Tuesday, December 9, 2008

If Jesus Received Three Gifts ...

A few years ago, I read an article about gift giving at Christmas. I wish I could give credit where credit is due, because this was not my original idea. I have seen it shared in other places, though, since I first found it so it may not be that uncommon. Anyhow, the article presented an idea that seemed so obvious to me, but had not occurred to me up to that point in my parenting life and Bible study. I share it now in the hopes that it helps another parent during this commercialized time of year.

It always seemed a bit of a struggle to know where to cut off the buying for the kids. “Oh, she would love that!” “That would look adorable on her!” “She can always use one more pair of pjs!” You get the picture. The article referenced the story shared in Matthew 2:11. After the birth of Jesus, wise men saw the appearance of a star and followed it until they found Mary and her son, the King of kings. They brought three gifts along – gold, frankincense and myrrh. Before I share how we apply this in our home during Christmas, let me digress a moment to share what I have learned about this event shared in Scripture.

Do you know that we don’t really know how many wise men came to visit Jesus? We all think there were three because of the number of gifts. The Bible never says. Biblical scholars, though, believe there were probably more, travelling with a huge entourage.

Have you ever considered why the Magi presented those gifts? Well, they were all expensive. Perfect for financing an escape and stay into Egypt so that King Herod would not be able to find the Savior child and kill him. It’s so cool to see how God provides, because Mary and Joseph were too poor to accomplish such a mission on their own.

These three gifts, also, are often interpreted as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ life. From Halley’s Bible Handbook: “The gold, representing royalty, foretells Jesus as King. The incense, symbolic of the prayers of the high priests rising up to heaven, foretells Jesus as High Priest. The myrrh, often used as burial oil, foretells Jesus’ death.” It always amazes me how much really gets crammed into one little Bible verse. All right … back to our application …

So, Jesus – Son of God, Prince of Peace, Lord of lords – got three gifts. Three gifts. If Jesus got three gifts to celebrate His birth, why would my kids need more? So we started a new tradition. We get them each three gifts from ourselves. One is usually practical (i.e. clothes), one is something fun and just for them (i.e. toy) and the third is usually something for the whole family (i.e. tickets to a show or a game). Now they do still get one gift and stocking stuffers from Santa, but his gifts are never better than ours. (I’m competitive that way. I never give him the best ideas. :) )

On Christmas morning, we read Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth so that we can remain mindful of the “Reason for the Season”. We follow that up with Matthew’s story about the Magi’s travels and visit. We explain that that is why they receive three gifts from us. It helps us stay focused on Jesus, fiscally responsible in our gift giving, grounded in Scripture and teach our girls the same principles for when they are parents someday.

What Christmas traditions do you and your family practice? I’d love to hear how you make this season special. Let me close in wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas as we celebrate Jesus’ birth.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sudoku Life Lessons

Hi. My name is Tracey and I am a Sudoku-holic. I basically binge Sudoku – a lot over a couple of days and then I lay off for awhile. The binges are usually aligned with long car trips and late night movies with scenes I don’t care to watch closely (those epic battle scenes with flying body parts and gore). I have learned some great life lessons as I “ku” (a verb I have coined for the act of solving Sudoku puzzles – you may use it yourself; I only ask that you give me credit three times and then it’s yours).

First, take risks. I have learned this by solving the puzzles in ink. I used to use pencil, but where’s the danger and excitement in that? It usually works out okay, but on those rare occasions when I do have an error (gasp!) I have learned to get back at it and try again. Oh, the victory in finding the mistake and moving on to solving the puzzle! And when it looks like I have more than one error (multi-gasp!), I just trash the whole puzzle and start a new one. After all, it’s only paper, people!

Second, take a break. Ever have one of those puzzles (problems) where you feel that you have looked at all avenues yet you are at a standstill? You are frustrated, your eyes are crossed and your head is beginning to ache. You keep counting from 1 to 9 in any foreign language you know, as if that will help. Here’s the solution: slowly put the puzzle and writing instrument down and back away slowly. Go do something else. When you come back to it, you will not believe what you had missed before and will move on to solve the puzzle (problem). Can’t this be applied to many of those little irritating situations in life? Take a break…say a prayer…don’t rush it … and the right answer/decision/solution will appear.

P.S. How many of you are trying to solve the puzzle above?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some Thanksgiving Thoughts

Just some brief Thanksgiving thoughts ...

As seen on a church sign recently -- "A life of Thanksgiving is Thanks-Living." Isn't that what we should strive for each day? Give thanks for something, anything.

In her devotion "Morning Jam Sessions" Betty Malz wrote that "there must be sprinkled a few disappointments here and there to make us thankful for the blessings." How true! Don't the blessings and good times become sweeter when given some perspective against some tough times? Don't we appreciate our health a little more after suffering a bug or seeing someone with health challenges?

And, "if we can't be thankful for what we receive, we should be thankful for what we escape," adds Malz. Given the problems that we currently have, consider what problems we could have. She goes on to remind us to be thankful for your car; be thankful for your food. There are certainly multitudes of people enduring some situation this very moment that is more dire than yours.

The great British preacher C. H. Spurgeon said "When we bless God for mercies we prolong them, and when we bless Him for miseries we usually end them." I don't know that he meant the problems would literally go away, but when you thank God for the trials and the lessons they bring, they may not seem so formidable. It's also in those dark times that we find out what we are made of and our blessings are illuminated. Remember that our God is bigger than any problem and He equips you to get through anything.

Thanksgiving -- it contains twelve letters -- six for thanks plus six for giving.
(Malz, again)

Ephesians 5:20 -- Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 -- Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus

Finally, I received an email this week that contained a special Thanksgiving message from Chick Moorman and Thomas Hollar, authors of "The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose". Here are some excerpts. (Talk about finding the silver linings ... amen.)

Millions of parents will pause this Thanksgiving to do what the day was originally created for --- give thanks for the many blessings that exist in their lives. Turkey, pumpkin pie, and the presence of loved ones will receive their fair share of gratitude during this annual ritual of appreciation. Many parents will also give thanks for their children's health, the arrival of a newborn, or a recent marriage. The abundance provided by the universe, opportunities for meaningful work, and the laughter of children will be acknowledged with gratitude by loving parents as they thank the creator for their blessings. Indeed, this traditional day calls for a traditional thank-you.

But what if your appreciation this Thanksgiving took on a new look? What if the blessings you count this year included situations that aren't usually regarded as helpful, useful or valuable? Consider the following.

Why not be thankful that your child is two years behind grade level in his reading ability? This struggling reader is giving you the opportunity to read to him regularly at night. This evening ritual will help build connectedness between you and your child while at the same time modeling your love for the printed word. Great literature like The Little Engine That Could or The Diary of Anne Frank can be shared as you simultaneously bond with your child. This opportunity is an incredible blessing. Appreciate it.

Why not be thankful that your daughter's soccer team lost their last game? It is important that your children have experiences of both winning and losing. By losing, children have the opportunity to learn to handle defeat and bounce back next time. With your help, they can learn that winning or losing is not the measure of who and what they are as human beings. They can learn they are more than the score. They can learn that it's effort, energy, and playing up to potential with good sportsmanship that defines a winner, not the scoreboard. Appreciate the opportunity the loss brings and be grateful for it.

Why not be thankful that your teenager received a speeding ticked for going 45 mph in a 25 mph speed zone? Getting a ticket is not a bad thing. Not if your teen learns from it and slows her driving for the next year. If she takes personal responsibility, pays the ticket, and is more cautious about her driving, the ticket may well save her life or the life of someone else in the future. Bless the ticket and give thanks for its blessings.

Why not be thankful that your 8-year-old shoplifted in the grocery store? This is the perfect time to teach your child about shoplifting. Better now than when he helps himself to someone else's car when he is 18. Teach him how to make amends. Teach him what to say as he returns the candy bars to the storeowner. Help him learn to articulate what he learned and what he intends to do differently next time. Bless this perfect time to teach lessons about taking things that don't belong to you. Be grateful for the opportunity.

Why not be thankful that your youngsters track mud and sand into the garage and house? The next time you stand in the garage furiously sweeping sand and wishing that your children were better behaved, quietly remind yourself that one day you'll wish you had sand to sweep out of the garage. Love the mud. Love the sand. Be grateful for the signs of the presence of children in your life.

Why not be thankful for sibling rivalry? "He got more than I did" and "It isn't fair" are common childhood refrains. Hitting, poking and teasing your sister are typical childhood behaviors. Bless these opportunities to help your children learn how to get along with each other. Use them as times to teach interpersonal skills and the importance of touching each other gently. Sibling rivalry is a call for help, a signal that your children need lessons on how to interact positively with each other. Bless their unskillful way of asking for help. Be grateful that you recognize it and help them grow in working and playing cooperatively.

Why not be thankful that you got to stay home with a sick child last week? You didn't have to stay home. You got to stay home. You didn't have to take him to the doctor. You got to take him to the doctor. You got to make sure he received the health care he needed. You got to show him you care enough to drive all over town to the doctors, the pharmacists and back home again. You got to be with your boy while he was sick. Not everyone gets to be with their children when they are sick. You did. Chalk it up as a blessing. Celebrate it this Thanksgiving.

Why not be thankful that your 20-year-old has moved out of your home? Did you really want to raise a 30-year-old Nintendo player who sits around your house all day sucking up diet Pepsi and pizza? Hardly! Your goal was to raise a responsible, caring, confident child who would move away from home when the time was right for her. You have been successful. Pat yourself on the back. Yes, it would nice if she had chosen to spend this Thanksgiving with you rather than with her boyfriend's parents. Maybe next year. This year give thanks. Your child is an adult. That is a blessing.

Why not give thanks that your child is spilling milk, talking with his mouth full, wiping cranberry sauce on his new pants, refusing to eat his vegetables, and interrupting his grandmother at the dinner table this day? It means you have more work to do as a parent. It means your job is not yet done. This is a blessing. You are still needed to help your child learn to pour milk more carefully, improve his table manners, learn to eat nutritiously, and show respect for elders. Give thanks for these opportunities.

Why not be thankful for your special-needs child? Do you have a child with ADHD? Is your son autistic or dyslexic? Does your daughter have Down's syndrome? Is your child facing a serious health challenge? Your children are in your life for a reason. Perhaps they have come to help you learn patience, understanding, or commitment. Perhaps they are here to teach your family about tolerance, acceptance of differences, or unconditional love. Their presence is a blessing. Be thankful for the contribution they are making to the planet and to your family.

This Thanksgiving remember that parenting is a ministry. It is a sacred role that you are being called to perform. Give thanks that you have been called. Give thanks that you are willing to step forward and accept that call. Appreciate that you are being shown the way. Celebrate yourself and your contribution to healing the planet by helping your children evolve into the people they were meant to be. You are a blessing to the world. Give thanks that you are up to the task.

So, what do you have to be thankful for?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go Camping!

Before I get knee deep into this one, let me explain that no one will ever accuse me of being the "outdoorsy" type. When I dream of relaxation, I am immediately transported mentally to a spa-like environment where the words "pamper" and "spoil" are in the mission statement. And, no one will ever accuse me of being especially wild-life tolerant. I'm not the parent that has to see the whole zoo, whether it is fiscally responsible or not. And don't even get me started talking about bugs and anything that could fit in the "creepy crawlie" category.

I do have some camping in my history -- as a kid and as a newlywed. The latter camping experiences were really more about the adventures attached to them -- whitewater rafting, canoeing or riding the Sea-Doos (want to send a shout out to the Six Pack!). It's the memories from the former that inspired us to consider investing in a pop-up camper.

We have a tent from those early camping days, but there is no way that our family of five would fit amicably, let alone comfortably, in that tent beyond the occasional backyard foray (where the kitchen and bathroom are handy, and there is no need for luggage). So, based upon Jeff's memories of the illustrious pop-up camper (quite the clever design, speaking as an engineer) and knowing it would not cost a king's fortune to get a decent used one, we started looking.

We checked out a couple alongside the road for sale last year. We didn't quite agree on how big it should be or the required attributes (remember, I am "spa-girl"), so needless to say, my pre-requisites were costlier and, therefore, eliminated anything that I liked from the pickings. This past spring, Jeff heard of someone at work selling their pop-up camper. When Jeff asked him about it, he offered to let us take it for a weekend to try it out before buying it. Bonus! So, we booked a weekend at Holly Recreation Area and made plans to go camping. Meanwhile, we had heard of another camper that one of my in-laws' neighbors was selling. But, we felt some loyalty to the first seller because of the "test camp" he had offered us. Well, Jeff brought that unit home and ...let me put it this way... I believe we doubled it's value just by cleaning it up a little. So, we high-tailed it over to the in-laws' neighborhood and bought the other camper --after all, we had reservations.

Now, my kids' idea of a camper was a 34 foot fifth wheel with 3 slide-outs that one set of their grandparents live in out west during the winter months. They were surprised to find out that that was not quite the category our little vacation home fell into. So they entered our first weekend a bit skeptical about this whole camping thing. But we have had nothing but fun (everything is fun given enough time to heal and gain perspective) and special memories ever since.

We have survived the rain with no leaks (Yeah! You just know we were sweating that one as a consequence of buying a "previously owned" unit). We have setup in the rain. We have found wild animal paw prints on our table in the morning. One child has already puked in the camper (thank goodness it is so open and airy). Jeff has been poked in the face with a burning stick (the result of the new game he taught the girls -- for the record, it was the 2 year old that got him). This was a great reminder that there is usually a good story behind every rule. Our marriage has been strengthened through the forging processes of planning, packing, going, setting up, camping, packing up, going home and unpacking. The girls have been able to learn some life skills that we don't address at home (I don't ever wash dishes by hand at home. I can't avoid it when we are camping.) The girls have been given more accountability and freedom. They have met new friends and we have been able to watch their hearts in action as they are faced with others who don't have the same worldview we do. As they meet new people with different family situations, we are able to discuss the blessings we have as a family. And, while some kids are running around the park late into the evening, we always end the nights as a family by the fire with s'mores and games. We have fun developing our own routines -- pancakes and bacon for breakfast (I promised I would not fix it all winter so that they will look forward to it again next summer). We get to see new places together and enjoy an ice cream in every one of them. And being away from home where our "have-tos" seem to nag at us, we can spend the afternoon hanging out at the playground or the beach. We've had great times camping with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, too. We've lost goggles at the bottom of Bluegill Lake and Jeff, with his superhero strength, annihilated my dollar store broom on its maiden voyage (but he got to engineer a new one). We've seen sunrises and sunsets, getting to marvel each time at some part of God's creation. It was a great summer!

Now, I said all that to say this -- go camping with your family! You will not come back from even a one-night trip without some special memory. It provides great time with your kids and your spouse, each of you learning something from one another, whether it is a life lesson or perspective. I'll be honest -- it's not as relaxing as the spa, or even as camping without kids, but it is fun and it is so worth it!

Monday, November 17, 2008

They Call Him "Hero"

When the door coming from the garage is heard, there is a stampede of "X" chromosomes, accompanied by cheers of "Hero's home!" There is jostling and elbowing to get to him first. I used to have a height advantage, but not anymore, with the tall 10-year-old around. Then we start arguing over who's hero he is -- "He's my hero!" "No, he's my hero!" It always ends with the compromise that we can share him.

Who is he? He's the king of the house, second only to God. He's a total superhero in the eyes of myself and our three daughters. Why such an elevated view of him? Well, he's earned it. Here are just SOME of the reasons, listed in no particular order.
  • The girls are convinced that he can fix anything...and I mean anything! I joked recently that he is so handy that he could fix daybreak.
  • He's an amazing bug hunter and killer; he will even use his bare hands. I have yet to see a creepy crawlie of any sort that he won't touch or hunt down.
  • He can survive with only two pairs of black shoes -- one for dress and the other for business casual. How does he do this?
  • He can build the hugest rip-roaring campfires.
  • He can put anything back into it's original packaging and still close it.
  • And he is fun! He is the best to go to the zoo and an amusement park with you. You will get your money's worth because you will be there when it opens and stay until it closes. You will see everything! And he is as excited as the kids are! He's not too cool to run with the kids to the next ride or to play in the sand at the beach.
  • He makes everything an adventure -- have you ever had a luggage cart ride in the hotel? He takes the kids on elevator rides and helps hunt down windows so they can see how high they are.
  • He'll eat anything, even if it is presented with the phrase "Now, this is an experiment." I believe he can endure any culinary adventure, at least one time.
  • He is willing to finish the rest of your ice cream, regardless of it's condition when passed along.
  • He can untangle cords.
  • He is patient enough to do anything right so he does not have to do it twice.
  • Whatever he is doing -- working, playing, kicking back -- he is 100% engaged.
  • He can endure pain and illness like someone immortal. And when you're sick, watch out -- he's quite the dictator in regards to hydration and medicine.
  • If the kids have to eat what they don't like, he will eat what he does not like (one of the nice things about being the family cook, is that I only cook what I like :)).
  • He always arrives way before "on-time" starts.
  • He has this incredible mental processing that is able to assess a situation within seconds of seeing it and develop solutions.
  • He will get involved with what interests the kids. For example, "High School Musical 3" -- I'm sure he would have picked another movie if it was to be his choice, but when you have three girls you have to play along.
  • When he has free time, it is spent with his family and we know we are his top priority.
  • When tough times come, he is a rock.
  • He only uses his superpowers for good.
I'll never forget the first time I heard Marrin, our youngest, refer to him as "Hero" as if that was his name. "Can Hero fix this for me?" One sunny afternoon, he was racing the kids up the driveway. When he finished first, Marrin ran up to me cheering "My hero did it!" I love it because she totally gets it!!

Who is your hero? Let him or her know.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where Do You Place Your Faith?

First of all, I have to confess. I wrote this piece a few days ago, but it was totally different. For some reason, it just seemed to be missing something, so I saved it as a draft. I would come to the blog and visit the draft, but it just wasn't quite right. Then tonight, I could not sleep. It's the same topic, but a different approach. The difference was that the original article was about the faith of others, but it is far more important to me that you consider and ponder your own faith, and its role in your life.

Let's talk about the big picture first -- eternity. Have you ever considered how long that is? It is forever! FOREVER! It is longer than the time period you implied when you said that you would not eat raw fish or bungee jump. Eternity does not end. Now that we got the timeline established, consider where you believe you will spend eternity. It's not about our earthly life here; that is but a blink of the eye when you consider eternity. But when your earthly days are done, where are you heading? Hopefully, your long term vision is set on heaven.

Here's the next question. Why do you think you will be going there? If your answer started with "Because I did ... and I gave ... and I went to ... and I helped ...", then... you and me... we gotta talk. It's about where your faith is at. Some might consider John 3:16 as an overused Bible verse because it gets seen at way more sporting events than any other verse, but it's used way more than any other verse because it summarizes the Bible. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Let's focus on this verse from our perspective -- God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth (see Genesis 1:1), loved you and me so much that He sent His only son to live a life we could not (a sinless one) and to die a death we deserved (because of all of our sinning), if we would only believe in him and what he did for us we will have eternal life -- FOREVER. It did not say that whoever did such and such... or whoever gave this and that . . . or whoever went to this place and the other . . . or whoever helped so and so. The only requirement is that you acknowledge who you are and who he is.

This was proven out at the crucifixion of Jesus. Please recall that he was crucified with two criminals. According to Luke's Gospel, one criminal hurled insults at Jesus just as the soldiers and passersby were. But the second criminal asked Jesus to remember him when he entered his kingdom. Jesus responded by telling him that they would be together in paradise that very day. So, this criminal did not have the chance to give, or go, or help to earn his way into heaven. He only recognized who he was himself, a sinner, and who Jesus was -- God's plan for our salvation. (Side note: Third Day sings a cool song titled "Thief" about the crucifixion events from the perspective of that criminal -- always gives me goose bumps.)

OK, so if you can't earn heaven, then does that mean you can do whatever you want? You can do what you want. But if your faith in Jesus and love for God is genuine, you will still do the right things out a spirit of thankfulness to God. You will go to church, not as a check mark, but to praise God for all He has done and will do, and to learn from His love letter to us, the Bible. You will continue to give, because the Bible instructs us to care for the orphans, widows and sick. And it is through serving Him and others for Him, that you will find real joy and purpose in life. You will be feeling what King David is laying down in the book of Psalms. And when people see you living such a life, it will open up doors for you to tell them about your faith and Savior. They will want to know what makes you different than what they perceived a Christian to be.

Now, how do you take your "big picture" faith into your daily living? Again, I ask you where do you put your faith? Do you put your faith in others to make you happy or take care of you? Romans 3:23 states that all have sinned -- ALL which means everybody you know has sinned today, yesterday and will do so again tomorrow. Now, before I get much farther, let me remind you that sin is not just murder, theft and adultery. It's anger, selfishness, jealousy, impatience and many more listed in Galatians 5:21. Jesus talked during the Sermon on the Mount about how hatred is murder in the heart. So, just because the person whom you've put your faith in has not been convicted of anything, does not mean they are perfect and can bear the burden of your happiness. People are going to let you down. That includes your family, friends, co-workers, government officials and celebrities.

So, when trouble comes, do you rely on yourself to fix it or get yourself through it? Remember, you are included in the verse Romans 3:23. You will let yourself down, too -- whether it's through misplaced emotions or poor decision making. Now, I'm not saying that when tough times come, you just say a prayer and lay on your couch waiting for God to take care of it. He equips you to get through it (maybe you've seen the many plaques that share this concept). I've often heard that you pray as though everything does depend on God and work as though everything depends on you. Let me share a personal example. A few years back, my husband's car had an early morning run-in with a deer. From the impact alone, he was sure the car had been totalled. He even called me and told me so before he got out of the car. Now, we had some financial goals set at that time and this would really tie things up in a knot (doesn't it always seem to happen that way?) But it was a chance to lean on God. I immediately prayed that He guard our finances, help us make wise decisions. The end result -- the car was driven away from the scene and the repairs were of a magnitude that our checkbook could handle it. And this experience has proven out so many times in my life --in big and small events. The lesson is that you need to put your faith in the one that won't let you down -- God. Remember Romans 8:28 -- "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." So, it may not turn out like you would have designed it, but you will be better off in some way -- whether it's strengthened faith, added wisdom, tighter relationships from surviving the struggles, or the addition of venison to your family's diet.

Did you know that He cares about everything going on in your life? We often only go to Him when times are tough. But, did you know that it's OK to go to Him to thank Him and praise Him when life is good? I often joke that He even cares about how I chop an onion and would be glorified by it -- not because of my onion chopping technique, but because of my attitude. Am I a domestic martyr who feels that I suffer because I am "only" a wife or mom? Do I gripe about how no one appreciates me? Or do I grow where I am planted? Do I show how thrilled I am about being Jeff's wife and the mom of Nicole, Rachael and Marrin? I show love to Jesus, by showing love to my family -- the ones He loaned to me. When I can't bear to fold one more pair of underwear, I start saying little prayers with each piece of clothing for their specific owners. It's hard to remain focused on myself and my sore feelings, if I'm focused on someone else.

He does care about what goes on -- big and small. I have gotten into such a habit of saying prayers throughout my daily life, that it's like I'm hanging out with my Best Friend all day long. It may be praying for patience when dealing with a disobedience issue, praying for the right words when making a difficult phone call or praying for all involved when an ambulance passes. The more prayer in my day, the better my day goes.

Let me close here by saying that this article is meant as much for me as for anyone. I am included in the group described in Romans 3:23. I get mad, pouty, impatient, selfish . . . you can stop me anytime, you know. I am not pretending to have it all together, because I know what happens each day around me, because of me. But once in awhile, with His help, I manage to string together a couple of good hours. In the hopes of putting together one whole decent day, I'll keep praying and reading.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Crawling Heavenward

Do you ever struggle with what it means to be a Christian? Am I supposed to be joyful or worry about the rules I'm breaking? Have you ever been confused by others when they discuss their relationship with Christ? Do you repeatedly beat yourself up for being a "bad" Christian? Perhaps you think you don't pray enough. Perhaps your Bible has dust on it. Perhaps you have found yourself distracted by worldly pursuits and influences. I have a book to recommend to you.

Elizabeth Prentiss wrote Stepping Heavenward in 1869, but it's lessons still apply today. It is a journal of a fictional character as she grows in her faith. As I said, it is a work of fiction; but I am sure it is backed up by a very realistic testimony, because it is so relatable. And it is a classic, that can be read repeatedly, with new treasures revealed each time. I have been through it twice now. I have been convicted and challenged throughout the work each time -- hence I find myself in more of a crawling posture and pace.

Now, while it is based upon the life of young woman, I do think the testosterone set would be able to glean much from her spiritual journey and the examples of the men in her life. A side benefit -- a peak into the female mind and emotions. That will help with a whole different kind of journey for the men in our lives!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Dropping My Rock ... Again (sigh)

, "Who does he think he is?"
"My time is as important as hers!"
"That @#$% cut me off!"
"Why can't they have it all together before they get to the register?"
"Can't he read the sign?"

As I look over recent days . . . weeks . . . months . . . and years, I know some form of the above statements, as well as others, have escaped my lips. The feelings attached have lingered long enough to make my morning miserable, cause me to miss teachable moments with my kids and built up to the point my loved ones paid in some way. And while my day may be ruined, it is possible that that person had no idea what had happened.

Recently, I read a book called Dropping Your Rock by Nicole Johnson. She takes the familiar Bible story of the adulterous woman presented to Jesus by religious leaders in John 8 and makes the reader part of the scene. Jesus was teaching a crowd of people in the temple courts when the woman was dragged in by her accusers. Imagine her shame. Perhaps she was wearing no clothing. Perhaps her skin was scraped, bruised and bleeding from her capture and transport. They made her stand before Jesus and the crowd he had been teaching. You know the Law of Moses. She is to be stoned to death. You pick up your stone, ready to do your duty. But Jesus bends down, scratching in the dirt (don't you wish you knew what he had written in the dirt that day?). Moments later, after being drilled with questions, Jesus stands up and welcomes any that are without sin to cast the first stone.

Imagine this woman, trembling, crouched on the ground. Bracing herself, waiting to feel the first strike. Slowly, her accusers and those ready to carry out her punishment walk away. As they each drop their rock, the ground releases soft deep thumps. All of those who had stood ready to judge and kill her, knew in their hearts that they were not without sin.

So, as I speed through my day, ready to stone anyone who impedes my progress and plan, do I really believe that I have not ever affected others? Have I ever cut anyone off in traffic before? Accidental or purposefully? Better drop my rock. Have I ever been late for an appointment, due to my poor planning or events that I could not control? Better drop my rock. Have I ever had a child misbehave loudly in a public place? Better drop my rock. Have I ever been unsure of where I am going? Better drop my rock.

Every car you see on the highway, every house you pass along the streets . . . they all have stories. And all of those stories have good parts and bad parts. You don't know where the the guy who just cut you off is at in his story. Maybe he has a sick family member. Maybe he has lost his job. Maybe there is some kind of substance abuse present. Maybe there is a marriage in peril. Instead of picking up a rock to stone him, say a prayer for him . . .

Update (5/31/12):  After reading John 8 with my three daughters this morning, I shared this post with them to further our discussion.  I feel compelled to add to the last sentence.  My prayers should not just be for the other person, but for myself also.  Prayers for help to drop my rock...prayers of thankfulness that I may not be dealing with what someone else is facing...thankfulness for having a place to rest...thankfulness for my redemption, paid for through Jesus' blood.

In addition to this, I would like to share a post by Terri Brady, "Grace: Pass it on!".  I know that I was blessed by it.  Additionally, here's a great post by Lysa Terkeurst that convicted me down to my toes for those times I've had "the perfect comeback"

He's Been Doubly Good to Me

Tonight I picked the movie. Now, before you expend too much sympathy for my husband, please know that I watch a lot of noble cause-driven warfare movies and sports movies. I have seen so many explosions and flying body parts that . . . I digress.

So, tonight we watched a "romantic comedy". He was a total trooper, too. It really was more of a poignant movie with a few funny parts. It was about a young married couple, of which the husband dies from a terminal illness and the wife must carry on. I must admit that I could never have watched it in a theater. It was hard enough to remain mildly composed in my own living room (I didn't want to freak him out totally). As I dabbed my eyes at the end of the movie (not the first time either), I was pondering why it was so easy to tap those emotions. And it's because I could completely relate to the emotions of that wife because I have had the privilege and blessing of loving someone else and being loved. I get to live out that commitment of "for better or worse" every day -- and every day has fallen into either one category or the other. The reward is how you survived them all together.

There are so many people in our culture searching for that someone to love and to love them and they are driven to make bad choices because of it. They are married multiple times. They place themselves in risky and questionable situations hoping to find "the one". Were we the lucky ones? I don't know how I emerged from the process of finding "the one" without a whole lot of scars, but I'm grateful for where I am now.

It was twenty years ago this past summer that we met. Three kids, a little drama here and there, a couple of homes, handful of cars and jobs later, I totally look forward to growing old together (some days feel like we are speeding towards that :) ). At our wedding, my sister sang an Amy Grant song titled "Doubly Good to You". It still applies today.

Doubly Good to You
If you see the moon, Rising gently on your fields.
If the wind blows softly on your face.
If the sunset lingers, While cathedral bells peal,
And the moon has risen to her place,
You can thank the Father for the things that He has done.
And thank Him for the things He's yet to do.
And if you find a love that's tender, If you find someone who's true,
Then thank the Lord --He's been doubly good to you.

If you look in the mirror,At the end of a hard day,
And you know in your heart you have not lied.
And if you gave love freely,If you earned an honest wage,
And if you've got Jesus by your side,
You can thank the Father for the things that He has done.
And thank Him for the things He's yet to do.
And if you find a love that's tender, If you find someone who's true,
Thank the Lord --He"s been doubly good to you.

You can thank the Father for the things that He has done.
And thank Him for the things He's yet to do.
And if you find a love that's tender, If you find someone who's true,
Thank the Lord --He's been doubly good to you....
Thank the Lord --He's been doubly good to you.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Building Cathedrals? What?!

I thought I better start by explaining the title of this blog. Last year I received an email with the essay shown below. I have since learned that this is from a book called The Invisible Woman by Nicole Johnson. I was very moved by the essay because there are certainly days that I wonder if I've made any progress or done anything productive. God knows just when to reward me through the words and actions of others, though.

I believe that I am building cathedrals -- currently my three girls. But I also hope to play the part of a minor artisan in the lives of others whose path I cross. I want to take this opportunity, while we are on the subject, to thank all those builders who have been showing up to this construction site (me) for years. All that I have learned from my mom, grandmother, mother-in-law, sister, sisters-in-law, aunts and my girlfriends have helped me lay the foundations of my cathedrals.

I'm Invisible

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?" Obviously not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney Channel?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again.She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this." It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied, "Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become."

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, "My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Why Blog?

Have you ever had those nights when stuff is just filling your brain and it all keeps you from getting to sleep? Any insomnia I periodically suffer is of my own doing -- either I can't shut the brain off or I've had caffeine too late in the day. While I have to work on habits to solve the latter reason of my insomnia, I hope this arena will address the first. Usually when I get up and write down whatever is on the brain, I am able to promptly go to sleep (unless I am also having caffeine issues -- then I organize a kitchen drawer).

Have you ever gotten those forwarded emails that really get you thinking, you want to share them, but you also wonder how it would be taken? Well, I figure I can post some of that stuff here. If anybody wants my opinion on something, they can come here. I can share what bothers me and what inspires me -- hopefully more will inspire me than will bother me.

I'm not sure what this will end up doing. While I certainly have selfish motives for starting it, maybe it can also make some deposits into someone else's life too.