Monday, October 20, 2014


I've got a hot topic on my heart to write about tonight, but I'm nervous to share because I sincerely don't want to offend any of my friends or family that fall on either side of the argument.  So, let me preface by saying that each family deserves the right to make decisions for themselves when it comes to traditions, values, and beliefs.  You know what's best for your family, and you should follow your convictions, not mine.

I feel like every year when October rolls around Herb and I have this same discussions.  How, as Christian parents, will we handle Halloween?

For us, it's all about honoring God with our intentions.

Herb found a great article that gives facts about where traditions are rooted, and explains the spectrum of positions Christians tend to have about Halloween.  And like I said, I know people in all positions, and I can see most sides of the arguments. It's kind of a long article, but for me, the last paragraph of the article summed up my feelings perfectly:
There's nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbors. Even handing out candy to neighborhood children--provided you're not stingy--can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests.
In fact, I LOVE that last year trick-or-treat night gave me the opportunity to not just meet one or two of my neighbors, but my entire street and block.  Now, mind you, last year I was awkwardly intentional about introducing myself to each neighbor and shaking their hand.  But it's helped in the last 12 months to put faces to homes when we take walks or do other things out and about in the borough.

There are two churches in our town that are really on to something awesome.  They are setting up shop in the town square and handing out free hot dogs, hot chocolate, and candy.  Oh how I'd love to jump on that band wagon.  What a cool opportunity to meet people in the community and literally shine light in the darkness.

It's a fine line.  I'm constantly checking my heart - am I wanting to participate in this, that, or the other thing because it feels like everyone else is, or because I truly feel like that is the best way I can honor God?  And that goes for pretty much every life decision, not just what I'm going to do next Friday night.

As Christians, we have the choice reject, receive, or redeem things of "the world."  Next week, I am hoping to help redeem.

I could write more - but I feel like I'm beating a dead horse.  It seems like every blogger has touched on this issue, and you've probably read them all anyway!  But if you're looking for one more to read, I can really identify with this one, too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


The temperature took a big dip today, and after a little Sunday afternoon nap, the next fitting thing to do was spend the evening in the kitchen.  Levi and I turned out some peanut butter cookies and banana bread.  Then, as I considered what to cook for dinner, the over ripe avacado and dozen tomatos caught my eye...

Burrito bowls!  

This is my favorite meal to make right now.  Rice with lime juice, refried beans, sautéed veggies, cheese, sour cream, homemade guacamole, and salsa with my garden tomatos.

It took me till I was 30 to I realize that Mexican food was my favorite.  In fact, my hubby and girlfriends pointed this out when they planned me a 30th birthday Mexican fiesta.  

So, next time you're looking for a quick yummy meal that hits all the food groups, try my chipotle knock off.  Te best part is it can be as homemade or canned/purchased as you want it to be!

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Last week, a friend posed this question, "What would you do if you weren't scared?"

I loved that one person named all their "fears" which were actually a list of their accomplishments over the last several decades.  As in, they had not let fear stop them from doing anything.  Sometimes, they said, you just have to do the hard things, and know that God will be on the other side of which ever door you open.

Herb's been sick.  Again.  Whatever he's got keeps morphing in to new symptoms and between several doctor visits and lab work, they're still not sure what's holding him down.  He's missed a few days of work, and the days he does work have ended with him sleeping on the couch five minute after dinner, if he makes it that long.  He's not sick enough to warrant a hospital stay, but not well enough to function normally.

Today, day ten of my beloved's sickness, my attitude sucked.  I was tired of playing nurse and single mom.  Fed up with entertaining, starved for adult conversation.  Physically, it's not taxing, but emotionally and mentally, I was completely in the gutter.

But after thinking about the Facebook post about fear, I put my finger on it.  Herb being sick brings me fear.  That doesn't feel good.

10 years ago I snubbed my nose at fear pursued a relationship with a man who had been sick his whole life and would be sick many more times over the rest of his life.  I will never ever regret that decision.  Herb was created for me, and I for him, of that I am certain.

It's just that when he's healthy, especially when it stretches on for years at a time and we go on to start building a family, and plan to keep moving forward in that direction, I begin to completely take for granted the fact that he'd ever been sick.

I'll never forget during our wedding vows, literally choking/sobbing out the words "in sickness and in health," because I KNEW that was our reality.  I knew this was a path we would be walking.  And I am still grateful to be walking it with him.

Now that I have a son of my own, I think about what it must have been like to be Herb's mom and relinquish control of his well being to another woman.  Would I care for him the same we she could have?  Will I catch symptoms?  Will I follow up with doctors?  Will I advocate for his care?  Oh, how I am trying my best.

But today, fear brought me down.  And instead of it making me more compassionate, it made me a jerk.  An impatient, selfish, lazy, emotional diva.

But today I found encouragement.  I remembered the village standing around us.  I was comforted by an empathetic voice as tears rolled down my face as I grilled hot dogs.  I took in deep breaths of crisp fall air while a sweet little boy hugged me, helped me clean up the yard, and lavish me with compliments about my kindness.  I opened this blogging window and began to pour out my feelings, reaffirmed in my life's choices and inspired to try harder.  I found quiet and peace when the sick one and the little one were asleep before 8 pm and I got a little bit of "me" time.

Tomorrow will be better.  Tomorrow I will live my life worth the calling I have received.  I will be more focused, I will be more graceful.  Tomorrow I will remind myself that fear does not win.  Instead of fear, I chose love.  I did it ten years ago, and I promise I will do it again every day for the rest of my life when it comes to that man who made me his wife.

(As I was writing this, I realized I blogged an almost identical post a few years ago.  Can we say hot button?)

Friday, October 17, 2014


This month of writing for 31 days seemed daunting at first - did I have enough thoughts to blog every day?  Oh, life has not ceased to provide me with relevant topics for each random word assigned.

Today's word, LONG, represents my day.  My day started on the couch.  A rarity for me, I stayed up later than Herb (who was sick and went to bed early) specifically to watch TV.  I'm playing the hulu/netflix game right now - you know the one where you're binge watching old episodes of a show on netflix, cramming them in, hoping to finish in time to watch the current season on Hulu.  So last night, I pretended I was in college and stayed up till two am watching netflix.  It was kind of fun.

But then the phone rang several times before 8 am with missed calls from my mom.  Never a good sign.

My grandparents were in a car accident this morning.  They seem to be doing ok, but it was a day filled with coordinating babysitting, moving car seats, playing phone tag, relaying messages, comforting the worried, and making plans for the days ahead.  My mom sprang in to action, and it was cool to see she and her sister come together to care for their parents.  My sister, who lives in Florida, was worried sick, and made significant headway calling hospitals to get the current status of the patients.  Ironically, she was the first one to find out my grandpa was being moved to another hospital.  My brother, went straight from work to Grandma and Grandpa's house to mow their lawn and take care of the leaves, then met me at the hospital for a late night chat with Grandpa.

In the face of catastrophe, my heart was warmed to see family spring in to action.

It was a long day, but it ended well.  Late night conversations in a hospital room are my love language.  Just kidding.  Kind of.  A one on one visit with Grandpa gave me time with him I don't normally take, and that's a fault of my own.  In fact, I can't think of the last time I sat alone with him - it was probably fifteen or sixteen years ago on a drive to piano lessons, which he would taxi me to occasionally if my parents had to work.

Long days don't always end well, especially for both Grandma and Grandpa, bruised and beat up, who have long nights of trying to get comfortable enough to sleep tonight.  But tonight I am grateful that this long day didn't end any worse than it did.

Thursday, October 16, 2014


I touched on this new season of life a couple weeks ago when I talked about all the fun things you can do when you only have one kid, and he is past the toddler stage.  There's another weird scenario I've been adjusting to in this season -

Free time!

Levi is in school three mornings a week.  I was worried I would be bored.  I was imagining I would have time to read books.  That my house would be spic and span.  
But it's not.  Where does the time go? No really, tell me if you know.

One morning I usually play catch up on my one year Bible reading plan.  It would be more accurately titled "reading the Bible in 52 sittings." Ok, that is an exaggeration.  And, after all, spending my prexchool time reading the Bible isn't actually a bad thing! I would just prefer to wake up earlier than everyone else and do it.

Speaking of waking up, I've adjusted very easily to not waking up early to babysit Charlotte like I did last school year.  I'd be embarrassed to tell you my average wake up time.... Let's just say we have to rush to get Levi to school at 9.

It feels weird to have free time.  7.5 hours a week.  It feels selfish and yet I know that time is only as selfish as I make it. 

Is this like the early stages of empty nest syndrom?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Life, I have found, in thirty years, is completely unpredictable.

Who would have thought I would marry the first boy that caught my eye at band camp.  I thought surely I would have to be set up on a blind date with someone who was actually blind before I found love.  Oh, how I was wrong.

Then there's my smaller man who fulfilled big hopes.  The twists and turns of his adoption story never cease to amaze me.

A year ago when another adoption seemed so distant and just sheer discussion caused dissension between Herb and I, I would have never dreamed we'd be walking the path we are this year.

Applied, approved, and waiting.

Waiting for the next unpredictable curve ball life will throw.

This round of adoption has thus far been a total example about the lessons being in the journey, not the arrival. For example, just tonight a complete stranger called to offer us help with our adoption.  It would be awesome even if she was the only one, but the truth is that she's the third.  Help has come out of the woodwork, not pursued by us, but led by God, and poured into our laps.

God's plan is not always clear.  It is not always easy.  But it is always good and it is always best.

Of this, I am living proof.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Levi is just on the edge of getting a chore chart.  He's very chart oriented - the sticker thing has helped conquer several milestones.  We're thinking of making a weekly dealing with chores and a complete chart would receive a paycheck - aka allowance.  What do you think - is four too young for this?

I'm finding that the best tool in teaching Levi to put things away has been to have lots of bins, boxes, and bags.  All his cars go in one bin, planes in another.  All the pieces to that nice big wooden train go in a bag.  Animals are kept together beside the bin of musical instruments.  At this point in time it works.  How well, you ask?  Well, he got a Play Mobil set of sports players and their equipment (think 20 Lego sized pieces) for Christmas (10 months ago) and he still has ever sing piece of the set.  Winning!

That being said, I think Levi has proven he's capable of putting like toys away and is ready to make the big toy plunge this Christmas to...


The real ones.  Not the Duplos or Mega Blocks.

I'm pretty excited.  I want to make some kind of container to hold the Legos that he can also use as a construction base.  And bonus - Daddy saved all his childhood Legos and they are ready to be re-gifted into the hands of an eager little boy.

How old were your kids when you introduced Legos?  And chore charts?

Monday, October 13, 2014


Fittingly enough, on a holiday where I almost always had off school or work, today marks the anniversary of the last day I officially woke up in the morning and went to work as a music teacher.  It was a Monday, Columbus Day, 2010.  Rather than sleep in, I was headed to Harrisburg for a music teacher in-service day.  Herb and I had just returned from a weekend trip out of town, and I had known for four days that there would be a very small possibility that Levi might become our son after all.  I spent that day in a complete fog.  I remember I took a music technology class and instead of learning anything music related, I was sneaking on to Facebook and email to see if there were any baby updates (there were! but nothing officially yet!).  On my last official day as a music teacher, I was completely worthless as a music teacher.

I never planned to be a stay-at-home mom.  In fact, we planned to use the school district's day care or planned for Herb to stay home with children, since he worked only part time for a few years.  But then I listened to a sermon series based on Song of Solomon and felt completely convicted to change my "career" path.  Amazingly enough, Herb had listened to the same series and we arrived at the same conclusion for our family separately.  It was pretty cool.  There are days when I sincerely miss our double income, but other than that, I have not looked back or regretted a single day.

That being said, I still value my time spent in the classroom.  In fact, I learned some great lessons as a music teacher that I have since applied to motherhood / life in general.

1.  Yelling solves nothing.  Oh my goodness, I was a screamer my first year of teaching.  It was my default and I didn't realize it was bad OR that there were other options.  A very kind and seasoned teacher pulled me aside one day and gently corrected me.  Wow, that was impactful.  Not to say that I never raise my voice with Levi, but I certainly think I worked a lot of the loudness out of my system with those poor kids at that first long-term sub job I had.

2. Sometimes in life, your bare minimum is okay, and maybe even necessary for survival.  I read recently that the CEO of Wal-Mart (a wife and mother) said, "No, I can't have it all.  I can't be the best CEO and the best mom.  I can be 90% mom and 10% CEO or vice versa.  Sometimes some areas of my life suffer in order for others to flourish.  It's the ebb and flow of life and I just need to make sure that one is not suffering all the time."  It was kind of a depressing thing to read at first, but then I realized that's kind of how we deal with anything - you have to make priorities and give the most important things your best attention.  Bare minimum got me through college and the first few years of teaching and still allowed me to nuture my relationship with a cute drummer who later became my boyfriend and husband.  I wouldn't have wanted to put more time in to my studies in college because I am grateful for the relationships that were built instead.  A couple years ago, I blogged more about this here.

3. I can do hard things.  College was freaking mind numbingly hard and exhausting.  I ALWAYS had at least 18 credits, often a part time job, and was expected to put in hours of practice on top of classes, studying, and rehearsals.  We would stand outside of our music theory class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, eyes bleary from sleep deprivation, and one deep breath away from the ugly cry in fear that today would be the day that brought our music education dreams to a crashing halt.  The first years of teaching seemed like a breeze compared to college for me, but I felt so accomplished to have achieved my goals and land my dream job.

4. If you love something let it go... I love music.  I love teaching.  I wanted nothing more in life to be a music teacher.  I wanted that even more than I wanted a family for a long time.  It rocked my world to think about the fact that I killed myself to get a music degree only to turn around a few years later and just let it go.  But, God, in His goodness, knows the desires of my heart - He put them there!  It amazes me the way I have been given opportunities to stay connected to music and teaching and teaching music.  MS Music Studio is booming with a dozen students.  I am loving planning and teaching pre-school Sunday School and helping with VBS.  If you're looking for a cool story, a couple years ago I blogged about how I decided to become a music teacher.

5. First I am Michelle (follower of Jesus), Secondly I am a Wife/Mother, Thirdly I am a Daughter/Friend/Family Member, Fourthly I am a Teacher.  My PRINCIPAL said this to me my first year of teaching.  He reminded me that although teaching was a great career and a rewarding and diffult job, it was not my identity.  He spoke those life roles in order of priority to me and said if any of my other roles ever needed me more than the teacher role did, I could count on him to support me in that venture - and he meant in the day to day routines of school and even later in the life choices I made.  That was POWERFUL, especially coming from my principal.

Someday when the kids are grown, I am hoping I can ease my way back in to the school system.  But even if that doesn't happen, I will still be grateful for my years in the classroom, the friendships made, the students that touched my life, and the music that was created.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Homecoming, 4 Years Later

In Suereth Family History, today's date is too special not to acknowledge.  October 12, 2010 is the day I met my son and became a mom.  A day has not gone by (bad ones or good) that I have not been completely humbled by this act of God and this act of love by Jen.

If you'd like to re-read about Levi's homecoming, that story is here.

This morning we watched "Our Adoption Adventure" in movie form.  Levi was really in to it.  I love seeing his story come to life in him and in his four year old understanding.  Like I said yesterday, I love teaching him that this is his normal, and it is good.

Happy "Gotcha" Day, Levi!

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Today's word seems like it has an obvious choice; by trade I am a music teacher, by life season I am a how to be human teacher (also called "MOM").

First a shameless plug - I am almost at capacity, but if you know anyone in the Manheim / Lititz area looking for piano, clarinet, or guitar lessons, visit

Being a mom is the hardest teaching job ever.  I little to no previous experience, education, or training.  I've got a great co-worker (Herb) and an amazing boss (God), and some really responsible friends working in nearby departments (other moms and responsible adults).  When something new arises, I have a panel of people for which to bounce things off, depending on the situation.  Is this normal?  What should we do next?  Is this a big deal?  What's a fair expectation?

One of the things I've been thinking about a lot today is the fact that we are teaching Levi what "normal" is.  In one situation in particular, our VERY open adoption, there is no frame work for normal, I'm shooting in the dark a little bit - but also discussing with Herb, using my sounding board, and praying to be led by the Holy Spirit.

For example, today we took a huge step in the realm of open adoption and shared a monumental milestone.  Very fittingly too, as tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of the day we met Levi and he became our son.  We have enjoyed a very loving relationship with Levi's immediate and extended birth family, sharing big life events, holidays, birthdays, and quality time together.  Every time we share new milestone in the journey of open adoption I ask myself (and sometimes our social workers) if this is "normal."

But the thing is, nothing about our relationship is normal.

And that's a good thing.

In the pre-adoption days, I used to be fearful of an open adoption.  Would our future birth mother change her mind if she spent too much time with our future child?  Would it be too confusing?  I knew studies had show that a semi-open to open adoption proved to be healthy for the adoptee and birth families, but it was still so hard to wrap my brain around.

It didn't seem normal.

But then came Levi (and everyone else attached to him by heritage and blood and love).  And that changed everything.

The beauty of raising a child who was born with tabula rasa is that through love, conviction, guiding, and relationships, we get to teach Levi what normal is.  A new kind of normal.  But to him, it will be his normal.

Normal to celebrate birthdays with not one mommy but two, not four grandparents, but seven.

Normal to have a family tree that looks more like a thick forest where branches intertwine and vines twist together, and sometimes you're not where each characteristic of the tree came from but it looks beautiful so you just appreciate it for what it is.

Because for that tree, it is normal.

Source: Blue Jay Barrens