Security

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My ‘lovey’ when I was  a child was a light blue thermal blanket. I kept it for my own children in case they wanted it as their own lovey or for their baby dolls. Well, they’re not as fond of it as I was, so it has now become the dog’s lovey. What brought me security thirty-odd years ago now brings comfort to our ‘home security system’.

It’s broken, AND it still works…

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I dropped my phone and shattered the screen on May 3. I know the date because I had just sent a ‘We’re on our way’ message to a friend who was hosting my husband’s surprise 40th birthday party. I sent the message while I was standing by the outside trash can in our driveway; then, I turned around and dropped my phone face down on the asphalt driveway. After muttering something unbecoming, I picked up the phone and examined the damage. It was indeed shattered. I closed my eyes, mumbled several other sailor-like phrases, put on my smile and headed inside to gather the family to depart for the party.

On the way to the fiesta, I tried texting…and found it worked! I checked my apps, and they worked! As bad as it looked on the outside, all its inner parts seemed to be working just like new. Praise Jesus! I’m not addicted to my phone, but it has replaced my landline, and that makes it kinda vital. I really didn’t want to pay, well, anything, for a new phone. So, it was relieving to see everything functioning as it should.

Over the past few months, the smashed condition of the phone has been an interesting conversation starter. In check out lines, in store aisles, at work, at church…people have asked numerous times, ‘Why haven’t you gotten it replaced?’ And my response has been the same each time, ‘It still works!’

I realized the other day how awesome this mantra is…It’s broken, AND it still works. I’m a broken person, AND I still work. I’ve made some raunchy choices…I still do…AND I’m still working on improving that. I’m worn and torn in some spots. My heart has some dents and dings. My psyche turns funky colors sometimes. AND I’m working on that.

Friends, it doesn’t matter if you’re broken on the outside…if you have scars of past battles or wounds from present ones. It doesn’t matter if you’ve pitched fits in anger or thrown threats in selfishness or tossed your cookies in fear. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been tripped up, stood up or knocked up. What matters is that you’re still working. You’re a functioning, useful, helpful, capable being. You add to people’s lives. You contribute to others. You are worthwhile.

Don’t get discouraged if you’ve been smashed or shattered. You’re still capable of doing great things. Impressive things…because people wouldn’t expect something broken to still work. But you do, and you will.

PSALM 30

1I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
    You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
    and you restored my health.
You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
    You kept me from falling into the pit of death.

Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
    Praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
    but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.    

When I was prosperous, I said,
    “Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
    Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

I cried out to you, O Lord.
    I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will you gain if I die,
    if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
    Can it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
    Help me, O Lord.”

11 You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
    You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
12 that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

I’ll give my heart

What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring him a lamb.

If I were a wise man, I would do my part.

Yet what can I give him, give him my heart.

~In the Bleak Midwinter, Christina Rossetti 

This quiet lullaby, sung at Christmas, reminds us of our feeble attempts to give God something useful. He doesn’t need anything from us…but he wants our attention, our adoration, our love…because he loves us. What could we possibly give him that would add to his existence? Nothing. But we can love him and share his love with others.

My dear friends Jason and Megan are expecting a baby this winter. My four-year old daughter, a shoe diva, uncovered a lovely treasure that she has outgrown, and she wants to give it to them…for their baby. A pair of sparkly yellow sling backs.

IMG_3520Someone in her short life thought that they could enhance her small existence by giving her  this snazzy pair of  ‘clompy shoes’.  She didn’t need them. She could barely balance in them. But she loved them. And she knew that someone understood her adoration of fancy footwear.

After several weeks of her flopping around in them, sliding on our wood floors, and tripping herself multiple times, I hid the shoes in her closet. We discovered them again while making seasonal adjustments to her wardrobe recently. When she found the shoes, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with them now that she had outgrown them. Give them to someone special. They were special to her, and she wanted to share their ‘specialness’ with someone.

Jason and Megan’s baby will be born in the ‘bleak midwinter’… a time of year when sling backs are just not appropriate. That the baby will not have the muscular tone and strength to hold on shoes aside. This gift is a bit unnecessary, unneeded.

But the shoes are not truly the gift, are they? It’s the love. The sparkly, shiny, precious, shared love. The love that has already begun for a baby who isn’t here yet. She doesn’t need shoes, but she needs love. And we’re already for her…with open arms.

God doesn’t need our oversized, glitzy, glamorous gifts. He doesn’t even need our small, sensitive, sentimental gifts. He wants our intangible gifts… greeting him with open arms and open minds, desiring to spend time with him and learn about him, sharing the truth of his love with others. He wants our hearts.

 

1John 4:7-19

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

&

When I was a child, discipline usually began with the statement, ‘You know I love you…but…’ I don’t think the conditionality of that statement scarred me, but I didn’t like the sound of it coming out of my mouth to my children. It sounded wrong. Like my love was limited to times when behavior was stellar…which isn’t going to be always with kids. I was perplexed about how to phrase my deep love for my children while addressing their inappropriate actions. I needed new words.

Enter Andrew Taylor-Troutman, minister, author, blogger (http://www.takemyhandmemoir.com/blog) . He was invited to speak at our church on the topics of parenting, pastoring, and publishing. I posed my question to him: how do I communicate ‘I love you, but you can’t do this’ without the ‘but’? He thought for a shorter moment than I expected and replied with, ‘What about ‘and’?’ Hmmmm…

‘I love you, and you can’t behave this way.’ Hmmmm… ‘I love you, and you must stop hitting your sister.’ ‘I love you, and you cannot be disrespectful to me.’ Hmmm… I liked it. I could see how it could work. Affirmation and redirection. Probably with a long pause in between to let the first message sink in before delivering the instruction of the second one. Unconditional love with the added bonus of showing them a road map to getting out of the predicament wherein they found themselves.

Yes, this would work. I liked it very much. It was hard to implement as the old phrase kept popping out of my maternal mouth. I jokingly told a friend that I needed to tattoo ‘and’ on my arm so that I remember to say it. But I actually ended up doing something a little more drastic…I painted it on the wall.

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Reminders that good things come in pairs. Bacon and eggs. Hugs and kisses. Forgiving and forgetting. AND that joys and sorrows come together, too. Work and play. Sinners and saints. Love and discipline.

When the kids have asked, ‘Why did you paint a big ‘and’ sign on the wall?’, I tell them it’s a reminder that sometimes good things happen AND sometimes bad things happen. AND that we survive them both. It’s a healthy way to view life, I think. We can celebrate the joys and work through the sorrows together. Always loving, though not always lovable. And always loved.

James 1

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Psalm 1

Oh, the joys of those who do not  follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.
But they delight in the law of the Lordmeditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
    bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. 

Matthew 5

3“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

Fried chicken = grace

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Grace showed up at my house tonight in the form of fried chicken. Here’s the story…

The past few days around here have been rough. My son has been sick with a high fever for four days, and sleep has been sparse for both of us. His little sister, however, is full of vim, vigor, vitality…and sibling rivalry. She’s not unaware of the extra attention that he is getting in his weakened state. And she’s letting us know about it, loud and clear.

So we all had midday naps yesterday. Much, much needed naps. And then, by the grace of the God of all seasons, the weather was fallish enough to go outside for a bit. I fixed dinner and set it on the counter to wait my husband’s arrival home, and we all went out to air ourselves out in the pleasant autumn breeze.

I sat in the yard, enjoying the season and the moment…happy that B was feeling well enough to play a while and that D was being cooperative with him. I was happy that dinner was ready…my first attempt at oven-fried chicken. It was tasty and not greasy, flavorful and not heavy. I was glad that, even though I had one man down, dinner was ready, the table was clear of folded laundry, and the house was in pretty decent order for the start of the school week.

When I went inside to get some water for my parched son, I saw it. The empty platter. With tell-tale residue still on it. And the scoundrel dog nowhere in sight. I was angry. Very angry.

When I returned outside and told the kids, they laughed, but then asked, ‘So what are we going to eat for dinner?’ ‘Mashed potatoes and peas.’ I replied. ‘Or maybe we should eat the dog.’

Later that evening, I texted a friend whose dog had once eaten an orange crayon just as my friend was getting ready to color a pumpkin. ‘How do I color a pumpkin with no orange crayon?’ he had pondered. In my text, I commented that ‘your dog ate your crayon, but my dog ate our fried chicken dinner!’

I’d love to say that I had a chuckle or even a grin about the whole incident, but I didn’t. I was tired. Bone tired from repeated nights without real rest. Emotionally spent from the war of the sibs over my attention and affection. There was no humor to be found when dinner was lost the night I had no energy to do it all again. And, admittedly, it led me to cathartic cry.

Today, when I got home from work, there was a box of fried chicken (and macaroni and cheese) on the kitchen table and a smiling friend on my porch.

I was reminded of a song that the choir at my childhood church used to sing. ‘The precious, unmerited favor of God has been extended to me/ The marvelous grace of my savior knows no boundaries…’ I didn’t do anything to earn or deserve this neighborly gesture. It wasn’t repayment for any deed I had done. It was a loving gift…a gift for someone who needed help. I couldn’t make the dog give dinner back…we really couldn’t eat the dog for dinner. I couldn’t undo what had been done. But someone else reached out to make right what had been wrong. Someone interceded in a precious, unmerited way.

Grace. I’d take it over fried chicken (and macaroni and cheese) any day.

2 Corinthians  12:9-10 (but here’s the whole chapter)

But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions,in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Hymn credit: http://www.drbentownsend.com/documents/1fsunmeritedfavor.pdf

Photo credit: http://www.thedailymeal.com/how-make-perfect-fried-chicken

Oven baked fried chicken recipe that my dog ate:   http://www.pinterest.com/pin/170855379588952588/

Great expectations

My daughter has a baby doll that she takes everywhere with her. Karababy is the lovey’s name. She goes to church, to school (though she must wait on the waiting bench), the store, Grandma’s house…everywhere. Rather similar to Linus’s security blanket. But like everything that gets dragged through public places, Karababy gets filthy. And so, she must get a bath.

My gal doesn’t really like bath days for Karababy, but she accepts that they are necessary. She sees the grime collecting on the beloved ‘fuzzy belly’ and recognizes that the only way to make her fresh and new again is to toss her in the washer. As we are blessed to have the ever-entertaining front load washer and dryer, my girl is able to watch and wait while the cleansing process occurs. She plays patiently elsewhere until Karababy enters the dryer, and then, she takes her job as loving sentinel very seriously.

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My son, on the other hand, is rarely still. He’s always on the move…playing lacrosse, building forts, digging holes,  smashing dirt clods, chasing the dog.  On the odd occasion that he slows down, he wants to draw or construct or invent…still in action. The other day, he challenged me to a baking contest…with the stipulation that we couldn’t use recipes. He just wanted to mix up some stuff and hope that it would be fabulous. Well, having a few years of cooking experience, I knew that wasn’t exactly going to work out well…so I gave him a few suggestions about ingredient portions. He still had a good time with his creation…and he had to wait for the results of his labor.

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I’m in a place of waiting, too. I’ve gotten restless with my part-time teaching job, and I’m ready to re-enter the classroom full-time.  I taught full-time for twelve years, nine in middle school, before having my second child. I loved every day of challenging the challenging adolescent. I am meant to do that…it’s my passion and my calling. Unfortunately, full-time jobs don’t come along at just any time of the year…and so I wait. I spend my daughter’s final preschool year with her. I volunteer with my son’s class. I take on responsibilities at church that I won’t have time for later. And I wait…I wait for my instructional lovey to be ready again. I wait for the door to open on the treat of teaching middle schoolers again.  Like my own children who patiently bide their time, I will enjoy this time for what it has to offer, knowing that the future will be exciting enough.  And I’m happy with that. 

Words that are helping me now:

from Ecclesiastes 7

10Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. 11 Wisdom, like an inheritance, is a good thing and benefits those who see the sun. … 13 Consider what God has done: Who can straighten what he has made crooked? 14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.

from Jeremiah 29

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

from James 1

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

 

 

 

 

I know why the early bird sings

4:34 a.m. That seems to be the time when my bladder and my brain collaborate and decide that I’ve slept long enough. No matter what time I go to sleep, they think that time is ideal to awaken me. So, I’ve spent some time pondering the early morning hours.

Honestly, I love the sounds of early morning. Mostly, it’s quiet, peacefully quiet. The quiet of evening is a restless quiet. Cars still drive quickly home, radios still blast…those rowdy teenagers, car doors slam shut, neighbors end their visits in the driveway with nighttime chatter. Even nature rushes more in the evening, it seems. Fireflies flicker, crickets chatter, bats swoop, color drops off the edge of the earth into its bed. Night hurries into position as if to say, ‘Y’all go on to sleep now!’

But morning is slow in coming. As slow as it’s inhabitants.  Bats and bugs and nocturnal wanderers have finished their forays and are snoozing in the peace of dark. Breezes whisper through the leaves, careful not to arouse anyone yet. Dawn slowly creeps into the sky, as if stretching its colors awake. Cars meander down the street, as though they wish they were back home instead of carrying their sleepy passengers to work. The morning tiptoes into place quietly.

But the birds…oh, the birds. So full of energy are their tiny little bodies that they can’t hold in their enthusiasm about a new day. They can’t wait to start pulling worms up from dew-cooled soil. The garden must be explored, the bird feeder must be visited, the bushes must be plucked…a busy day awaits. WAKE UP, WORLD!!! Eight hours of silence is just too long! Being cuddled up in that cozy nest, sitting in that perfectly woven thatch, well, it was nice while it lasted, but there are things to do now! The grass is perspiring, the time is expiring! GET UP, EVERYONE!!

Cheeky little chirpers they are. And as I lay in my bed and wish they would tone it down for about an hour longer, I realize why they are so happy. They look forward to each day. They have cherished families to tend, precious food to gather, refreshing baths to splash…they know what they have to do, and they want to get about doing it. They know that every day, that sun will rise and every night, that sun will fade. Every day, seeds will be available. And every night, rest will be waiting at home for them.  And they want to revel in every moment of it.

Mmmm…I’ve been shamed by birds. Early morning rascals.

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photo by: randomphotography101.wordpress.com

Hymn…or me?

My life has been a big ol’ messy pile of decisions/thoughts/confusions/worries over the past month. Job changes, desired jobs lost, patience tried, school years begun, grown-up choices required…I’m exhausted. I’m emotionally weary and worn. I feel too old and too young and too informed and too ignorant. All. And I don’t really like any of it. I’m pretty much ready for this particular season to be over.

Through it all, though, there have been these soft lyrics lilting throughthe stormy clamor in my mind. A old but precious song from my Granny’s old but precious church. If I stop thinking long enough, I can hear her warbling the words next to me. And I recall the blessed assurance she portrayed in her life. She knew who watched the sparrows, and she knew that He watched her too.

Admittedly, I had to Google all the lyrics because I could only remember the chorus. But I needed to read all the words to be reminded that the life I’m muddling through now is not what He wants for me. He wants me to look up and over the muck and trust that He is going to take care of all the details I’m fretting about.  ‘Why should I feel discouraged…Why should the shadows come..Jesus is my portion…my constant friend is he…his eye is on the sparrow…and I know he watches me…” (I’m singing it and smiling as I type).

I hope someone else can be encouraged by this today.

Why should I feel discouraged?
And why should the shadows come?
And why should my heart be lonely
And long for heaven and home?

When Jesus is my portion
My constant friend is He
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

And I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I am free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me
 

Let not your heart be troubled
His tender word I hear
And resting on His goodness
I lose my doubts and fears

Though by the path He leads us
But one step I may see
His eye is on the sparrows
And I know He watches me

And I sing because I’m happy
And I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me

His eye is on the sparrow
  And I know He watches me             

         

http://www.songlyrics.com/alabama/his-eye-is-on-the-sparrow-lyrics/

Top Ten: Life Lessons from a Navy Seal

I’ve missed a few of my ‘top ten’ days, but I’ve been saving this link for the right moment. As this is back-to-school time, I thought this might be the right time to share it. It’s time to get out of bed, make the bed, and start a productive day.

Navy Admiral William H. McRaven tells the top ten lessons he’s learned from being in the trenches. They’re so simple, but so true. Here’s the list, but the article is so much more than just the list. Read it here:

http://nypost.com/2014/05/24/10-life-lessons-from-the-seal-who-led-mission-for-bin-laden/

10. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

9. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

8. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

7.If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

6. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

5. If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head-first.

4. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

3. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

2. If you want to change the world, start singing when your up to your neck in mud.

1. If you want to change the world, don’t ever ring the bell.

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