Friday, February 26, 2010

God, BE with them.

My friend Julie died this morning. She was only 39 years old and has a husband and two young children. I haven't seen Julie face-to-face in a few years, but I used to spend a lot of time with her when we lived in the same city. She has been battling cancer for a long time now, and her body just couldn't do it any longer. And so God called her spirit home this morning.

I have been unable to control my tears as I think about Mark, Major, and Addi. Mark will no longer get to sit and talk with his wife, his best friend. And Major and Addi won't be able to go to their mom for advice or even a hug ever again. This is such a painful reality!

I've been thinking for some time now, as we knew that Julie's earthly journey was coming to an end, about how I would be feeling and what I would be thinking if I were in her place. On one hand, I would be thankful that I was given some time to say my good-byes. But on the other hand--the one that seems 5,000 times bigger than the "one hand"--I think I would really be battling anger and confusion. I just could not imagine looking at my children and knowing that I would never even see them reach their tenth birthday or graduation or marriage. I would miss the vast majority of their lives, and it just seems wrong.

My heart cannot take imagining my life with Kevin ending so soon. We need each other; we're a team. We're supposed to grow old together and make a bazillion memories along the way. Sure, we promised to love each other "till death do us part," but we were certain that meant when we were in our late 90s.

I confess that I battle these feelings of justice and entitlement, and not just for myself. As I have been going through this with the Mangrems (admittedly from a distance), I have felt such a wide range of emotions. Mark and Julie have such strong faith in our God; they have trusted Him even at the most difficult times. I prayed for them so often, but the only prayer that ever came was "God, be with them."

Not in the least bit coincidental is the fact that I have heard and read a few different times lately about how God doesn't promise us an easy or safe or fair life. But He does promise to be with us throughout every single moment. He doesn't leave us to fend for ourselves. He grieves with us and nods His head in that "I know" sort of way when we cry to Him that This is so hard, and we just don't understand! He doesn't always give us answers to our questions, but He does hold us while we ask them.

As I continue to pray for Julie's family and friends, as well as some of my other family and friends who are going through some difficult times, my prayer will continue to be this simple one--God, be with them. Because nothing else can provide the comfort and peace that He does through His presence. And I trust the words in Scripture that tell me that when I don't know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will interpret my groanings and will intercede for me.

God gave us these emotions--the sadness, the anger, the confusion, and even the need to question His ways. And I don't think it hurts His feelings. I think He welcomes the conversations as He offers to embrace us in our grief. And then He offers to relieve our burden by telling us that He doesn't expect us to understand but does want us to trust Him, knowing that neither of these comes easily.

He is with us.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Assuming God is a Morning Person and Satan is a Night Owl

This post over on Jonathan Acuff's blog, "Stuff Christians Like" really resounds with me, a non-morning person. Very funny.

To order Jonathan's book, visit

The Gift of Giving: Instilling Generosity in Your Child

A practical article and a list of ten ways to teach your children about giving.

My article on this topic is now available through Churchmouse Publications.

The Long Saturday

What did Jesus' disciples think about on that long Saturday after the day of his crucifixion?

My essay on this topic is now available through Churchmouse Publications.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lauren Edens and Tanzania

My friend, Lauren Edens, is living and working in Tanzania with an organization called Courage to Be You. They are working to free young girls from being sex slaves and are building a home for these girls to be rehabilitated and cared for in a safe environment. Please watch Lauren's video. At the end of the video, you will have a chance to vote for it. If they win the contest, the guy that shot the video will receive $10,000 to use to make a full documentary. This would help continue to raise awareness of this world-wide problem.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Death and Dying

Right now I have several friends and family members who are battling cancer or some other life-threatening illness, and I am reminded of just how short our time on earth is. Some days--the really hard ones--I'm okay with that, because I know that eternity with my God will be perfection. No more sadness and pain. Only God in all His glory. Forever.

Still, there are other days when I am especially enjoying this God-given experience called my life, and I don't really want it to change. Maybe it's just because I'm comfortable; it's familiar to me. Because of this, however, I am susceptible to becoming complacent, and it often takes the threat of the death of a loved one to shake me out of this.

But isn't that threat always there? At any moment in time, our lives on this earth can end. Some people are given an advanced warning through illness and are able to say their good-byes, though they are said through great pain. Others are taken so swiftly--and often much too soon, in our opinions. Many deaths seem senseless, that they could have easily been prevented. These are the hardest to wrap our minds around.

I don't like to dwell in the subject of death, but I do think it's healthy to visit it from time to time. It makes me ask myself what I'm really doing with my life and helps keep things in perspective, which is what people always say when someone dies. And then a few days later, we're back to complaining about the cell phone bill or our jeans fitting too tightly or about how much it's rained. Why is it so easy for us to do this?

My heart is grieving for those whose time on earth is coming to an end and for those to whom they are closest, because they're really the ones that suffer. When my husband or I take a trip without the other one, it's always the one who is left behind that has the hardest time with being apart.

It's a shame that it takes separation for us to fully appreciate each other.

Guide to Lent

I just received this link to a free downloadable guide to Lent from Evergreen Community in Portland, via Steven Dilla on Twitter, and wanted to share:


*The Book of the Shepherd is a fable that, quite honestly, didn't capture my attention or my heart. In fact, I was more interested in the story behind the story--that Joann Davis found an old book in a broken-down house that she had purchased after the former owner, an elderly professor, died sitting at his desk. He had left instructions that all contents of the house should go to the next homeowner. On the old book, he had made a note to have it translated one day.

So to fulfill the old professor's dream, Joann Davis found a way to have the story translated and now published. I think that the message attempting to be delivered through this fable is a wonderful one--one of love and forgiveness and mercy. However, the synopsis on the book's jacket is what helped me really understand what the story was about. Then again, I've never been a great lover of fables.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the product mentioned above for free by The Ooze Viral Bloggers in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Four Eyes

I hadn't had my eyes checked in ten years, so it was time. I went to the optometrist's office yesterday morning, and everyone who worked there was so nice. The first lady performed the preliminary tests on me, and I did well, with the exception of being unable to suppress my startled "Oh!" with each puff of air that was shot into my eyes.

Next I was taken into an examination room, where another lady handed me a big plastic spoon to cover my left eye with. Then she told me to look straight ahead and tell her what the letters were when I saw them. I said okay and waited. There was an awkward silence, so I started wondering if I was looking in the wrong place. As I glanced around at other walls in the room, she finally asked, "You don't see that?" I got really worried really quickly, and then she turned around to look for herself at the wall and started laughing. "Oh, it's not even on!"

I was greatly relieved when a giant E then appeared on the wall, and I could clearly read it. The lady and I both laughed. And breathed a little easier.

After it was all said and done, I was told that I have great vision, just some trouble focusing. This is probably pretty telling of me on a few levels. The doctor gave me a prescription for some reading glasses and told me it would be a lot cheaper just to get some at the pharmacy. So I did. Then I went to the fabric store to buy some, well, fabric, and my total came to $20.20. I laughed a little to myself at this ironic number but decided not to share this humorous moment with the lady behind the register, because she probably wouldn't think it was as funny as I did.

After I picked up my youngest daughter at Mother's Day Out, I asked her if she wanted to see what I got. She said yes. So I put on my new glasses and turned around to get her response. She tilted her head a little to the side and made a weird face, which didn't encourage me. Then we went to pick up my other two children, and I asked them if they wanted to see what I got. They said yes. So I put on the glasses and turned around for their response. Caleb raised his eyebrows and said, "Huh?," while Callie tilted her head a little to the side and made a weird face. I'd seen this response before. Oh well. So my children aren't fans on my glasses yet.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Granddaddy

Granddaddy and I share a birthday--March 5th. He is 50 years my senior, and I was named after his mother, Carrie Elizabeth. I love these connections I have to him. When I was little, he used to take me on special birthday dates. One year we got all dressed up and went to see Swan Lake, which was my first ballet to attend. Eight years old, I wore a lavender and white dress with matching barrettes and ribbons in my hair. Granddaddy, dressed all in gray, gave me a corsage to wear, which made me feel so grown up. We have a picture of him helping me put on my coat. It was a very big night for me.

On other birthdays, he would take me out to eat and sometimes shopping for a gift. Once he bought me a set of those really big headphones that had a radio built right into them (you know, the kind that make you look like an air traffic controller). This gift ran a close second in my favorite-ness to the Kodak Disc camera he bought me one year. Oh, how cool was I then?! A third grader with her very own camera! Right after we bought it, we went to McDonald's and sat across from each other and took pictures of one another.

As we've gotten older, and I've moved away from Memphis, we haven't spent very many birthdays together. Now we just send cards to each other and sometimes call when March 5th rolls around. That doesn't make it any less special to me, though. I write both of our birthdays together on my wall calendar, and I think about him all day long. This man is so special to me.

I have yet to encounter anyone who has stories like Granddaddy does. At 85 years old, he can still remember and retell stories of his growing up in Zion, Illinois and in the Bronx (I've always said he's the first Yankee I ever met.). Baseball was a big part of his life. In fact, he pitched in the Minor League for a while. Apparently he was incredibly accurate. When he was in the Army, he worked as some sort of clerk and got to help assign men to different posts. Given this role, he took it upon himself to assign all the good baseball players to the same post--his--so that they could all be on the same team when the troops played against each other.

Although baseball was a big part of Granddaddy's life, music was even bigger. It still is. He has played the clarinet, saxophone, and lots of other instruments during his lifetime and has spent years and years directing various bands and orchestras. I don't know how many times he has retired from conducting, only to be coaxed back into it shortly after. It didn't take much. He's as bad as Brett Favre.

I took after Granddaddy for a couple of years in middle school, when I played the clarinet. Unfortunately, I didn't stick with it. I always felt like this disappointed him. After I gave up the clarinet, I took cello lessons for a year, which he paid for. Again, I didn't stick with it. Again, I felt like this disappointed him. Of course, now--just as he and my mother predicted--I regret not sticking with an instrument. I didn't even stick with piano. I can play a mean egg-shaker, though. And I'm decent on Guitar Hero. Yeah, disappointing.

When I was little, Granddaddy had a head full of hair. What I didn't know was that most of it was removable. I'll never forget the first time I realized this. We had just gotten to his house, and I hadn't seen him yet, because he was in the backyard cutting the grass. I went into the bathroom, and there I saw a styrofoam head that was sporting my grandfather's hair! Yeah, it freaked me out a bit. I'm not sure how I hadn't known about this earlier. I guess it just looked really natural to me, so I didn't question it. Several years later, he stopped wearing the toupee.

Various food items--Freshen-Up gum, black licorice, Cobb salad, chili, and root beer--will always make me think of Granddaddy. The Chicago Cubs, Bob Evans Restaurant, Charles Dickens, four-part harmony, and gray clothing are also things that I will forever associate with him. And copy machines. Why? Because this man loves his copier. You see, he has taken it upon himself to be the Petreman family historian. He has a room in his apartment designated for this purpose, and he has stacks of letters, pictures, diaries, and such from various members of the family. And what does he do with these? He makes copies of them. At least three of each. Then he compiles the copies into three-ring binders, which will be passed down to my mother, my uncle, and myself. Why me? Because I shall inherit the role of family historian one day. I'm pretty excited about this, because I think it's all so fascinating. Also, Granddaddy has already done all the hard work; I just have to fill in the blanks when children are born and such from here on out. I guess I'll have to invest in a copier, too.

Wesley Roy "Pete" Petreman--a man with firm convictions; a man who tells it like it is and does not believe in sugar-coating anything; a man who would drive across town just to judge his granddaughters' doll show or buy something from their lemonade stand; a man who is proud of his Swedish heritage; a man who can turn any group of people into a choir or a small orchestra; a man who played "Fox and Geese" with his grandchildren in the snow; a man who is generous and helpful and kind, yet stern; a man with whom I share a birthday, a lineage, and a love for writing. You are a grand man, and I am so glad to know you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The 23rd Psalm: A Mother's Reflections

While reading through the 23rd Psalm, I saw a wonderful comparison between how we care for our children and the way God cares for us.

This essay is now available through Churchmouse Publications.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Enemy of Perfection

I just read a beautiful article by Maria Baer in RELEVANT magazine. It is convicting yet freeing. Take the time to read it.


I'm not like a lot of girls, in that I don't really get all excited about shoes. I have my basic pairs of brown shoes, black shoes, tennis shoes, and flip-flops. Even my flip-flops are boring. I really only ask one thing of my shoes: comfort. Which is why I wear my tennis shoes nearly every day.

That being said, I confess that there are actually a few pairs of shoes that I have had in my lifetime that have stood out to me. They seem to have strong memories attached to them. Maybe it's because they went beyond my basic shoe wardrobe.

When I was probably six years old, I had a pair of shiny red vinyl boots. I can't imagine that my mother actually bought these for me, so I have no idea where they came from. I just remember liking them. I'm pretty sure I could never pull off wearing them now, but my six-year-old self probably had no problem with it.

I remember the absolute loudest pair of shoes I've ever owned. They were appropriately dubbed my "clip-clop shoes." The soles were made out of wood, and they had only one band that went across the top of my foot to hold them on, which didn't work very well. I have vivid memories of clip-clopping my way from my first grade classroom down the white tiled hallway to the restroom and back, feeling teachers' eyes on my shoes with every echoing step.

My favorite pair of tennis shoes--ever--were my purple Kangaroo tennis shoes. Do you remember Kangaroos? There are exactly three reasons why these were my favorite tennis shoes of all time:
1. They had a little zippered pocket on one side of each shoe, and I carried my boyfriend's second grade picture in one pocket and his third grade picture in the other.
2. They came from my father's sporting goods store (Bevell Sports Inc., which was in existence for all of about one year), so they felt special.
3. Did I mention they were purple?

My first pair of high heels. I am confident that the only reasons my mother ever let me get these shoes were because I begged and because they were free. My father was in seminary at the time, and there was a huge garage sale, of sorts, for seminary students and their families. My greatest find: these deep purple (Okay, so I had a thing for purple.) high-heeled shoes that perfectly fit my ten-year-old feet. I can barely walk in heels as an adult, so I can only imagine how much trouble I had walking in these things as a pre-teen. I think I only wore them a few times, one of which was the time I wore them to church. A woman who was well-known for her flair for wearing really loud and vibrant (artistic?!) clothing came up to me and declared the wonderfulness of my shoes. As much as I loved them, too, I decided not to wear them anymore after that.

My cleats. I played softball throughout elementary school, junior high, and high school. I was very proud of the fact that I was on the Varsity softball team as an eighth grader. (We didn't have a junior high team. Shhhhh . . . ) I wasn't the greatest player, but I was decent. And wearing cleats made me feel even more legitimate. I managed to hit a few homeruns during my career. I also received a broken jaw from getting whacked in the side of the face with the ball while stealing third. Also very legitimate.

One of the loveliest parts of having a blog is that I get to write about whatever in the world I feel like writing about, even if it's old shoes.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Book Review: PLAIN PURSUIT don't usually read Christian romance novels, but I decided to give *Plain Pursuit by Beth Wiseman a try. This story is about a woman, Carley, who is forced to take a break from her job and life and hurts in Houston and chooses to spend some time with her friend who has married into an Amish family. I think the fact that it is set in the Pennsylvania Amish country is what intrigued me about this book. I enjoyed getting a closer look at and understanding of the Amish culture, and I can see why Carley became drawn to this way of life.

The story drew me in pretty quickly, and I found the book to be an easy and enjoyable read. Mrs. Wiseman's descriptions of her characters and settings make the images easy to imagine. Although I found the plot to be somewhat predictable, I didn't feel disappointed by this. The love story is sweet, and the Amish way of living in community is inspiring.

To order this book, visit

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”