Prodigals

 

prodigal son 2Through all the flannel graph retellings and VBS skits and heart-wrenching life stories of the selfish prodigal son, I envisioned God having mercy on me. Isn’t that what the story is about? Self-centered, self-serving, immature whippersnapper goes off to prove he (she) knows best. Enjoys independent, riotous living until the funds run out. Learns hard moral of own life story. Returns home with remorse and wisdom. Greeted with unconditional paternal love. Goody two-shoes brother is jealous. Happily ever after. The end.

Well, yes, that is what the story is about…but there’s more to it than that. This past Sunday, Pastor John presented insight I had never known before regarding this story: ‘prodigal’ has two meanings.

1.  recklessly extravagant

2. lavishly abundant

Both of the sons were  prodigally selfish: the younger with his desire to have what he wanted, when he wanted, and the elder child was thinking only of his loyalty to his father, not the joy of his brother’s safe return.  Both sons were prodigally immature, neither thinking of the eventual effects of their behaviors. The young whippersnapper took his money and ran to pleasure without a plan for his future, and the self-absorbed elder missed the point of his brother’s return.

The parable does not tell how long the young son was gone. He may have quickly spent his inheritance on wine, women, and song, or he may have rollicked in revelry for years. We know that it was several seasons because he had to endure a famine and survive on his own for a while after.

The son who stayed at home must have been aware of his father’s worry for the lost child. But rather rejoice upon the child’s return, the elder brother begged for his father’s attention. Luke 15, verses 28 and following recount, “Then he  became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ ”  I imagine this son blocking the father’s view of the homecoming party, waving his hands in front of his dad’s face, begging for attention. How lost this son was, too, lacking so much compassion. Lacking in joy for the revelation his brother had experienced. So prodigal in his ignorance.

Oh, but the prodigal father. The lavishly abundant father. So patient with both sons in their impatience. So wise in the midst of their ignorance. So gentle in the midst of their tumult. Oh, precious prodigal father.

I know that I screw up. Daily, I want to smack myself in the forehead or on the wrists or otherwise punish myself for my own stupidity. I react in ignorance instead of waiting for discernment. I respond to momentary circumstances instead of considering enduring outcomes. I am selfish and ungrateful for what I have, and I seek more of what I don’t really need.

But for as rotten as I am, God is prodigally good. He regulates my imbalanced selfish scale. He erases my stupidity with his hugs of grace. He welcomes me into his perfect presence with open arms rather than shunning me for my foolish humanity.

Lamentations 3, verses 22 and 23 remind me

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Prodigal Father, I beg protection from my own prodigal self. Daily. Amen.

prodigal son

 

Waves

The theme of any recurring nightmare I have is that of drowning…or near drowning. A definite overwelming of water.

One nightmare has me in the car with someone else, driving across a flooded bridge; we arrive midway and the bridge washes out, in front of us and behind.

Another involves being in a hotel room with a large panoramic window looking out to the ocean, a typically luxurious view…until the tidal wave washes in, multiple stories tall, and crashes into my hotel room.

Water has always scared me. I didn’t learn to swim until I was out of college because I was afraid to get in too deep. Bless those dear friends who taught me how…in my over-sized child state of panic. I know it was not a pretty sight, and I appreciate the lack of social media at the time.

Water is big and powerful. Yet water is fluid and changeable. Send a snake in my direction, and I can find something to smash it with. I can barricade myself again a tornado. I stay out of the woods so bears aren’t a real threat. I know some trigger points to hit if an assailant attacks me. But water… that’s stuff’s slick. And slippery. And strong. And dangerous.

I know when I have one of those nightmares that it means something in my life is stirring up anxiety. Something is feeling overwhelming, too heavy, pressing down, burying me. Past panic attacks have left me gasping for air, like I’m helplessly bobbing inches above my own watery grave.  When my sleep is tormented with tsunamis in my vacation room or being stranded mid-river in a metal vehicular coffin, then my days must be filled with stressors beyond my solutions.

Lately, I have had those visions during the day. I can predict that the ringing phone is going to mean trouble before I answer it. The children are not going to play nicely while I shower. The event I have planned is not going to run smoothly. The mouthy student is going to continue to be mouthy…and his mother will be joining in soon.

Waves. Rolling waves. Getting taller and crashing closer with each opportunity.

The neighbor has a problem with our dog. The tournament we’d made plans to attend gets cancelled. Another unexpected bill. Another late night at work.

Higher waves. Angrier crests. Tidal fingers reaching for me, bringing all their depth and breadth of fury along with them.

Undiagnosable skin irritation on her. School struggles for him. My best friend is moving away.

The water is coming for me. I am its target. It will find me. No wall can stop it. No barrier will slow it. It is too powerful. It’s taking me under. And I can’t swim.

It’s all just too much sometimes. There’s no breathing room. No one else can do what I do…and everyone in my life needs stuff done. I can’t take a vacation day…the waves would find me there. I can’t take a nap…the waves would find me there. I can’t stop moving ahead because I have to stay ahead of them. And the panic that comes with them.

The waves of anxiety. The waves of fear. Rivers of discouragement. Rivers of sadness. I can’t swim through them. They are too strong for me.

Sometimes, I can only doggy-paddle and gasp and cry. And hope that all this struggle will eventually make me a good enough swimmer that I won’t be so damn afraid of the waves…the next time they come.

Psalm 61:2

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Read more of Psalm 61.

 

 

Kindling

It was a small piece of wood…probably 4 inches in diameter, 2 inches thick…but it was my hero this morning.

Here in central Virginia, it started snowing last night around 6 and has continued throughout the day. Our woodpile was covered with a tarp, thank goodness and husband. However, our kindling pile was buried under several inches of heavy, wet winter precipitation this morning. If you’ve ever started a fire before, you know the dire need for dry scraps of wood, especially if the logs you’re going to toss on are pretty cold and maybe a slightly damp.

I brought in a few pieces of wood and began to look for paper to ball up as fire starter, and I sent the kids to get the bag of lint from the laundry room. For the better part of an hour, we sat in front of the fireplace, huffing and puffing like a family of big, bad, wolves, praying and mumbling and wishing. I tried squeezing balls of paper between the two logs; I tried shoving lint balls in the crevice as well. More huffing and puffing. More shifting of wood. Waiting, hoping, blowing, sighing. After gently shoving the logs closer together and stirring up the old ashes a bit, I saw the tip of a piece of wood sticking out. A circular slice of an old log that had somehow survived some recent fire. I pulled it out and rejoiced quietly, hoping THIS would be the single most magical lump of dry  kindling ever.

And it was!!!! That perfect little, previously hidden chunk of wonderfulness, slipped perfectly into place between the two desperate logs worked a bit of a miracle. It made the fire successfully burn as all my efforts had been unable to accomplish. Thanks be to God!

IMG_6850As I sat there, saying silent prayers of appreciation that God showed me that ideal missing piece, I thought of perfect timing and perfect placement. Those people who have showed up at the perfect time to be catalysts of change or encouragement. Those who have been in my life, doing their thing, their true purpose hidden until the time was right.  Pastors who dust off the ancient words of truth and bring them to light, sparking change. Friends and family who stay closely distant until a need surfaces for their enlightening words of life. Neighbors who have survived their own fires, to live to light another. Strangers who act in randomly kind ways, brightening up dark moments.

Catalysts of change. Kindling of kindness. We are all that, just biding our time beneath our own old ashes. We have lived through blazing heats and unspeakable droughts. We have seen destruction around us…but we have survived. Our job is not done yet. We have not been destroyed because other still need us. To be their light, to bring them heat, to share our warmth, to beat their chill, to spark them onward.

We are lumps of wonderfulness, waiting in our own ashes, to light the fire of others.

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I Peter 1:6-9

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Romans 8: 18, 28

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 

Further Inspiration:

Romans 8

James 3

 

 

 

 

It’s a Tangled life

In the movie “Tangled”, baby princess Rapunzel is taken from her palace home when she is an infant. An evil old woman named Gothel kidnaps her and her sun-drop magical gift.

Mother Gothel raises Rapunzel in a tower distant from all human connection. Rapunzel occupies her time with painting, playing with her chameleon Pascal, cleaning, painting some more, reading, cleaning, pottery, ventriloquy…waiting for her life to begin, as the lyrics go. She watches out the tower window and notices what happens to the world around her. Her favorite event is the annual light show that occurs in the sky from the nearby kingdom. After a few years, she realizes that the lights appear in the sky on the night of her birthday. Finally, she asks her ‘mother’ if she can go see the lights as a birthday gift.

Mother Gothel replies (in Disney song) with a list of all the terrors that are out in the world, thus hoping to burst Rapunzel’s bubble of hope about the outside world. “Ruffians, thugs, poison ivy, quicksand, cannibals, snakes, the plauge…” (artistically sung and choreographed, of course). And her scheme of discouragement works. Rapunzel changes her mind about wanting to leave the tower.

Enter Ryder Flynn, criminal extraordinaire. When Gothel left the tower to acquire supplies to mix more paint for Rapunzel, Ryder unexpectedly arrives, hiding from other thieves whom he has insulted. Through a series of events involving various (and humorous) whacks with Rapunzel’s frying pan, this ‘ruffian’ agrees to take her to see the castle lights, in exchange for the safe return of his satchel of loot.

Rapunzel struggles with her conscience as she begins her adventure out of the tower. “Mother would be so furious…this would kill her…this is sooooo fun…I’m a horrible daughter…I’m never going back…I’m a despicable human being…Best Day Ever!!!!’

Rapunzel’s experiences thus far remind me so much of my own life. Locked in a place that looked like home, seemed like home, had the ‘comforts’ of home for years. Told truths of safety and security. Encouraged to make the best of where I was, not to try anything risky. Warned of dangers known and unknown. Promised that ‘mother knows best’. And truthfully, isn’t that simple, uncomplicated life ideal? Isn’t safety desired?

Well, when I look at the life of Jesus, I see so much more. I see him mingling with questionable characters. I see him encouraging people to have faith in something bigger than they can earthly imagine. He says, ‘Step out and walk on the water.’ Walk around city walls and watch them fall. Hold up your arms and the sea will split, the sun will stand still. Love your enemies. Rejoice when persecuted. Pray and give and you’ll be rewarded. You’re watched and cared for more than anything else in creation, so don’t be afraid.

You see, like Rapunzel, we were stolen from our original family. We have been told the lie that earthly goals and mankind’s dreams are the best we can do. ‘Mother knows best’ comes in the form of ‘they know best’, ‘the media knows the whole story’, ‘the Joneses are the ones to keep up with’…lies, lies, lies. Our Heavenly Father knows best. He speaks truth always. He tells us that it won’t be easy; we will be persecuted, times will be hard. But he is with us and has, from the dawn of time, has greater plans for us than our sheltered tower life can provide.

I love the lyrics to the song “I See the Light”…because it describes exactly how my life changed when I realized what I could do with God in my life.

All those days watching from the windows
All those years outside looking in
All that time never even knowing
Just how blind I’ve been
Now I’m here blinking in the starlight
Now I’m here suddenly I see
Standing here it’s all so clear
I’m where I’m meant to be

And at last I see the light
And it’s like the fog has lifted
And at last I see the light
And it’s like the sky is new
And it’s warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted
All at once everything looks different
Now that I see you.

It’s a Tangled life. Mixed messages, broken promises, twisted confusions… but it all gets straightened out when we acknowledge that God is greater than all the mess. He wants us to be brave enough to take that first (barefoot) step out of our comfort home to seek the adventure he has for us.

image from http://www.etsy.com

Scripture references:

Exodus 14 (Crossing the Red Sea)   Joshua 10 (Sun standing still)

Joshua 6 (Jericho’s walls fall)          Matthew 5-7 (Rejoice when persecuted)

Matthew 14 (Peter walks on water)

 

 

 

Chains

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When I was a kid, I really enjoyed making paper chains at Christmas time. Maybe it was the challenge of how long it could grow when competing with school  friends. Maybe it was the monotony of rolling, stapling, rolling, stapling…a menial task with maximum benefit in the midst of holiday rush. Maybe it was the simplicity of the decoration…paper and staples could fill a lot of gaps on the tree when ornaments were scarce. Whatever the reason, I liked making paper chains.

As my Christmases have become more umm…involved over the years, I haven’t had the pleasure of sitting down with a pile of colored paper, scissors, and staples in a while. Until tonight. These post-Thanksgiving days have been uncharacteristically relaxed. The weather has been balmy and perfect for children to run their vacation energy off outside. Their ages make it easier to release them to an independent activity while I relax on the couch a bit. It has been eerily calm.

While my son was biking with friends this afternoon, I was working on cutting some paper for a church project tomorrow (first Sunday of Advent!). I had a pile of decorative FullSizeRender(1)paper spread out in front of me and some scissors, some loosey-goosey little paper scraps and a roll of tape. I asked my nearly-six year old daughter if she’d ever made a paper chain. She said she didn’t think so. As she is methodically minded like her mom, I figured she would enjoy this project. So I grabbed the stapler (I know that makes it more rewarding, more quickly) and showed her.

StarFullSizeRender(3)t with a circle of paper, stapled together. Slide a strip of paper through the circle and staple it to itself. She grasped the simple concept within a few loops and began to connect them herself, just asking that I do the stapling. ‘This is fun!’ she observed after about 8 loops. I knew she was hooked.

As I recalled the last time I made a paper chain, probably elementary school, I considered how much my life has changed. How the plans I had then didn’t exactly happen the way I expected. I had visions of a chain of life events, a certain color scheme, a certain length, but that wasn’t the order God had for my life.

Each little loop of the chain of life has a special meaning, a connection to the rest of the sequence. A preschool friend who has grown up with me, my first job FullSizeRender(5)where I overcame my shyness, my few athletic successes, the job I didn’t get, the guy who shattered my heart, the day I saw my future mate, the church who allows me space for my visions, the book that opened my eyes, the evenings of mommy failure…each momentous connection to others adds a loop to my chain.

Long before paper chains were invented, Seneca said ‘Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.’ (That wasn’t just a late ’90s Semisonic lyric…) More recently, though not much, the psalmist David recorded, ‘You have taken account of my wanderings. Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?’ Our days and weeks are full of new experiences, some we want to cherish, others have brought us tears. They begin, they end; new ones begin and become old and end. But God keeps an account of it all…he has a list of our life events, our chain of events. And through those events, he crafts colorful connections to other people, those who need us…and those we need.

We don’t know how long our chains will be, but we can appreciate the simple beauty of the fact that they exist. Each twist or turn, new or old, makes another link that forever joins us with those around us.

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Nervous dogs shed

We adopted a dog from our local animal shelter about a month ago, and he’s great. Loveable, lazy, spoiled rotten…he’s our Dodger Dog. He’s settling in well now, playing a bit with the matron dog of the house Mia, and he’s relaxing in his worries about thunderstorms as well. (See previous post about his Stormophobia).

We were a little worried about him while we were on vacation last week, knowing he was still in his adjustment period. But  with a dog-loving neighbor kid checking on him and Mia to keep him company, we figured he’d be fine. And evIMG_5143[1]en though there were dreaded thunderstorms nearly every night we were gone, he was okay.

I noticed a strange phenomena when we returned home last night, though. His hair was all over everything. I noticed this because he had previously been virtually shed-free. Upon our arrival, I began to notice his little white hairs were on the couches (clearly, he took advantage of our absence…), in tumble weeds rolling down the hall, in piles bales in the kids’ rooms…everywhere! As I sucked up heap after heap with the vacuum, I realized that his panic during the storms and probably his anxiety from being left ‘alone’ must have come out through hair loss. I recalled a vet telling me that dogs’ dander comes out, as well as their hair, when they are nervous. Our vacation was too stressful for Dodger, and he let us know he missed us by leaving remnants of himself everywhere. Good thing we weren’t gone any longer…

IMG_5048[1]This anxiety-behavior cycle made me think about our own human responses to worry. Kids who are fretted will often wet the bed or retain bowel movements. They will display abnormal-for-them behaviors, such as hitting, feuding, or biting. They appear to be belligerent, but deep down, they’re scared. And don’t grown ups act out when they’re worried, too? Their responses are a little more cryptic, though. The snarky comment, the pity party, the passive-aggression…they’re disguises for anxiety. Anxiety that change may occur, worry that control may be lost, fear that some secret may be revealed. We adults may be taller, but we’re still so child-like inside. Scared, frightened, nervous kids wondering what’s going on around us.

So what’s your anxiety-behavior? Biting other people’s heads off? Hiding in your room? Throwing tantrums? Does it leave a bigger mess after it’s over… or a mess for someone else to clean up? Maybe it’s time to try a new response. Check out these possibilities instead…

Psalm 34

1 I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace. I will boast of all his kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise the Lord together and exalt his name.

For I cried to him and he answered me! He freed me from all my fears. Others too were radiant at what he did for them. Theirs was no downcast look of rejection! This poor man cried to the Lord—and the Lord heard him and saved him out of his troubles. For the Angel of the Lord guards and rescues all who reverence him.

Matthew 6

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32  Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Proverbs 3

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Stormophobia: a dog’s life

We adopted a dog from our local animal shelter last week. I’ve been requesting a second dog for a while, but my husband is a ‘one dog man’. But when my son’s best neighborhood buddy moved away…well, he needed a young whippersnapping companion to take the boy’s place. (wink, wink) Our old family dog is more of a sleeping companion these days.

So, we brought home Dodger, a white boxer with the face of a grumpy grandpa, the snore of a motorcycle, and the flatulence of a Mexican restaurant. He’s a sweet, sweet fella, and he’s fit right into our family. Even our ol’ gal Mia, who has been with us for almost eleven years has accepted him as her brother.

This evening, we had a summer thunderstorm, not uncommon around these parts. Our family usually snuggles up together on the couch and listens to the thunder, the wind, and the rain. We might even open windows to smell the fresh air. Tonight’s storm rolled through just as the kids were dozing off to sleep, and they missed our snuggle time. But Dodger was totally aware of what was coming along.

From the first distant rumble, he was on guard. He began pacing through the house, looking for shelter. Up and down the hall, up and down the stairs, staring at me, locating my husband, and back again. Whimpering occasionally, he was in constant motion…trying to find his haven in his new home. Or maybe, he was just trying to get away from the storm altogether. He hopped on the couch with me (usually forbidden) and sat at attention, eyes darting from window to window, wherever the lightning flashed or rain sounded loudest. Then, he hopped down and returned to his pacing, pausing briefly to have an explosive blowout on my son’s floor (I hope that was just something he ate and not a storm-triggered behavior. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long, disgusting summer…)

As I was thinking about how to comfort Dodge and how to break this cycle of panic, I thought of his past. He came to us from a home where he was always kept outside, due to a family allergy. If the behavior I saw tonight was his response to being inside during a storm, I can only imagine how terrified he was being outside through each storm. I hope that the more storms he ‘weathers’ inside with us, the more settled he will become…and the pattern of panic will be broken.

This behavior caused me to think of people who are trying to live a new lifestyle and how hard it is to break out of the old response patterns. Breaking free is liberating, but first it’s terrifying. How do you know who to believe or trust? It’s like Dodger looking for his own solace…his own place of shelter because we humans couldn’t be trusted to make the storm go away. Starting over often means that you can only depend on you because others have failed so often and so deeply.

It takes courage to want a new response, to be tired enough of the old panic-and-poop to find a new way to respond. It takes strength to pull out of an unhealthy situation and pace around looking for a new, healthier way. Though fear may be a driving force, it still drives us on to seek something better.

I will be researching how to settle Dodger’s storm fears, but I won’t forget his first storm with us…or the impression it made on me. That utter panic of ‘This has got to change!!!! How can I make this stop?!?!!’ made me recall my own past panics and how infinitely thankful I am to have survived and thrived.

God is good. God is always with us in our storms. He sees us wandering and wondering how to make it all go away. And he reaches out to us to show us the way. He wants to wrap his arms around us, stop our shaking, and hold us until the worst is over. We just have to be willing to trust his love more than our own methods of comfort.

Psalm 147: 3

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 103:1-5

1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

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VBS: It’s not just for the kids

As we belted out the lyrics to a great Chris Tomlin song and learned the motions choreographed to go along with it, I heard the message for the first time. The closed-captioned words popped on the screen as the kids watched the singers and followed their motions…and I just stood there reading the song that I’d sung dozens of times before.
‘Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord…’
Huh…our strength will increase while we’re waiting on God. Lemme ponder that a bit.
I watched Connie, our 78 year old volunteer, dance just as enthusiastically as her second grade counterparts. I admired the excitement that flashed in her eyes. She saw me and said, ‘I love it!’ At her veteran place in life, she was learning new moves and new praises to God.
Other class leaders, moms-returned-to-full-time-work, were using the bond of VBS to spend with their own children because their new schedule limited the customary family time.
One grandad was helping in the snack area because his wife, one of our usual snack helpers, had a stomach virus. He had an opportunity to serve kids, his wife, and his God.
The classrooms were pleasantly stocked with youth helpers, cutting, pasting, tying, wiping, shushing, leading…finding their own niches in service.
‘Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord…’
Each adult present in VBS has had his/her fair share of waiting times. Waiting for a loved one to come through surgery, waiting for a diagnosis, waiting to find housing, waiting for a job interview, waiting for the check to come in the mail so bills can be paid…the waiting can be so long and weigh so heavily on us. But according to this inspiring praise chorus, which reflects Scripture, our waiting is what develops our spiritual muscles. Just like our physical body improves its tone with strength training, so does our spiritual self.
My dear dancing Connie has waited for health, family, housing, security…and it has brought her to a place of laughter and love to share with VBS kids.
The working moms have worked waited for interviews, financial stability, growth of children…and it has brought them to their knees in service to the kids of VBS.
The grandad has,no doubt, waited on his wife, his children, his grandchildren…and it has brought him back to waiting tables, doling out cheeseballs and lemonade, in the name of Jesus.
The youth have waited to grow up, to find their paths, to be independent…and it has brought them to church, in the summer, to serve little ones half their age.
‘Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord, as we wait upon the Lord…’
If we are confident of the one we are waiting on, we can doing the waiting. If we look back at what he has done, in our lives, in the lives of others, in the Bible… we know that the waiting is worth it. He is faithful. He will not faint, he won’t grow weary…so neither should we. I admire my VBS colleagues and each of the stages of life they represent. They have waited…and will continue to wait…but they know that the waiting isn’t really so bad when you consider what strength is being built…
Isaiah 40:31
They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.
The will mount up with wings as eagles.
They will run and not be weary;
they will walk and not faint.

A Lover and a Fighter

I’m more of a lover than a fighter. I’d rather snuggle than feud, smile than frown, hug than reprimand. So it’s hard when life takes a swing at me. My instinct isn’t to swing back. My instinct is to find a soft place, lie down, and wait or the trouble to pass. But sometimes, that’s not possible. Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.07.29 PM

I’m changing jobs this fall, which is exciting and unnerving at the same time. My wee lass will be entering kindergarten, and my little lad is rapidly turning into a larger lad. I knew all these things were coming…I knew that the school year that just ended was a transitional one, and I had braced myself for the changes that were upon us.

What I wasn’t expecting Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.23.26 PMwas that my best friend would be moving, my son’s new best neighborhood pal would be moving, astalwart colleague would be moving, my beloved mom would be having spinal surgery, and that I’d miss my circle of peers as much as I do. Or that summer would begin with a solid week of rain.
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So, the gray clouds have settled around me much like Pigpen’s dust cloud. I don’t want any of THOSE changes to occur. I just want to be able to start my new job and get my daughter adjusted to school while my support group cheers me on. Alas, my support group is in need of their own support.

So what’s this lover of a girl to do when life starts throwing punches? Sigh…at this point, I’m gonna start swinging back.

I went out running tonight. It’s the first time in twelve years I did. Last time I ran, I blew out my knee and had to have reconstructive surgery. I’ve been scared to run since then. Until tonight. I have to do something to push away the gray clouds that linger around me. Life isn’t going to let up, so I’ve got to become tougher. I need the physical activity to release the endorphins, I need to battle the midlife bulge, and I need to push away this cloud around me. Running i a cheap (free!) outlet for my frustration. I got legs…I got a road…I’m gonna use ’em.  Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.29.09 PM

It was a short run, but it was a start. I took my aged dog, and she was thrilled. Half a mile, a few short walking breaks. I’m not going to add to my cloud by comparing my accomplishment with anyone else’s. It was my half-mile.

We’ll see how this goes. Running isn’t going to make any of the changes stop, but it will improve my outlook on them. It’ll be good for me physically and emotionally. It’ll give my mind a break from the tensions. It’ll help me prepare for other unexpected blows from life.

  Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.26.56 PM I’d rather be a cuddly, snuggly, comfortable lover,Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.12.36 PM

    but for now, I need to take up the fight.    

All picture credits: peanuts.com

Book Talk: Suddenly!

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 6.29.22 PMSpoiler alert: You’re gonna want this one.

Another brilliant find at my local used book store! Preston Pig was simply walking home one day and SUDDENLY! he remembered to stop at the store for his mom. You thought I was going to say the wolf attacked, didn’t you?! Well, that’s the point through the whole book. As each page turns, SUDDENLY! something happens to foil the wolf’s plan to eat tasty Preston.

Kids love this one as a read aloud, and I love it for it’s instructional potential in class. The obvious first skill would be predicting what will happen as the page is turned. After Preston’s first few narrow escapes, students will no longer guess that the wolf gets him…but what will they predict? ANDDDD, what is the author’s tone or mood in writing this humorous book of escapades? What can students conclude about Preston and the wolf while hearing the story? Which details keep Preston alive? How quickly could students summarize this story? Expressive reading could also be practiced, whole group or in small groups, with this exciting text.

This one is a keeper. I’ve used it as a read aloud, but it’s in my stack to use this coming year in my middle school language arts class. Colin McNaughton has several others that I’m going to have to explore to see if they’re as SUDDENLY useful as this one!

Happy reading!

~Kara

Photo credit: http://www.amazon.com/Suddenly-A-Preston-Pig-Story/dp/0152016996