Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What a friend...

I'm sitting at the dining room table, catching up on some work and trying to savor my cup of coffee.  There's no school today and I am steeling myself for the inevitable nonstop bickering between my kids.  The two oldest are up, playing in Noah's room until they migrate into their playroom.  I hear Noah, frustrated with the drawing activity on his Leapster, proclaim, "Zoe! I'm trying to draw you a Zebra but I just cant do it!"  You see, little brother knows his sister's favorite animal has always been a Zebra.  He's trying so hard to do something nice for her.  Zoe, with patience that would rival most adults, responds like this,"That's okay.  Maybe you should try to draw something you know how to draw, like a dog.  You draw great dogs."  Just like that, Noah's frustration melts away.

I marvel at the relationship my kids have with one another.  They bicker so much.  They yell, fight, sometimes hit (always an "accident" of course), and make one another cry more than any two people I know.   However, they also comfort, soothe, encourage, and support one another in ways that warm this mom's heart.  The picture below is one of my all time favorites.  I had been trying to get a good picture of the kids in their Fourth of July outfits.  Zoe was not feeling it.  She was upset and frustrated about something I obviously didn't understand.  Noah probably didn't understand either.  However, his reaction to his sister was different than that of an aggravated mother.  He grabbed her in a huge, genuine hug, and her reaction was just picture perfect.  With that act, that love he showed her, Noah was able to turn the day around for all of us.

Our church is in the middle of a sermon series on friendship so I've been thinking a lot about what makes a good friend.  Honestly folks, good friends are hard to come by.  There aren't always very many people with whom we feel completely comfortable around.  People that take us as we are, "wart's and all" and love us unconditionally.  People who are honest and loving at the same time.

Zach and I understand that the path we've chosen in life, being a pastor in the United Methodist Church, means that we will move probably more often than we will like.  I worry sometimes about how this lifestyle will affect our children.  Seeing moments like I witnessed this morning, my kids truly being each other's best friends, eases my heart somewhat.  I think we would all consider ourselves blessed indeed to have a friend like they have found in one another.

May we also take the time to consider, "How have I been a friend to someone lately."  What act of genuine love and support have you shown to someone recently?  I know I could take a lesson from my kids today.

Blessings to you and yours, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

FAQs, Bechtold style

Zach and I recently returned from a wonderful trip to celebrate our 10 year anniversary that will happen in September.  We have dubbed it our "tiniversary" since tin is the traditional gift for 10 years.  We have received alot of questions from friends and strangers about this trip that I thought I would address here.

1.  How could you afford to do this trip?  Or, the more common but less of a question: "Must be nice to be able to afford it."  Since Zach and I have been married we have only taken a handful of vacations.  Nearly all have been baseball related and the longest one we took was for three days.  We usually stay in questionable hotel accommodations and we watch every penny we spend.  Since we started planning our honeymoon, which was to Santa Fe, we agreed that for our ten year anniversary we would try and do something big.  So, about two years ago, we started planning.  We put back nearly every extra dollar we received, either through an unexpected job, or money we received at Christmas and birthdays.  In September we officially booked the cruise and we were able to make payments.  Our flights, which we also booked early, we used our tax refund to purchase.  That, coupled with my incredible "cheapness" enabled us to be able to afford this wonderful trip.  It wasn't luck, it was work and conscious effort on our parts to make sacrifices to be able to afford it.

2.  How could you leave your kids for that long?  It was hard, trust me.  I am grateful to have a wonderful set of in-laws who were able to watch our kids for that long.  There were many moments during our trip that I was racked with guilt and worry for leaving my kids.  We were also unable to be in contact with them much which made it harder.  However, with everything that our daily lives encompass: school, work, church, kids, family, etc., we need this time together.  I loved the moments and experiences we were able to share together, Zach and I.  So many memories were made that are priceless.  Also, for someone like me, who has never been out of the country, I treasured this experience with travel.  I was able to check many things off my bucket list that at times, I was quite emotional about it.  I kept thinking, what if we had kept putting this trip off, to when we thought it was "more convenient" and maybe missed having this experience at all?

3.  What was your favorite part of the trip?  This is a tough one.  I asked Zach this question and he said that his was visiting Vatican City, more specifically St. Peter's Basilica.  He said, "It's amazing to think I'm standing on such where many Popes have walked.  Where Peter was crucified."

There's Zach's feet, in the purple chucks, standing where the Pope has walked.

No doubt about it, that is cool.  As for the Basilica, no words can describe the beauty of that place.  You walk in and your draw drops.  You think you know what to expect, but you just cant.


For me, it's hard to pin down the best moment.  Rome was awesome.  Malta and Sicily were amazingly beautiful.  I got to walk on the beach in Corsica.  The ship was lovely, the service was perfect, and the food divine.  What's not to love?

4.  What was your least favorite part of the trip?  Hands down it would be trying to find the hotel in Barcelona.  Here's a tip, don't try to save money when trying to get around a place like Barcelona, just go for the cab.  We went with a bus then the metro. Never again.  Taxi all the way.

5.  What cruise line did you go with?  We went with Royal Caribbean and I would highly recommend it.  We were on the Vision of the Seas which isn't a huge ship but large nonetheless.  The service was impeccable and we seriously have no complaints about anything about the ship.  

I mean, two desserts each!  What's not to love??

6.  Would you do it again? YES.  In fact, we would do this exact same cruise again.  There's so much to see in this world and a day at each of the ports was simply not enough.  The only thing we would change is we would like some friends or family to go with us and share the experience.  Not to mention, sometime our "selfies" were a little difficult to pull off and some willing hands to help us out with pictures would be nice.

See what I mean, that bleached out part behind us is the Trevi Fountain.

I'm going to begin now to save those dollars.  Who wants to join us?

Sunset view from the ship.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Taking control

As any mother of more than one child can attest to, your kids arguing with one another can be a major issue in your household.  If my oldest two children are in the same place for more than a minute, they are arguing.  Mostly it stems from my seven year old believing she knows everything and my four year old saying things just to make her mad.  I am constantly reminding Zoe that she cant control what others do, she can only control her reaction.  In frustration I'll lament,  "Why can't you just let it go?"  Obviously the sky isn't green, he's just saying that because he knows it makes her mad.  That's what little brothers do.  She has to be right, she has to set him straight, and the arguing continues until there are tears or I step in to separate them.

It's easy to get my mom voice and lecture my children about letting go of the little things and taking control of our own reactions.  It comes naturally to me to sit my daughter down and remind her that being right isn't the most important thing we can do.  When it comes to living what I teach, that's another matter.

I've been slapped by the realization that I have let certain people steal my joy.  I has hit with daunting clarity recently at a Bible Study that I have held on to criticisms I have received in the past, in some cases, the distant past, and it has colored the perception I have of myself and my ability to do certain things.  I have allowed those negative people and thoughts to define a part of who I am, or, at the very least, of who I think I am.  I have let my desire to be right in some instances damage my relationships with certain people.  I have done that, no body else. 

With new insight comes a new challenge.   How do I let go of years of hanging on to my bitterness?  How do I truly forgive, down in my heart, where it counts?  How do I refuse to let other people define me?

Friends, I honestly don't know, but I'm working on it.  Something that has helped me in ways I would never of guessed is to intentionally focus on the good in others.  I'm talking, everyone I come into contact with.  I try to think of something I admire about that person with every encounter.  By seeing something positive in other people, I'm more easily able to see the positive things within myself.  By focusing on a person's good quality, I'm less likely to get annoyed by the little things.  By trying to enjoy the presence of those I come into contact with, I find it easier to put myself into their shoes, to understand why they may say or do hurtful things.  By doing each of these things, I find it easier, in most cases, to voice my opinion without major conflict arising over differences.

My family, with Zach's guidance, has made a mantra of "Love God, Love others, reach out."  I remind my children that when we show love to others, especially those who annoy us or hurt us, we are truly showing love to God.  It's so hard sometimes, and sometimes it's even harder to love ourselves.  

I can not control others.  I can only control myself.  It's a daily challenge, one that I fail at constantly, but I pray daily to see change.  I pray that by through my actions, I am teaching my children what it means to LOVE, and that I someday, I can honestly say that I practice what I preach.

 I would love to hear from you on this topic.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Negativity.  It's all around us.  Somedays I feel as if I'm drowning in negative thoughts, both my own and those belonging to others.  It's difficult at times to find something that we can truly be joyful about.  When we do, there are always those who try to take that joy away from you.  As Taylor Swift reminds us, "Haters gonna hate."  

What do you do to find joy?

I love Christmas.  This holiday evokes a sense of peace and happiness within me that few other things can duplicate.  Celebrating Christmas brings me joy.  It provides moments that I can enjoy with my family.  Christmas gives us opportunity to create traditions, to create memories.   Yet, people are trying to tell me how I can celebrate.  They are trying to tell me there are rules to be followed.  Love Christmas, but only this way, at this time.  They are trying to steal my joy.

Why?  Why do we let ourselves be bothered by things that aren't doing others harm?  My choosing to celebrate Christmas for more than 25 days does not hurt anyone.  Putting up our Christmas tree a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving does not rob you of that holiday.  Instead, for us, it gives just one more thing to be thankful for.  What a great gift we were given, why can't that be included in our Thanks giving?

This is just one example.  There are many ways, many times throughout the year, that we are faced with a decision.  Do we choose to let little things we don't particularly understand or care for bother us?  Bother us to the point where we steal another's joy?

Finding times and ways to rejoice is hard enough.  Don't let yourself be the reason somebody else's joyful heart is extinguished.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:4-9

Let's try together to be a light to all in this dark, dark world.

From my family, to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas.

I realize that there are many of you that have reasons that make this holiday a particularly difficult time.  Please take no offense to this rant of mine.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ramblings of a Simple Mom

For those of you who know me, and for those of you who have read this blog before, you probably know that I have pretty definite opinions on a lot of things.  Sometimes my opinions are appreciated, most of the time they are not.  I'm slowly learning to become okay with that, working hard to keep my mouth shut most of the time.

I'm also a mom. And a Christian. And, for several years, I was an employee in the church.  You put all three of those together and it creates a combination of experiences that make it hard for me to keep my mouth shut in certain areas.  

It's difficult being a parent.  Social media has made it more difficult.  I constantly see posts from other moms, on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or what have you, with activities they are doing with their child, or are planning to do with their child.  I have been guilty of thinking to myself, "I'm a terrible mother.  Most days we just are trying to make it to bedtime without loosing it."  I don't believe I'm alone in that.  The other day I came across a post on Facebook that was something like "50 activities to keep your 1 year old entertained."  My first thought was "I'm supposed to be entertaining my one-year old?"  This thought was followed by a flash of mom guilt.  Then I looked at my baby, toddling around the house, pulling all the magnets off the refrigerator, and decided she was doing a pretty good job entertaining herself.

It's considered a bad word in our house to say that you are "bored."  When I was growing up, my mom would tell us "Only boring people get bored."  When my seven year old uses that word, which she has learned to not use it often, I immediately give her all sorts of ideas of things she can do to occupy her time: clean her room, read a book, sweep the floors, etc.

When I see posts like the one I referenced above, it frustrates me.  What is with our culture that makes us feel like we need to entertain our kids all the time?  So many kids are growing up, not knowing how to play, to explore, to sit quietly.  As I type this, my four year old is in his room, quietly coloring.  Occasionally we will do a special little project, but I love that he can spend a day entertaining himself.  No mom guilt here.

It's okay for our children to learn to sit quietly.  I posted a link on Facebook this morning to a post entitled "Sunday School is killing the church."  This post discussed the danger of having children in a service separate from the adults, never learning what it means to be a part of the Body.  I have always felt very strongly about this topic.  As a mom, I want my kids there beside me.  I want them to learn the liturgy, to sit still, to listen, things that many of our young adults struggle with.  They will learn, they will form opinions, and hopefully, when they are older, participating in church will be a part of their lifestyle.  Hopefully, they will also learn, that church can be fun, at times, and those times that may not be labeled as "fun" can be very fulfilling.

Thanks for sticking with me through my ramblings.  May you find joy in the simple things.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tears happen...

I've been anticipating this week for a while now.  Why?  School started!   Don't get me wrong, I love having my kids at home and I love being able to stay home with them.  However, school starting means Zoe gets to be around other kids, something my little social bug needs.  School means getting into a routine and having days with purpose.  School means quieter mornings and no arguing for several hours.  School means Zoe gets an opportunity to meet and make friends in this new town, this new neighborhood, this new school.

I thought I was prepared.  I thought I anticipated those things that could go wrong and dampen the excitement of the first day of school.  Silly mom...  All it took was a shoe that didn't fit right, then a brush that was missing.  Soon my happy, excited little girl was in tears.  It took all we had to try and get those tears to stop, and when we finally succeeded they started back up again when Zoe thought she might be late on her first day.  Finally Zach took a weepy girl and they started the walk to school, leaving an emotional and sad mother behind.  Sad because my girls first morning back to school was rougher than it should of been.  Sad because, for the first time, I didn't get my "back to school" pictures.  Sad because, with the drama, I didn't get to properly say my "goodbyes" and "have a great first day" like I wanted to.  I felt like I failed my daughter.

I was eager to go and pick up my new second grader and see how her day ended up.  She had a good day.  She made a new friend.  Her teacher was nice.  "She was very good today," her teacher said.  "She's a quiet little girl, isn't she?"

What??  Zoe? Quiet?  Um, no....  I've never, ever, known her to be quiet.  It occurred to me then, that we hadn't acknowledged enough how difficult the move and all that it entails has been on her.  Zoe has always been our resilient child, the one we never worried about fitting in with others.  She is sensitive, cries easily, so it never really occurred to me that she may have been scared or nervous.  She would always tell us if she were, so this time I never thought about it.  Perhaps the tears weren't because of not liking the shoes or fear of being late, but stemmed from something else.  Something I hadn't anticipated from this child.

My little girl is growing up.  She is coming out of the stage where I knew always what she was thinking, when she was scared, because she would tell me.  Sigh.  Parenting just got a little bit harder.

We did take Zoe to the bookstore for her "back to school book."  She picked out another Junie B. Jones book.  She was happy, for a while.  The stress of the day came back again later and she had a melt down of emotions.  This morning was a little better.  Things still weren't as smooth as we would like, that will take time I guess.  I will have to remind myself often to be more aware of the things she's not telling us.  Both Zach and I need to be better at seeing the whole picture, try to see it how Zoe sees it.

Isn't that what we always need to be doing?  Seeing all people through eyes without boundaries, to try and see what they aren't showing us, to better understand why they react the way they react?  We never stop trying to figure things out, do we?

 Her Daddy finally was able to coax a smile from her.

Book time!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Life as we know it.

It's been a while since I've made the time to sit down and blog, but for good reason.  We have been in our new home for about 3 weeks now.  We are, for the most part, settled in and adjusting to this new place.  We get asked often how we are enjoying being here, and I can honestly say we love it!  The new church we are at has gone above and beyond to make us feel welcomed.  The entire first week we were here we had meals provided for us.  I didn't even go grocery shopping until the fourth day we were here!  Yes, life is pretty good here and I am very much looking forward to see what the future holds for us.

On a related note, let me tell you all what happened to me yesterday.  From the beginning:

As any mother can attest, Sunday's can be hard.  I can't, for the life of me, get all five of us in a routine that makes getting ready for church easier.  I try very hard to go the entire morning not raising my voice, but I just don't always make it.  Why do the kids move so slow?  Where do all the shoes disappear to on Sunday mornings?  Why does that cowlick pick Sundays to be the most stubborn and pronounced?  The struggle is real, folks.  Regardless, we did make it out the door and to church on time for the kids to go to Sunday school, with little to no permanent scarring.

For worship we enjoy having our kids sit with us.  We feel it helps to teach the kids that it's okay and necessary to learn to sit still and quietly.  Zach took part in the service so I sat with our kids alone.  At one point, Ryann hit her head on the pew and began crying.  I told the other two to stay there and I got up to take her out.  I am almost to the back of the sanctuary when I realize Noah has tagged along.  Somehow, within the 2.5 seconds I left them, his sister had found a way to seriously offend him.  Sigh.  When the closing song begins, Noah, Ryann and I make our way back to our seat.  Jeez, who was sitting here?  Animal crackers strewn about, colors on the floor, two bulletins seemed to have multiplied to countless pieces of paper.  Sigh, again.

With Zoe's help we get everything picked up and gathered.  I grab my purse, Ryanns diaper bag, the church bag, and the baby, and head out to the new Prayer Garden where we were having a blessing and dedication along with taking communion.  Again, Zach is participating in this service so I stand there, in the sun, with my arms full of the above mentioned items.  The baby is hot, tired, hungry (despite the number of animal crackers she partially consumed during church) and is squirming to be put down.  Noah keeps wanting to stand with his Daddy in the front.  Zoe is bored and restless.  Double sigh.

Then, do you know what happened?  This sweet older woman, whom I'm sure I've met but can't remember her face in the sea of faces I've encountered these past few weeks, witnessed my plight from across the garden and made her way to me.  "Can I please help you by holding your purse and bags for you?"  I'm not sure what she thought of my expression, but I felt overwhelmed with relief and gratefulness. "YES!" I practically shouted it.  "Thank you soooo much."  She held my belongings, literally taking a burden from my shoulders, allowing me to enjoy the moment a bit more, to take communion without struggling.

One small, little gesture.  It meant so much to me.

Being part of the church for most of my life, I have heard it countless times: "How can we get young families in the church? How do we reach the millennials?"

Here's my answer:  I couldn't care less about the type of music you play, the clothing your congregants wear, the type of seating, if the pastor robes up or not.  I have enough struggles and worries to let those types of things bother me.  I want to be a part of a place that shows me and others the Love of Christ.  If you want to get young, busy, stressed out families in your church, then love them.  Easy as that.  If you see a young mother struggling with her kids, offer to help. Say something encouraging.  Love her.  If you know a single mother who worries about her car making it to work, to school, to the babysitters, then fix it for her.  Take away that burden.  Replace it with love.

I've been accused in the past of looking unapproachable.  It angers and saddens me when I've heard these comments, always from people I've gone to church with, because I want to ask them, when you see me looking like that, is Zach there? Do I have kids hanging off me?  Have you given any thought to what may have happened in our home, just to get us there?  I'm counting it a victory to just be here sometimes, I'm sorry if I don't appear happy and carefree all the time.

So, moral of the story and of this rant, be aware of what other people may be going through.  Offer to help, even if it's a small, little gesture.  Even a word of encouragement or understanding can go a long way to show other's what LOVE means.