Sometimes we win. The Scramble for the Kids on Monday was a great success. I have not finished adding and checking off my lists but it looks like we'll be in great shape to match our highest fundraising year. Woo. Someone asked me how I got it all done. I told them I didn't - an amazing set of 50 volunteers, 100 donors, 3 fantastic charities and 120 willing golfers get it all done. But it is such an honor to be a part of this much fun that helps so many vulnerable kids. You really haven't had a win in your life until you've helped someone else. Winning is fun.
Sometimes we lose. I am an atrocious bowler. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I have crazy loose joints. My wrists twist in creative ways and the balls typically end up in the gutter. Or maybe its because I sometimes get distracted right as I'm letting go of the ball. At any rate, I'm the low score here. My husband ended up doubling my 71. Sigh. While my bowling score doesn't really matter it is a visual reminder that sometimes the odds stack up against us. Those losses can hurt. Sometimes we lose.
Sometimes in life we drink coffee. Seriously, most of my life is not made up of the times when I've scored a success or the frequent occasions I'm hanging my head. Most of my life is made up of ordinary moments. Showers in clean water. Picking warm blackberries off the bush. Smiling at photos of brides and babies. Checking spelling. Coloring. Car rides and sunsets. Pizza. Whispered prayers. Cleaning up crushed crackers. Texts with friends. Chats before bed. The precious parts of life don't tend to be in the wins and losses. Its in the grace we give. Live well.
Speaking of pirates; Monday's blog about Numbers reminded me of this pitiful story.
This is a cautionary tale. Pinterest lies. When I peruse Pinterest I get caught up in lists of great books and darling photos of baby animals. I laugh at stupid jokes, collect random quotes, wonder about the women who choose to paint their fingernails to look like cupcakes and I pin an occasional DIY page. For those of you not sucked in DIY means Do it Yourself. Not that I’ve actually done any of the brilliant DIY pages. I just pin them. Until this last week.
My family had an appointment to get our photo taken for the new church directory.
Side bar: A church directory is just a phone book with photos. Those of you who don’t attend or are new to attending church probably don’t fully appreciate the amazing function that a church directory serves. See what happens at church after the singing and before the sermon is a nifty little two-minute time called greeting. This is where you ooh and ahh at new babies, make lunch plans, welcome visitors, practice your handshake, catch up on your weekly hug quota and stretch your legs before settling in for the sermon. The problem is that after several weeks of greeting the same people you reach a point where you really can not again ask for their name. Here is where the new church directory is golden. Picture = name = no more weird greeting times.
Anyway. We had an appointment for family photos. I got home from work and realized we’d not picked out what we were going to wear. This put me into a slight mode of panic. One of my life goals is to never have a family photo qualify for the Awkward Family Photos website. Basically if you can control your hair, stick to plain backgrounds, leave the props at home and not wear matching plaid I think you are safe. We picked cute dresses for the girls and the resident chef voted for white button up shirts and jeans. Simple enough.
Problem is I’m only six months past my maternity jeans. My cute jeans don’t fit yet. I think this might have more to do with the package of Oreo’s I just finished off than the baby but that really is not the point. The point is that I bought a new pair of jeans just a couple of days prior. I’m short. They were too long. I had a Pinterest Pin that said “WHAT? This is absolutely amazing. Why am I just learning how to do this??? How to hem jeans the correct way leaving the original edging intact”. The pin had step by step photos and promised that I could hem my jeans properly in just 15 minutes.
I waddled into my spouse’s office roughly twenty minutes before we needed to leave for our photo appointment and asked him to fold up my jeans to the proper length. He gave me one of his looks. He asked if I really thought this was an appropriate time to be hemming jeans. I said “Of course, Pinterest says it only takes 15 minutes”. He snorted but dutifully turned my cuffs up.
I waddled downstairs and shrugged off my jeans and carefully followed the steps to hem. I pulled the first pant leg out and realized I’d sewn the leg shut. So I sighed. This is where I should have quit. Instead I pulled out the seam. This is where I should have remeasured. Instead I guessed. I followed the rest of the pin and successfully got everything to match the photos. This is where I should have checked the jeans. Instead I quite confidently cut off the excess.
I put the jeans back on and strutted upstairs. My sweet spouse looked at me. He held back a grin.
"When do you start your shift at Pirates of the Caribbean?"
Ah sarcasm. I snorted.
"I know….what do I do to fix it?"
"Put on a different pair of jeans."
I clearly need to stay off Pinterest. A friend sent me a pin about how to turn a pair of jeans into a hip little jean skirt. I believe she may be mocking me. Either that or trying to provide me with more blog material.
Potty Training Bootcamp
Potty Training Boot Camp took place at our house recently. Little did I know God would use it to teach me a thing or two as well. I heard the horror stories about kids that took years to train, read the "how to books" and got a pile of kid's potty books and videos from the library. I took the kid to the store, showed him all the babies on the boxes of diapers and told him what a big boy he was and he wasn't a baby any more. He picked out a potty seat and a pile of salty snacks and juice boxes. I got a stash of small toys and new books for prizes and we marked a quiet week on the calendar. I said a prayer for the little one to learn self-control and for this mama to have piles of patience.
With plenty of trial and error, the little guy learned to eliminate his toxins in the receptacle. He no longer sits in his refuse or carries it around in his diaper. I want to do the same. I don't want to wallow in sin. I don't want to pollute the world carrying on with a stinky attitude.
Toxins are bad. Bodily wastes not cleaned up properly cause sores, sickness and offensive smells. Attitudes and thoughts are the same. Broken relationships, genocides and wars start with little bad ideas.
Much like Adam and Eve hid after their fall, the little man hides if he makes a mess in his pants. He is embarrassed and feels shame. He knows he didn't do the right thing. But oh sweet boy, your Mama loves you and wants to help you get clean again. The two and a half year old is doing amazing...but he's had an accident or two or three or four...mostly when he gets busy or distracted. I do the same. I get overwhelmed watching the news, I get caught trying to "keep up with the Jones's", I mull around in anger, I judge others, I speak before thinking, I think things I shouldn't. Clearly, running to the potty isn't a one time thing. Thankfully we get many chances...every day. 2 Corinthians 10:5 "We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ."
My kid traded pee for kisses, hugs and happy dances. He gave up poop and received stickers, candy and prizes. I had an overwhelming sense of pride for my little man and called family and posted celebratory posts on Facebook. I'm crazy about this kid- he brings me great joy. Jesus does the same- he trades our fears for His courage, doubts with faith, our judgmental attitudes with His grace and compassion, our hatred with His love. He takes our sin and gives us forgiveness. Run to the throne, my friends, run to the throne. Give up your refuse and all of heaven will cheer! Your Heavenly Father is crazy about you.
Zephaniah 3:17 "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."
I've spent quite a bit of time planning and listing in the last couple of weeks. I was counting down days until a big charity golf tournament I help run. (www.Scrambleforthekids.org) Counting heads, volunteers, welcome bags. Adding up donations and printing out rule sheets. Any big event takes a full set of lists.
In similar fashion, the book of Numbers functions as the planning and listing book for the newly formed nation of Israel. The book includes three separate censuses of the population, rules for the priesthood and people and a layout for the camp. I love that the tabernacle (where God lives) is right in the middle and the people live in a cross formation around. What a beautiful symbol. When all the planning and counting is done God leads the people out from the base of Mt. Sianai and off to give them the land he promised Abraham.
And then it starts. Complaining, fear, gossip, whining. The people grouch about the food, about Moses, about God. Ever been part of a team with an attitude problem? Get much done? Neither did the Israelites except for pain and judgment and delay.
It comes to a climax in Chapter 13. God tells Moses to send 12 spies, one for each tribe, into the land of Canaan. The spies were to take stock of the inhabitants and the quality of the promised land. Keep in mind that God had already promised this land would be their new home. The spies went and looked and came back with a report. Ten of them came back with fear and doubt. Two, Caleb and Joshua, came back full of faith that God would deliver on his promise. The people choose fear. And the result was a 40 year delay. Forty more years of complaints and whines and panic. Sigh. I'm 40 years old. When I look back on my 40 years I hate how much of that I have invested in fear and grumbling.
There used to be a pirate festival held each year under the St. John bridge in Portland, Oregon. Visitors could have their photo taken with a parrot, eat all manner of ye matey treats, plenty of cosplay, weaponry exhibitions and various pirate themed bands. It was a ton of crazy fun.
Swashbuckling pirates traded spars and insults. Lots of growling and hollering and carrying about. It was fun because it was fake. There is a reason that pirates are associated with the scull and cross bones. In reality, that whole rape and pillage thing was devastating.
The book of Numbers also is home to my ten-year-olds favorite Bible story. Chapter 22 tells the story of Balak and Balaam. Balak was the leader of Moab. The Moabites were - well - pirates of sorts. Violent and scary. Balak heard about the Israelites and decided to preemptively deal with this fledgling nation. His plan was to hire the local sorcerer to curse the nation. He set up a huge show. Costumes and animals and sacrifices and witnesses. Set Balaam up on the hill pointed out over the valley where Israel was camped.
Balaam however was recovering from the shock of his life. God had spoken to him through a donkey. I know. Sometimes I'm shocked about how God gets through to me as well. At any rate Balaam stood up in from of the Moabites and informed them that he was unable to curse Israel, he could only bless them.
Balak doesn't like this. So he gives Balaam another chance. New hill. More sacrificies. Curse them now! And again, Balaam gives blessing to Israel.
Here's where my kiddo thinks the story is hilarious. Balak drags the magician up yet another hill. Sets up another huge show. Sacrifices. Whole deal. "How about here????? Can you curse them here????" More blessings to Israel. Its a bit like Dr. Suess and Sam I am and the infamous green eggs and ham.
What I love about this story is that no matter what Israel does - God is still faithful to his promises. Sure there are some rotten and painful consequences to insubordination. Our behaviour usually has an impact on our future. But I love that out in the hills when others want us to be cursed there is God who has worked to bring blessings instead. When the pirates strike, I want God in my ship.
This photo of my daughter smiling while she's being held by a pirate is a great way to sum up the book of Numbers. Flirting with dissension, cuddling up with complaints, making gossips best friends, undermining authority or cheering on curses. It all seems stangely satisfying and harmless. But in reality its like being in the grip of death. Complaining erodes covenants. Whining steals joy. Grumbling undermines promises.
Follow your leader. Practice Gratitude. Walk with Courage. Count the cost, add it up. Get in line. Numbers is beautiful. God is faithful.
I'm a fan. A full fledged linked up and following fan. You should fan with me. Here is The Bible Project's YouTube walk through of Numbers.
Click for a handy infographic from Newspring all about the book of Numbers.
Once a month I get together with a group of girls (my mama, my sister, my auntie and two friends we claim as family) for book club. We call it Bound Together. We read, we laugh, we eat, we donate to worthy causes. We eat a lot.
This month's book was by one of my favorite authors, Charles Martin. Water from my Heart is a big hearted attack on apathy. It made me think.
“Since that moment, I’d bought into the idea that isolation would ease my pain and indifference was the remedy for rejection. Clarity was quick in coming. Isolation is a prison and indifference is a lie. Neither work.”
― Charles Martin, Water from My Heart
Book clubs, small groups, mentorships and churches are all good formats to break isolation. Find your fit. Don't stay alone.
My friend and fellow book club member, Jill Williamson, is an author. And by that I mean a full on "can I brag about my friend who has 16 books published and I have autographed copies on my shelves" author. Check out her website at www.jillwilliamson.com. One of Jill's skills is her ability to research and put into words what she learns. She also has absolutely no fear to tackle a massive project.
Since Water from My Heart was set in Nicaragua, Jill decided to make an authentic Nicaraguan meal for bookclub. Here is the link to YouTube video that explains how to make the enchiladas we ate. May I point out that it is not in English? So my talented friend (did I mention she is an author?) took notes and watched and experimented and we ate divine deep fried meat and rice enchiladas. Did I mention that calories don't count at bookclub?
Jill graciously let us help for the final steps of making the enchiladas. Oh food prep is fun. If you've been following along on my blog you know I'm a fairly rotten cook. However, I'm a fantastic sous chef. I love to jump in with someone else's plan and help - especially if I get to eat the finished product.
The side dish was Gallo Pinto, literally “painted rooster”. It's a mixture of fried rice and beans. Simple soul food. I could eat it every day. Simple comforts remind me of who I am. The trick is to try to live a life that's consistent with who I am.
“While her emotions were very real and they gnawed at her with a raw sincerity, she was listening to something deeper. She was listening to her will, not letting what she felt dictate what she would do. Didn’t let it dictate her life.”
― Charles Martin, Water from My Heart
Yup. Feelings are not facts.
Jill also made spicy mango salsa. I may have eaten most of the bowl. The kick of the jalapeno balanced the sweet fruit. Yummmm. Sometimes I need a kick in life too.
“Indifference is the curse of this age. Indifference is evil, and it couldn't be farther from the heart of God.
― Charles Martin, Water from My Heart
So thank you for dinner my friend. And thank you for the beautiful books Charles Martin.
Want to read more? These are not Jill's newest books. But they are my favorites. The Safe Lands series is a dystopian wild ride of fun and redemption. I can probably get them autographed for you. I know the author.
If you are interested in putting together your own book club and would like a copy of our Bound Together plan send me a note on the Contact page and I'll share what's worked. We have found that six people, once a month is a perfect fit. Gather your fellow readers and eaters. It's fairly fantastic.
Like most kids, I had chores growing up. For awhile one of my jobs was taking out the garbage. I hated taking out the garbage. It took about five minutes. One summer I negotiated with my mother and traded my taking out the garbage chore for being in charge of the family laundry. It was a fierce negotiation.
I was very excited about my new job. I made myself a sign that I attached to a hat that said something about laundry queen. I learned how to sort. I learned how to use the machines. I folded. I even put away. This whole process took hours. I told people all about my coup at home with the laundry and garbage tradeoff. Somehow I thought I’d come out ahead. Clearly I had a lot to learn. Let me give you a piece of advice. Do not go up against my mother. You will lose. She’s charming enough though that you may think you won.
Yesterday I let my daughter wear a brand new white back to school shirt to church. This was not a problem. I then let her wear the shirt to a birthday party. Still not a problem. Then in a delusional moment I let her wear the shirt to help me pick blackberries. This was a problem. One of the ripe blackberries fell off the bush and hit her shirt. It was beautiful. Looked like a perfect stamp of a blackberry.
I grimaced, took off the shirt and headed to the laundry room. I rinsed out the blackberry and was about to rub the shirt with a stain stick when the resident chef peered over my shoulder. He said “you don’t put stain stick on a wet shirt. Just use detergent”. He handed me a bottle of detergent left over from when he actually purchased the stuff. He makes his own usually. Naturally. He then quite unwisely left me alone to my own devices.
Anyway, I stuck my finger in the detergent bottle and promptly pushed the pour spout into the bottle. Oops. I squished my hand up and stuck it down inside the detergent. I reached as far as I could and hooked the pour spout. I realized that I had become the monkey in that parable about how to trap a monkey with a coconut. There was no way to get my hand out and the spout out at the same time. So I shrugged, put the lid back on and put it in the cabinet. I didn’t tell. This is where a blog is a little dangerous. We get to find out if my spouse reads my blog.
I scritched and scratched and scrubbed. The blackberry stain would not move. I finally wadded the shirt up, left it in the sink and walked away. About an hour later I walked back in and was amazed that the shirt was clean! The stain was gone! I must be a miracle worker in the laundry room. My husband walked in and looked over my shoulder. “I got it out, the bleach worked”. He walked out. I was deflated.
I have taken a new vow to stay out of the laundry room. Maybe I learned something about negotiation from my mother after all.
Someone needs to write a parenting book that prepares you for the adjustment process you go though when your child becomes an adult on their own, and in my case, is now going to be married in less than two months! Parenting books cover what to expect with teething, potty training, feeding, and development, but not when your child transitions to an adult.
This morning, I opened my hope chest to pull out some things for our daughter’s bridal shower, not expecting the next chain of events. A burgundy baby dress with lace trim, a beloved baby blanket, the treasured stuffed kitty worn to a frazzle, and very first t-shirt with the hospital’s name imprinted on it from which our daughter was born all popped up at me. Sneak attack! Not fair. The tears flow out of nowhere. Happy ones full of sweet memories flooding my mind. Grateful ones to have been entrusted to love and care for this precious one. Imperfect, fallible me! Mournful tears, of how quickly the years have gone and the moments that were lost. (The fact I had been awake since 3:30AM probably didn’t help.) I thought I was finally through the worst part of this! I was actually learning the joy that comes from the less responsibility.
My in-laws had cared for our four-year-old, Sheppard, during a major Passion play that my husband and I are involved in. One night upon coming home, my mother-in-law shared how all that day Grandpa was the one that Sheppard wanted his day to revolve around. By evening, Grandma had given Sheppard his bath and coaxed Sheppard in letting her read him his bedtime story instead of Grandpa. “You know what book he brought me to read?”… “My Grandpa Is the Best!” Oh my! I must admit it was hard to stifle my giggles.
It was a reminder to me, though. We really do have little control over our children’s choices. We work hard to teach them God’s love and the importance of their relationship with Him, having good manners and respect for others, cleaning up after themselves, and having good hygiene. We pray mightily over them and think we are releasing them to God. However, the rubber truly hits the road when they become their own person and an adult. This is where our true releasing them to God hits the hardest.
A good parent will work themselves out of a job. Not the relationship, mind you, just the job. I have had to ask myself multiple times, “Ok, Lord. Do I trust you even more-so now to protect her, guide her, pull out of her all they has been instilled in her? I know less of what her day involves. I have to believe that you are her full Caretaker now and trust. Less input from me, unless it is invited by her, and more prayer that You Lord will orchestrate the circumstances of her life as you see fit?”
During this season I have sought the wisdom and experience of seasoned moms. It has been very helpful. A dear friend told me, “Don’t place expectations on them and they come around more. Then it is a most pleasant surprise and takes the stress and strain off of you always wondering when they’ll come see you”. Another dear friend, who has been through this process at least three times shared how much your family dynamics change each time a child leaves the nest. It is so true! I just never pinpointed that as part of it. Many others have shared how they just found themselves crying at random times, sometimes for no reason at all or when a random memories surfaces. Yay! I wasn’t losing my mind after all! I was having that happen too! Why don’t Parenting Books warn us of this mourning process?
I woke up at 4AM one morning with the strangest thought.
“Naw, couldn’t be!” “Lord, is that you?”
“I’m going to look up the definition.”
Sure enough, line-by line, it fit perfectly.
“Mark. Mark! Wake up!”
“Huh? What Honey?”
“Look at this!”
“I’m going through mid-life crisis!!!“
“Our parents go through this, not us!”
“Yes, dear… That happens.”
“It says that a child leaving home or getting married can trigger it. I’ve been double-whammied!”
“It’s going to be alright dear. It’s a part of life.”
One evening, after going with my daughter for a fitting for her wedding dress, she requested to stop somewhere for dinner since she had come straight from work. “Mom, can I do an IOU? I’m kind of broke right now.”
“Sweetie, I planned to buy you dinner anyway.”
Her face looked pale and tired from all the hours of overtime that her position demands and I knew she hadn’t been eating very healthy. My mama’s heart ached. She talked and talked and talked. All about her work, her friends, the various happenings of her life. I just soaked it in. If the only thing I accomplish in life is a close relationship with my kids and husband and in bringing them close to God, then I will have lived.
As she drove off in her car I felt the lump begin to swell in my throat and the tears stream down. I wanted to take care of all the concerns of her heart and advise her on all the things she should and shouldn’t do. But, that is no longer my place, unless she invites me to do so. She is her own person now and is needing to carve out her own life
“Lord, I love her so much! I just want to fix everything for her. How do you do it God? Millions of times each day you watch over all of humanity, your kids, and see their aches and pains. You watch them make their choices. Some bring you joy and some break your heart again and again. We have all broken your heart at times. How does your heart bear it all? Yet, you still give us the freedom to choose how we live our lives. It never occurred to me how hard that must be, until this season of my life. I love you, Lord. Thank you for taking care of my baby girl!”
The words to this song constantly parade through and soothe my mind lately. I leave these words with you, the reader: “You’re a good, good Father. It’s who You are. It’s who You are. And I’m loved by You, It’s who I am. It’s who am…”
The book of Levitucus frequently gets criticized as the boring and outdated section of the Bible that just lists too many demanding rules. The entire Old Testament law has 613 laws, 247 of which are listed out in Leviticus. Just as a comparision, I tried to find out how many laws are on the books in the the United States. The answer is no one actually knows. I did find out that there are there are at least 5,000 federal criminal laws, with an additional 300,000 regulations that can be enforced criminally. According to the Library of Congress website, the US Law library houses 2 million different texts on the laws in the United States.
I'd say God was pretty concise.
Last week I was sitting in my office working on a quarterly report. I counted up employee hours, filled out the required form, clicked on to pay and frowned at myself. I had forgotten to write down how much tax was due and this particiular report doesn't self populate. I clicked back and the website informed me that I didn't have access to view the report which I'd just completed. I spent the next half hour ranting about dumb government regulations. I growled at the help desk guy as he tried to sort out the mixup. Turns out the reason I couldn't view my report was that my maiden name was still on file with this sub-bureau of the state. Mr. Help Desk took his time and walked me through the two forms required to update my last name and twenty minutes later I was granted permission to pay my tax. I called my mother and started in complaining and whining. She listened a while and then gently reminded me that the state has laws and rules to protect us from identity theft and that maybe I should breathe a little before I had a beaurocracy driven melt down. She also pointed out that I didn't see the good intent of Mr. Help Desk who was trying to help me through the system. Sigh. She's right.
Sometimes I react the same way when I read through Leviticus. I focus on the laws I don't understand and ignore the history. I get overwhelmed by requirements and ignore the provisions built in for grace. I kick and grumble and mock and ignore the heart of the text. When I look at the laws from rebellion and bitterness I get sideways. When I focus on the good and loving God who is walking all through the book making a way for relationship then I submit to rules from a right place. I seek to understand. I accept and give grace. And when I read about the sacrificies and priesthood I'm overwhelmed in gratitude.
The law was created to show my need for a savior who can fulfill the holy requirements.
The book of Leviticus outlines the expectations of holy and perfect God. But it's a God who recognizes right from the start that the people can't meet the expectations. And so the book outlines the path back to right balance. That path involves offerings and sacrificies, rules and consequences, priesthood and celebrations. In the grand story its also a picture hinting at the future Messiah (Savior).
One of the hard things about Leviticus is the frequency with which it gets used as a weapon. And ever notice that people tend to get hung up on the rules for other people and give themselves a pass? I am challenged by classic American pastor, A W Tozer:
"Be hard on yourself and easy on others.
Carry your own cross but never lay one on the back of another".
I know, I know. Really I get it. I've watched situations develop around me that have caused me to wince and wonder where our society was headed. Times when the idea of yelling on a box on the corner seemed morally imperative. "Hey stop! It says so in Leviticus! If I don't yell...then people will think it's okay".
Take a breath. Don't isolate this beautiful book (or any of them actually) from the full story. Context is imperative. The full story of the Bible is about justice and mercy. Both. So I believe that the soap box on the corner is less effective than an invitation to coffee. And I think it's more likely that if I introduce people to God in a friendly conversation one of two things will happen;
My friend will either say no thanks, I'm good. In which case what I say about their behavior has no relevance on their life anyway.
My friends will find that the journey with Jesus is worth the adjustments He will make clear are necessary.
And those changes are typically much bigger issues than may have hit my judgmental radar. For God asks his followers for love that looks like sacrifice. For laying down your life, loving your enemy, enduring persecution and running a race to the end. A relationship with God is everything and total. Its worth it. Completely. But what about all those rules? Truth is that God is plenty capable of communicating to other people what messes in their lives He's concerned about dealing with first. I know because I am frequently asked by God to move His direction. To change habits. To grow. To give.
The rules work themselves out when the relationship is right.
"I will also walk among you and be your God and you shall be my People" Leviticus 26:12. Sometimes Leviticus challenges me. Mostly it makes me grateful. You see Leviticus is all about relationship. That's never outdated or boring. The best relationships have some groundrules. And lots of grace.
I love this blog post from Pastor JD Greer about The Day of Atonement in Leviticus. Be sure to check it out. It's All about Jesus
This beautiful book by Francine Rivers brings to life the story of Aaron from Leviticus. If you are looking for a fun way to remember this part of the Bible this is a great option.
Here is another great installment from The Bible Project. Here is the link to the YouTube walk through of Leviticus.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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