Last week was less than excellent. Employee drama, had to put our cat down, wrecked my car and personally delivered a stellar mom failure. My husband and I were also tracking an overwhelming list of things we need to address. Paint on the house peeling, moles in the yard. You know. All the adult stuff.
I am out of town at a work conference. Nice distraction. Good view. I'm in Seattle. I love to travel. It's even fun to visit places I have been before. New circumstances sometimes lead to new perspectives.
After the past session today (PCI DSS, SASSE 16, IOS, PPMS - a full alphabet soup of fun) I headed out to find dinner and some photos.
Seattle in the summer is gorgeous. Floral baskets, water and trees and mountains on every vista. Music and smiles. (If you aren't from Washington I'm actually lying. It's ugly here. Rains all the time. No need to move here).
I watched the guys throw fish. Bought spiced tea and multi colored vegan and organic noodles.
I talked a fruit stand into selling me a box of raspberries even though technically they closed five minutes prior.
I chose a little Turkish restaurant for dinner. I bought chicken kabobs with tomato, onion and lentil soup dressing and wandered down the street, past the original Starbucks (big huge line) and sat in the park facing the water to eat my feast.
There was a man digging through the trash for his dinner. He found a a bag of chicken and a packet of BBQ sauce. He laid it out on the bench like a grand buffet.
Outside my hotel there sits a young lady with pink hair. Nice nails. Tracks on her arms and sadness in her eyes. I handed her the bag of raspberries. She smiled and said thank you.
I owe God an apology. The last couple days I've been keeping lists of things to do, sad woes I've endured and recounted injuries to my girlfriends.
This is a better list.
I'm grateful for water and sunshine and trees. For music aand some cash in my pocket. I'm grateful for insurance and forgiveness and committment. Thankful for work and roof and a clean bill of health. I'm grateful for Turkish immigrants and fish. I am grateful for the girl with pink hair.
I'm spending the weekend with 75 of my closest friends. No really. It's church ladies' retreat weekend. I'm related to 5 of the 75 so those ones count in the friend and family column. Some of these girls I've known all of my life. Some are new acquaintances. But by the end of the weekend we'll all have more in common. We'll have shared stories, shared faith, shared laughs. Gifts to carry home.
Earlier in the week I had a conversation with my friend Elo. She paints. You should buy one of her paintings. Read Here for details. We chatted about how art reflects the beauty of what God made. We talked about how the best writing expounds only what He has already said. Elo paints because God is a creator and she is made in His image. She said I write because Jesus is the word. Art. Words. Such fun gifts from heaven.
I got off work late so drove down by myself. The entire drive was gorgeous. I watched the sun play with clouds and fog roll down fir trees. The sunset of brilliant pink and blue washed over the changing fall colors. Gorgeousness. It was a gift from heaven.
The speakers tonight talked about friendship. They talked about investing in others, about being open and vulnerable to allow people in, about forgiving and communicating.
They talked about how behind every successful woman is a best friend giving her crazy ideas. So true! But sometimes those crazy ideas lead to beautiful places. Friends are hard work. But they are worth it. My favorite quote of the night was "I love you and that's all that matters."
The last couple days have been full of gifts. Grace and forgiveness and sunsets and art. Safe travels and friendships. All gifts from God. Those little and big things are His way of saying "I love you and that's all that matters."
What gifts are you thankful for today?
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.
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.
Bittersweet. This emotion happens when you use objects that once belonged to someone you love. It's joyful and honoring and painful. Things don't matter. People do. However, the memories that are triggered by objects are valuable. Especially when the memories belong to someone else.
This pie pan has seen the inside of an oven hundreds of times. My in-laws do dessert properly. Often and Big. This pan has carried apple pie, cherry pie and a really good lemon meringue. But apparently not the actual lemon meringue recipe printed on the inside of the pie pan. Ever. My husband said he wanted to keep this pie pan of his mother's partly because he wanted to fulfill a childhood wish and make the recipe in the pan.
My theory on why the pan recipe never happened is because the first step in the pie pan receipe is to bake the pie crust. Then the recipe is covered. Who wants to take the time to write out the recipe? Tech saves the day. I took a photo and off we went.
Lemon Meringue is scary. It's best when the lemon curd is not runny. But you don't know how you did until you cut into the pie. No take backs with this pie. We zested and thickened and measured and tasted. Hauled the pie over to the big 4th of July BBQ and cut into the pie. It was too goopy. Oops. Clearly needed more of the stirring constantly until thickens bit. We ate the whole thing anyway. I took another photo.
I take photos of everything. Receipts, lists, bills, library books, medication lists. I recognize that there are far better information storage solutions than scrolling through photos but this plan fits my organized chaos personality. It is also a great encourgement to me to tuck things I love in by things I don't like so much. It's like saving a hug in storage for when I know I'll need one.
When I'm searching through my photo stream to find my car repair receipts or the business card to the pest control company and I run across happy shots I quit frowning. I end up calling the doctor or plumber with gratitude back intact. Sitting on hold while thinking about my hunk of a husband carrying a little pink 4th of July fairy frankly makes the world balance nicely.
It works offline as well. My purse certainly carries my wallet and license and insurance and other responsible adult items but I also have a glitter covered acorn and a smiley face finger puppet. Fun tucked in.
My bathroom mirror has a colorful note from my eldest. Its joy in the morning. Some of my tough issue files at work and home have Bible verses written on the inside cover. It makes opening the file and dealing with the problem easier. Try it. Purposefully put photos or verses or notes of joy with things that give you pain.
You know those heirlooms you have; your grandmother's china, your mother's Bible, a watch from your dad ? Use them. I'm betting your loved ones would like it. Our pie pan has a great history. Now it has a new memory tucked in beside the old. Lemon and Sugar. Bittersweet.
It occurred to me a few days ago that if I keep writing I might run out of things to talk about. Hasn’t happened yet in 40 years but you never know.
I heard this song for the first time on Sunday morning at church. The worship band was rocking out. Well. We were Nazarene style church rocking. Not Metallica concert rocking. At any rate. This song Love Come Down by North Point has been stuck in my head all week. Listen Here. What struck me about this song was the joy and fun – and this line about singing forever.
I will sing forever of Your love come down
With my hands to heaven, shout Your praises loud
I was lost in darkness when You pulled me out
I will sing forever of Your love come down
It encouraged my soul. Music has a way of reminding me of what matters.
I took a walk this past weekend. Nice big training five-mile walk. My pace stunk because I kept stopping to take photos. This one made me want to write. Or paint. Or sing. Blue and green and white and good lines. Nice composition there oh Creator of my soul.
I love watching friends help friends. I love watching kids succeed at piano or spelling or soccer or picking up their socks. Popsicles on sunny days. Planting a garden. Finishing a book. Watching the movie. I’m inspired by forgiveness.
I will never run out of things to talk about because Grace never runs out.
I’ve had a day. Or two. The kind of hang your head, kick the tires, sigh and eat chocolate chip cookie kind of days. The “I know I’m a better mom, better wife, better boss than this” kind of days. The “I promise to floss, I promise to ask, the I promise to wait” kind of days.
At one point yesterday I was actually telling my children to stuff the garbage sitting around in our car under the seat so that the people we were picking up wouldn’t see it.
That’s not who I want to be. And its really not who I want them to be. I want to be the kind of people that put their garbage in garbage cans. But that’s clearly not happening. (HA!)
Can I just say I have garbage and you can see it and hiding it doesn’t make it go away and that my dear children its just fine if people see our flaws. But right now I’m tired of the pointless could have, should have self talk.
So I’m going to do what generally works. I’m putting on some music and I’m making a list. Even though I don’t feel like it. Here are the things I know to be true. I stand on them.
I am loved by my Creator. Greatly.
I am not perfect. It’s okay. My story is not the list of my failures and shortcomings and sin. It’s frankly also not the list of things I think I did right. My story is Grace.
Feelings are not facts. Feelings are real. They are important. They are toxic when they are bottled up. But they are NOT facts.
I don’t know what the future holds but God does. He promises it’s secure.
This photo is cute.
My daughter was in the office yesterday morning with me before my day headed south. I found this artwork this afternoon in a stack of paperwork. It reminds me that I often miss the joy in my life in the midst of the junk. And this blue haired wonder made me smile and remember that my husband is courageous and kind and that my ten year old is determined and fun and that my three year old is passionate and clearly a budding artist. It made me remember to count my blessings.
Gratitude trumps grumpy. That is what I know.
This morning I’m pausing to say thank you. I wonder how many times I’ve driven past sunsets I didn’t watch or sat in the car looking my phone and ignored the gifts He gives just because I didn’t take the time to pay attention.
Vacation has a way of making me slow down to look around. This photo certainly displays the beauty of what God created. Look at those colors.
My kids make me slow down. My daughter picked these on a walk around our neighboorhood from a bush in an empty lot. Sweet.
Difficulties can slow me down. Sometimes in a good way.
One of my former co-workers walked into my office yesterday and handed me this note and a donation. It made me think about the fact that our lives entertwine with others. I haven’t seen her in a long time. And yet, when she heard about the arson at our church this week she acted and gave encouragement and grace. Made me cry. It also made me want to pause and touch other people in their pain. Made me grateful.
How about you? What causes you to pause and notice? What makes you grateful?
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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