‘I don’t know how to play this game’

Recently, my son had a friend over for the afternoon. After several hours at the pool, the two boys settled down to play a video game while I prepared dinner. They started with something they both knew, but then my son invited his friend to try a new game.

‘I don’t know how to play this game. I’ll watch you for a few minutes.’

I overheard those wise words and was astounded at the humility of our eleven-year old neighbor. A total admission of ignorance to a peer…and a willingnes76552_449036944583_6570936_ns to learn from him.

Where was the bravado? Where were the false claims of high scores past? No puffed-up chest and big talk? No testosterone-encited braggadocio?  WHAT????

I loved it! The simple truth.

I don’t know how to do this thing. I want to know how to do it, but I’m ignorant at this time. Please show me how, and then I can participate with you.’

Now, I realize THAT’S way to lengthy and philosophical for these  controller-wielding preteens, but I’ve been around longer. I know where that priceless humility leads.

It leads to honest friendships and worthwhile relationships. It leads to being a target for manipulators, true, but oh, the depth of trustworthiness that humility displays to the rest of the population.

Being honest about faults and ignorance is the antithesis of original sin. Lucifer wanted to be equal, if not better, than God. Eve and Adam thought they knew their own limitations better than God, so they tried the forbidden fruit.. Pride…damned pride. Thinking we know better than the one who created us. We are fools.

To present ourselves to others as desirous of knowledge on a new topic, craving relationship and connection…that’s what God really wanted at the beginning of this whole existence thing. He wanted us to be open to learn, wide-eyed with wonder, reaching out to gain from experience with others, Himself foremost.

I don’t know how to do a lot of things that I want to know how to do. I want to demonstrate more love to my husband. I want to raise children who love God and others. I want to use my money more wisely. I want to find ways to help those who don’t have as much as I do. I want to bridge relational gaps.

Can you help me play this game? I will watch you and learn how to do it. Then, we can enjoy doing it together.

IMG_7900.

James 1:2-6

My brothers and sisters, you will face all kinds of trouble. When you do, think of it as pure joy. Your faith will be tested. You know that when this happens it will produce in you the strength to continue. And you must allow this strength to finish its work. Then you will be all you should be. You will have everything you need. If any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He will give it to you. God gives freely to everyone and doesn’t find fault. But when you ask, you must believe. You must not doubt. That’s because a person who doubts is like a wave of the sea. The wind blows and tosses them around.

Advertisements

Lice…and other giants

Anxiety attacks are no fun. I had them during my adolescence and single years. They came on again during my post-partum recovery. And this weekend.

If you’ve never had the joy of this experience, try to imagine this. You feel like you are not in control of anything anymore. You are in your own skin, which may be tingling or itching, but you are just moving through your day in a fog. Any task is too  much. Any demand just brings you to your knees in helplessness. Tears, trembling, vomiting…they’re all close to your delicate surface. You can stand in the middle of your familiar kitchen, and not truly recognize how to do anything. One dirty dish or one full clothes basket is an immense challenge…a moutainous task that will take all day to accomplish. And it feels like the rest of your life is doomed. No one is your friend anymore, everyone has abandoned you. You are all alone and helpless.

This was my feeling this weekend as my husband was leaving for the week…and then we got snowed in…and then we discovered that we had lice. I thought I was going to lose it.

Having gone through the emotional torture of these attacks before, I knew what was going on, but I still had to ride the waves. Stuck indoors, with nasty, insidious, darn-near-invisible bugs invading my family. I find it difficult to even articulate the panic I experienced. Overwhelmed. Helpless. Shrinking inside. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sit still, couldn’t think straight. I texted some friends to ask for prayer, but I couldn’t even speak prayers myself.

And then, a God-sent friend came to the rescue. She had the contact information (from her own personal experience) of a lice removal specialist, a nurse, trained and certified in lice removal. 100% clearance rate…with a take-home comb and plan of action.

Providentially, our family got an appointment quickly and spent 5 hours in the precious care of a Godly woman who educated us (and ridded us) of the nasty little beasts.

And we talked about God. Sweet balm to my soul…we talked about God. His love for his people. His 10 plagues on Egypt (which included lice!!!) to get his people back from Pharaoh. His might to open the sea AND TOTALLY DRY UP THE LAND for his (million)people to escape.

Being in the presence of this woman was so healing to my oppressed spirit. Her dedication to her mission healed our bodies, but her spirit revived my soul.

I woke up during the night last night with the panicky feelings returning, but I recalled the God we had talked about…the God of Big Love. The God who stood with little David when he faced the giant Goliath. The God who sat with Daniel in the dens with the hungry lions. The God who stood with Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego INSIDE the flaming furnace. The God who rained down fire on Elijah’s soaking wet sacrifice in the presence of Baal’s prophets. The God who sent an ARMY OF ANGELS to protect his prophet Elisha and his servant.  The God who rode with the unwed Mary to find shelter in overcrowded Bethlehem. The God who brought his own son BACK FROM THE DEAD. The God who defeats big challenges with little people.

I recited Psalms to myself in the night, as my momma had taught me to do. “God is my refuge and strength, an EVER-PRESENT help in time of trouble. He is my rock, stronger and taller than I. He is my fortress. He goes before me. He sets up a table of rejoicing in front of my enemies…” This God cares for the little guy (gal). This God knows the ways of the birds and cares for them. He knows the life patterns of the flowers and he cares for them. How much more does he care for me…and want me to rise up out of this funk?

I’m not discounting medication for anxiety…oh no. I’m not surviving this time in life without chemical intervention. Anxiety runs in my genes, and I do take meds to help. I also take a magnesium supplement to keep myself balanced. But while those things take care of my chemistry, I need the knowledge of God’s strength to take care of my mind.

I’m just a little person, but I know that God has used me in big ways, and he will continue to use me in big ways. The giant of anxiety is my occasional foe, and I’m so glad there are stories of heroes who have overcome immense obstacles that can remind me of truth in the midst of emotion.

 

 

I know what you’re getting…

This year for Christmas, I’m turning the kids’ playroom into a ‘maker space’. As preschool is long past, the building blocks and baby doll strollers are just taking up space. Now that the days of elementary school are here, new hobbies have arrived. img_9070

B likes to work with his hands, often to the detriment of household items. The kitchen whisk has been untwisted, his alarm clock met an untimely demise, and several remotes are  remotely useful now. To save our sanity and his college fund, we are just giving him his own construcIMG_0012tion/destruction space.

D likes to craft, write, draw…and be generally artistic. She draws on paper, pillows, bouncy balls, doors! While we have had to establish some boundaries for her crafting, we have also realized that art is her hobby. She also needs a place to work out her talents.

img_9014

Bizarre storage unit, before it got some lovin’

Sooooooo, rather than giving them more toys to scatter throughout the house, this year, we’re giving them space. I bought a card table for $10 at a yard sale for him, and for her, I repurposed a table from elsewhere in our house. I found a bizarre storage unit and some pegboard in my parent’s basement to use for housing the kids’ respective supplies. After a trip to the dollar store for little storage containers and labels, and a trip to the hardware and craft stores, badda bing, badda boom…Christmas is on its way.

img_8985

Notice the space, not the dangling monitor, which has since been removed

This project has been in my mind since September. I’ve been slowly gathering materials, planning layout, removing old toys, cleaning the empty space, and waiting for the big set-up night. The kids have NO idea this room makeover is coming. They think I’m just on some crazy cleaning spree. Now that they’re home for Christmas break and antsy for something to do, I am more and more convinced that this room of creativity is desperately needed. I’m so excited for them…and I can’t wait for Christmas morning!

A thought occurred to me today as I was buying the final item for the room and considering my own excitement. Is this what God feels like when he’s waiting for things to fall into place in our lives? Is he watching us and saying “Just a little bit longer… and things are going to change for the SO MUCH BETTER.” Does he smile at our restless talents, knowing that they have specific purposes in the future? Does he bite his holy lip and suck in his holy breath when we are on the verge of making a decision that would really just postpone our happiness? Does he keep certain events a secret until the time is right because we would probably interfere if we knew too soon? Does he say to himself, “I really want to tell you what’s coming, but it’s just not time yet”?

Thimg_9419is year, I’m as eager as the kids for Christmas morning because I know they’re going to love what we have planned for them. And now, I have a new perspective on how God sees us when we’re in the waiting times.

The prophet Jeremiah had an incredible message from God for His children in exile (ch. 29) God told them to build homes, plant gardens, get married. He knew what was in their future. He told them to settle down and chill out a bit. His ultimate plans weren’t ready to unfold  just yet…and they wouldn’t be ready for DECADES! Verse 11 has this promise: 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.” He wanted his people to maintain hope and trust in him during the waiting times and believe that he had  really good things planned for them.  13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations…”

I struggle to keep my holiday cheer for a few weeks when life is going well, much less maintain my trust in God’s goodness for decades! This project has given me his perspective briefly, as a reminder that he always has good plans in mind for us.

I hope that as the ‘new room’ becomes a part of our lives that I’ll remember the excitement I had in knowing what was coming for the kids…and beaming at the thought of it. And I hope that I remember that’s how God views the plans for my life. He beams when he considers my future and my fulfillment.

Psalm 37

3Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.

 

 

 

To this person,

Dear person who left me this note,  img_9323

First of all, I apologize for making your afternoon challenging.

And, secondly, let’s consider a few things.

I am driving a vehicle that is unfamiliar to me. You see, my car has a few significant problems right now, so I am driving my husband’s larger vehicle. I can’t get my car fixed right now because, well, money is tight. My husband and I are both ‘public servants’ and as such, we don’t get paid immense amounts, so sometimes we have to budget our money carefully.

I’m glad your car works for you now…and I’m glad you have the mobility to get in and out of your passenger seat TWO times…once to get your pen and paper and a second time to put this note on my car.

I notice that your note was written on a receipt from McDonald’s…and that you purchased 2 Happy Meals, which probably means that you have kids. I do, too. And that’s why I was rushing into Wal-Mart today before I picked them up from school. It’s easier that way…to go quickly without kids.

You must not have had your children with you, because you took the time to climb into your car, write a note to me, climb out of your car, affix the note to my car, and then climb back into your car. Good thing your kids weren’t waiting for you.

I noticed that you wrote with a permanent marker, which probably meant that you couldn’t find a pen quickly. Yes, it’s frustrating when you just want to get a quick job done, but there is an aggravation in your way, isn’t it?

I also noticed that your grammar, spelling, and punctuation were immaculate. You must be an educated person. I hope that you pass on the importance of education and good manners to your children. I am a teacher, and I have to work with all manner of children and their parents. It always helps with parents have taught their children the value of kindness, patience, and tolerance.

Finally, I noted that you ended your missive with ‘Merry Christmas’. I’m so glad that you celebrate the birth of Jesus, the holy child who came to earth to become human and forgive human sins. I hope that this Christmas season is special to you, as you have made it special for me.

Your note was meaningful to me. It has taught me many things, not all about my dysfunctional parking. Rather, about mercy and grace and forgiveness and humanity.

I hope your car will always be parked perfectly…and if it’s not, just watch this video. It will cheer you when you need it most. Particularly the part that begins at 4:18. Merry Christmas to you, whomever you are.

Beautiful mess

Her sweet, warm, sleep-reddened cheeks were hidden behind a tangled mess of blond hair. The same twice-conditioned hair I had combed for 15 minutes last night, hoping to ward off the dreaded tangles of sleep. The morning began with that mess.

And he stumbled out his room, rubbing sleepy eyes, leaving behind a twisted pile of pee-soaked bedclothes on the floor. The same bedclothes I had just washed yesterday and replaced on his bed last night. Sigh…another mess.

The spill of coffee grounds, the puddle of milk, the jumble of who’s dropping off where and when is who picking up whom. The mess of the day continues.

As I drove to work, recalling her tangle of golden hair and my sleepy-eyed fella, I thought, It’s a beautiful mess. All of it is…living is just a series of beautiful messes.

I thought of the Israelites, heading to their promised land, coming upon the Jordan River. The mess of chaos as they traveled through the path God made in the river. The beauty of the stack of stones left behind, an alter of remembrance and praise.

The death of Lazarus, a drastic loss to his sisters. A mess of emotions and finances. But then, Jesus showed up…and Lazarus did too, leaving behind a beautiful mess of burial cloths.

The mess of a heathen giant threatening to eat the bones of the cowardly opposing forces. The beauty of his silence.

The mess of persecution heaped upon new believers by the over-zealous Saul. The beauty of his repentance.

The mess of a boat of panicked fishermen in a storm. The beauty of peaceful waves.

The mess of the ark. The beauty of the rainbow.

The mess of crucifixion. The beauty of resurrection.IMG_5339

The written account of the Bible may have ended thousands of years ago, but we continue to live the out the grace of God through our beautifully messy lives. If the Bible were being written now, my sloppy days wouldn’t make the canon to be included.

But I would love to think that my faith in the beauty through the mess would rank up there with the heroes of the faith that have gone before.

Lord in your mercy… img_6877

‘Is it gone?’

My peaceful night’s sleep last night was interrupted by a screaming six year old at my bedside. I grabbed my little daughter and pulled her into bed with me, hugging her while she sobbed. I could barely understand her terrified words. Something about it being big, really big, with long legs, in her room, on the gray chair…it was so big….so scary.

When I turned on the lamp on the nightstand, I saw fear all over her face. Huge blue eyes overflowing with even huger tears. Cheeks red with exhaustion and terror. Precious little mouth trembling as she tried to explain. The words were so frightening…recounting what had happened made it seem so real again.

She had awakened and apparently noticed movement across her room in a small chair. As she looked, she saw the long legs, the round body, the creeping threat of a spider as big as a coffee mug. She gestured to a mug on my nightstand. ‘Well, it wasn’t quite that big,’ she gasped, ‘but it was close’…and the sobbing began again. And the hugging continued.

Ten minutes later, Daddy returned from the fight. ‘Is it gone?’ her trembly, tiny voice inquired.  Brave Daddy stated that he had vanquished (captured and flushed) the foe (a grandaddy-long legs). Her bedroom was safe to sleep in. She clung to me and begged not to have to sleep in there, but I assured her that I would come too.

As I snuggled with her in her safe, cozy bed, listening to her broken sobs turn to whole, peaceful snoozing, I thought of what she had asked her daddy…‘Is it gone?’ Her ultimate concern. The fear needed to be gone. It had come upon her unexpectedly…catching her at her weakest moment…in her most peaceful place. The fear had shattered her security.

I considered the bravest of the brave in the Bible…the ones we are supposed to look to as examples of faithful living…and how they had their own nighttime battles.

Childless Abram, worried about the future of his family and nation, was reassured by the word of God saying  Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”  God used the darkness to answer Abram’s question.

Young Samuel met God for the first time in the night.Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” God spoke to Samuel in the darkness, revealing the plan He had for the young boy’s life.

Jacob wrestled with his worries at night and found God in the midst of the struggle.  When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”

Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Night should relax us, but instead, our minds unwind and rewind our worries. Shadows creep and crawl around us, hiding truth and exaggerating reality.

Consider this: Jesus was born at night. Angels shattered the blackness of the night sky with the bright splendor of His glory and praise. Shepherds joyously sought His birthplace in spite of the darkness. The star lit a path in the night sky for the wise men to follow for months. God controls the night…he works through the darkness.

God knows the struggles, the fears, the tears, the spiders that creep upon us, shattering our peace. We crave light and answers. He is in the dark , and He has answers. And to answer our ultimate question, ‘Is it gone?’… yes. The fear is gone.

https://img1.etsystatic.com/010/0/6700065/il_570xN.430415107_rmgt.jpg

https://www.etsy.com/listing/124387663/thou-wilt-keep-him-in-perfect-peace

 

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.

IMG_3556

 

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

 

 

 

 

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.
Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 9.05.47 PM

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

Embracing the bittersweet

Fridays are ‘mommy days’. The other days are Omie and Ena days, the grandmas’ days. Fridays are the days that mommy picks D up from preschool because I don’t work on Fridays…this year.

IMG_1443Most Friday afternoons involve play dough creations, art sessions, baby doll mothering, bubble blowing, or marathon book readings. But this afternoon, we were both tired. Between allergies and some unexpected emotional upheavals this week, Friday was going to be a ‘napternoon’.

We cuddled in bed and I read two hilarious books (reviews forthcoming) and we almost decided not to nap. But I yawned, and she rubbed her eyes and we knew. She cuddled into her pink cat quilt, and I rolled into the other bed in her room, and we closed our eyes.IMG_4421

I opened my eyes a few minutes later to see if she was truly asleep, and she was. Two middle fingers in her mouth, little line of drool starting to form, breathing softly and rhythmically. The pristine blue spring sky and the soft green leaves celebrated new life outside her window. But inside, something was ending. ‘Mommy days’ on Fridays were almost over.

In four weeks, she’ll graduate from preschool, and  (hopefully) I’ll be employed with a full time job for next year. I try not to get weepy about things like this with my kids. I spent most of my youth weeping about my own transitions. But this one gets to me. The bittersweetness of it. And i let myself wallow.

Times are a-changing. She is no longer a baby. She loves school. She’s a little knowledge sponge. She’s so ready for the next thing. I’m so ready for my next thing. I’m restless and ready and admittedly, I’ve just been biding my time this year. IMG_3016

But can’t we come back to this? The endingness of it hurts. The finality. Friday afternoons will be spent in school. For her, eagerly gluing her last pieces of colorful craft in place to bring home to show me. For me, grasping at the reigns of control over my impatient adolescent students. No more play dough and dolls before a refreshing nap. No more laughter until hiccuping at amusing nap time stories. (*sigh*) Maybe she could just come to work with me…

I have no regrets. I spent as much time with her as I could during these years. I would not change any of it.

Now we move into a new phase, with new excitement, new ideas, new exploration…for both of us.

IMG_4187And when we come home from our long days of learning and instructing, we will still have each other. We’ll still have our afternoon routines, just later in the afternoon…and maybe alternating days of play dough and dolls and tea parties and games. We’ll still read books before bed. And we’ll always snuggle. Because truthfully, everyday is a mommy day…and everyday she is mine.      IMG_4299