My engine light turned on a few days ago. The yellow haunting you may have a problem light. Not the red doom stop now light. I once ignored a red doom stop now light. I was five miles away from my house which was in the middle of nowhere. It was dark. My baby was in the baskseat. No cell phone coverage. I ignored the red light and the warning blaring sound. Then I ignored the massive amount of smoke billowing from my car. I made it up the hill to my house and the car stopped. It never drove again. A friend bought it for $500 and towed it away.
So this time when the yellow light came on I eyed it suspiciously. I hate car repairs. But I'm a loyal Dave Ramsey girl so we drive our cars forever to avoid having a car payment. We just spent a small fortune last week on my husband's car so the yellow light on my car was not welcome.
The yellow light didn't go away on its own. I was really hoping it would. So I gave in today and dropped the car off at the mechanic and hitched a ride with my dad back to work. All afternoon I was waiting for a phone call to find out what the damage to my checkbook would be to make the yellow light go away.
The mechanic called. He said there was good news. My yellow light was a standard PO562 code. That's great. So happy.
Turns out it means I had too much oxygen in my engine because I had not tightened down the gas cap when I got gas last time. The mechanic closed the gas cap and the yellow engine light turned off. Ah. I see. Further proof I'm a goof.
But here's what happened next.
The mechanic said he was very happy I'd brought my car in today. Turns out the shocks on my car were almost entirely shot. This had caused uneven wear on my tires and two of my tires had worn down to zero with cables showing and were primed for a blowout. A vision of a blowout with my babies in the back seat made my stomach hurt and my heart so very grateful.
See this is what happens to my all the time. God uses my dumb moves for my good. It's why I try to pay attention to Him. He is the light of the world. A light worth not ignoring.
My husband sent me a gift this morning. I love surprise gifts. This one came in the form of a blog domain and blog email renewal. My Quirky Faith domain was set to expire and without asking this sweet spouse of mine signed me up for two more years. I haven't written much in the last few weeks. I've neglected the written word. I appreciated his vote of confidence.
Fact is lately I've been called to smaller things. My sister had a baby - two months early - and in aunty fashion I've been making quilts and embroidering Christmas stockings. My mom and a good friend of our threw a fairly fantastic baby shower.
The last couple of weeks I've also been called to focus in at home. My kids have had some obstacles in health and homework which required attention - time cuddling and reading and being present. So I've been quiet online.
This morning as I dropped my daughter off at preschool she asked me a question which made me pause.
Mom - Do I look like Miss Clavel?
I looked her up and down before I responded.
Ummmmm. Miss Clavel? Like in Madeline? The nun?
Yea! Do I look like Miss Clavel?
I truly tell you I had no words. Miss Clavel is not what comes to mind when I think about my feisty five year old. But her question made me ponder.
Miss Clavel is a wonder. She sacrificed her rights to marriage and her own family in order to take a vow of fidelity to Jesus. Then she spent her life chasing after 12 little girls and one especially spunky little one. Miss Clavel took in puppies and kittens, toured world cities, woke up in the night and rushed to the side of people in pain. Madeline is the hero of the story but truth is I love Miss Clavel. So I hope my kiddo turns out the same.
Mother Theresa once said "Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love."
I'm grateful for Quirky Faith - and for the platforms on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. I love to write and shout out to the masses what is true and holy and right and fun. I so appreciate the opportunity and the privilege. But I'm convicted when any attempt to strive for something "great" makes me too busy to look at my children and understand what they are asking. My daughter wanted to know if she looked like Miss Clavel. I want to be about the same question.
My husband and I celebrate our 19th wedding anniversary today. And by celebrate I mean we sent our children to their grandparents and spent a couple of days eating our way around Portland. The dinners involved steak and lasagna. Fantastic lemon custard one night and a bananas foster cheese cake the second. Breakfast was spiced Huevos Rancheros and cheese grits with charred tomatoes. Yummmm. One of the ways we've managed to reach 19 and still like each other is a dogged commitment to celebrating everything with fantastic food.
I'm the lucky girl who knows how this handsome bearded man thinks. I know because I've spent that last 19 years eating across the booth from him. We met when I was 18 so I've been married to him longer than I didn't know him. I know the best ways to annoy him (don't give him space, talk bad about him before other people, interrupt him or others). I know the best ways to make him happy (catch his daughters doing something kind and tell him about it, appreciate something he's made, write something that changes the way one of us sees a hard situation). He's got me figured out too. If I'm cranky, feed me or put me in the bath with a book. Not complicated.
I asked him last night what advice he'd give to people on how to stay married 19 years. Here's his list:
Don't be crazy. (and by this I believe he means, calm down, fight fair, avoid the deal breakers, think).
Don’t be ridiculously self centered.
Give the other person space when they want it.
Don’t say one thing but mean something else and expect the other person to know what you are talking about.
Don’t berate your spouse in front of other people.
Work towards being a better person.
Invest your time in people that tend toward the positive.
Try and evaluate people in your life that are exceptional and watch what they do.
Figure out your stuff.
It's a good list. I think it works for parenting and friendships and any manner of relationship where longevity and care and quality are goals.
I enjoy the celebrate everything bit. I think people forget the joyful part of marriage and get stuck in the daily grind. If I have marriage advice its to try and figure out what makes your spouse smile and do more of that. Try to know your kids well enough to not push their buttons and to cheer on their joy. Try to honor your parents by avoiding what will break their hearts and invest in what brings honor. It works with friendships too.
Yesterday, my spouse took me to my happy place. Powell's books. We spent time in the children's books looking at the newest picture books, wandered through cookbooks and fiction and business. Picked out some books for family and friends. I have a new nephew to celebrate and a friend who I found out has never read Mere Christianity or The Hiding Place. This will be remedied soon.
This morning before heading home we spent the morning at The Portland Art Museum. My husband noticed the paint in this piece was incredibly thick. Parts looked almost as if the large globs had been glued in place. As we leaned in it became apparent the largest chunks were actually separating from the main painting due to time. There were cracks and crinkles.
Want to know something? The time gave it character. Depth. You could see the water ripple better because the painting had aged. The value increased with time.
The figure out your stuff thing is tough. It's what you do when it would be easier to leave. Or to shut down. We spent several years fighting about money and so we hauled our issues through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace class. It helped. We've attended marriage retreats and parenting classes. Read books, took small group classes and one painful season headed off to a counselor. We used to fight when we put together Ikea furniture. Lots of practice and now we can assemble anything. We've got a plan. The figure out your stuff thing means identifying where the tension is coming from and figuring out a new normal.
Figure out your stuff means you don't get to quit. Trust me, I've let my husband down - and he can drive me crazy. But figuring out your stuff also means you get the privilege of loving someone after you know all their junk and after they know yours. It means hanging on to friendships when people make choices you don't like. It means investing in people with whom you disagree. It might be easier to love new people - flawless and fresh people. Of course, that's fake and if you hang out long enough the bugs show themselves. Real people take grace. But the years after forgiveness and growth and grace are the ones with treasures.
What have we been doing the last 19 years? Figuring out how to keep some promises. To honor and cherish. For better or worse.
That's the Book: Philippians
hI woke up yesterday with a full schedule and a headache. It was dull and so I added two cups of coffee and ignored said headache. This worked okay through a finance committee meeting at church, held through making Valentines with the preschoolers and I was distracted by the fantastic sermon at church enough to enjoy an after service lunch with friends. Then the headache amped up the volume.
I feel a little lame comparing the depths of persecution the apostle Paul faced with my Sunday headache, but hang in here with me. I have a point near the end. Here at the start though let me tell you Philippians is my father's favorite book of the Bible. I grew up on these words. The consistency of the message, the good cheer in the book even in the midst of suffering and the centrality of Jesus make Paul's letter to the church of Philippi a must read, must study, must learn for any earnest believer. Even on the days you have a headache.
Philippians begins with a declaration about what sort of long view the Christian faith is all about. Keep your eye on the prize. Today's struggles are difficult -but Christ Jesus has already won the war.
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6
Yesterday after lunch, I had to take home a couple of visitors. One was my daughter's friend from school. The second was my good friend from Rwanda. She's in the states for a couple of months taking English classes. Her host family lives across town. What a joy it was to have her at church with me yesterday. Her faith and her courageous testimony remind me to strive to spread the gospel without fear. I want my daughters to hear her stories of forgiveness. The family of faith can challenge our assumptions, push us to see the purpose in our pain and stretch us to learn to trust Jesus fully. Friends who have walked ahead of us can shine the light. This is the call of Paul to the Philippians.
"Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves, do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interest of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus Every Knee Will Bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2: 1-11
By the time I was driving home yesterday my headache had taken over I limped into the house and headed straight for the bath. My husband told me my face looked droopy. He brought me ice. Two hours later I was still a mess. I was laying on the couch when my daughters came and started trying to talk me into going for a walk to the park.
The Park?? You want me to get off this couch and go to the park?
My eldest was explaining that sometimes fresh air and a walk help. The youngest looked gleeful at the idea of a first playdate outside this year. My husband had already been overseeing outside rollerskating and was now engaged in dinner prep in the kitchen. I never call him away from dinner prep. Gotta have priorities.
At any rate this verse popped in my throbbing head.
"Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast he word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain." Philippians 2: 14- 15
All things? Do all things without grumbling? Here is the conversation which happened next.
Me: I'm having an inner battle.
My eldest: Huh?
My spouse: She means she's trying to decide if a walk will help the headache or make it worse.
Me: Nope. I'm battling between MY self and what Jesus wants. It's the same battle every day.
"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus may Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but rubbish so that I may grain Christ". Philippians 3: 7-8
Here's the deal. My headache was not a big deal really. Annoying. But Jesus still wanted me to slay my selfishness and look to the needs of others in all things. I lay there feeling sorry for myself a little longer. And then I hauled myself up and put on my shoes and my girls and I went for a walk. I'm not saying this in the least to say I'm doing the right thing. I'm sharing this story to show you how daily little things we can do through His strength. And the daily little things add up to big glorious wins in the battle for our soul, for the souls of our children and to advance the gospel. How you treat your spouse when he's impatient matters. How you respond to that annoying person at work matters eternally. How I act when I have a headache reflects the condition of my heart.
"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3: 12-14
You want to know something amazing? When I got back from the walk - my headache was significantly improved. I'll head to the chiropractor probably later today to address the underlying issue but I'm grateful for the win with my kids yesterday. The book of Philippians calls me to turn to Jesus in everything - in my worries, in my stress, in my priorities, in my little and big issues. It;s a gorgeous calling. If you struggle with the battle between what your self wants and what Jesus wants, Philippians is a great battle plan.
"Be anxious for northing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever if of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." Philippians 4: 6-8
Here you are - my favorite tool to learn about the Bible. Outside the actual Bible.
I found a new song yesterday which describes me perfectly. Maybe you can relate. It's called Second Guess Girl. Its all about trying to figure out what to do in a messed up and beautiful world. Some of the lyrics mirror my heart.
Is it time for a speech or for silence
Are you calling for peace or defiance
Is this darkening counsel or wisdom
Are we all perpetrators or victims?
It’s a hard world for a second guess girl
With one hand and another
I try to take it in but it leaves me spinning
Trying to love my sister and brother
Is this confidence born of a calling
Is this ego and pride before falling
Are we standing to fight for what’s right
Are we angry and hopelessly blind?
I take in a lot of other people's opinions in books and blogs and sermons and conversations over coffee. I watch opposing views from people I trust on both sides of many debates pass by quickly on my twitter and Facebook page. I can get rilled up and ready to march with the best of them. Or sometimes I preach a gospel of peace. To fight or to reconcile?
Sometimes I second guess Quirky Faith and the platform mentality. I wonder if this blog is about preaching the truth or getting attention for myself? I've been down that road often enough I know its both and the goal is always to kill the self and glorify God. Easier said than done. And yet we're called to shine a light and be ready with an answer.
See what I mean? Second guess girl.
If you're tracking with me can I suggest an exercise in sanity and stability. In classic Mindy fashion I'm talking about making a list. Of what I know for sure.
1. There is a Creator. He loves me. He loves you too.
2. I don't want to do life without Jesus. Ever.
3. The Bible contains words of life. Every second in the book is a good idea.
4. Work is honorable. But there is no greater joy than helping someone.
5. Art and music and food and friends matter.
6. My parents rock.
7. I want to grow old with my spouse at my side. He's my guy. Steadfast heart.
8. If my children learn to love Jesus then my life is a success. They are my most important priority.
9. I'd step in front of an angry bear to protect my little sister. She'd do the same for me.
10. Having a voice is important. Knowing when to shut up is more impressive.
I don't know a lot of things. I second guess my methods and my opinions and my time. But when I see clearly what I know for sure it helps keep the roller coaster in line. I second guess frequently - but I'm overwhelmingly grateful for the solid truths in my life.
What do you know for sure?
Okay. Before I tell you this story I really have to state I do know how to back up a car. For eleven years I lived at the bottom of s steep, gravel, curved road. I could back up it with my stick shift in the dark and rain. So this story is not about my lack of driving skill. It's about my inattention.
My husbad is a kind and patient person. He came and rescued me and my car. He even stuck the broken off piece of trim in the back of his car. Without snide, sarcastic or demeaning comment. He wins.
This is my sweet friend whose brick wall I massacred. She didn't yell at me either. Neither did her two lovely neighbors. I woke them up on a Sunday morning. They came out of their house, took a look at my car and then said. "Oh girl!" About summed it up.
While waiting for my spouse to come assess the situation my youngest was running up and down the driveway. She tripped and gloriously skinned her knees. My friend scooped her up on a massive hug and went to find bandaids.
Friends and Family. This is what to do. When your friends fall down help them up. When your family crashes come to the rescue. We all know this is right. My accident was due to inattention not lack of knowledge. We do the most harm to our relationships not because we do not know the right way to go but because we fail to pay attention.
Thanks team. I love you.
Two weeks ago I hauled my aging cat to the vet. We should qualify for a frequent visitor award. This time his face had ballooned up and he couldn't open his eye. My professional opinion (okay fine...I googled it) was he either had a tooth abcess or had been in a fight. Again.
I know. I know. Cat owners are supposed to keep their cats inside. This particular cat was having none of that. He was born 17 years ago to a wild barn cat out in the boonies. I heard the kittens were being picked off by coyotes and so I went into rescue mode and he showed up at my house in a big cardboard box. He was indignant. If I make him stay inside anywhere too long he gets that same look.
The little guy was a tad too young to leave his mama and so our dog Ripely adopted the cat. Ripley carried him around in her mouth and allowed the cat to attempt cross species nursing. They bonded quickly and were best friends until we had to put Ripley down a couple of years ago. The cat didn't eat for days. I took him to the vet. They fixed him up with some appetite supporters and we switched him to the good stuff.
One week ago, after we'd let a round of antibiotics do their thing, I took the cat back in for a consult.
AaaaHHH!!!! $1000 estimate for two teeth extraction and support. On a 17 year old cat. What to do. What to do.
The starving kids in Africa, my kid who is ready for braces, a tree we need to pay to have taken down and a spouse who is sick of the cat peeing everywhere were weighing on me.
And yet. This sweet boy.
Guilt...in either decision. Grace shows up in the hard and ugly right? In the petty little things that don't globally matter but which rock our day worlds? Right?
My friend wisely observed it's so hard to make decisions based on the end of a life.
No kidding. Thoughts of Charlie Gard and his parents fighting the entire British government flood my brain. Perspective is good.
There are moms in Syria boiling cardboard right now to feed their children as dinner.
My cat eats better than the children in Syria.
The blood work came back and revealed my pet has been betrayed by his kidneys. Surgery was pointless. Saddened and strangely relieved because the decision was obvious now, I scheduled one last appointment with the vet.
I leaked grief in quiet moments all week. In the little clinicians room I struggled to hold it together. I failed. Head down on exam table I broke down while waiting for the vet to come. My kids were crying. My husband was a stable force of comfort. He patted my back and kissed my forehead. Held the girls. I pulled it together and we all said goodbye.
I pause sometimes and shake my head at the photos of kids in Syria eating cardboard for dinner. I haven't once sobbed over their plight. I think perhaps God wants my heart to break for hurting kids more than my cat.
Don't mistake me. It is good to love well and deeply all of creation. Barn cats included. We learn much, love grows.
C S Lewis wrote this about your heart “If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket —safe, dark, motionless, airless —it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
If one of my children was crying Casey would come sit beside them. His warmth and weight would settle their spirit. Cats are proof that one of the best ways to love hurting people is to just be present. On a rough day I would take great comfort in him just sitting on my lap. Yesterday my husband's hand on my back was enough.
What I know is my life was better because of this cat. I also know his life was saved because I chose to save him. The coyotes lost because I made a decision to love despite the cost to my wallet, to my carpet or to my heart.
You know the obvious sermon there. Our lives are redeemed because a creator chooses us. Despite the cost. He invites us to a feast of the good stuff.
He also invites us to to be involved in a rescue. Sometimes it'll break your heart. It'll cost something. But you can make a difference by choosing to be present, to invest, love, laugh and grieve.. Indoor cats are safer but the ones who go outside have adventures. Go outside. Hearts don't belong in cardboard caskets.
The Quirky Faith logo sports a dandelion wish. I love dandelions. Bright and sunny. Cheerful. Stubborn and immovable. This steadfastness can be a great asset when it is grounded in good dirt.
Dandelions can grow anywhere. In tough circumstances. They are tough and resilient. I love how dandelions make my children smile. How they encourage kids to give big hearted handfuls of joy.
And the wishes! Fun and hopeful. Hope is a brilliant weapon against despair.
I love the big wide mystery of God. You don't get to know everything He is doing. But He lets us be a part of the joy of spreading the word. Part of the journey of faith is like a dandelion wish. Take a deep breath and see what happens.
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8
Dandilions are free, accessible to everyone and always around if you watch for them. Just like miracles. Watch for God in your life. You'll find Him.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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