Friday, May 30, 2014


        I just discovered that Amazon Prime includes at least the first season of Gilligan's Island.  The one in black and white.  It's my oldest child's favorite.  Once it switched to color, she still likes it, but not as much.  So what did I do?

        I quietly turned on the TV (and muted it, so she wouldn't notice as she finished up her lunch).  I turned on Amazon video, and selected the first episode of season 1.  And waited... and waited... and grinned like an idiot the whole time.  She wanted to see, but I wouldn't let her look.  She knew something was up because I just kept grinning, and couldn't stop.

        Once the theme music came on, she smiled.  Once she saw it was in black and white, she was over-the-moon excited.

        And I was so glad I had not let her spoil the surprise.

        It made me think.  Does God do this with us?  Does He grin uncontrollably over surprises He plans for us?  Is this (at least in part), why He has left so much of Heaven a mystery?  I know theologians often say that it's because we couldn't handle more knowledge than we have.  And I'm not disputing that.  But, I wonder if He smiles to Himself over things we don't know yet, and looks forward to the day He can let us see and know these things.

        (I'm not preaching a prosperity gospel here.  I know that life is hard, and that we are strangers in a stranger land.  I know life is messy, and the world is hostile to our message and the messengers who bring it.  I'm simply looking at my Father, wondering if...

        I hope that this doesn't seem sacrilegious.  If somehow I have offended, I apologize.  Again, I'm just wondering if He looks forward to giving gifts as we do to our children...)

I Have a Plan! Maybe...

        I'm not the best at this blogging thing, but that's OK.  The intent of this blog isn't really to be read, but for me to write.  For me to be honest, and to work things out for myself.  I process through words, spoken is best for me, but writing things out comes in a close second.  Mainly, I need to actually focus on what I am doing.

         This brings me to my plan.  For the month of June, I am hoping (planning?) to post daily.  I plan to post one thing I love, and how I show love to others.  On a really good day, maybe I will post one thing I have done that day to show love to those around me.

         Why?  Well, because I am selfish.  And I am addicted to "input."  Meaning this -- I don't think of others nearly as much as I ought, and I have trouble self-reflecting or being truly still.  I want something to read, or watch, or listen to almost constantly.  And it's a distraction from what really matters.  So, this will be my newest non-negotiable.  Every day.  Something I love, and how I show love to those around me.  Hopefully, something I've done that day, and how it relates to the thing that I love.  Sort of "sharing the love."  Kind of.

         No real rules, just daily posting about love.  Finding it, sharing it, helping others know they are loved.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Matthew 11:28-30 and Mom-Guilt

            "The girls learn as much from how you handle it when you 'fail' as when you are consistent."  The thought drifted in a whisper across my heart as I stood in the kitchen, weighed down with a load of mom-guilt.  This time, over chores, house-keeping, and commission.  And a burden lifted, and grace fluttered in, softly picking up that heavy load and taking it somewhere else.

            See, life is messy.  We get sick.  We have ministry opportunities that lead us to bring our mess into the middle of someone else's mess.  We are someone else's ministry opportunity sometimes, their chance to bring their mess into the middle of ours.  I get tired.  I burn out.  The studio schedule changes because of life going on in the lives of my children's music teachers.  The water line gets broken during a home improvement project.  Contractors don't do the job they are hired for, or to the specifications outlined in the beginning.  I over-plan, or under-prepare, or hit a week of apathy.  The kids squabble.  Or don't understand something that to me seems perfectly clear.

            And in the middle of all that, I am bound and determined to be the "perfect" mother, "perfect" homeschooler, "perfect" homemaker, "perfect" wife, and "perfect" Christian.  And I fail.  Daily.  Hourly.  Moment by moment.

            But, what if, instead of beating myself up over this, I looked to my Savior, fell at His feet, prayed for mercy and grace and forgiveness, and then accepted that He gave them freely to me?  What if I allowed Him to love me enough to cover those things?  He's already paid the price.

            And then, what if I took a closer look at those things at which I am "failing"?  Have I turned consistency, routine, and schedule into idols?  (Yes, I have, big time.)  Have I forgotten that those things are merely meant to be tools to help us fulfill our calling?  (Yes, again!)  Have I pursued them as an end, instead of using them to practice and teach self-discipline and stewardship?  (Yes, to my shame.)  Have I been slow to offer help to those around me because of my misplaced priorities? (Yes, much as I hate to admit it.)

            But you know what?  Instead of this laying a huge load of mom-guilt on me, it freed me!  This is the beauty of Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  I had picked up a burden I was never meant to carry -- one of perfectionism and idolatry -- instead of taking up His yoke of living life, loving and serving those around me, one of living in light of "it is finished" instead of demanding -- and exhausting -- rules and regulations.  Praise God that He loves us enough to carry the burden that is too heavy for us, to give us a yoke that is light, and to give us whispers in our heart that point us back to His intent and purposes for our lives!

Monday, May 12, 2014

What My Tablecloth Taught Me this Morning

            We are well now, and in process of reclaiming the house.  By "reclaiming the house," I mean making it livable and enjoyable again, not just survivable.  Rooms have been straightened, mountains of laundry folded, kitchen and bathrooms cleaned, trash thrown out, and meals cooked.

            As we were doing all of this, I placed a tablecloth on the table.  And I realized what a difference a tablecloth makes.  Similar to a made bed in a bedroom, a tablecloth makes the whole kitchen/dining/living area look so much more polished.  (Our kitchen and breakfast nook flow into the living room without doors or a full wall.)

            As is the case with me, these become object lessons.  A tablecloth is such a small thing, a detail really.  It's a ten-second or less task that often gets overlooked.  But it finishes the look, adds just that bit of polish to an otherwise "acceptable" area.

            The object lesson part?  Life is like that for me.  There's often one oh-so-small detail I COULD add that would make a world of difference, either to me or to someone else.  It's often something added at the end.  The smile when you say please or thank you, eye contact as you pay for your purchases, calling the waiter or waitress by name in a restaurant, and thanking them verbally when they serve you.  These are all ten-second-or-less tasks that don't actually require any extra from me, and make such a huge difference in my outlook.  Others include putting down what I am doing when my husband gets home and welcoming him cheerfully, looking my children in the eye when they talk to me instead of absently nodding and saying "mmhmmm", accepting their "help" (even from the littlest one) when I could do it so much faster alone.

            These are the "details" of life that add up.  None are difficult, none require much time or energy.  None will change the world, either, just make it a more pleasant place to live for a few minutes.

            Of course, as with all object lessons, the hard part is in the doing!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Me, in All my Selfish "Glory"!

          I wake up around 8:00 or 9:00, but don't feel the need to get up yet.  I phone in my breakfast order.  No one needs anything, at least not from me.  You see, I am alone.  I have my tablet, a stack of books, the laptop, and several knitting projects with me.  There's a TV, but I haven't turned it on yet.

          There's a knock at the door.  Ahhh! breakfast has arrived.  I'll eat what I want, with no little voices asking "may I have a bite?" or "what IS that?  I don't have to eat it, too, do I?"  I can stay in my PJs all day if I want, or take a bath and get dressed later.  I have nowhere to go, no responsibilities.  If I need something, well, there's a phone and I can have almost anything delivered to me.

          Someone else cleans this room, someone else does the dishes.  There's laundry service available.  There's a spa, here, too, or they'll just send a massage therapist up to my room if I want.  Someone else does the cooking -- and he's really good at it, too!

          There are no little voices asking thirty-seven rapid fire questions in under a minute.  Questions ranging from cello to chores, from fish-food ingredients to family, from vacation to violin.  There are no little faces, peeking at me, asking for permission to do things they KNOW I don't want them doing.  No whining when I say no.  No complaining about what we're having for breakfast/snack/lunch/snack/supper.  No little noses to wipe, no loose teeth to help pull.  No dog drool to clean off walls, or chicks whose water dish needs attention.

          I've been here a few days, and I'll be here a few more.


          No, this isn't my dream of a perfect Mother's Day.  I prefer to spend Mother's Day with the people who made me one -- my children, and my husband and co-conspirator in their creation.

          Instead, this is my dream of how to be sick as a mom.  Really.  I wouldn't have to worry that the 15 minutes of every hour I spend hacking up bodily organs overnight would keep my husband awake.  When I don't get more than a half-hour of sleep overnight, that's OK, I can take a nap (or two or three) later.  When I just don't have one. more. answer. in my brain, that's OK.  There's no one asking the questions!

          Did you notice something, though?  There's an awful lot of "I's" and "me's" and "my's" in there.  The focus is on me, on what I want, what I might like. 

          Jesus didn't do that.  Even on the cross.  Instead, He asked His Father to forgive those torturing and killing Him, those mocking Him, those who had sought to bully Him, those who had betrayed Him.  Those who would do it all over again, given the chance.

          I'm pretty good at whitewashing over much of my selfishness when life is good.  I can easily be giving and loving when well-rested, healthy, and I have things "under control."  Even though that control is an illusion and I know it.

          But throw me a curve-ball, require that I acknowledge that my control is an illusion, keep me up for too many nights in a row, make me ill, and it's much, much more likely that you'll see selfishness, self-centeredness, and impatience come to the forefront.  Throw me those in multiples, add a sick and whiny little one to the mix, and there's the perfect storm brewing.
          Yes, we've been ill here.  No, I don't like what I've seen in myself.  It's sinful, and ugly.  Yes, it's "natural."  And that's precisely the problem.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Deviation from My Normal Posts...

          The church finds herself under attack all the time.  Everywhere.  From within and from without.  That's been the case since Christ instituted the church.  Immediately, persecution from the outside started.  Fairly quickly after that, false teachers sprung up and began leading people astray.

          What concerns me today is not so much "false teaching" precisely, but "false focus" I guess.  We have a problem in the church that disturbs me.  We've decided to focus on how people feel about everything.  From seating to lighting, from service times to music, from children's program to preaching, we concern ourselves with emotions.  And this is dangerous.  Because our emotions are liars!  There are times that I do not feel  like being a wife and mother, or even an adult.  It's a lot of work, frankly, and sometimes I just want to stay in bed all day and eat junk food.  I am also sure that there are days when my husband doesn't feel  like leaving our warm bed and getting up in the dark and heading to work while it's still cold and dark outside.  But he does, and I do, too.  Because, quite simply, it's the right thing to do. 

          How is this relevant to church?  Well, we've gotten off track.  We decided some time ago that a pastor and church's worth was to be found in numbers -- specifically membership/attendance, baptism, and conversions/rededications (number of people who "walk the aisle" each week).  Now, I'm not saying that we shouldn't be concerned with winning the lost.  We should.  In fact, we should be more-so than we are.  Specifically, I should be more than I am.  But that's not the pastor's job on Sunday morning.  That's my job.  Each and every day.  Instead, we lay that at his feet, improperly.

          How does a church go about getting these numbers?  The easiest way is to appeal to emotions, without actually convicting anyone.  We've turned "church" into a socially acceptable addiction.  Go for an hour each week, raise your hands to upbeat music, get warm fuzzy feelings during the sermon, walk the aisle with tears streaming down your face, and leave.  No change necessary.  None.  Repeat next week.

          I remember one time my pastor at a church "back home" telling me that he could boost his numbers if he simply played on the emotions of his congregation.  He knew how.  He just refused.  And took a ton of flak for it.  His numbers weren't "high enough."  He told me that he learned at seminary how to craft a sermon in such a way for maximum emotional appeal.  But he wouldn't do it.  To this day, he's one of my favorite human beings on the planet.

          Honestly, this is manipulation, pure and simple.  And it's leading people to hell.  And that scares me.

          I'm not a pastor.  My husband isn't a pastor.  I'm just a member of a good, solid, Bible-teaching church.  It's small, and we don't even actually have an invitation to "walk the aisle" (gasp!)  The pastor there doesn't prey on emotions, but rather just teaches what's in the Bible.  And I've honestly done more growing there than anywhere else.  I've been challenged to rethink things I was sure were sound doctrine.  I've been convicted of sin in my life, of things I was doing that are wrong.

          I firmly believe if we'd stop playing with people's emotions, stop worrying so much about "outcome," success, and failure, we'd see more real change.  Actual change to people's lives that they take out into the world.  And the world will notice.  Jesus said to lift Him up, and HE would draw men to Him.  It's not my job to manipulate people into "coming to Jesus."  It's my job to lift Him up in my life.  It's HIS job to draw people to Himself.