Children of the Kingdom

Well, here it is—my first ever Q&A! It appears in the June issue of In Touch Magazine, which can be viewed by clicking here. The entire magazine discusses the idea of success for people of faith. After all, what the world calls “successful” and what we believe it to be are often antithetical.

Dr. Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids, Inc. was kind enough to allow me to interview her by phone to discuss how to raise children with a kingdom view of success, to be “in” the world but not “of” it. As a teacher, I know how difficult it can be to raise a child to view things rightly, but I only worked with them a few hours each day. For a parent, it’s a constant battle to instill good values and reinforce them so that, when the time comes for them to leave the nest, they’re able to withstand the pressures and temptations of the world.

My goal for the piece was to allow Kathy to share her knowledge with parents, to both edify and enable them to do what God has called them to do. I’d love to hear your feedback if you’re a parent or someone who’s involved with raising children, so please leave it here or on the magazine page, which can be accessed using the link in the first paragraph of this blog. Also, if you enjoyed this piece, you can subscribe to In Touch Magazine for free by visiting our registration page.


Here’s the piece I’m planning on turning in this week for my creative non-fiction writing class. Please give me feedback and help me make it better!!

And huzzah! This is my 100th post! 🙂


When the dog started burying ice cubes, we knew there was a problem. He’d made daily deposits at the Back Yard Bank & Trust since we’d adopted him, but it had been mostly unremarkable stuff. Rib bones, hamburger patties, rawhides, and even the occasional Rice Krispie Treat—all of them strategically placed underground in a cache system only he understood. As far as we knew, dirt and time helped ripen the food and made it more pleasing to our pooch’s palate, so we likened it to decanting a good bottle of merlot in reverse.

Shadow, the canine in question, was a black spaniel mix with wavy ears and feathery feet that bore a striking resemblance to Falcor, the Luck Dragon from The Neverending Story. In fact, that was the moniker I wanted to give him until I was overruled three to one in favor of “Shadow,” one of the most common dog names in the world. (Even then, I knew my creative genius was doomed to be largely unappreciated.) He loved sleeping in sunshine that pooled on the floor, chasing squirrels, and having his chin and belly thoroughly scratched. He didn’t like to bark and would only do it when we teased it out of him with treats, which we didn’t do often. It wasn’t because we were trying to avoid being mean-spirited, oh no. His pitiful excuse for a bark was as embarrassing as a wimpy car horn.

He had likely been abused by the owner he’d fled, so he never liked having his feet or snout held. Still, he was a happy critter in spite of it. In fact, we found that his “wiggle bone” was located not in his tail, but the middle of his back, so his entire hind end wagged from side to side when he was excited. In short, he was a furry, twenty-pound ball of quirks we loved despite a penchant for digging out and his unearthly ability to be between someone’s feet in the most inopportune times.

But the ice. The ice was just damned odd.

Like any puppy, our mutt loved to chew, so we provided him with an array of chomping options ranging from a bear he mercilessly removed every ounce of stuffing from to chew hooves that took him weeks to whittle down. All these things were sacrificed to keep him away from furniture, remotes, and my brother’s size thirteen Air Jordans. The only unsanctioned “om nom” he ever went for was a hundred-dollar atlas my grandparents purchased for a road trip, and he promptly converted it from a slim, glossy paperback into a sea of shredded paper that covered our living room from corner to corner.

Also like your average dog, Shadow loved people food with the same untamed passion tween girls have for boy bands. Any time someone opened the refrigerator—be they visiting suckers or relatives wise to his begging routine—he magically appeared on the other side of the door, waiting for a slice of bologna or a nibble of cheese.

We discovered his affinity for ice quite serendipitously when I dropped a piece on the floor. He gobbled it down before I had time to debate whether to pick it up or kick it under the counter, and as he chewed, it jutted comically from the corner of his mouth like a stubby cigar and made him drool from the cold. Even the sound he made was amusing—a combination of slurping and a racket similar to that made rummaging through a pile of plastic costume jewelry. Naturally, I had Shadow repeat the performance, which got funnier each time, for each member of my family. He took a dozen pieces from our hands, munching until he’d had his fill, then gummed the thirteenth and headed for the back door.

He’d done the same thing with food. If we gave him a hot dog broken into pieces, he’d wolf it down like Joey Chesnutt. But if that same wiener was handed to him whole, he’d stare at it, totally confused. It wasn’t that he didn’t want it; it was more like he didn’t know what do to with such an embarrassment of riches. We guessed the owners who’d been liberal when distributing pain were tightfisted when it came to food or that it had been hard to come by when he was a stray. That’s why anything he viewed as spare vittles was stashed for hard times. The poor thing hadn’t had enough good ones to make the urge unnecessary.

We stood on the screened-in back porch and watched as he trotted out to the base of a lanky pine tree in our yard, dug a shallow hole, and dropped the ice inside. He didn’t ever quite grasp where his toy went when I  hid it behind my back (much less the basic laws of thermodynamics), so like any and everything else he’d hoarded, the shaggy little urchin covered it up assuming it would still be there when he came back.

A few days later, he returned to his hidey-hole only to find it empty, his efforts to retrieve his new favorite snack rewarded with nothing but a dirt-stained nose. Late one summer afternoon when the sun hung heavy in the sky, Shadow dug one hole after another, each pile of earth excavated more frantically than the last, in search of what I imagined he called “crunchycold” in whatever language dogs speak to one another.

To this day, that confused search remains one of my most poignant memories. Many times, I’ve been like that little dog—furtively concealing my treasures in a vain attempt to protect myself from loss and want. And I’ve squandered so much more than money and time, things much more precious for their intangibility. I buried love that I thought might go unrequited in my soul’s earth only to find it had vanished, never lavished on anyone. Those opportunities I was too timid to seize dissolved back into the ether and were given to someone with the balls to snatch them up and wring them dry.

Too often, I’ve mislabeled cowardice as caution and told myself that joy isn’t guaranteed or plentiful enough in life to risk. But the truth is that everything we try to hoard is siphoned away like sand stolen by a relentless sea. It is impossible to genuinely live and leave something in the reservoir, and for those who try, there is no entering into the joy of our Master.

But I had much left to learn about this fact that day. I could only stand there with tears in my eyes and an ice cube melting in my numb fingers waiting to replace what had been lost.

I Fought the Frog, and the Frog Won

We all have something we fear—public speaking, snakes, heights, dirt, or even the color yellow. For me, it’s frogs. I’m terrified of them, creeped out beyond the capacity for rational thought at the sight of one, and brought to the edge of hysteria when one sneaks up on me. If there’s a word stronger than phobia for it, that’s the term I’d have to use. I’m not being melodramatic about this, I promise. At the sight of a one of these long-jumping amphibious monstrosities, I am magically transformed from a fairly cogent and well-spoken adult to a gibbering patient in a mental asylum drawing on the wall using her own feces.

Well, that might be a bit extreme, but you get the idea.

Knowing this, I bet you’re curious as to why I’m standing under a sign that reads “Frogs: A Chorus of Colors” when it’s more like “A Chorus of Terrors” for me. Well, we were at the Georgia Aquarium for Wayne’s company picnic this weekend (Pretty boss, I know!), and it was a new exhibit that none of us had seen. I didn’t want to be the only idiot who wouldn’t go in, and I also thought that, since they’d be behind glass, I’d be okay looking at them.

Like I have been about so many things in this life, I was wrong.

This is the first one we came across, and I literally stepped back in revulsion and nearly tripped over an old lady in a wheelchair. I didn’t mean to. Something in my head skipped over all the launch protocols and pre-flight checks, and my body went straight up AWOL. It never moved anything besides its gigantic, disgusting eyeballs, but I went from saying things like, “I confess that I find Althusser’s view of Repressive and Ideological State Apparatuses oddly alluring despite my penchant for capitalism” to “Nillawafer wonkyjawed limberwhamma vickthyicky gooberton!”

As you can tell by the human foot Wayne caught on the edge of this one to give it some scale, this African Horned Frog is as big as a dinner plate–slimy, bulbous, and hellish. I believe I actually got slightly nauseous at this point, which was only frog number four or five–and it didn’t quit until we’d left the aquarium. I honestly cannot look at a picture of this thing without recoiling in repugnance.

This is me trembling in abject dismay, just inches away from the creature. It didn’t get any better after this point as I was treated to twenty minutes in my own private version of hell.

These little green ones didn’t horrify me as much of the others did, which I think has everything to do with their diminutiveness. The larger they are, the more likely I am to wet myself it seems. It also didn’t hurt that they didn’t appear to be as slimy as the other ones.

Ironically, these were the only frogs I didn’t instantly back peddle from…and they’re the most venomous ones! Blue, green, yellow, and orange–these things looked like something you’d get from those two-quarter gizmos at the front of a grocery store. You know, the things that come out in a plastic half shell?

Here I am looking at the Lilliputian bringers of death like any average patron. It was a moment of respite in an otherwise tumultuous time. The rest of the trip through went like this.

I saw…

I went…

And let’s just say that this left me hiding behind my husband like a little mewling girl.

This is the view of me he captured with his camera as I stared in mute shock at the cornucopia of vomit-inducing sights. I’d like to tell you that he valiantly protected me the entire way and helped me work through a smidgen of my phobia by using him as a human bulwark. But that would be a lie. He spent as much time wrestling me closer to the glass and teasing me as he did helping.

By the end of it, I had a serious case of the huzz. I don’t think I overcame much of anything. I’m still scared stiff by something that’s a fraction of my size for no good reason. However, everyone had a great time at my expense. The people in our party were on the receiving end of a free show, and even a few of the folks waiting outside got a laugh.

How about you all? Any phobias you can’t explain? I’d love to hear your equivalent to my froggy fear! Also, if you have a way to overcome them, I’d love to hear your tale of victory!