letters from the year we lost my father-in-law and then my sister-in-law two short years later.  I laughed at the antics of my children reported each year.  My heart swelled with pride as I read year after year of how my husband has steadily provided for us, carefully balancing a demanding job while still putting family first.  It makes me smile as I realize how different and yet how similar each and every year is.  

Our house is still full of children and animals and chaos, I still breathe a sigh of relief (or exhaustion, I'm not sure which) once each child is tucked into bed at night.  But I am starting to see just how fast the time goes by.  My children are still young but they aren't as young as they used to be just a very short time ago.  As hard as it is to see them grow up I have loved watching the process.  Their questions and their conversations amaze me now and I love the people they are becoming.  But I do miss the little ones they used to be.  And each year when I re-read the Christmas letter I get to experience it all over again.  

One day the time will come when my house is quiet, too quiet.  The kids will leave, the cat and the dog will pass away, the chaos will cease.  I have tears in my eyes just thinking about that day.  I will sit at my computer, with my cup of hot chocolate and I will read about all the fun we had year after year.  And I will watch all over again, my children grow up right before my eyes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

SO Much to Be Thankful For

I remember driving around in the car with my college roommate.  I think maybe we were coming back from a class at one of the magnet schools because I can distinctly remember the road we were on and it wasn't our usual drive.  It was my sophomore year and this friend and I weren't particularly deep thinkers.  Most of our conversation consisted of what we were going to do that night, who we hoped to meet up with and what was on TV.  But on this occasion, out of the blue, she asked, "If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?"  

That was a deep question (at least for us), and it needed some clarifying.  Could I answer ANYTHING even if it wasn't actually possible or was I limited to what could be accomplished THAT day in Lawrence Kansas?  She opened the door wide open, "what is the one thing you want to accomplish before you die?"  Oh that's easy, "I would have a baby."  Not the typical answer for a soon to be college educated girl on a liberal campus.  But to me it was a no brainer.  It wasn't that I was just dying to be a mom.  I wasn't even seriously dating anyone at the time.  I had met the man I would some day marry, but we weren't "serious" yet.  To me having a child was a way to live forever so to speak, to pass on a legacy, maybe that sounds selfish, but at the age of 19 that's what I thought.

Having that child however didn't turn out be as easy as I thought it would be.  There were times early in our marriage that it seemed it would be that one dream I would never have.   There are many people who have no trouble getting pregnant and carrying perfectly healthy babies for 40 weeks.  That wasn't the case for us.   We lost our first two pregnancies.  No one knows why, there was no medical reason, just two unviable fetuses.  I really don't like those words.  

Last night I sat on the sofa next to the man I have loved for 18 years, surrounded by our 3 perfectly healthy children as we all watched a movie together.  It is moments like this, the everyday, nothing special moments that I treasure the most.  As I took a moment to look at each of the people God has given me to call my own, I thanked him for each and every one of them.   He answered that prayer I prayed back in college as a drove around with my roommate.  

This year, as every year, I am thankful for Erik, Isabella, Nate and JT.  They have given me a  joy that goes beyond words.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012


I get to speak in church this sunday!  I couldn't be more excited!  I treasure each and every opportunity I have to speak out in faith to people ready and willing to hear.  I am really, really excited for this opportunity and more nervous than I have been in a really, really long time.  Close to terrified in fact.

Did I mention I was speaking to middle schoolers?  YIKES!!

Now I have spent the last 15 years with kids.  Talking to them, playing with them and just hanging out.  I LOVE kids!  I have 3 of my own.  Even before I had kids I worked with kids.  I led a children's ministry for 4 years.  I worked in an urban school district for 5 years and then went into homes to work with special needs kids for 5 years after that.  But my focus, my experience, my expertise so to speak is with 3-5 year olds.  I have also logged a lot of hours with the 5-10 years olds. But middle schoolers, not so much!  

I have had the chance to speak on sunday mornings half a dozen times, but that has been to adults.  I know adults just about as much as I know 3-5 year olds.  They are respectful, they listen when you talk, they don't laugh unless you want them to, they don't play on their phone (usually) and they are fairly easy to entertain.  But middle schoolers?  They intimidate me.  

But I really desire to do this for God, to speak openly and publicly, to lead people to Christ.  So when the youth leader asked if I would do this I jumped at the chance.  And then he told me the sweet little topic I would be teaching on... The meaning of life.  Seriously?  Was he joking?  Not so much.

Apparently they are doing a series on simple answers to the big questions in life.  And no one had stepped up to do this topic yet.  Really? Shocking!

The question is "What is the meaning or purpose of Life?"  "Why are we here?"

It's a great question, one I'm sure kids ask.  I know adults do.  I know lots of adults who wonder why they are here, and what they are supposed to be doing.  It's a question I've asked myself a lot in the past few years.  

So what's the answer?  The Westminster Catechism says "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever."  That is the meaning of life.  Easy enough.

But what does that really mean?

In John 17 Christ is praying to the Father and he says, "I have brought you glory by completing the work you gave me to do."

That's how we bring glory to God, by completing the work he gave us to do.  Everyone, from the smallest child to the oldest adult, has something that God gave THAT person and THAT person ALONE to do.  No one else can do the thing that God wants YOU to do.  And you can not do the work God has already given someone else to do.  You glorify God by completing the work he gave YOU to do.  

So what is it God is asking you to do?  What is the work he desires for you to complete?

This sunday he has given me the work of speaking to a group of middle school kids, yikes!

Friday, November 9, 2012


There are lots of things I seem to be in denial about these days.

I am in denial about getting older (I thought they said you were as young as you think you are).

I am in denial about my natural hair color (I don't care what you say gray is not natural).

I am in denial about my new pant size (I'm pretty sure the entire industry changed their standards).

I am in denial about my upcoming term paper (how hard can 15 pages on righteousness, justification and salvation really be? it's not like people have spent their entire life trying to figure this stuff out...oh wait...)

I am in denial about fragility of life (I know horrible things happen and we are mortal people, but MY family, the dog included, is going to live forever.  My kids won't move away and we will all be together forever, and ever and ever and ever...)

There are lots of things I am in denial about.  

I recently read about Peter's denial.  Peter was a leader among the disciples, a rock and the pillar of the early Christian church.  He preached the first sermon after Jesus ascension on the day of Pentecost.  He led the church in Jerusalem.   He wrote 2 of the books of the New Testament and the Gospel of Mark came from Peter's preaching.  This was a man who KNEW and LOVED Christ, yet even he, in a dark moment, denied any knowledge of or relationship to Jesus, not once but 3 times!  Yes he more than made up for his mistake, yes Jesus forgave and Peter went on to do amazing things.  But if even THIS man denied Christ, I have to ask myself, have I?

I would like to say no,  I would never deny who I am in Christ.  I am a child of God, a daughter of the King.  I am fully devoted to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in all aspects of my life.  But if I'm being honest I have to ask, "Is that true?"

Webster's defines denial in a couple of different ways.  One the definitions says it is "the refusal of something requested or desired".  Have I ever refused to do something God has requested of me or desired for me to do? Absolutely.   Too often I choose NOT to listen to that voice inside of me asking me to reach out, go out of my comfort zone, do something that isn't "me".  WAY too often I deny God. It's yet one more thing I'm working on.  I am working on saying "yes" to those promptings instead of "no".  I am working on following instead of just going, hoping I am heading in the direction I am supposed to.  I am working on acting like a woman fully devoted to her Lord and Savior.  It's not easy.  But then again, he never said it would be, did he?  

I am still in a denial about a lot of things, but not this, not anymore.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Power of a Kind Word

For a "words of admiration" girl (that means kind words are my love language, they are how I feel affirmed and validated) there is nothing better than an unexpected compliment.  You may think I am bizarre but I can still remember a compliment I got 10 years ago from a simple acquaintance.  It was said in passing and I am sure she doesn't even remember saying it.  But it impacted me more than she will ever know.  I'm not saying I've thought about it constantly since then, but every once in a while it will come to mind and it ALWAYS makes me smile.  The idea that someone thinks "x" of me, has been fuel to a battered spirit more than once.

NEVER underestimate the power of a kind word.

And just as much as kind words fuel my spirit, harsh words devastate it.  It's not that I remember every harsh word ever spoken to me. God has blessed me with a memory that seems to favor only happy memories!  That being said, nothing ruins my day or my week more than hearing negative words.  Knowing I have let someone down, failed to meet their expectation or been talked about unkindly is a blow my sensitive ego has great trouble handling.  I know I shouldn't worry about what other's say and think, but it's still something I struggle with on a regular basis.  

NEVER underestimate the power of hurtful words.

Someone once told me it takes 10 positives to cancel out 1 negative.  We are programmed to focus on the bad things people say, rather than the good.  I don't know if that is true or not.  But I do know that THAT is a place where this girl would like to live!  A place where every time I feel beat down or under-appreciated there is someone waiting with 10 positive things to say!  I want to go there!

 I am surrounded by people every day, every where I go.  Some are strangers, some are friends, and some are people I dearly love.  I have hundreds of opportunities to reach out on any given day, to feed someone the words that will carry them through.  Maybe my words will go in one ear and out the other, or maybe they will be appreciated in the moment then quickly forgotten.  Or, maybe, just maybe, my words will impact someone far greater than I could ever imagine.  Maybe they will be thinking about that kind thing I said 10 years from now!

NEVER underestimate the power of a kind word.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Joy Comes in the Morning

My list of things to do today didn't even fit on one page.  Just looking at it made me overwhelmed.  So I did the one thing some would argue I definitely didn't have time for.  I opened my bible and read.  There was no way I was going to make it through this day without a serious dose of strength and peace from the one who has an infinite supply.  So I read.  

I read of Jesus talking to his disciples about his upcoming death.  He didn't tell them exactly what was going to happen.  He was vague, as he had a tendency to be with them.  Of course WE know what he was talking about.  Things are infinitely more clear when looking backward aren't they?  There are so many times in my life when the knowledge I have gained in retrospect would have been immeasurably helpful if it would have been foreknowledge.  But that rarely happens.  Instead we live our life, hopefully, getting smarter with each experience, understanding more the longer we live.  

Jesus tells his disciples "Now is your time of grief, but I will se you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy."  After the pain, comes the joy.  We know this... but it is SO hard to remember when you are in the midst of pain, as many of us are.  It is so hard to recognize that the pain will ease, the hurt will soften and joy will come again.  It will.  

Think of all the times in your life when you have hurt in your life.  Let's put that retrospective knowledge to the test.  Remember when the pain was sharp, real, unbearable.  Now think of the times AFTER that, when you found joy again.  When the pain lessoned and the sun began to shine.  The joy comes in the morning, after the darkest part of the night has passed.  

We know this because Jesus says it is so.  We know this because we have experienced this.  We know this because it is true.  The pain you are feeling right now, is real, it is sharp, and it hurts.  But it is not all there is.  Perhaps you are in the darkest of night right now, but remember the joy comes in the morning.