Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Runaway Bunny

Margaret Wise Brown’s classics “The Runaway Bunny” and “Goodnight Moon” have earned their place on millions of children’s bookshelves. It is difficult to pin down exactly why the stories are so enchanting.

Aha, because they are based on scripture.

In “The Runaway Bunny”, a bunny tells his mother that he will run away from her. She tells him that she will follow him wherever he may go. Clement Hurd’s enchanting illustrations show the mother rabbit as as she takes the form of the wind, a tree, and several other shapes. The boy bunny decides he might as well stay in his cozy home with his mommy who loves him.

As I read this to my toddler, the Psalm came back to me and I knew I was reading Brown’s interpretation, whether she knew it or not.

Psalms 139: 1 - 12
"1 O LORD, thou hast searched me and known me!
2 Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; thou discernest my thoughts from afar.
3 Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.
5 Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest thy hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, thou art there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there thy hand shall lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, ‘Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light’ –
12 Darkness is not dark for you,
and night shines as the day.
Darkness and light are but one."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Boys DO Notice Hair!

This afternoon, I went and got myself a long-overdue haircut. I say long-overdue because I HATE to get haircuts. I have very curly hair and do not trust it to the hands of a stranger with a scissor.

The last time I went for a cut, in the middle of the summer, she left my bangs way too long and I wound up taking a scissor to them. I cut them too short and have been self-conscious about them ever since.

Every time I see another woman with curly brown hair and a good cut, I think, “I should do that”.

You could say I had to “hit bottom” before finally putting myself in the chair. This morning I woke up too late to do anything worthwhile with my hair before church and just felt miserable every time it fell in my face as I continually bent over to help my toddler behave “properly” (or come close to some semblance of an effort at reasonably good behavior).

Having fed the kids lunch, put the baby in for a nap, and sent the older ones to help their father with yardwork, I saw my opportunity and ran out the door.

I got there at an early-afternoon lull and was fortunate enough to have a hairdresser with the same type of curl as me. “Oh, you have a pretty face,” she told me as she pulled the hair back. I couldn’t see it under all that hair.” As Iris cut away, I could feel the locks fall into proper place under her expert fingers.

She blow-dried it straight to make sure she had the layers all even. She told me about her three children and her second job as a bartender. I could see she was happy that I was happy – so we both parted with smiles.

When I got home, my husband looked at me oddly and said, “What happened?”

“I got a haircut.”

“Oh, it looks really pretty, you never do it that way.”

I wasn’t sure how to take that, but he did mean it as a compliment.

The baby was ready to be taken out of her crib. She looked curiously at my straightened hair and smiled. When we went downstairs, my six-year-old son was coming in the backdoor.

“Mommy!” he exclaimed, “Where did your curls go?!”

“The hairdresser blew them straight. But don’t worry, they will come back after I wash it.”

He ran out the backdoor.

I was amazed at this reaction by my son. I never think that he cares what I look like, but it seems my curls were part of my mommy identity and he was seeing me in a different way.

Within seconds, my other two daughters were running inside.

“What happened? We heard you got a haircut and it looks really good!”

“Ohhhhh, it’s interesting,” they said, circling around me.

About a year ago, I cut off ten inches and it took hours for anyone to notice. It was really amusing to be the center of attention for a change in hairstyle. I just wonder if they will like my curls when they spring back – which everyone with curly hair knows they do!

“Even all the hairs of your head are counted.”
Matthew 10:30

Friday, November 23, 2007

Portraits of a Turkey

Much of New York is shopping today, on “Black Friday”, the commercial kick-off to the Christmas season. The malls were open at 4 A.M. this morning for those who wanted to get an early start. I suspect many of my readers, like me, avoided the sale craze in favor of a warm, cozy day indoors with the children, baking, crafting, or playing games.

The children made me these beautiful turkey pictures for Thanksgiving yesterday. The eldest made the most flamboyant, resembling a peacock as much as it does a turkey. My son also made a colorful one, with a serious look much like his own. My eight-year-old dreamer was aiming for a realistic-looking turkey.

I woke up to her shrieking while they were in the middle of making their surprise cards Thanksgiving morning. She ran to her room and would not tell me what had upset her. I peeked in the garbage and saw a crumpled-up paper with the cutest little turkey head, and a body that had obviously disappointed her. She would not cheer up until she had gotten it right. I think she did a mighty fine job.

I find it amazing how much of one’s self can be found in a portrait of an animal. Posture, pose, and the look of the eye and mouth are likely to be reflected in any picture created by a child. When the children are in school next week, I can look at these turkeys and feel the presence of each of my little ones.

“God looked at everything He had made, and He found it very good.”
Genesis 1:31a

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Scriptures of Thanksgiving

Psalms 8: 1 - 5

1 I give thee thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing thy praise;
2 I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything thy name and thy word.
3 On the day I called, thou didst answer me, my strength of soul thou didst increase.
4 All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, for they have heard the words of thy mouth;
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.


Sirach 50: 22 - 24

22 And now bless the God of all, who in every way does great things; who exalts our days from birth, and deals with us according to his mercy.
23 May he give us gladness of heart, and grant that peace may be in our days in Israel, as in the days of old.
24 May he entrust to us his mercy! And let him deliver us in our days!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Beer, Cigarettes, and Contraception

My husband's work as a process server takes him everywhere. Last week he had to serve a subpoena for medical records on a Planned Parenthood clinic. He could not help overhear a girl asking for “Plan B” contraception.

She could not provide identification to prove she was 19 years of age.

Her friend asked, “I’m 19. Can I buy it for her?”

“Sure!” was the answer from the clerk.

We are so cautious and vigilant in preventing underage minors from purchasing beer and cigarettes, and warn others against purchasing it for them.

Our legislators need to be warned of what is taking place in these clinics!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Day Out with Dad

Today my husband took the children to his mother’s house while I painted the children’s bathroom. It has cathedral ceilings, so quite a large proportion of working time is spent moving the ladder around.

I was working for a full hour in absolute silence, when I dropped my edging brush from the top of the ladder. It fell twelve feet down and hit the bathtub with a resounding CLANG. I reacted, thinking, “Ooh, I hope that didn’t wake up the baby!”

I am so used to doing this sort of work during her naptime, enjoying the solitude and silence, that I had completely forgotten she was not at home! This was quite an odd experience for me.

I could play music! I could play it as loud as I wanted! I ran downstairs to select some fun working music. I turned the volume up so I could hear it way up at the top of the house.

I played three CDs and returned to the quiet. Quiet work is soothing to the soul. I can think my thoughts and pray unceasingly and maybe even hear a word the Lord has for me at the moment.

Several hours later, I had just finished cleaning up when the husband and kids came through the door. They had had a terrific day. They even went to their uncles’ hockey game. They got to stay out late and play video games at the sports complex. They were dirty and smelly and all smiley. A day with dad certainly agreed with them!

“Be still and know that I am God.”
Psalms 46:10

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Little Pink Ball

Sometimes I have a day that is special in its absolute normalcy. I am following my normal routine and somehow every activity is enhanced with a joyfulness that is delicious. I know these days are a blessing from God and are given to us as encouragement and a reminder of his gifts. This happened to me yesterday.

I had a late start getting the baby and myself ready to go food shopping. The telephone rang and it was a relative I had not heard from for a long time. I was delighted to hear from her, and we talked for a while. We complained about how long it takes to go food shopping, but remembered to be thankful we had enough to eat.

I dressed the baby in a pink crocheted dress that had been mine as a baby, and that my second daughter had also worn. Now too short to be worn as a dress, I paired it with a pair of jeans and sweet little cranberry shoes. She looked absolutely adorable!

I had two certificates for free turkeys, as well as two “ten dollars off” coupons, so I made two separate trips into the store, loading up the car to the gills. Mind you, I am not hosting Thanksgiving. We really eat that much in a week.

During my shopping, I met a mother of four with one on the way. We exchanged nice words, encouraging one another. I also ran into a lady from church, who fawned over the baby and how she had grown.

The baby had her eye on a big basket of blow-up playballs, which were on sale for 99 cents. Probably for the first time ever, I bought a toy for my child on impulse. I gave her a pink and orange swirly ball and she giggled with glee. It was a good thing I was almost done shopping, because she then started doing what babies are supposed to do with balls.

At the milk case, she threw the ball onto the floor. It bounced and rolled to an elderly gentleman, who happily bent over to pick it up and hand it to her with a smile. Now at the yogurt section, she threw it to a middle-aged woman, who also was glad to comply. Eggs, ice cream, and we were done, with a few more games of catch thrown in.

I could not have her continue this in the parking lot. At the checkout counter, she lost her ball to me and I snuck it to the cashier, instructing her to hide it. She mistook my instructions, scanned it, and started to hand it to the baby, who was still looking around on the floor for her ball. “No no, hide it!” I whispered to the young lady urgently. Now she put it in a bag and it was out of sight.

Back in the car, I returned the ball and she gave me a laugh that meant, “There it is!”

Once at home, I placed her in the house with the ball. She looked out at me through the glass storm door. Every time I came to open the door, armed loading with groceries, she threw that ball out at me.

Finally, all the bags were in. She stood up and threw her ball, walked to it, and picked it up. She had just learned to walk independently over the weekend, so this was some pretty fancy footwork for her. To me, it was the perfect picture.

I ran and got my camera. This will be one of the days to treasure in this mother’s memories of childhood.

"Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.
This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live."
-1 Thes. 5:16-18

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Miller Christmas Spreadsheet

Since childhood, I have always been a list maker. I have always had so many projects in my head, with all the mini-steps leading to completion. In college I would take my deadlines, write them on my calendar, and work my way backwards from that date to set mini-goals toward the end result. I always tried to get things done a few days early in case of unforeseeable circumstances. (I remember one year in high school, having trouble with the dot-matrix printer at 2:00 in the morning when a paper was due in the morning. My father was not happy! It never happened again.)

Now with four children, I would truly feel lost if I did not get it all down on paper. Tomorrow ends the cross-country season, which will allow me more time to prepare for Christmas. I am presently getting my spreadsheets ready for all the holiday preparations. This really helps me to organize myself with all the multitasking required. The major tasks are in bold, with all the mini-steps listed underneath.

For example, for Christmas cards, I need to (1) buy cards, (2) find Christmas outfits for the children, (3) buy a tree, (4) put up the tree, (5) decorate the tree, (6) dress the children for a picture, (7) take a picture, (8) print out wallets, (9) write out the cards, (10) buy stamps, (11) put the cards in the mail, and finally (12) record changes of address and new family members as cards from others come in.

When I see my spreadsheet printed out on my refrigerator, I derive a real sense of satisfaction from seeing little checkmarks next to the various and sundry tasks. Hence Christmas does not become this big, overwhelming monster that takes over the month of December. Rather, Advent is a time in which little goals can be accomplished - and enjoyed - in spare moments that can be found, leaving me with a sense of peace so spiritually I can prepare myself and my family for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

“A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”
Isaiah 40:3

Recommended blog: The True Meaning of Christmas

Friday, November 9, 2007

Catholic Document on Free Will

As promised, I continue on yesterday's topic with a primary source on the topic of free will...


1. A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man,(1) and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty. The demand is likewise made that constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of associations. This demand for freedom in human society chiefly regards the quest for the values proper to the human spirit. It regards, in the first place, the free exercise of religion in society. This Vatican Council takes careful note of these desires in the minds of men. It proposes to declare them to be greatly in accord with truth and justice. To this end, it searches into the sacred tradition and doctrine of the Church-the treasury out of which the Church continually brings forth new things that are in harmony with the things that are old..."


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Predestination or Free Will?

A reader asks: “As far as God hand picking people for His purposes, do you not believe in free will? Are you prescribing to Calvin's idea of predestination?”

The answer to this question is so important in how we raise our children. One of the first prayers we teach our children is the Our Father. “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)

One of the first Bible stories we teach them is that of Creation and Adam and Eve. It is very clear from that story that, while God desired that we would choose Good, he allowed us the choice between good and evil.

“The Lord God gave man this order: ‘You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die’.”
Genesis 2:16-17

Yet throughout the Bible we are told of his Purpose, that God knew us before we were born, that He has a plan for us.

“You formed my inmost being;
You knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, so wonderfully you made me;
Wonderful are your works!
My very self you knew;
My bones were not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
Fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes foresaw my actions;
In your book all are written down;
My days were shaped, before one came to be.”
Psalm 139:13-16

I believe a mother’s job is to best prepare her children to seek God’s purpose for them, to help find and develop the special gifts he has given them for this life, and to give them the skills they need to fulfill that.

If we choose God’s will and obey his commandments, we will receive blessings.

“Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dear to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine.”
Exodus 19:5

If we attempt to thwart his will, we will be punished, and His Will will be brought about anyway. It is in following God’s will that we are not enslaved by sin but find freedom in a righteous life.

“The Lord watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.”
Proverbs 1:6

There is so much scripture and doctrine on this topic that I believe I must continue this topic in another post!

"Jesus answered them and said, ‘My teaching is not my own but is from the one who sent me. Whoever chooses to do his will shall know whether my teaching is from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on his own seeks his own glory, but whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful, and there is no wrong in him.’"
John 7:16-18

Painting Above: "The Tree of Death and Life"
1481. The Archbishop of Saltzburg's missal.
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Monday, November 5, 2007

More Things People Said

This is Part II of yesterday’s post, “Things People Said”.

I was outside after church collecting signatures to stop Governor Eliot Spitzer’s “Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act”, S.5829. (Go to to take action.)

A woman was signing the letter when she made the most outrageous statement.

“His mother should have had an abortion,” she said, in reference to the originator of the bill.

“That’s a terrible thing to say!” I replied.

“Well, if he wasn’t around we wouldn’t have this bill.”

Spoken while signing a PRO-LIFE letter.

The whole point of the label “pro-life” is that God is the Creator of human life and we have no right to take it away. God has a purpose for every person conceived. We are all sinners, yet his purpose is brought about in ways we cannot imagine.

God hardened Pharoah’s heart so that he would not let the Hebrews go. Yet in the end his actions brought about a cataclysmic series of events that led to their triumphant break from slavery.

Dictators in every era of history arose – why? In history class my teachers spoke of the zeitgeist, or spirit of the times. If it wasn’t Mussolini, it would have been someone else. God handpicked that person for his own reasons. None of us can conceive of his ways.

When we work for any good cause, I hope we can each look into our hearts and pray that our works are done out of love of God and neighbor. And pray that God’s will be done.

“Yet I will make Pharaoh so obstinate that, despite the many signs and wonders that I will work in the land of Egypt, he will not listen to you. Therefore I will lay my hand on Egypt and by great acts of judgment I will bring the hosts of my people, the Israelites, out of the land of Egypt, so that the Egyptians may learn that I am the Lord, as I stretch out my hand against Egypt and lead the Israelites out of their midst.”
Exodus 7:3-5

Picture above: Broadoak St Paul, Dorset

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Things People Said

My involvement with the 40 Days for Life program has been a real eye opener into people’s attitudes, even of those who are involved in the pro-life movement.

Today I was outside after church collecting signatures to stop Governor Eliot Spitzer’s “Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act”, S.5829. (Go to to take action.)

I was working with an elderly couple.

“How many children do you have?” asked the woman.


“It’s a lot of work. I have five.”

“Oh, God bless you!”

“Not really. Put your money in the bank. It’s a better investment.”

I am pretty sure my jaw dropped, and she attempted to soften her comment with “I’m just kidding, of course.”

But her further comments led me to believe she really did hold a bitter view about child-rearing.

“There is one thing you can count on.”

I waited for her to continue, then prodded, “What’s that?”

“They will disappoint you one day.”

I looked at her and felt sad for her. But I also was rather shocked at how she would convey this viewpoint to me, I who am just in the messy midst of the raising of young children. She knew this, too, because she had met them before the Mass.

I asked her if she had any grandchildren. She had eight.

I told her, trying to lighten the mood, “I look forward to having big backyard baseball games with our grandchildren.”

“Don’t count on it,” she said, “They all move away.”

I recounted this conversation to a friend later. She said something must have happened recently with one of her children, and to pray for her.

It gets worse – but I will save that story for my next installment, “More Things People Said”.

Tonight I will dream of playing baseball with my grandchildren in my large yard, which by then will be enfenced with roses of all shades and varieties…

[Picture above: Leigh-on-Mendip St Giles, Somerset]

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Bicycle Tire

A man walked down the block with his little girl, answering her many questions and letting her pick up little things off the street. He seemed to be working to encourage her curiosity.

“Daddy, what is that man doing over there?”

“I think that’s a lady,” he replied.

That “man” was I, struggling to work a new bicycle tire into the 1 1/8” rim. In old Levi’s, a softball shirt, my hair up in a twist and no makeup, I could see how I might look like a man to a three-year-old. Still, it was not the highlight of my day.

Said youngster ran up my driveway. “I want to see what he’s doing!” she chirped.

“Do you mind if she just takes a quick look?” the father asked unabashedly.

“Sure.” Okay, now the encouragement for curiosity had crossed the boundaries of my property line.

“What are you doing?” asked the girl.

“She’s fixing a bicycle,” answered the father, thanked me, and took her away.

This tire has been the bane of my beloved afternoon bicycle ride. For months, I have filled the tire with air before leaving for a quick ride with my two older daughters on the weekend. I knew I only had ten minutes before it would start to go flat.

A few weeks ago, my eight-year-old burned a hole in her tire, putting the brakes on too hard while flying down a hill. Since then, she has been borrowing her brother’s bike while he used his old, too-small bike.

After our friend installed the baby seat onto the back of my bicycle, he told us that my tire had “wet rot” and needed to be replaced. I knew I needed to go to a specialty store for the parts I needed, so still I put it off.

But the added weight of the baby made the problem even worse. Now I had only five minutes before the tell-tale weighty feeling and extreme bumpiness would let me know the air was not holding out.

So finally, yesterday morning, I walked into the Carl Hart Bicycle store. A $4,000+ bicycle hung in the entry-way.

“How can I help you?” asked the young clerk.

“I have some flat tires,” I replied simply.

“Did you bring the bicycles, or are you buying supplies to do it yourself?”

Wow, I never even thought I had that option!

“I’ll be doing it myself.”

He asked me the sizes I would be needing. For the 27-inch, I had a choice between a $20 or $40 tire. I thought of my rusty old Ross.

“I think I’ll go with the cheaper one.”

“Do you know what you’re doing?”

“I’ve changed a tire before but it’s been a long time…”([when I was about your age] I thought).

He gave me a few pointers and reminded me that if I had any trouble I could come back and have them change each tire, for $11 each.

I put the supplies in the garage, looking forward to getting the task done today during the baby’s nap time.

But she slept too late this morning, and nap time did not work out as planned. So I had a bicycle upside-down on the front porch, disassembled, when I had to fetch her from her crib. Dinner had to be put in the oven. My ten-year-old was in tears over a project that was due tomorrow.

Two hours later, with many interruptions, the tire was changed! I took it into the street for a test spin. Triumphant, I called the children for a bike ride.

Were the saints cheering me on? Surely they knew the frustrations that had made up my day, as well as the relief I now felt!

What a glorious thing! To ride around the block with all of my children, on smooth, 90-psi tires and no fear of losing air! That truly was worth all the trouble.

Now that I know what I’m doing, I will change my daughter’s tire tomorrow.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us
and persevere in running the race that lies before us
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus,
the leader and perfector of faith.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross,
despising its shame,
and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1-2