Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Unwilling Participant

I had everything set. The dress, the shoes, the matching hair bow, the props. It was all laid out. Violet is a month away from turning 2 and we decided to forego a frivolous party and take a family vacation instead. But there still needed to be pictures. So I scheduled the photo shoot and got everything ready. She was all dolled up and I stood back waiting for my little princess to participate in what I was certain would be the most picturesque photos we would cherish for years to come.

I was wrong. So wrong.

It was hot. 86 degrees in October. Not a cloud in the sky, the sun was beating down on us both. She was not having anything to do with me putting her down. She screamed and cried the second I tried to pry her out of my arms. I tried to reason with her, got her blanket, was even willing to cave to the idea of a pacifier just to calm her down. Nothing worked. She met my determination to get amazing photos with her own resolve to not participate.

Forty five scalding minutes later, I was dripping and she was sporting a splotchy red tear-stained face. The photographer was gracious and patient and offered to come back in the morning when it was cooler and everyone was calmer. I'm sure she meant me because even though my daughter was the one in tears, I was only seconds away from my own meltdown.

I opted out of the next shoot so as not to be a distraction...but I could literally hear her screaming from a mile away. For real. The best laid plans and props weren't enough. The adorable outfit wasn't going to cut it. She wasn't having anything to do with my vision for this photoshoot and that seemed final.

Fast forward two days and my daughter was guiding me by the hand on a leisurely walk to the pond. We walked and talked, sang and clapped. She threw rocks in the water and then turned to me ever-so-sweetly and sat down on the grass. With the sun glistening off her blonde curls she motioned for me to come near and then said, "Take picture." She sat there as still and calm as she could and smiled like a little angel. I nearly gasped. Had she just instructed me to take her picture in the exact spot we spent almost 2 hours trying to get pictures??? Yes, yes she had. And all I could do was laugh and tell her what a stinker she was for not participating two days prior. Would you believe I didn't even take my phone to document the moment? There is no proof. Simply my own memory and now this blog of the moment it was her idea to sit and smile.

I imagine God must have been laughing, reminding me of how my best laid plans are often completely against what He has envisioned for me. Or worse, when I cry and scream and throw a fit in my unwillingness to participate in what He has planned for me. Oh yes, I'm certain I've earned my picture on the Heavenly Wall of Shame as an Unwilling Participant. Just like my daughter has earned herself documented proof of her unwillingness to get her picture taken on her own terms. Too often I want things on my own terms. I want Him to do things according to my plan. And when I don't get my way, I make sure He knows about it.

It's shameful to admit but I'd be lying if I didn't. May this be a reminder to me to know He is good, to recognize when He sets me down on my own He isn't abandoning me. May I trust His vision and plan even when I don't understand or know what it is. May I be a willing participant regardless of what it is He's asking me to do.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tragic Monday

It seems I've been responding a lot to the Monday morning onslaught of media. Last week it was the furry over the NFL. Today it's the grief for what's happened in Vegas. The reality is I was just telling a friend yesterday that I've been purposely avoiding the news and yet there's no escaping the way these things are ravaging our nation. Last week we were divided by differing points of view, casting stones and drawing lines between "us" and "them." Today we seem to be united by our broken hearts, offering prayers and extending our sentiments toward strangers. It only takes a week and one dreaded tragedy to bring us back together and remind us what's really important.

I know when things like this happen there's questions about where God was, uncertainty about why He allows such things to happen. In the midst of what's unclear and heartbreaking, I only know to do one thing and that is to turn to the Comforter who gives strength and refuge even when I can't understand. It's not that I go to Him for answers of "why" but I do seek Him for peace that passes all understanding and Supernatural strength that exceeds my own.

I can't come to grips with knowing anything about people who would do such a thing except for the reality that God has given us each free will. Along with that ability to choose is the knowledge that a very real enemy celebrates such chaos that causes us to question everything we once thought certain. It's exactly what he wants and the stark contrast of what God desires.

It's true. God is love. The very essence of who He is and all He embodies is nothing short of perfect love. Yet His Word is clear and it cannot be missed that there is only one way to a relationship with Him and it is through the salvation given by Christ's sacrifice to cover our sins. We can't just claim it - we have to believe it and receive it. It seems in times like this people wonder how a God that exemplifies love would knowingly allow such tragedy and heartbreak and yet we know just as Eve was allowed to choose for herself to take that bite, so are we given the choice to act accordingly to our own will or His perfect will.

I'm not trying to get all "preachy" but I know some of you are wondering where God is this morning so I just need to be abundantly clear. He's here. Right here. He's never left. His heart is breaking over the lives lost, the families shattered, and the one who decided it was up to him to wreak such havoc.

We can't run amuck and have our own way then shake our fist at Him in anger as if He somehow let us down when things like this happen. We choose our own way then wonder where He's at when we need Him. I'm not here to shame anyone but I am here to relentlessly defend our need for Him and His salvation plan. I am also here to proclaim His goodness and the peace He brings in times of sorrow, the refuge He is in times of peril. But we must also understand our daily reliance upon Him.

God is here today. Right here. I can't see how He could work any of this for any kind of good but I am trusting His sovereignty and relying upon His eternal plan that I can't see in this temporal world. I pray you'll find the comfort of God today knowing His love bears all things.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fantastic Friday

You know the scene. The morning scramble of herding children - trying to get them dressed, fed, and out the door. Socks and shoes are never where you need them to be when you're in a hurry. Frustrations abound with a scattered mom brain and scurrying children. It was a frantic Friday indeed.

The scene was comical at best. A barefooted toddler was running laps in the driveway at the mention of my notion to get her hair fixed. She never slowed down but I never lost my determination. I chase her, running while combing and putting in hair bows. I was completely unaware of the spectacle we were to the neighbors until I finally stopped to catch my breath and realized I was panting. I felt certain I deserved a medal for the Olympic feat I'd just accomplished of two perfectly placed pigtails all while running full speed after a toddler. 

My boy was no less frantic, searching for his Batman costume. It was super hero day at school and the costume was nowhere to be found. Never mind the fact that I should have already had this together the night before. We were now in panic mode. He was melting down and I was sweating. I sent him upstairs while I checked the garage. Then I heard him, "Mooooommmm!!! Never fear! Batman is here!" He was running outside holding the costume bag in hand. Unfortunately the bodysuit wasn't inside. But the cape was so in full mom-mode I went into action and made sure my boy felt like the super hero I know him to be. 

Now that he was ready to go I attempted to corral us all in the car only to realize Eli was missing shoes and Violet was still barefoot. I gave him the instruction to find two MATCHING shoes (yes, I did have to clarify) and grabbed her slip on shoes and attempted to put them on. Instead I was greeted with a determination that matched my own as she took the shoes and exclaimed "I do it." Through gritted teeth I mustered a grin and handed them off only to see the fireman rain boots that Eli had put on himself. "What mom? They match." Sorry I didn't clarify further but I now explained he needed to find matching tennis shoes. 

I began buckling Violet in only to realize the dog had been hiding inside the car. Did he really think he was going?! Why wouldn't our giant doodle be in the car on a morning like this?!

With the dog safely inside and the kids buckled in, we were finally off! We may have started out frantic but we were now fully embracing fantastic. Here's the picture to prove it!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Taking a Stand

My newsfeed is flooded today. Once again we've hit a wall on where the lines are drawn between respect and standing (or kneeling) for what we believe in. Some are standing up for the sacrifices made for the freedom to do so. Others are kneeling in an act they claim is seeking justice.  Whatever your own stance today, I implore you to hear something even more important than recent headlines.

This isn't political. It's not about the flag or the anthem or the President. It isn't about a race or denomination, it's not about gender or labels. It's about the only thing I know to be absolute truth and that is the fact that He bled and died for us ALL. To cover every single one of our sins and our foolishness. His blood is enough.

This is my own personal stand for Truth. Not what I believe is truth but what God's Word actually says is Truth. The One and Only Truth. The inerrant Gospel of the Son of God who came, willingly gave, and sacrificed His life for my soul.

We all, every single one of us, fall short of Him and His perfect glory. The wages for our sin is death. Eternal separation from God. But His gift of life is for life eternal - life with Him. With our hearts we believe and with our mouths we profess Him as Lord and are saved. He intercedes for us, no matter where we are, no matter what we've done. While the enemy seeks whom he may devour, the saving grace of Christ seeks each of our hearts and offers us eternal life through Him.

Here's what I believe (personal opinion here).  Whether it's born out of true conviction or a media stunt, there's a part of me that thinks some of these people who are standing for what they believe is right do in fact believe in their cause. What I know of the enemy is he's crafty enough to get us to believe anything but the truth. It's been happening since the creation of man and he's only intensified his vicious attacks in the present day. It's why I feel so passionate to share my own convictions because I know so many are being led astray.

What is Christianity? A belief in God? Is it that simple? What does believing in God cost? What is faith? Faith in who? Faith in what? It's becoming so blurred it's hard to defend. The only thing I know to do is go back to His Word. He is the way, the truth and the life and not one of us can get to God the Father without going by way of the Cross of Christ.

This is my stand.

Monday, August 14, 2017

4th Grade

My sweet Eli,

Tomorrow you start fourth grade. I can't believe how quickly the years are passing. You only have two more years of elementary school and  I can't even begin to think about beyond that. But before I get ahead of myself I want to share some pivotal things with you that have marked this summer. 

This summer has been wonderful! The stressful moments have been few and far between in comparison and it's only proven to me how much you're growing and maturing. We've come a long way from the tumultuous struggles last year and struck a delicate balance of relaxation and fun mixed with just enough structure from part-time summer camp and it worked out beautifully for everyone! Your camp counselors would often tell me how creative you are, how they would never think about things the way you do. You challenge people around you to think differently and it causes people to understand more deeply. 

Last week you were having a tough time. You were upset and crying, telling me things get jumbled up in your head. You said the words to me, "I hate my brain! I hate what my brain tells me to do." It saddened me so deeply and my heart grieved for you. I held you as you cried and I prayed for God to give me wisdom and to know how to be what you needed in that moment. You recovered quickly, you always do, and even as I offered continued comfort, you were determined to press on and push through. Somehow you always find a way to make it work. I often wonder how your mind works and in these moments I worry for you and the battle you must face. 

And yet I can't stop there because just today while we were out a bo about your age approached me and asked if I was your mom. I affirmed to him I was indeed and he proceeded to share he knew you from camp. "Eli is really creative! The things he builds and makes are awesome!" I beamed with pride and thanked him for such a wonderful compliment and in that moment my heart swelled beyond what I knew it could feel. All the times I watch you off to yourself avoiding a crowd or busily creating when the rest of the group is engaged in conversation were now painted in a different light. The admiration was all over this boy's words and expressions and he was admiring my boy! You inspire people, Eli! With the way you think and the way you create and how you are - you instill intrigue in those who watch you in wonder as they attempt to enter your world. 

My sweet Eli, as you approach fourth grade tomorrow I know you're nervous about all the things that come with a new year. We already know God answered your prayer and gave you the teacher you wanted. We continue to pray over you and ask for God to further develop you into the person He uniquely and wonderfully created you to be. We watch in wonder as that unfolds each year. 

I'm so proud of you. Even as I tucked you into bed and we talked about our day, you made sure to share what I always say that tomorrow is brand new. A brand new day, a brand new year, a brand new grade, a brand new teacher. A brand new opportunity for you to continue to be the uniquely amazing person God created you to be. 

Welcome to fourth grade!



Friday, August 11, 2017

What a Test

Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him. So he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test Philip. He already knew what he was going to do. John 6:5-6 (emphasis mine)

I don't know how I've never caught it. Maybe I've read it before but today the words leapt off the page. We know the story. Thousands had gathered to hear, see, meet Jesus and the miracle of the two fish and five loaves unfolded to feed the masses. But I'm certain I've only focused on the miracle itself and not necessarily the preamble.

There's so many ways this is speaking to me today. So many new ideas and lessons in a story that seems so familiar.

1. Jesus allowed Philip to be a part of the plan.

Jesus was very specific in his question to Philip. "Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?" It wasn't a matter of if the people would eat but a matter of how to get the food. The wording is so intriguing because it allows me to understand that Jesus had a plan, which we'll soon see, but He was allowing Philip to enter into the miracle that was about to unfold.

As I dissect this passage I'm not convinced that Jesus needed to hear from Philip (see point 3) but He was inviting, including, and asking him to be involved. I think too often we perceive Jesus, whether in the flesh or on His throne, as too lofty for us to reach. Too separated from us to be a part of our everyday situations. And yet, right here in this text, we see just the opposite! The black and white proof that He wants to be in our midst - that He invites us into His. He's at work, often with a plan already in mind, yet He wants to include us in what He's doing.

2. Jesus tested Philip.

This stopped me. Because at first it didn't sit well to think that Jesus intentionally tested Philip. I dug deeper. The Hebrew word for "test" is peirazó. It means to try, tempt, test, to make proof of. I found another translation that read "This was said to prove him." I admit it made me feel better to believe Jesus was trying to prove something in and of Philip rather than just test him. I believe this directly correlates with Jesus wanting his disciples to see Him at work but to help them understand what He was about to do.

3. Jesus already knew what He was going to do.

As mentioned, Jesus allowed Philip to be included even though He already knew what He was going to do. There's another truth to be taken from this. What we can imply is the idea that He wants us to seek Him, to ask of Him, and He will answer. I believe that gives us the reality of knowing He not only listens to our prayers but He wants us to approach Him and ask. By no means do I think this strips Him of any Sovereignty but I believe in His infinite wisdom He allows us the opportunities, at times, to bend His ear with our prayers and petitions.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

He gives us the opportunity to present our requests to Him. Even though He may already be working things out and have a plan in mind, let's not miss the fact that we're invited to approach Him and be a part of what He's doing. And when we don't seek Him, He often seeks us out.

What about the test? When I read the word I didn't like it but just this week I faced a massive testing of my faith. The thing about this test was I can tell you most assuredly the Lord already knew what He was going to do. I just had to wait and see. There was nothing I could do, it was completely out of my hands, and the only role I played was to be tested, waiting for God to reveal His answer and will.

Do I need to tell you how I responded?

Philip answered him, "It would take more than half a year's wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" John 6:7

I'm ashamed to admit the likeness I bear to Philip. Riddled with doubt, essentially pointing in Jesus' face the improbability of how to work things out. There's a certain practicality in Philip's response, much like my own. As if to say, "But Lord, this just doesn't seem humanly possible. I imagine He must have laughed to Himself, maybe even out loud. In my mind He must have wanted to remark, "You're right, silly human, it's not humanly possible. But it is God-possible." Maybe that's my own mind's eye of how this conversation might go but I know with certainty He's inviting us to be a part of His mighty plan. In the same way He demonstrated His Almighty power feeding the thousands on that hillside, He revealed Himself to me in this test. I don't always respond in faith, something I know I am continually learning, but He pursues me and allows me to be a part of His miracles. I know I don't always pass the test but I am so thankful He grades with grace!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Still Learning

I don't know how it happened but it's already August. It seems like just a few weeks ago we were celebrating school being out and the freedom of long summer days. Somehow I blinked and now we're bracing for the back-to-school madness.

I rejected the idea of school supply shopping for awhile because I thought that would somehow mean it wasn't a reality. I just couldn't bring myself to it. I didn't want to acknowledge this passing of summer with the finality of packing a backpack and saying goodbye to lazy pool days.

But we did it. Eli and I made a date of it. We got some popcorn and a slushy and went searching for painted rocks before loading up on the mandatory list. We made a fun outing of the ordeal even if it was going to feel like they were stripping us of our summer-time freedom.

In the middle of our rock hunt my nature-loving boy started to veer off. His compulsion to pick up every stick and leaf started to get the better of him (and me). I started to feel my own anxiety welling up as I wanted to regain control and get us back on track but he wouldn't listen. Now we were in deep waters of disobedience and non-compliance and I started to lose my cool. And there it was. In the middle of the sidewalk of Wards Crossing we both encountered a meltdown. Him crying, me yelling, people staring. And then I stopped.

Deep breath.

What was I doing? Was this about him not listening or was this about my own frustration that he wasn't doing what I wanted? This was supposed to be about him and special time together. I didn't want it to be a takeover of emotions and reactions that would later lead to regrets.

So we worked through it. Mostly I worked through my own immaturity and fit and changed my attitude. We managed to strike a compromise without completely losing it. And we successfully ended up with all our school supplies. WIN!

I can't say it always happens like that. There are way too many times when it doesn't. It's been a long road of discovery, research, trial and error, and lots of tears and prayers to get to a point where we can even have this kind of "success." I'm so proud of my boy and how hard he's worked and how far he's come. I'm reminded this isn't as much about HIM as is about me and my growth process. How can I teach him obedience when I can't keep my cool? The internal conflict becomes a reality check of myself and my weaknesses.

Friends, I know how hard this parenting thing is. I assure you that anyone who witnessed the scene in front of Barnes & Noble most certainly thought some crazy lady had lost her mind trying to get a child to comply while said child kicked and flailed for his own way.

I can't stop summer from coming to a close, but I can prevent my fuse from blowing. I can't prolong the start of school, but I can work through my expectations and emotions to help teach AND LEARN valuable life lessons. For him and for me.