Thursday, December 23, 2010

What Matters Most ... ?


My son and I had talked over something. Something important to me ... small to him, but big for me. Something small, simple. Something only a parent would really, truly appreciate. All three of my boys are growing up. I want to do everything I can for them while I can. Even the simple things. Sure, they will always need me but ... not in the same way. Not the way a minor child needs his mother. So, if I have a chance to do something for them ... I want to do it.


I had asked him ... let me do this ... and, he didn't let me.


His choice hurt me. He did something I asked him not to do ... I made it clear ... there could have been no misunderstanding my desires. I came home and found he had done it anyway. And ... it hurt.


I asked him, "Why would you do that, when I asked you not to?"


His response. "I don't know, I guess I just didn't think it through." I could see he felt badly.


My husband and I give our boys ... everything. Well, everything possible. All the toys, video games, cell phones ... time with us and time with their friends. For me, his choice felt like he didn't care about my feelings ... but, he still wanted all the things I can provide for him.


And, I thought ...


What if all you had was me? What if there were no gifts, riches, blessings ... just me? Would you want me without those things?


I left the room. I needed time to think. I went to the one place a woman can go in a house full of men and be ... alone. I took a hot shower and talked to God. As a parent, I've always tried to take each 'new lesson' with my boys and learn something. So, I cried and asked Him ... what can I learn? And ... He told me. Clearly.


I remembered a sermon our pastor gave a few weeks ago. It was based on the Prodigal Son. For me, the Prodigal Son has always held redemption. It is a message of absolute forgiveness from my Father. No matter my sins, shortcomings, failures ... He will always love me and take me back into his arms. But, our pastor put a different 'light' on the story. He said ... "what matters most ... the relationship or the blessings?"


At the beginning of the parable, the Prodigal Son is more interested in his father's wealth. He wants all the 'pleasure' his father can give ... all the gifts, riches, treasures. By the end of the story, the son has learned ... the relationship ... the love between him and his father ... THAT is priceless.


God gives us tremendous blessings, gifts, treasures ... so much more than we deserve. And ... sometimes, I let those things become more important than .... Him. More important than my time with Him and my ... relationship with him. I don't think through my choices. I don't consider how my choices might make Him feel. Something as small as my morning devotions. My 30 minutes with Him at the beginning of each day. It's simple really. But ... He wants that from me. When I don't give it to Him ... it causes Him pain.


What matters most to you ... the blessings or the Man?


Thank you, my son. For teaching me something I needed so very much to learn.


Luke 15:11-32 ... "The Parable of the Lost Son"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fish Out of Water


Panama City Beach, sunshine, ocean waves ... we took some time for us. Family. Playing in the clear water. Sandcastles. Seashells. Splashing. Toes in the sand.
Jerry's brother-in-law generously gave us a week long vacation on the ocean front.Each morning, we watched the sunrise from our 14th floor balcony. At that height, you can see all the sea life in their daily routine. Dancing in the morning sunshine. Stingrays. Jellyfish. Sharks. It was amazing to watch God's creation ... in action.
On one morning, Jerry and I watched through binoculars as a man fished in the not-yet-busy ocean. There had been several sharks the prior morning. We knew he was trying his hand at catching one. Sure enough, he did. After removing the small specimen from his hook, the fisherman walked casually from the shoreline and showed off his catch. All the while, this fish was flopping, tossing, turning ... anything to escape its captor. After several minutes of laughter and joy from the few spectators out in the early morning, he tossed it back into the surf.
Jerry immediately said, he kept it out too long. Later that morning, I understood his statement.
The shark floated ... dead ... in the calm waters where the man had tossed it.
Our sons enjoyed the 'close up' look at a 'real' shark. Our youngest held it from the tail and stroked the rubbery skin. It truly was a beautiful creature.
As I snapped this picture ... I found myself comparing Christians to that shark. Humans are amazing creations. When rescued by salvation, we begin a life with God. Our walk with Him could be compared to the shark's life in the ocean. It's incredible how God provides the exact environment sharks need in order to survive. He does that for us. Naturally, the ocean has predators that might bring harm to the shark. But, it's all within the natural process created by God. Our walk in salvation might bring us into difficult situations, pain even. Again, each are within the care of our Father.
But ... what happens if we are pulled from that environment? From the safety of God's perfect place where all our needs are met and our life is sustained in His grace?
The world does that to us ... to Christians. It hooks us ... with sin. It pulls us out of the God given environment and if we don't 'see it for what it is (sin), than we are in danger of death. The eternal death ... separation from Christ.
While it was amazing to view that small shark from a close vantage, it was also sad. Sad to see how quickly the careless fisherman's choice had taken the life of a magnificent creature. I was reminded of my need of forgiveness, a closer walk with Christ and the constant submersion in an environment created just for me by my Father.


Romans 12:2 "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Facing Fear




I faced fear this weekend. I went flying.
Yes, I'm 35 years old and never set foot on an airplane until this past weekend.
The idea was first discussed last Christmas. Pam and her husband sat with Jerry and me ... and another couple we are good friends with... all of us sitting at our annual Christmas party in 2009. We all talked about our lives and family ... that was the first time I discovered Pam and Don owned an airplane. They made a small comment of ... "you guys should join us" ... and I believe I said ... "I don't fly." Up to this weekend, I've found legitimate excuses as to why we couldn't go on the flight. We were working on our house, taking the boys to a movie, sporting events, family get togethers ... I was scared. I am deathly afraid of heights. Thus, any ol' reason for not accepting their invitation would do. I guess I thought if I kept saying "no, sorry we're busy" ... she might get tired of asking and stop. That way, I could continue on my present course of NEVER riding in an airplane. I could let my fear win.

On Saturday morning, Pam asked me ... "Are you guys busy this evening, we're flying to dinner? Can you come?"

I quickly went over every possible reason I could decline ... nothing. Football practice was the night before, no family dinners scheduled, no movies to take the boys to ... Nothing.

I called Jerry and he agreed. He had been looking forward to this for a year. Each time I declined their invitation, he would ask why ... seriously ... he knows why. I'm a big chicken.
At 5:30 p.m., I faced my fear. I sat behind Don as he piloted the plane. Jerry sat beside him and Pam beside me. I was great. We made the round and I was surprised at how calm I was ... then ... the plane left the ground. I grabbed Pam's left hand and squeezed. My stomach lurched, my eyes closed, the air left my lungs and I couldn't find blessed breath no matter how hard I gulped. An odd tingling sensation burned my chest ... it felt as if a caged bird resided beneath my ribs rather than a human heart.

Then, I heard Pam's quiet voice ... "It's ok, you're doin' great." She rubbed my hand in hers and talked about the scenery. She told me all the things I missed with my eyes tightly shut. I sat fixed in that position for the first 25 minutes of our 30 minute flight. I think I may have even asked Don to turn the plane around at some point ... said, I can't do this please go back. I might have given a couple of tears life 2000 feet above earth. Still, Pam held my hand and talked me through ... each aspect of God's creation expanding beneath the plane. Finally, I opened my eyes and watched as a hot air balloon bobbled to the left of our view.
Pam's fingers probably went numb somewhere between our little farm town and the middle of Indy. But, she never complained. Never said anything beyond soothing words of encouragement.

Rick's Boatyard was an amazing destination for dinner. I ate Maryland Crab Cakes on frenchbread with a healthy supply of Joe's mustard. I even faced my fear of mushrooms and found they really aren't too bad when stuffed with crabmeat and smothered in cheese. Actually ... They Rock!
I surprised myself by keeping my eyes open longer on the ride home. The lights were amazing from the lofty view above earth. Our little town is not as small when looking at it from an airplane ... it actually looks like a well thought out map of fields, woods, houses and rivers.
I'm glad I faced my fear. While floating ... I thought of the sensation I had felt on our departure ... of Pam's reassuring words and patience. How this adventure could relate to all fears. Any fears. There are all kinds of fear. We each have our "comfort zone." An area we feel absolutely safe and free of discomfort. I've heard it said more than once ... "step out of your comfort zone" ... "live outside the box." We all know ... fear waits outside that comfort zone ... outside that box. If you're at all like me ... you're ok with the comfort zone, ok with the inside of that familiar box.
But ... what happens if God is calling from outside the comfort zone ... from outside that nice box you've grown to love and accept? Then what? What makes you leave the comfort? What makes you open the box and find out what's waiting beyond the familiar space? Maybe your a teenager living in a small town and wondering if you have the courage to leave and try something new beyond graduation. Maybe your struggling to face that person who wronged you ... you're not good at confrontation and the thought of talking to that person is frightening. It could be that you're afraid of starting a new job or a new marriage ... new baby, new school ... old friends, old school ...

What made me leave the comfort zone of "two feet on the ground"? Pam ... Pam and my patient husband. Pam and her pilot.
She could've given up on me. She could have asked someone else to take that flight on Saturday evening. Let me remain captive to the fear of flying. But, she didn't ... she gently reminded me of God's control and of God's beauty. I liked it best when she said ... "isn't it amazing how God gave man the intelligence to build a plane ... to let us see His creation from this height?"
What words of comfort are you speaking to a brother or sister in Christ? Are you giving them strength to face fears and to take steps toward God's will in their lives?

Thank you Pam and Don ... for being patient and willing. Thank you for the amazing experience of flight. For sharing your plane and Saturday evening. You are a blessing to me and Jerry.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Competition


My husband is a competitive person. Jerry is crazy about sports .... always has been probably always will be. When I first met him (20 years ago), he played basketball and softball. I loved watching him play and I loved watching him win. That's what sports are all about, right? Winning?



This summer, my husband received an email from our community football league administrator. He asked Jerry to coach a team of 1st through 3rd graders. Knowing the league from our middle boy's sport involvement, my husband was very much aware the league was not about winning. Our community league puts the focus on every child playing every position. There is no score board ... only the scoreboard in the minds of parents and players. That was going to be tough, especially for a guy with a normal focus on winning.



At the first practice, Jerry saw the talent in some kids and the weakness of others. He knew right away the position placement that would win each and every game. That's how Jerry is, that's his strength. He thinks things through from every angle and then knows the best way to achieve the desired outcome. He saw the talent ... and, he made the choice he was called to make. He worked with the kids to be sure everybody was playing in all positions, rotating in and out. Jerry took on this challenge because he realized there was an opportunity to give each child a chance to enjoy sports. After all, they're young. Those with oodles of talent will have multiple opportunities to play lead positions as they get older. We've played several games now and each one has been tough. But ... rewarding. Jerry has said the kids smiles are the best ... he loves knowing some of those kids have been given an opportunity they've never had before ... might never have again.



And ... no one has made this easy for him. I've sat on the sidelines and listened as parents complain that the team isn't winning and that their children aren't getting to play the lead positions. I'm not "downing" those parents. I know where they're coming from ... I've been a parent on the bleachers watching in frustration at other sporting events. So, I understand. It's hard and it's not always fun. But, imagine what it would be like if each parent pulled the plug on the scoreboard in their mind. If their child playing the "choice" position wasn't the most important aspect of the game ...



As Christians, I think we make this same mistake in our everyday life. We don't always make it easy for our brothers and sisters in Christ to make the right decision, the tough decision. I'm guilty of this ... when I overhear a piece of "gossip", a co-worker complaining ... someone talking about the failures and flaws of another person ... sometimes, I take part in those conversations.



If I've learned anything from Jerry's coaching experience this season, it's to encourage not discourage. To make right choices easier not harder.



Ephesians 4:25 "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Consolidation



"What's your favorite color?"

It's one of those questions we ask our kids. Maybe even an "ice breaker question" you ask a child you're babysitting for the first time or the quiet one you have in your kindergarten class on the first day of school.



Their answers vary. It depends on their "eye". The color that appeals especially to them. It doesn't mean the other colors are ugly ... just different. Put a Crayola 46 pack in front of the child and they gravitate to their favorite.





I'm an artist. I love drawing faces and adding colored pencils to bring those portraits to life. If someone asked me my favorite color, well that wouldn't be an easy question to answer. You see, I can't get the exact creamy complexion on a face without mixing colors. The brown hue in a child's hair, that takes lots of time and color blending. And the eyes ... well, even if they are blue or green ... you can never match the exact shade with just one color ... it's all in the blending. I know from years of blending colors, the exact measure of each individual color will achieve the perfect completion. Something pleasing to the eye and spirit. So, I don't really have a favorite. I need them all to get the end product I desire.

Think of all the colors mixed together in an ocean sunset. Or, everything it takes to put the flush in a child's face. There is no one color capable of portraying those things.




Blue, Red, Yellow ... Primary colors.



Green, Orange, Purple ... Secondary colors. You can't get these colors without the primary colors.





Tomorrow, our local elementary school will go through a "first". Consolidation. Our sixth grade class will welcome another elementary school's 6th grade students and ... they'll blend. Both schools are small and the "ties that bind" run deep on both sides. It'll be hard to find the right mixture ... the right blend.





This news was made public just last week and you can imagine ... there were lines drawn and sides taken from both schools. Some parents and kids were excited. The school coming in brought good friends. Others didn't want this change ... especially those students making the big move to a new school. They're afraid, nervous ... apprehensive ...





What if no one likes them? What if there isn't any room at the lunch table (anybody seen Diary of a Wimpy Kid? this is a valid concern). What if I get lost or the teacher doesn't like me or I don't understand the assignments ... the list is long .... And, understandable.





A child I love will be affected by this consolidation. And, her mother has done everything possible to ease the worry, fears and misgivings. From where I sit, this mother is sending her beautiful blue into a sea of red ... it's kind of scary. But, I think they'll both find out the end result is something good ... purple ...





That's just my feeling. My way of looking at the situation. I see it asAdd Video an opportunity ... a chance to try something new. Sure, it's scary ... new things are always at least a little scary.





Tomorrow morning, I'll be praying for all those 6th graders, the teachers and parents. And, someday ... I think we'll all look back on this day and know that good things came from this blending.

Genesis 1:31 "And God saw all that He had made and it was very good."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Darkness


Middle of the night, the house moans from the blowing wind. The dog is settled on our oldest boys bed. No television buzzing. No music. No running and racing of three boys. Just quiet. My husband and I lay sleeping at the opposite end of the house ... but, I hear him. I always hear him when he calls my name.


"Mama! Come here!"


Somewhere in the 3:13 a.m. shadows, there's a monster. One brought to life by the imagination of a six year old boy.


"I'm here." I pull the sheets away from his head and find his round eyes, thick with dark lashes and tears.


I kiss him, reassure him. There are no monsters here. I tuck him in and leave the hallway light on for extra comfort.


4:00 a.m.


"Mama! Please!"


Again, I trip over school bags and toys ... find my way to his bed and ... again ... "It's ok, I'm here."


"Mama, stay for a while. The monsters don't come when you're here." He turns on his side and peeks at me from under the sheets.


"Why is that?" I whisper and pat his warm back.


"I think they're scared of you." He closes big brown eyes and hugs the sheet tighter around his shoulders.


I stay. Longer. I rub his back and whisper soothing words. His breathing is slow, steady. I tip toe out. Soon, it will be time for the alarm to ring ... time for work and school and ... I'm tired. Worn thin. I'll be tired at work. The dark circles under my eyes will give away my restless night.
But, I would do it again. To let him know he is loved. To make sure he feels safe.


And, I think.


Jesus comes when I call. No matter the day or time. He comes and chases away the monsters. All my worries, fears. They're afraid of Him. And, I ask Him to stay. Stay longer. He does. I know I must exhaust Him with my cries. But, He never tires of giving me peace, safety.


Ephesians 6:10-13 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

If I Could ...







If I could, I would ... I would trade places with him ... take this from him.

Being the mom of three boys means ...

Knowing a lumpy pocket on the way out the door for school means our 8 year old is packing something ... something he's not supposed to take. Usually an army guy or legos. He doesn't put it in his back pack because ... he knows I'll check there ... so, in the pocket it goes.

It means knowing my 16 year old will forget to take his dog out EVERY morning. I'll remind him and he'll say ... "wow, sorry ... guess I forgot" ... for the hundredth time.

It means knowing our third boy will have growing pains just like his older brothers. Warm showers. Hot rice packs. Motrin. He'll be fine.

But ... last week ... he wasn't fine.

Monday after school, there were odd looking red dots all over his tiny legs. He's little for his age ... the dots looked like a classmate used a red marker to create polka dots. My husband and I agreed ... most likely chiggers. He had played outside in the wet grass on Saturday morning. Just chiggers. By Tuesday night, the dots were near blisters in appearance and he was having pains in his joints. Growing pains, just growing pains. Then, there was his tummy ... sick all the time. Just a sick tummy from drainage ... he'd had a cold the week before and was still a little stuffy. Wednesday night came, that's when I started to worry ... worry that all my "mommy experience" wasn't quite good enough. We'd been out playing in the yard, a fun afternoon and evening ... then showers for the little boys. That's when I noticed it ... his left wrist was swelling and his right ankle ... swelling. The dots were now bruises and he complained of his tummy hurting. Tears. Lots of tears. After 16 years of "diagnosing" little boy fevers, aches, pains and the occasional "I'm not feelin' good enough to go to school" sickies ... I was lost. I had NO idea.

We called the ER to talk with our pediatrician. The "on call" wasn't too worried, even though I was about to fall apart. My 6 year old wouldn't walk and the pediatrician was content to have our son take Motrin and Benadryl. We did what the doctor suggested ... I trusted he knew what he was doing. We made an appointment to see him the next morning. I went to work and my husband took our son to the doctor. Two hours later ...

HSP (Henoch-Schonlein Purpura). My husband told me the doctor knew what the symptoms meant ... immediately. Inflammation of the blood vessels. This causes a rash looking appearance under the skin. The rash becomes worse ... larger rash ... sometimes breaking open. The swelling joints ... severe pain and bruising. This part is painful. The pediatrician told my husband ... our son's complaints of pain and a sick tummy were very real and the pain was VERY real. The only thing we could do was give him Motrin. The condition could last up to 6 weeks. They ran tests on his urine and blood ... precaution. To be sure his kidneys were "safe" and other concerns ... nothing. Only the rash, swelling and sick tummy.

SIX WEEKS ... six weeks ... I would have to watch our boy go through these stages (symptoms) again and again ... over and over again, for 6 weeks.

A week later, the rash is beginning to heal. His body is going through the stages. His joints aren't as swollen ... they're healing. Bruises have formed all over his joints ... large nasty, painful looking ... but, that means there is healing. The worst right now ... his tummy is very sick. He's fine during the day. But, at night ... at night he cries and curls up in my bed ... my husband and I talk him through it. We let him stay with us ... normally ... no staying in "mommy and daddy's bed". But, now ... we let him stay.

And, we would both take it from him if we could.

Last night as I tried to find a comfortable spot in my bed ... a spot at the very edge while my 6 year old tossed and turned in the middle ... I thought ... God feels that way about me.

God would take my hurt and pain ... and ... He did. He sent His Son ... to take away the ultimate pain of sin. And, somehow ... I can't explain it ... this feeling of absolute love and gratitude came over me. To know that God feels that much love for me ... to know that the love I have for my boys is huge but God's love for me ... for all of us ... it's bigger. I can't begin to imagine that kind of love because well ... I can't believe there is a love greater, deeper ... bigger than the love I have for my children. But, there is ... there is a love beyond measure.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Monday, August 30, 2010

Those Shoes Stink!


They're worn and dirty from the ballfield. He's tired and smelly. As I wash his shirt and pants, and send him off to the shower, I realize ... it's good to get it all out. The white pants are bright ... bright because I take the time to pre-wash and leave set with stain remover. The shirt is a bright blue with bright red letters. You wouldn't have guessed there was anything bright a few hours ago. That shirt was smeared with mud from second base. The letters were dusty from home plate. Then, I put his cleats in the closet. Right where he'll look for them when it's game time. And ... they smell. They smell of sweat and dust, grass and spilled gatorade. And, I think ... I'm glad I don't have to wear those ... those things stink. I wouldn't want to play in those shoes.

I've talked to the other "Baseball Moms" and it's always the same. Yes, my kids uniform is a mess. But, we share tips on how to get those tough stains out and ways to help with the smelly shoes.

Life is like that baseball uniform. We all have a uniform. We're given that outfit on the day of our birth and we wear it out. Especially the shoes. Our shirts get splattered with words and tears. The pants are covered with stains and worn from falling down. The shoes, they're near falling apart by the time we find a resting place. The soles give away the bases we've run ... whether by choice or force. Sometimes, they carry reminders of hurt and at other times ... a reminder of something good. At the end of the day, would anyone else want to wear our shoes? Would anyone want to walk in our shoes? Is there someone with enough love to put them on and walk around?

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to bear one another's burdens, to come along side and lift up the hurting broken spirit. And, sometimes, we have to put on their shoes to do what's been asked of us. And ... all the time, that hurts. And ... all the time, we have to say yes. We can't say ... I'm done. I won't anymore.

How can I say your uniform is too messy to be worn? I wouldn't think of putting on your stinky shoes just to know where you've played and what pain the games have caused you?

I can't say no ... because God's given me a picture of my uniform. The one I have after a long day at work. When I am exhausted and disappoint myself and my family. The shirt that's covered with the splatter of mean words. The ones that fall from my own mouth. My pants that have stains from tripping up ... yet again. The shoes, the ones that smell from all the wrong bases I've taken. Yeah, my uniform is just as messy as the next player. And, I would want someone to look at my uniform and say ... yeah, I'll wear it. Regardless of where you've been or what you've done ... no matter how smelly your shoes are ... I'll walk in those, I'll play in those.

The best thing about that dirty uniform ... we can put it in the wash. We can ask God to make it bright again. That doesn't mean there aren't reminders of past games. The good games and the bad games ... we remember them. But, God ... well He uses all those games to make us better players.

Meet you on the ball diamond ... bring your messiest uniform ... it'll match mine. We can trade tips on how to get the stains out and what works best to patch the worn places.

Ephesians 4:1-6 "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Running Bases


James is only eight ... far from the Big Leagues and seemingly just as far from T-Ball days. He's not the quickest player on the team. So, he has to make up for that in other areas.
Running the bases is hard to learn. Believe it or not ... there's a system to the game. A system to making each play and being where you need to be at just the right moment.
But, it's also a game of chance. At least, that's the way I see it from my seat on the bleachers. As I watch the kids bat, run to first, take second, steal third and slide into home plate ... I see it as chance. Where will the ball be hit ... how hard, how far, how high ... and, who will be waiting there to catch it, field it and through it in to the bases?
Last week, James was on 2nd base ... watching the batter on home plate. That's what the players have been taught. And, for the most part, they follow that guidance. Watch the batter, as soon as metal and ball meet ... RUN! Then, keep your eyes on the base coach. The base coach tells you where to go ... stop on the plate or round it and keep on RUNNING! James did that ... waited, ran ... and then, looked back. He looked back at second base. He was looking for safety. The ball was hit right down the middle of 2nd and 3rd base. James had to leave 2nd so the next runner could move up but he couldn't make it to 3rd ... not when the ball was right there and the baseman was waiting to tag him out. So, he looked back and turned around ... trying to find a way around the baseman holding the ball. No luck, he was out.
After the inning, James coach gave him some pointers ... reminded James of their practice and to not look back.
Don't. Look. Back.
Sometimes, I feel like James did in that moment. Stuck between bases. I want to move forward. I want to look directly into the eyes of the Base Coach and RUN ... I want to know what it feels like to slide safely into home plate ... but, something holds me back. Leaving the safety of the base I'm on, that's a little scary. I step off the base and run forward but then I start to worry. So, I look back. Instead of trusting the Base Coach, I let my doubts and fears steal bases in my heart ... in my life. I'm sure there have been times when I've missed out on blessings and maybe even some home runs ... all because of my fears.
What about you ... do you look back?
Philippians 3:14 "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Friday, June 18, 2010

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

This post is from a very dear friend. When she shared this with me, I knew immediately that I needed to share it here on my blog.


The story I have for you is from this last weekend. I got one of those realizations that you often talk about. I was feeding my granddaughter a jar of green beans. We were not at her house so we did not have a highchair, we were just sitting on the floor where she usually does very well at being still while being fed. There was too much activity in the living room where we were sitting. Other people and a dog, especially the dog! So her attention was not focused on me (or rather the food!). She kept turning her head at the moment I was trying to put the food in her mouth and getting green beans all over her face. She was making a mess!

When I would wipe her face she would get so mad! I looked at my 9 month old granddaughter and said, “If you would quit looking away from me and pay attention, you would not be making such a mess of yourself!” no sooner than it was out of my mouth that I realized that God has told me the very same thing.

A few years ago, one of my more favorite parts of scripture is where Jesus walks on water, especially when Jesus tells Peter to come out to him. Peter is doing great until he sees the wind and the waves. He took his eyes off of Jesus and started to sink into the water. Peter cries out and “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith" he said "Why did you doubt?"



So if keep your eyes on Jesus…you will not make a mess of yourself! Just remember if you do look away from him, cry out to him and his hand will be there to catch you…immediately!

Matthew 14:25-31 "During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Storm




I watched from the kitchen window as a portion of my childhood split and fell.
The storm came from a seeming nowhere. It was Friday night, we had just been at the ballpark and enjoyed a game played by my eight year old son. The sky had been overcast but nothing to suggest a storm with 70 mile per hour winds was heading our way.
By the time we got into the house, sprinkles were scattering dry deck boards. Soon after, the winds came ... blowing everything out of place.
Moments later, hail made its precense known on my roof. And then ... the lightening. I'm not usually unsettled by storms. Most of them come and go leaving only a few tree branches here or there. This one ... it was different.
The massive oak tree in our front yard ... the one that shades my deck in the August heat and shelters our home from December winds ... it split in half. A mighty wind tore it apart and left a mess in my front yard. I watched it ... the wind tearing apart what I love. That tree was planted by my ancestors. It's given shade and comfort to generations of our family. Now ... now, it's not the same. This one half still standing, it doesn't look right all by itself. It's beautiful, large and healthy ... but it needs the other half to be a whole. The insurance adjustor came and left ... leaving the figures ... what is my tree worth and how much will it cost to remove ... to clean up what's left ... $150. The adjustor asked if I had any questions ... questions ... no, I'm just mad about my tree.
You can't put a price tag on shelter, shade, comfort ... history.
That's not all we lost this weekend. Saturday, a car accident took the earthly life of someone we hold very close. Theda ... a friend of our family and a portion of my childhood passed from here and into the sweet hereafter. There isn't enough space in a small blog to write all the moments she and her family touched. I knew her from church, when I was a little girl. Theda and her husband, Bob, were friends of my parents. We spent time at their home ... my sister and me ... dancing to Donnie and Marie Osmond records, sleeping on the "hide-a-bed" and eating popcorn.
Theda played piano on the day I was married. She and Bob came to my home and rocked my babies when they were newborns. Just this past February, I was ill and Theda brought supper.
And, now there is Bob. One half ... still beautiful and special but not the same. I feel as if the Dawes' were torn apart ... one fallen and the other remains. Just like Theda, Bob is a portion of my childhood. They can not be replaced. Nothing can make the empty space seem whole.
I know life is not about waiting for the storm to pass ... but, learning to dance in the rain. Over the past week, I feel like I have been waiting for a storm to pass. I can't imagine how her family is living through this storm.
I should have been dancing in the rain. Remembering all the special times shared with Bob and Theda .... their children ... all the special people from my childhood.
These are the reasons I am dancing in the rain ...
Donnie and Marie Osmond records playing while my sister and I danced on the rug in Bob and Theda's kitchen.
Slumber parties on my parents bed, watching The Wizard of Oz with Brenda and Alecia Peas.
Sunrise Easter Service at the Methodist church, all our friends watching in the dawning sunlight.
And there are so many more.
Why are you dancing in the rain?
1 King 19:11-12 "Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

He's Sick


I know him. I know the feel of his forehead against the back of my hand ... the temperature that says "he's fine" and then the hot to the touch that says "he's sick." Something's not right. The purple color under his brown eyes tells me ... he's tired ... exhausted.

Sunday started the same as most, me up first and ready for church ... then the boys tumbled out of bed and into nicer clothes than school days. Their hair all rumpled from late Saturday night video games ... I left it ... a little lazy myself from a later than usual bedtime. Jerry and I had gone to see "Letters to Juliet" and gotten home late. Somewhere in the midst of our Sunday morning rush, I know James mumbled his head hurt. I ignored it, thought it was just a ploy to ride along with his Daddy for work. I ushered him to church and then ... the teacher came to get me during Sunday School hour. And, I knew.

I had been wrong. It wasn't a ploy. No made up illness in an effort to get something he wanted. We drove straight home and I took his temperature ... 102. James curled up on the couch ... and ... didn't move. He stayed there all afternoon and into the evening. Each time I checked, he was worse and then there were tears.

"I hate being sick, Mommy. I hate bein' sick like this." His voice was getting scratchy.

"I know baby, but you'll feel better soon." Again ... I was wrong again.

James wasn't better soon. In fact, he's still sick today. Tuesday, the doctor said he would be fine. But, I was worried. I got up in the night to check his skin ... hot, cold or lukewarm. I stood at his doorway and listened ... was his breathing steady or labored. I checked the thermostat, made sure it wasn't too cold. Jerry and I forced liquids and stood over him to be sure he drank enough. We administered the antibiotics and waited ... waited for his strength and spirit to boost.

And, I wondered ... how much we were like Christ. He watches for the symptoms and signs that tell Him we're ill ... our spirits are falling away, drifting in exhaustion. He stays with us and waits. He administers the peace, mercy and rest we need to gain our strength.

And ... if I love my son enough to get up in the middle of night, stand exhausted at his doorway ... how much more will Christ do for me? For each of us?

Matthew 7:11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
"


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Did She Know?


She was 17 ... 17 filled with so much promise. I never had the pleasure of knowing her.


From what I've been told ... she was easy to love. The sound of her footsteps outside the door were identifiable ... unlike any other visitor walking up to the door. She was a good friend, one of the best. And, she was killed in a car accident ... at just 17.


Lisa was a best friend to Cindi's daughter. Cindi is my friend. Lisa spent enough time under their roof to be called family. Enough nights under their roof that she had her own bed.


When she passed away, my friend spent much time ministering to the heart of her family ... her husband, daughter and son. Lisa's passing left a gaping hole ... a great divide. When someone is so entwined in your everyday ... it can't be any other way. You have to find the way to fill that void, that hurt and all over ache. The painful silence of ... no Lisa. You might stop and listen, thinking you hear that special someones foot fall outside your door ... but then ... you remember, that's not possible. And, the pain starts again.


After ministering to her family for some time, Cindi felt God's presence ... He came to her when everything started to slip through her fingers. He came and caught what fell ... her tears. For Cindi, Lisa was like another daughter ... she grieved the loss and the pain her own daughter felt at the passing of a best friend.


And ... then she began to question. Don't we all after someone passes?


This past Sunday, at church, Cindi stood up and challenged others to share their pleasure in someone, to tell them you love them, tell them how much they mean to you ... tell them, tell them ... don't stop telling them ... because tomorrow isn't a guarantee. You have this moment. Take it.


Cindi questioned ... did she let Lisa know how much she was loved? Did Lisa know for sure ... without a doubt how much she meant to Cindi and their entire family?


I can answer that question. I've been in Cindi's home. I have had the absolute pleasure of eating lunch beside their fireplace and playing with their dog, Dory. I have been given the opportunity to call their family ... friends. And ... I know in their family ... I am loved. Just as I am ... good, bad and everything in between. So, I know beyond a doubt ... Lisa left this earth blessed to have been a part of Cindi's family.


Are you making that difference in some one's life? Are you using up every moment to let those you love ... know you love them?


Sometimes, I don't do that. I get so caught up in the world ... I forget about those things. Make today a day filled with purpose ... purposeful love for others and the sharing of that love.
Psalm 139:1-3 "O Lord, You have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise,You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

We'll Be Too Busy


Our family of five filed into the small elementary school. We followed the path of acquaintances, friends and strangers ... family night at school. It was the night set aside for students and families to come in and meet the teachers ... find the classrooms and "get comfortable" with the surroundings ... before the first official day of school.
Our family found the room where one of my boys would spend 5 days a week for the next nine months. The walls were covered in alphabet, numbers, birthday candles, weather signs ... it smelled of new crayons and finger paint. I smiled and followed James as he ran his fingers across the large desks and then shelves filled with colorful books. He found friends he hadn't seen all summer and they began to tell tales of lazy summer fun.


We stopped to meet the teacher and I noticed a small blond haired boy ... tearing up. It was only family night and his fears, uncertainty were already "getting the best of him." I felt like a fist clenched around my heart ... too much of my school years were spent the same way ... fearful, uncertain. I felt for that little boy and for his mommy. He whimpered in his mother's shoulder ... "Everybody's gonna pick on me." Again, my heart ... being picked on ... again the same for my childhood ... school hood.


Then, the teacher did something ... said something ... She put her hand on his back, leaned down on his level and said "That won't happen in my classroom. We'll be having too much fun to pick on each other. You're going to make some really good friends this year ... I promise."


In that moment, she earned his trust. He looked up at her with bright blue eyes and smiled. She returned the smile and a wink to his mommy. I immediately liked this teacher. There was something in her eyes ... I knew she was going to keep that promise.


And, she did. Her classroom held no tolerance for "making fun", "picking on" ... all of the kids made good friends. They did have fun. Too much fun for there to be any time for other things ... lesser things ... hurtful things.


What if our lives were like that? What if ... we were so busy loving others that we didn't have time for hurtful things?


I find myself giving time to thoughts, feelings and actions that are hurtful. Hurtful to me and to others. And, then ... I don't have enough time to spend on the good things ... on love ... mercy ... grace. Things that make me feel good, things that make others feel good ... things that please God.


This week, I'm challenging myself. Less time for hurtful things and more time for love.


Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Something He's Not


Meet Buddy. He's been a part of the Willis Family for the past 6 years. And ... Buddy thinks he's a lap dog. As you can see in this picture, Buddy is NOT a lap dog. He's a border collie and is too big to hop on someones lap and cuddle up ... but ... he tries and we let him.
It's not that we let him when he was a puppy and he's never grown out of the habit. He was never held or cuddled on our laps. He was an outside dog for 3 years. After deciding to take on a van traveling down our highway ... he retired to the laundry room to mend a broken leg. And ... he's been inside ever since ... acting like something he's not.
Buddy wants to be as close to us as possible ... especially close to Jerry, our oldest son Clay and my Dad (lap in the picture). Buddy is a "people pleaser" kind of dog. He wants us to love him, play with him, include him ... everything all the time ... Buddy needs to be in it. That's where he feels comfortable and best. For some reason, Buddy has decided that being a lap dog is somehow better than being what he is ... a sit by your feet kind of dog.
Have you ever done that? Tried to be something you're not. I have.
I struggle to accept who I am is good enough, pretty enough, smart enough ... so many things ... things I feel like I am not but wish I could be. So, I try to be all the things I think will please other people. All the things I think will make other people love me more, want to include me more. Somewhere along the way, I told myself I had to be perfect. I had to fit into some kind of mold the world created for women, wives and mothers.
When all along, I've been perfectly me ... the person God created me to be. His mold is the only one I need to be concerned with ... it's the only one I have to fit in to. My imperfections allow God to manifest His perfections.
The Willlis Family loves Buddy whether he's a lap dog or a dog sitting by our feet. We accept him just as he is ... imperfections and all.
What about you ... do you struggle with being someone you are not? Do you accept others just the way they are? Do you tell others how they must behave in order to fit into your mold?
1 Timothy 1:12-17 "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. "

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Steady the Ladder


We're building a fort. Not a small one either. I know, we're crazy! Well, I guess I have to admit, I'm the crazy one. And ... Jerry and my Dad ... they're the ones working on my crazy plan. But, really ... we looked everywhere for a fort with all the things we wanted for the boys ... and ... in our price range. Nothing ... so ... we set out on a mission. On an adventure. At it's highest peak, this fort will stand 11 feet off the ground. There will be a castle tower, a bridge leading to a small pirate ship and lots of cool things hidden inside. It's going to be a long, time consuming task.


Jerry and my Dad have been handling a large portion of the frame work. But, I decided I wanted to do something to help. Aren't all mommies like that? Don't we always have to be in on the action? I do. I wanted to be able to say ... "Hey, I helped build that!" So, I decided to help with the frame on the 11 foot castle tower.


I was about 8 feet off the ground, standing on an older ladder. As I swung the hammer, I felt the ladder shift under my weight. My legs buckled a little and I grabbed hold of the support beam. But ... I didn't need it. From out of nowhere, the ladder steadied. I gained my balance and looked down ... there was my Dad ... hand on the ladder, balancing it ... steadying it.


As we worked through the remaining support beams, I thought about how good it felt to go from being afraid I would fall 8 feet to the hard ground ... to feeling safe, knowing I was totally safe. I could stand at the very top rung and hammer in the nail. I could finish what I started ... knowing I had someone steadying my ladder.


Life is so much like that. I want that for each of my boys. I want them to climb as high as they want ... knowing that Jesus will be there to steady them if they start to slip. And, isn't that what Jesus wants for us, His children? He wants us to know He is ALWAYS there ... always watching ... steadying. And, we can do that for each other. We can be the one standing at the bottom of the ladder, watching and waiting ... to steady it when our brothers and sisters in Christ slip. When they need support, balancing ... someone to hold the ladder while they set out on their adventures, reach their goals ... their dreams.
Have you steadied a ladder today?

Hebrews 13:6 "So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To Make You Laugh


Just a story to make you laugh. This story is from my almost 6 year old.

First, to understand this entire story, you need to know how much my youngest boy dislikes school. Kregg has a wonderful teacher. I've been in the classroom as a helper. So, I've seen first hand she does great with the kids and does lots of fun things to keep them interested in the learning process. I don't really think his feelings about school have anything to do with school ... his feelings have everything to do with his love of ... home. He wants to be home. All the time.

Every morning, he gets up and tries to find some way to stay ... home. For example ... his head hurts, his feet hurt, his eye hurts ... he has a hole in his sock ... he has growing pains (super bad in his words) or even ... one time, his "pee-pee" hurt and he couldn't wear clothes and since you can't go to school naked, he would just have to stay home.

So ... yesterday, I picked the boys up from school. Half way to the car, Kregg starts crying. He tells me he had a REALLY bad day at school. He had to move his "clip" two times. This statement is enforced by Kregg holding up to fingers, in the air ... and wide eyes. That's bad. I say, ok and we'll talk about it in the car. We get into the car and the story spills ...

"Mama, I can't tell you. It's really bad." He won't look at me.

"It's ok, Kregg. You'll feel better if you talk about it."

I make his big brother cover his ears so only I can hear the terrible offense that caused Kregg to move his clip ... TWO TIMES.

"Well, it's really bad." He's crying, face in his hands."I stomped on a peanut butter and jelly." Huge sigh from his little body and he waits for me to punish him.

"In the lunch room? How did that happen?"

"I dropped my PB & J on accident. And, then ... I stomped on it. Mrs. Frank caught me." He cries more.

"Kregg, that's pretty bad. That probably made a big mess for the lunch ladies to clean up. But, it's ok 'cause you won't do it again now that you know better." I smile back at him. Because, really ... in all the things he could do to get in BIG trouble ... this isn't so bad ... but, I don't tell him that because he needs to understand it was wrong.

He's still crying. I'm puzzled.

"You won't do it again, right Kregg?" I ask because it doesn't sound like he understands he can't do that again.

"That's just it, Mama. I think I'm gonna have to do it again." He shrugs and cries ... more.

"Why, why would you have to do it again?" I'm confused even more, this makes no sense at all.

"Well, I'm gonna have to stomp on another PB&J. Cause if you're really naughty and no one can get you to be good, then they won't let you come to school anymore. And, I hate school. Stompin' on that PBJ was the mostest trouble I ever got in at school." Big sigh. "So, I'm gonna have to do it again" Shrug of his tiny shoulders, like he's been defeated " ... that way I ain't gotta go to school no more." More tears.

I turn around in the seat to laugh where he can't see me.

Seriously ... Kregg would rather get in major trouble and be kicked out of school then to have to just go to school and ... have fun.

Yes, Kregg is up this morning and ready for school. Today, there was a hole in his sock again ... he was certain he couldn't go to school. But, we finally found a pair without holes. I explained to him that if you are in major trouble and can't go to school ... well ... then you can't stay home either.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My "To Do" List


1. Get up, get ready for work
2. Get the kids up, ready for school ... get the kids to school
3. Work (all day)
4. Take James to baseball practice
5. Get homework done for all three boys
6. Fix supper
7. Get everybody ready for bed and safely tucked in for the night
8. Collapse

My "To Do" List.

It's the same nearly everyday ... the same list, the same people on the list, the routine ... the same.

Most of the time, I find myself just trying to make it through to number 8. And, I hope and pray there are no sudden surprises between number 2 and 4. No sick kids to pick up early from school, no car trouble ... nothing that would "mess up" my to do list.

Yesterday, my niece's anesthesiologist taught me a much needed lesson. He opened my eyes to the truth in a to do list ... take off the numbers ... don't make it a list ...

My niece, Hope, was in for yet another surgery. She struggles with nausea. After nearly every surgery, she spends hours throwing up. The last 5 months have been filled with surgeries to give her ears. She was born with only buds due to her Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS). Imagine ... the amount of pain already from being cut open so many times. Then add on top of that pressure from throwing up for hours. Painful.

Yesterday, this new anesthesiologist read through Hope's chart. He found her struggle with nausea and ... he did something about it. He's been trained in acupuncture.

After Hope's surgery, this man came back into the recovery room. He stayed with her ... performing acu pressure on different points of her body. He knew ... he knew he could help. He knew the acu pressure would decrease her nausea. So, instead of moving on to his next patient, the next surgery ... he came back, performed the acu pressure and ... it worked. Hope woke up with NO nausea.

Hope woke up with a smile.

All because, this man saw Hope as more than just a number on his "to do" list. He saw her as a special little girl struggling. He used his gifts to help her. Then, he went beyond that ... he went and talked with my sister and my brother-in-law about Hope's nausea. He let them know of what could be done to help.

He made a difference. He saw each patient as a person, not a number.

Do I ever make that effort? Are there things I could do differently?

Today, I'm taking the numbers off my list ... I'm taking time to see the people I'm blessed to have on my list. I'm going to use my gifts at work ... use them to make a difference for the people I meet.

Thank you, Malik ... your care for my niece not only made her feel better ... but, it taught me something. I pray you are blessed.

What are you doing today? Do you have gifts to give? Are there numbers on your list?


Romans 12:6-8 "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Part of the Team


"Who said that?" Ball bat pointed out across the field, the coach eyed his players. "Fine! No one wants to tell me, Fine!"

A dozen seven and eight year olds stood wide eyed, shocked ... the coach rarely raised his voice. They knew he meant business. For once, the team didn't move ... the entire group of squirmy kids ... stood frozen.

"I better NEVER hear that again! If I do, I'll find out who said it and you'll be done. No more play time!"

I watched from my seat in the car. I sat with the windows down, watching my almost eight year old practicing catch. Whoever it was ... it wasn't him (thank goodness!). He was too far away from the coach to be the guilty one.

From my spot beside the field, it sounded like one of the players was poking fun at a team mate. I could've been wrong but I was pretty sure. The coach's voice was lowered again ... I couldn't make out everything he said ... but, one thing was clear, someone had disappointed him. Someone wasn't acting like a part of the team. They were too busy picking out the wrongs of their team to even notice what they might be doing wrong.

In that moment, I gained a new respect for my son's coach. I saw a part of him I did not see during last season. I liked this part ... this firm respect for each player. For the rest of practice, encouragement came for and from each member of my son's team. The coach let that moment go and moved on to playing ball with his team.

We could use more of that coach in our world. The businesses in our communities need more of that coach.

Unfortunately there are a lot of companies that need someone like that ... someone who will command respect for co-workers. Someone who will lead by example and guide their team to respect each player. Rather than picking out each players faults ... they need someone who will point out the strengths and gently guide the players to improve. Somewhere along the way, that's been lost ... I don't want to be like that ... I want to be someone like my son's baseball coach.

As Christians, we are blessed to be lead by a Coach guiding us with encouragement. And ... He tolerates no judgement or condemnation. Within the field of His team, there is room to fail and encouragement to do better. There is acceptance and appreciation for the strength of each player. A game can not be won by the coach ... it can not be won by one good player ... you need the entire team.

Romans 12:3-8 "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Out the Window



"Where'd my other paper go?" My seven year old was frustrated! He shoved book bags, school papers and a ball mitt across the car seat.



"You just had it. Look on the floor." I watched him through the rear view mirror. We were on our way home from school. It was my half day at work ... meaning, I got to pick my boys up from school and spend the rest of the afternoon ... just us. That's the highlight of my early day off from work. I look forward to being there for them .. spending time with them.



"It's not there!" His voice was loud and full frustration. "Oh man! What am I gonna do? That's my homework! This is just great!" He stomped his feet on the floor board, arms crossed over his chest and lower lip poked out as far as humanly possible.



It didn't stop there. The attitude went well into the evening. Nothing seemed to lift his spirits. After much talk and more talk and even more talk ... we figured it must have gone out the open car window. It was warm and breezy ... the perfect afternoon for open car windows ... the worst afternoon for homework to be out in the car.



And, now I have to admit, I lost my temper. I yelled at him. Why? Because, even after all the talking and trying to persuade him it would be OK ... he was still in a terrible mood. It was my afternoon off work ... and we spent that afternoon arguing. All because he couldn't get his mind off the homework ... lost somewhere in a field between home and school. I knew we could fix it. I knew we could talk with his teacher, get another homework page and turn it in. None of that mattered. All he could focus on was ... what went out the window ... his homework and my afternoon off right behind it.



And ... I do that to God all the time. He has plans, perfect plans. He looks forward to spending time with me, being there for me. I let the frustrations of my everyday life get in the way. I know He can fix everything ... He can find what's missing (maybe what's missing is time alone with my husband, money to pay all the bills, quiet time), help me get it done ... but, I don't let Him. All my frustrations cause His plans to "go out the window". He gave us free will and a part of that free will is allowing Him to work His magic.

And, even when I don't let Him, He doesn't get mad. He doesn't loose His temper. He waits ... patiently.
Psalm 62:5 "My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him."

1st Corinthians 13:4 "Love is patient, Love is kind."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Past the Fog


Sometimes, our vision gets blurred by the every day. We have to try harder, look longer and push past the fog to see what really matters.

The every day can be beautiful. For me, a foggy morning ... mist hanging over the corn fields in my back yard ... dew settled on the grass ... that's beautiful. But, when it's foggy, I can't see what's behind the mist ... what's hidden beneath.

Enjoying the beauty around me, that's a blessing. Enjoying what lies beneath ... well, that's just ... God.

Vinny found something beneath the surface ... and, in finding it ... seeing it ... he blessed me.

Vinny is married to one of my very dear friends. He and his wife are a blessing to me and my family. The picture with this blog was taken by her. She has an incredible gift for photographing nature from a different perspective.

Yesterday was one of those days when a simple comment Vinny made ... touched my heart.

Vinny and Cindi have a pool in their backyard. For a couple of summers, Cindi and I have been trying to make plans for me and my boys to come over and swim. It just never works out ... mostly because I'm crazy busy running the boys around for baseball practice. Or insane projects I start but somehow never finish.

Yesterday, Cindi told me that Vinny wanted to make plans for our entire family (My family, my sister's family, my parents) to come over and swim. She reminded him that wouldn't be possible ... not possible because my niece, Hope, can't swim. Because of her disability (Treacher Collins), she has a trech and can't be submersed in water.

Vinny knows our family inside and out ... He sees Hope on Sundays when she's able to come to church. He knows she's disabled and knows the limitations of her special needs. In knowing her, he forgot about those limitations. He just saw Hope ... He saw the depth of her personality. The Hope who would love to splash in the water and toss around with her cousins.

Without even realizing it, Vinny looked beyond Hope's beautiful foggy surface and saw what God sees in each of us. Vinny saw the special things behind Hope's special needs.

In the moment Cindi shared Vinny's comment with me, I was blessed ... and, I was reminded ...

There is a spirit and soul behind the face of each person I meet. The surface is a fog hiding the spirit from my human eyes. If I want to see the spirit ... I have to look with God's eyes.

Thank you, Vinny ... for seeing Hope and each of us through the fog.

Psalm 139:1 "O LORD, you have searched me and you know me."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Condemned


"Look at all those houses! They're all empty ... wow, some of the windows are broken in." I turned my head to look as close as possible while we drove past. Some type of sign or notice was posted on each door. All I could make out from the roadside ... Condemned.

"Probably has something to do with the flooding." My husband turned and looked at all the houses on the other side of the highway.

House after house ... home after home ... empty. Condemned.

My husband was most likely right. Several years ago, there was massive flooding in that area. The highway was covered in water and the houses on either side of the road sat in 3 feet of water. Weeks passed before the water began to diminish. At the time, everyone wondered what would become of those homes. Now, it seems the answer was ... they were deemed unfit to live in. Unfit to call home by families. Unfit to serve as a safe place to land at the end of a long work day.

We drove past those houses again last week. The windows were black holes into empty shells. The outside of each was unkempt and looked worn from the longer than desired winter. They lacked all evidence of life ... the things that tell you a home is taken, claimed. No bikes tossed at the garage door, no flowers poking up from pots on the porch ... no lights shining from inside and piercing the dusk.

At what point does one determine a home beyond repair, unfit to live in?

As we drove further, I thought about the families forced to leave the place they called home. I thought about the memories and safety each might have felt in the now vacant shells. I know how much I love my home ... how much did it hurt them to walk away? To leave a place they had worked hard to make safe, loving and comfortable? And then, I thought about the condition of my heart ... the home I've asked Christ to live in.

How often do I behave "unChristian"? How many times do I sin and cause damage to the shelter Christ calls home? Do I let the storms of this life, this earth alter the place I reserve for my Family? And, how much must it hurt Him to be removed ... removed because He cannot reside in a home tarnished with sin?

And ... how often does He repair the damage caused by my choices, caused by storms on this earth? There is never a point when He claims my heart or any other heart ... beyond repair... worthless or unfit to live in. Each heart, each life ... He sees the value ... a vision of that heart without sin. All that is required of me is to ask ... ask Him to take away the sin.

He puts His light in the windows of my soul and chases away the darkness left by floods of hurt and sin. He leaves evidence of a home claimed by Family.

How is the condition of your heart? Have you asked Him to take down the sign of condemnation?


Psalm 34:22 "The LORD redeems his servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in him."

Romans 3:23-24 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tending the Fire


It's almost that time of year ... the time when Jerry and I look forward to weekend campfires. We don't go to any campground or lake for this retreat. We're blessed to have it right in our own backyard. And, this year ... I'm looking forward to it even more than in years past.

On nearly any summer weekend, you can find us gathered around a large fire ... roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. Sometimes there's a big pot of chili simmering or sometimes ... just our family ... no food.

As the fire begins to burn hot, the calls go out to family and friends ... "We've got the fire going, come on over." And soon there are more lawn chairs and smiles around the fire. The adults sit with feet stretched close to the warmth while the kids play games of "hide and seek" or catch.

This morning, I was praying for some young people in my life and even some acquaintances. These people are in my prayers for so many reasons. Some are loved ones going through difficult times. Others are names rather than faces. Names that have been mentioned in passing ... names of people who are in need of prayer. For each, this morning my prayer was that they would have a relationship with Christ.

Not skin deep ... but soul deep. You know what I'm talking about ... the kind of relationship that seeps into your bones and into your spirit. And, as I prayed ... I thought about our campfires. How hard it is sometimes to get that small ember to become a bright, steady and hot flame. There are times when my husband has been down on his knees blowing a steady gentle breath on the ember hiding beneath the kindling. If he gets up too soon, walks away and doesn't tend to the fire ... it fizzles and dies out.

Each of us is born with that ember. The small place within our soul that knows a Greater power is out there. The question is ... who is willing to get down and look for that ember? Who is willing to spend time down on their knees, breathing life into that ember? Who is willing to stay and tend the fire once it starts?
Once the fire is burning steady, others draw near to its warmth and light. It brings calm ... comfort ... retreat.

My prayer this morning ... for these souls ... a breath of life on the ember.

Matthew 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. "


Sunday, April 4, 2010

When I See Him Smile


My feet spinning circles in the water, I sat on the edge of the pool. I watched ... my family. The blessings God has given me ... playing in three feet of water ... the shallow end. Someday they'll all be in the deep end ... but for now, they stay in the shallow area where James and Kregg can reach the bottom and keep their chins above the water.

Just the five of us in the pool room. It was quiet and warm. Nine thirty at night. We were the only visitors out on Easter Eve. My husband has a key to his employer's pool house. We can go nearly anytime of day or night ... and play ... just us.

On this night, I watched each of my guys ... Jerry, Clay, James and Kregg. I didn't get in at all. Just dangled my feet in the warm water and enjoyed the view.

As I let my heart take in each sight and sound, I remembered a prayer from my youth. A prayer I whispered at 16 years old. I asked God to let me marry this boy ... then, I asked him to let me have children and to enjoy them.

In the chaos of my everyday life, I ask God to get me through the day. I ask Him to bless me with funds to meet each financial obligation. I ask for my home to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Sometimes, I selfishly ask for a "good day" ... one where all five of us get along, no fights or nasty words. I ask to have a date night with my husband ... worry free ... no car trouble, no family troubles ... no job worries.

And, at the end of each day, I fall asleep ... with the answer to my prayer from 19 years ago. I married that boy and we have three amazing children ... and, I'm enjoying them.

Jerry pulled our youngest boy off the pool edge and walked to the middle where our other two boys wrestled in the splashes. He looked over Kregg's shoulder and smiled. That smile ... the smile I fell for at 15 years old. The smile I asked God to bless the rest of my life with when I just 16. I read his lips ... "what?" ... because he saw a look on my face ... "nothing" I said ... because it would be impossible to tell him where my heart was and what I was remembering.


When I see him smile ... I'm thankful for God's yes to my 16 year old prayer.


Jeremiah 29:11-14 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Are You a Soldier?


I was standing in the kitchen ... no lights ... dark ... talking to my nearly 16 year old son. Talking about Passion ... Passion of the Christ. He had just come home from youth group where they had watched Passion. He'd seen it before and knows the story. He's in church nearly every Sunday, at youth group on Sunday nights and youth events scattered in between school days and Sundays. But something was different on this night.


He always has questions ... about everything ... movies, music, my day at work, his dad's workout at the Y ... everything. But, on this night ... the questions were ones I had not planned for. Ones I needed to slow down and think about.


"Mom is the scene with the crow or black bird biblical?", "What do you think the meaning is of the child Satan holds during Christ's beating?" ... and so many others. I slowed down from the pace of laundry and dishes. We stood in the kitchen leaning against the counter, covered in the darkness of a late March night.


I answered his questions. He told me his thoughts. Then, he asked me about the soldiers. The ones sitting at the foot of the cross as Christ died. In the Passion, those soldiers cast lots for Christ's belongings. They laugh and wipe Christ's blood from their faces. This touched my son ...


"Mom, when I saw that, I thought maybe we're like that sometimes. Like those soldiers."


"In what way?" I ask, arms wrapped around my fuzzy bathrobe.


"We sit at the foot of the cross and we laugh. We take His death and the reason for granted. We do things we know we shouldn't and take His forgiveness and the price of it for granted." Hands stuffed in his jeans pockets as he lets me see a little bit of the work God is doing on his heart.


"Wow, I've thought about how we take it for granted but never that I might be like one of those soldiers."


We talked a little more and then I let him go to his room to think. I've learned with having three boys ... they aren't as emotional and sharing as us girls. So, I take the moments like that night and tuck them away in my heart.


He's right ... we are sometimes like the soldiers.
I am sometimes like the soldiers.
I take His sacrifice for granted. I make poor choices without even thinking about how it hurts Him. I sit at the foot of the cross ... the place where forgiveness is free ... I sin and come to the cross ... the forgiveness is always there and I take it.
He gives it.
And, today ... I am grateful. I am at the foot of the cross as one who aches over the sacrifice of her Savior.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tonight


Tonight, I am tired and angry and sad and frustrated and worried ... and ... asking why? Why has God not healed Hope?

Hope is one of my beautiful nieces. She was born with Treacher Collins. And, over the past 5 months, she has endured countless surgeries to form ears where previously she had only buds. The first ear went great and the doctors were very confident the second would go just as well.

Tomorrow, my niece will face yet another surgery. I have to be honest and tell you ... I've lost track. I can't remember exactly what number this procedure is in the miles she has walked. But, tomorrow afternoon, she will walk away from her parents, holding the hand of her friend ... a nurse who will take her into the operating room. She will, yet again, trust her doctor and her God ... to take care of her while she closes her eyes and lets the sleepy medicine do its work.

Hope knows on the other side of tomorrow ... there will be pain. There will be several days filled with silence. She can not wear her hearing aid after the surgery. Without her aid, noises are muffled and weak. The stitches will hurt and itch. There will be nausea and vomiting from the surgery.

She is just a little girl ... a little girl who wants ears. Ears for her MP3 and for earrings ... why hasn't God given them?

Do you ever find yourself asking God ... why? When that happens, what do you do ... where do you go for strength?
I don't have all the answers. I don't know if tomorrow will be the final surgery in this process. I don't know for certain God will choose for Hope to have two ears ... or just one ... I don't know those things. But, I do know this ... I've learned so much by watching my sister and her husband ... watching both my nieces ... and by watching God work His perfection.
I know that tomorrow ... isn't about me. It's about Hope and her mom and dad and big sister. It's about encouraging them when they need us and waiting patiently while the doctor uses the gifts God has given him.
And ... it's about knowing that whatever tomorrow holds ... God's holding tomorrow.

James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."

Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is being sure of what we HOPE for and certain of what we do not see."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How Will They Know Me?




A beautiful smile and bright eyes. A face that reflected peace, joy and acceptance ... that's how I recognized her.

Jerry and I took the boys to a ballgame. Half time, the seniors walked to center court ... escorted by their parents. There she was ... looking the same as she had in high school, walking her 18 year old son to center court. I recognized her immediately.
She was the girl 2 years older than me, always smiling and ready to encourage someone else. No matter what she was going through ... there she was, ready to listen and pick somebody up when they were down.

I stopped her after the game and we talked for only a few minutes. It was good to see her, to find out what was going on in her world. I probably won't see her again ... for another 17 years ... but that chance reunion left me thinking.

How do people recognize me? How will they know me ... in 40 or 50 years? When my hair is no longer brown but gray. My eyes are hidden behind wrinkles and no longer bright and green. If my smile is a little weak with age ... will anyone know me? What am I doing now to make sure my "identity" goes beyond my outward appearance?
My prayer is ... they will know me by my love, compassion, mercy ... the attributes I so often strive but fail to achieve. I pray they will look beyond the things I fail and see my heart.

John 13:34 - 35 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."