Monday, November 30, 2009

Sunday Morning Christian

Words ... Words hurt, words heal ... words tear us apart and pull us together ...

What are your words doing?

Actions ... Actions hurt, actions heal ... actions tear us apart and pull us together...

What are your actions doing?

"Give me my ball back!" My seven year old raised his voice so the laughing teenagers could hear him.

"Haha ... want your ball back?" They tossed it over his head, back and forth. Tormenting him the whole time, mocking him and gaining laughs from my son's frustrations.

My son reached, jumped and ran between the two teenagers as they tossed his ball back and forth.

Eventually, the ball was retrieved, retrieved by an older child ... but my son's feelings were left ... hurt. Hurt by someone's words and actions.

This situation took place at church yesterday morning. I wasn't in the hallway when it happened. So, I have to be fair and say that my son might have colored this picture in his favor. The ball was a prize won for bringing his bible to church, saying verses and memorization. He'd worked hard for it and wanted to share it with his brothers.

When he told me the story late yesterday afternoon, I was mad. Mad that someone would do this .... in church. Shouldn't church be a safe place? A place where we and our families feel love and acceptance?

I was still thinking about it this morning. While reading my devotions, I realized something... This shouldn't happen in a Christian heart. This shouldn't happen at all. As Christians, we should have love and acceptance in our hearts ... always... not just Sunday morning.

That brought back a lesson my parents taught me growing up and somehow I lost it on my way to being a grown up ... Don't just be a Sunday Morning Christian. Ouch! Am I a Sunday Morning Christian? Do I put on my Sunday Morning mask and then take it off for the rest of the week?

While yesterday's experience was small and my son is now past his hurt feelings, I'm left with a lot to think about. I could stay mad at the other children involved. Or, I could be thankful they reminded me of something I somehow forgot ...

I think I'm going to pick ... thankful. Those other children, I don't even know who they were. I don't even know if my son's version of the story is completely factual. All I do know is ... my attitude, my behavior ... should reflect God everyday, everywhere and with everyone ... not just Sunday Morning.

Proverbs 3:3 " 3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tell Me the Stories

"I'm starting to forget, Mom." My fifteen year old sighs and looks out the rain streaked window of our car. Fields of weathered corn stalks soak up the water as we pass.

"Like what?" I try not to cry at his honesty because I never admit that I sometimes forget.

"Like ... you and Dad say we would go there every weekend and you guys would play cards until like 1:00 in the morning. I don't remember that." He looks at me with a sadness.

"Yes, we did. But, you might not remember that part because you and your cousins were busy doing other things while we played cards." I look from the road ahead to his face. I can see he's trying to remember, something ... anything.

"I do remember playing Fuzion Frenzy. Uncle Kregg was always Samson in that game." He smiles that crooked smile of his and leans back into the leather seat. "Hey, can you tell me again about the Christmas he gave me the fish beanie baby?"

"Well, Uncle Kregg had a collection of Beanie Babies. You loved standing in front of the glass case at their house, just looking at all of them. You really liked the one called Lips. So, for Christmas that year, he and Aunt Jenny gave you one just like his." I smile remembering happy times just like that one.

"We should talk about him more, Mom. That way we don't forget him." He rests his head back against the seat. We ride the rest of the way home in silence. Each of us remembering good things and missing Uncle Kregg.

Seven years ago today, our family lost Kregg to brain cancer. He was a wonderful husband and father. He left behind a loving, devoted wife and two beautiful daughters ... an entire family filled with people his life had somehow touched. Kregg was funny ... he made everyone laugh. He was great with children.

During the time he battled this disease, I watched Jenny do what I could never do ... she was completely unselfish with her time and strength. Jenny took care of her girls and her ill husband. While Kregg fought cancer with his entire body, she fought cancer with every ounce of her heart.

On the day she lost Kregg, I called her and listened as she cried. I wanted to give her some kind of profound wisdom that might ease the hurt, the pain. There were no words ... just me listening.

In the weeks after Kregg's passing, I began to live my life differently ... in small ways. We ate lasagna in our "good living room" on the "good furniture". We watched movies in the middle of the week, on school nights. We used our "good towels" for everyday.

We started doing these things and haven't stopped. Why? Because everyday ... is good.

Is there someone you are missing today? Take time to remember them, remember their smile and laughter, remember the good times and ... talk about them.

Today ... live your life on earth so that when you pass from this world ... the earth mourns your passing and angels rejoice.

That's how Kregg lived his life.

Thank you Kregg. For showing me how to enjoy everyday goodness. Thank you, Jenny. For teaching me about unselfish love and strength through difficult times. Thank you to my two beautiful nieces ... for smiling through your hurt.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Exactly What I Need

How is it that God knows exactly what I need?

The past two weeks have been incredibly difficult at work. I've been in fraud recovery for nearly eleven years ... these two weeks have been more than I can handle. Worse than any other time before ... and, I've been questioning my abilities, my place ... am I right where God wants me?

I've needed some kind of "fill up" ... something to pull me up from this place where I feel out of sorts. Have you ever felt that way? Wondered if the path you are on is the one God chose for you or did you at some point take a wrong turn?

Today, I feel like I'm right in the place I should be. No, I didn't have some divine revelation. No shout from the heavens that said ... yup that's it, you're on the right road. It was more like a whisper. One that said ... God has it all, every second of every day.

Today, I spent an hour at my youngest son's Thanksgiving Day program.

As I watched my little boy's big brown eyes dance and listened to his little voice sing those big songs ... I started thinking about his life. Sure, he's only five ... but he has a story of his own already in the making.

Kregg was our last child and a total surprise. We hadn't planned on having anymore children. Our two boys were a blessing and we felt complete in our perfectly planned family. A third child just wasn't something we had planned.

I remember the day I found out I was expecting Kregg. I felt like I had the worst flu imaginable. I couldn't eat anything, I couldn't stay awake. My husband finally figured it out over breakfast. I was trying to choke down eggs and ended up in the bathroom for the third time that morning. Jerry looked at me and said "What's going on?" It was one of those questions that we both knew the answer to.

I remember being scared to pieces. How would we afford another child? Where would we put another child in our small house? How would I raise three children and work a full time job? Would my husband and I have enough love to split three ways?

There were a million reasons why having another baby just wouldn't work. But, there were even more reasons why it would be a blessing. Some of those reasons I am just now realizing and some I will see more clearly in the future.

Today was one of those moments. A moment when I realized God knew exactly what I would need on November 16, 2009.

Today, my five year old stood in front of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles ... he sang the words he memorized and went through the motions along with his classmates. Each time our eyes met, he smiled this huge smile. The smile I've memorized. Afterward, he ran up to me ... "Mommy, Mommy!" and hugged me tight.

How did God know ... how did He know I would need that hug, that smile on this very day?

Have you ever sat back and really thought about that? Today I spent time thinking on God's amazing plans. I know each of my children are ordained by God, their days are already planned ... and, I'm sure Kregg's purpose goes beyond a hug on this day. But, I also know that my God is a God of both big and small things. He has every last bit of it planned for me and today was part of that plan.

I don't know if God wants me working in fraud recovery for the rest of my life. I don't know if I somehow missed the sign on the road telling me to turn onto a different path. But, I do know that God has every moment of my life in His hands.

Are you where God wants you?

Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

For the Love of One

"What is it dear?" A quiet whisper in the farmhouse darkness.

"Clay." A simple answer as the bedsprings creaked beneath the farmer's shifting weight.

"How it is you know these things ... well, it's beyond me." She sighed and turned to switch the light on the nightstand.

Each was up, donning rubber boots and thick farm coats. The farmer's wife knew to trust her husband's intuition. After all, he had been right on so many occasions. Besides, she loved Clay as much as the farmer. She'd been there on the day of his birth and fed him from a soda bottle when his mother struggled to drop her milk. He was ... special.

Flashlights in hand, the pair walked across the yard and entered through a squeaking gate. The barnyard was quiet with night save the occasional dog barking in a far off distance. It was late September and the winds had already taken on a chill of autumn.

As they neared the barn, Farmer Jack saw Tink in the doorway ... her eyes told him what he already knew ... Clay was gone. Off again on some foolish adventure. Tink was the barn cat. She kept watch on the farm animals and took pleasure in outing any animal that misbehaved. Tink's black velvet coat glinted blue in the moonlight. She curled her tail around the feet of her master as he came near the fold.

Farmer Jack counted ... one, two, three ... eight lambs all snuggled beside the wool of their parents... there should have been nine including Clay.

He and his wife exited the barn and began swinging their lights across the fencing. Most lambs would get tangled in the barbed wire, they looked there first. No Clay. Behind the barn in the midst of wild clover, no Clay.

That's when he heard it ... the low howl of a coyote. Farmer Jack turned and found his wife's eyes. They were moist with tears.

"Those coyotes sound closer than any time before." Her voice was muffled with fear. "What if Clay made it out of the fence again?"

Another low growl ... closer still and another on the opposite side of the barnyard.

"They're circling now. Go to the barn, up to the hayloft. I won't have you walking back to the house. Not knowing those coyotes could be somewhere between here and there." He gave his wife a push in the barn's direction.

Obediently, she went where he bid. In the loft, she looked down on the yard and area beyond the fence. She squinted her eyes and tried to make out shapes in the blackness.

Clay was a curious little fellow. Since the day of his birth, Clay had been trying Farmer Jack's patience. Just when he thought there was not an ounce of patience left in his heart, Clay would do something sweet. And, that sweetness would fill him up to face the next challenge.

Clay had out done himself in the testing of fences. Literally. He no longer found satisfaction in the normal lamb rompings. Clay had already grown tired of "king of the mountain". While the other spring lambs found contentment inside the fences, Clay found thrill in adventures outside the fence. On more than one occasion, Farmer Jack had found Clay roaming the backyard in search of a good chase with the barn cat or Laddy the Golden Retriever.

Farmer Jack took hold of the long staff leaning against the barn entrance. Why was it that this one lamb tested him so? What was it that caused him to come to the barn and check on Clay this far past sunset? Farmer Jack knew ... it was a sense. Something within his heart stirred for this one small member of his flock. He knew when Clay was safe in the barn, safe within the fences crafted to keep the flock in and the predators out ... and he knew when Clay had ventured too far and gone outside the fence, out where a little lamb might meet with danger.

The sound of coyotes came closer and Farmer Jack began to call for his lamb. From the shadows, a movement near his tractor caught Farmer Jack's attention. Two coyotes circled the back tires. Their eyes glowed with hunger. Clay was there, Farmer Jack knew it. Without thinking of his own safety, the farmer ran at the coyotes. He swung his staff back and forth, jabbed at their sides. Each animal turned on him. Taking their attention away from the prey hiding behind the tires, they lunged at Farmer Jack. He thrust his staff at them, swinging it back and forth ... catching the predators on either side. Soon, the animals gave up. The far off howl of their pack called to them and they went back into the shadows.

Farmer Jack heaved a sigh, shivering from the cool air and his battle with the enemy. He moved slowly toward the tractor. Hiding beneath the tarp hanging over Farmer Jack's orange tractor, there was Clay. His creamy coat was covered in dirt and his floppy ears were wet with blood. He'd been caught in the barbed wire and snagged his ears trying to get free. The coyotes had taken the scent of his blood and found him.

Clay nudged out from his place of hiding. His eyes questioned the Farmer. He'd done it this time. A foolish adventure after dark had caused trouble and nearly gotten the Farmer hurt. He hung his head low and shivered with the knowledge of his wrong doings.

Gently, Farmer Jack reached for the lamb. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and began to wipe Clay's face and ears. The farmer's wife joined them from her place in the loft. Together, they went to the house to tend Clay's wounded ears and heart.

After being cleaned and fed, Clay found comfort in the farmhouse laundry room. He couldn't sleep with the fold tonight. The scent of blood would bring danger back into the barnyard.

Sometime near sunrise, the farmer came to Clay. He knelt beside the lamb and lifted the youngster's face so their eyes met.

"Clay ... you've done wrong. Why must you always leave the safety of our fence? Why must you always go where danger awaits?" Farmer Jack's voice was soft and reprimanding.

The lamb tried to look away but the farmer's grip wouldn't let him. Tears formed in the lamb's eyes. Clay whimpered and let those tears begin to fall.

"You're sorry, I know." Farmer Jack let his hand fall and he rubbed Clay's back. Then, he lifted the little lamb and carried him in his arms, close to his heart. "I forgive you, Clay. You are one of my fold. No matter where you go, what you do or how far you wander ... I'll always come for you. I'll always forgive you. You are mine."

Isaiah 40:11 "He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. "