In Life, The Choice Is Often Either/Or

In Life, The Choice Is Often Either/Or

I am linking up today with the wonderful Kelly at Mrs. Disciple for her FRIDAY FIVE. This week’s topic is leadership.

In the Academy Award Winning film, Braveheart, there is a scene where the Scottish Rebels are lined up on one side of a field, and the British nobles and their soldiers are lined up on the other side of the field waiting for the impending battle. William Wallace (Braveheart) comes riding up in full battle attire and paint. As he gets ready to ride across the field to talk to the British, one of his men asks him, “What are you doing?”

Wallace, in a thick Scottish accent says, “I am going to pick a fight.”

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Photo from Hollywoodreporter.com

This election season.

It’s hard to even come up with a complete sentence without sighing and shaking my head, but I fully realize to many these words are picking a fight.

Keep in mind that I have a daughter named Reagan and a MacArthur Study Bible, so stereotyping me is not a huge challenge. I am incredibly comfortable in heated discussions smiling and saying, “Well…you know that I am a right-wing, religious nut.”

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I am not actually a nut, but I believe most of the things that the other side associates with the far right. I am not at all ashamed of my beliefs because I am also committed to a life that is filled with grace and service, and spend infinitely more time working the many, many logs in my own eye than searching for other people’s specks.

MY GUY was the first one out of the race. Long before I knew Scott Walker had suspended his campaign, I was getting text messages and Facebook posts asking me who I was for in light of the new facts. RARELY, do people not know where I stand. (Walker/Gowdy 2016 would have been so, so good.) My next choice hung in there for a while, but then also stepped down.

Who is left was my last choice going in, but I am a pragmatist and I am keenly aware that life is often comprised of either/or choices.

I am an ABC gal. Anybody But Clinton. I also concede that is a weak position to take and a sad reason to vote for the leader of the free world. As time has gone on and I have re-examined what I believe and why, I am moving from ambivalence to believing that Trump could be the one for this moment in history. (Look up Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency and see if you find similarities economically.) I will share with you five reasons why.

The Hope Of Getting Rid Of Monopoly Money.

That is what we call it in our home.

Congress and the Executive Branch so easily spend money that is not theirs, it might as well come from a boxed game you buy at Target.

When the current president took office, the national debt stood at 10.6 trillion dollars. With the last budget signed, he will leave with 20 trillion dollars worth of national debt. That number is staggering and, frankly, disgusting. There is no rational reason to believe the trend won’t continue with Hillary Clinton as president.

Over in the Trump camp, however, they seem to see the potential and power of a dollar much differently. As the media and pundits on both sides  say Trump’s chances are slim because he has 1.2 million in his coffers compared to Hillary’s 42 million, you can almost hear Trump and his people laughing in disbelief as they respond: “‘Donald has proven before that he doesn’t need as much money as the other candidates.'”

This graph from NHPR.org is quite telling:

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Seriously, do you see that tiny little Trump slice? If that kind of efficiency were brought to the Federal Government, I would celebrate!

Obamacare.

I hate it.

I have a daughter with special needs and a mother in law with severe dementia and neither of them have anywhere near the quality insurance coverage or medical care  they had before Congress “passed the bill in order to see what was in the bill.”

My daughter has specialists who no longer take insurance because of Obamacare.

We pay a doctor, I would never actually choose if I had other options, $2500 a year just to consider my mother in law a patient. He then bills for all appointments. Why? Obamacare.

Proponents of the monstrosity acknowledge that while my family has been pummeled by the plan, the greater good has been served. I neither agree with that, nor do I actually care.

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I want my daughter and my husband’s mother to have good medical care more than I want the greater good ESPECIALLY since we were willing to work hard to provide it. Those who call me selfish for such thoughts make no difference to me.

Trump is the only hope I have for eliminating Obamacare.

The Way Things Are MUST Change.

The Democrats are against him. The media is against him. Many in the Republican establishment are against him.

That’s good enough for me.

We are numb to the ineptness that rules this country.

There was no budget passed by our leaders for six straight years, including years when the same party controlled both houses of Congress and the White House.

America’s credit rating was downgraded under this administration. How much more in interest do the American people pay as a result?

I find this all to be untenable. If Trump is a disaster and what is crumbles, okay. If Trump brings a tenacious business mind set to these issues and fixes them, okay! It is difficult to believe that an entrepreneur with phenomenal success in many areas would not desire to also see the country turn a profit under his leadership. He might begin with the basics of making a budget and increasing the credit rating.

I Don’t Think A Wall is Racist.

I am from California. I’ve spent most of my employed hours working in the restaurant business.

My husband works in the housing industry. We both have extensive experience with hard working, family-loving immigrants who also believe that illegal immigration must be dealt with.

Some sort of a border deterrent (like a wall) has been mentioned for years by people from both parties. I think there are sound bites available from both Clintons talking about such things.

Trump is just the first to suggest that Mexico pay for it.

I don’t think putting a fence around my yard means that I’m inhospitable, and I don’t think that putting up a barrier to make it more difficult to enter the country illegally is racist. And I absolutely believe that something  has to be done about illegal immigration.

We Need To Start Understanding Facts.

Trump is not the one I would have suggested for such an endeavor. However, he tells it like it is and it is resonating with people.

If those people get educated and start asking questions and examining information, there could be real hope. We need to encourage thinking citizens.

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The Obama administration claims to have fixed the economy, but how is that possible with national debt doubling? Can you fix your family’s finances by putting everything on a credit card? Why should a nation be any different?

The following numbers are all taken from Factcheck.org.

The Republican party is presented to the world as the party for big business, while the Democrats are supposedly for the middle class. Is that how you understand it?

Compare that paradigm (of Democrats for the middle class and Republicans for the rich) to this: Under this administration, corporate profits are up 166% while real weekly earnings are up 3.4%. Which represents the middle class?

Homicides are down 13% while gun sales are up over 55%. Ownership of firearms is up AND violent crime is down, which party’s belief system lines up with those numbers?

Unemployment is supposedly down by over 600,000 people, while food stamp recipients are up by 42%. Does that seem odd?

If you keep in mind that unemployment reflects the number of people looking for a job, rather than the number of people who are not working, do those two statistics make more sense? (Stop looking for work and just get government aid…)

Trump, if nothing else, knocked a political system out of complacency. Jeb Bush spent $100,000,000 on his failed campaign. I am so, so glad that did not work because we have been bought and paid for, for far too long.

For a while the either/or of candidates this year felt like choosing between Sodom and Gomorrah, but now I believe we are already in Sodom and Gomorrah and the real calling is to run away and not look back.

 

 

It Doesn’t Always Go This Way

It Doesn’t Always Go This Way

School got out two weeks ago tomorrow.

Since then we have thrown parties, gone to the Melodrama, had a few trips to the waterpark and dropped one kiddo off at history-loving camp. There have been some real highs.

There have also been a couple of low, low moments. Meltdowns of epic proportion have ruined large chunks of more than one day.

As much as I hate to admit it, the meltdowns were mostly me.

really did not want to melt down today, so when my peanut was starting to be difficult, I took a deep breath and leaned in.

I am trying to do a series of speech videos with her–if not every day–regularly. She was CLEARLY not interested and started to misbehave. She had to sit on timeout, but rather than fighting it through and making the timeout the issue, once she pulled it together and came back to the table we restarted and actually got a lot done!

YAY.

Then she wanted to watch TV. Now, I’ll be honest. I am actually not a mom who limits screen time with my kids. We are pretty busy as a family. My kids go to a Classical Education private school, which mean they read (or are read to) a lot. There are also sports we do, church and youth group every week, trips to the water park and playing in the pool.

We fill their lives with so much good stuff, I don’t feel the need to battle about TV. We also can only watch things on video or DVD, so there’s not a lot of worry about the influence of commercials or things I don’t approve of.

However, today I just didn’t really want her lounging on the couch and sinking in for a binge-fest. Nor did I want to create a commotion over it. So I tried a new approach.

Without saying a word, I got out her light box and began to set it up. I added a dish of ice, food coloring, salt, a spray bottle of water, and a squirt bottle of oil.

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While I was working on that, she turned off the TV and found some “homework” to do on her own.

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When I finished setting it up, I left it.

Again, I said nothing.

A few minutes later, she began exploring…

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The squeezing and spraying strengthen her hands. The ice is refreshing, as it has been so hot the heat radiating from the blacktop burns my feet walking in flip flops. The salt adds texture. Food coloring is just always fun.

She kept herself happily busy while I got some ironing done.

I didn’t melt down.

She didn’t veg out.

We all won.

The Finish Line

The Finish Line

If the 2015/2016 school year was a marathon, I walked–or limped–the second 13 mile stretch.

tried to keep on the road, but had very little hope of victory.

Then, out of nowhere, I found the will/energy/ability to sprint that last two tenths of a mile of the race. Who knew I had it in me? I never would have guessed that in the 26.2 miles of the journey, I would shine in the last .2?

I am honest about my struggles, but sometimes I do get things right!

It began with Jared’s Prom. A local high school senior, partially paralyzed by a tumor related stroke, was told by his school that he could not attend his senior prom. It was very obvious, very quickly that would not stand. The community came together and Brighten A Corner threw him the prom of a lifetime a few weeks later…

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Then my little family put our heads down and started gunning for the end of the school year.

First, there was HISTORY DAY.

We had costumes put together. They were ready the day BEFORE history day. They were cute! The girls studied their characters. Their characters were interesting! Erasmus and Catherine the Great are now people we are quite familiar with! History is such an important part of learning and character development.

I got the end of the year assignments organized. Ryan completed timeline pieces and Shakespeare puppets.

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Reagan got A’s on a majority of her finals. Jake was across the country developing his ability to work hard. “Just finished my thirteenth day in a row,” he said. Doing construction. Hard to believe that is the same kid who never got out of bed on time and spent centuries hours and hours playing video games. Hard times sometimes redeem themselves.

We have a tradition of hosting a last day of school swimming party. This year the last day of school for Ryan was on a Thursday. Kids were finished at noon then would come here. We keep this gathering simple. BBQ chicken, watermelon and chips are the menu. Before they come here the kids have an ice cream social at school so we don’t need more sugar…

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Two days earlier, on Tuesday night, Reagan came to me asking, “How would you feel about having the graduation party here?”

She knew the answer before she asked. Of course, we’d love to host the party! Thursday night…after the party for the 1st and 2nd graders.

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We sailed right through! Carl and I are getting pretty good at this. We had the second party supplies set aside and organized…so we just picked up trash, washed a load of towels, and viola! Graduation…race home to throw bean dip and chicken wings in the oven and a good time was had by all.

We crossed the finish line, victoriously! (And napped at length the next day.)

He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

ISAIAH 40:29-32

 

 

5 Reasons to Thank You on Father’s Day

5 Reasons to Thank You on Father’s Day

Not everyone would want our life. I am certain we are not the envy of many.

But I wouldn’t trade it.

The years together have softened us. Our mid sections are reflections of our souls…a bit gentler to the touch.

The days of our lives in this particular season are indelibly marked by being a parent and having parents; therapies and home schooling of our kids, memory care units and bridge games with our parents define much of our priority list. I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else. Again I am linking up with the spectacular Kelly at Mrs. Disciple to chat about Father’s Day…

Thank you for living life knowing church wasn’t a question, but a fact. I can count on one hand the number of times in the last decade we have missed church for no reason. We may not do as many sappy, devotions around the table, missions trips as a family as I imagine perfect families do, but our life is anchored by faith. Our kids know it. They have spent their entire lives watching us live life with Jesus with imperfect consistency. No matter what they choose as adults, they know what is true for us because they have seen it.

Thank you for believing in stay home moms. We have made enormous financial sacrifices over the years and our non-existent savings account is meager, but life with a special needs child and teenager requires presence. You have given that to us. Your hard work and creativity have served us well. I am so grateful for the hours and hours of quiet and crazy time that have been invested in our kids.

Thank you for being a dreamer. I am so sorry I am not always a great sport about it, but watching our teenager develop a passion for becoming a pilot (like you)–seeing her confidence blossom as she gains this incredible skill–is a direct reflection of you tenaciously holding onto your dreams when the odds (and your wife’s patience) were stacked against you.

Thank you for being the example to your kids. You can fix anything. You can figure it all out. You create solutions from scratch when there are problems to be solved. I ached with pride when our son explained why he was taking a semester off of school to work construction. “I want to be like Dad,” he said. “I want to have rentals someday, and know I can fix anything that goes wrong.” Yep. That is just like your father.

Thank you for helping me keep things simple. I often say I married my boundaries. That is true. Without you, my life would be a chaotic jumble of exhaustion. I would not see the difference between problems I can and cannot fix; nor would I respect as deeply that people make their own choices. You helped me channel that side of me into a productive and thriving ministry. Without you, there would be no Brighten A Corner Ministry.

Don’t ever let the lists I make and plans I write out make you feel as though today isn’t a gift. It is. Our life is sticky and messy and complicated but we are owning this thing together, you and I. We fight less. We hold hands more. When the wheels come off the bus, as they inevitably will, we can get them back on faster…and doggone it if it doesn’t sometimes make things EVEN BETTER than they were before.

Do you know how lucky that makes us?

Yeah. I know. We don’t believe in luck. Even though I run a ministry and teach Bible Study, and you have gone to more Lutheran camps than you can count and make sure we never miss church, we have never become people for whom the word blessed  rolls off our tongues. If we do, indeed, move to the south in a few years, that might need to change. But for now, I’ll just call us lucky.

 

 

Summer 2016

Summer 2016

This is the last week of school.

All the happy sounds and dances I can muster are coming. Last year I finished strong. This year? Not so much. We are limping across the finish line, distracted and unclear about some *^%$&&** stuff.

Last week's History Day for Ryan.

Last week’s History Day for Ryan.

Last week's History Day for Reagan

Last week’s History Day for Reagan

But I have mustered up enough clarity in a number of areas to write the Lee Family Summer 2016 Manifesto. Can you even imagine how EXCITED my hubby is about this? (Insert sarcasm font.) Six pages of how I want our life lived out is apparently far more inspirational and impressive to me than it is to him.

The nerve.

He’ll be happy with the results. I know it.

These are the things that are compelling me:

My middle daughter will be a junior next year. That means our days are NUMBERED with her. Rather than feeling like I am trying to squeeze every last drop of time and memories with her, I want to pour in.

As parents of teenagers, it is incumbent on us to help create the adults we want our kids to become.

I want to invest time and attention to help develop skills and maturity that will make life richer for her in the future.

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As I prayed and thought and made lists, it occurred to me that working on life skills for her will help my youngest with special needs also learn life skills. And it will continue to carve away at the sin of laziness that can plague me. (Exhaustion and laziness can be difficult to differentiate sometimes…)

My youngest still has special needs. Did I think somewhere in my little brain that we would outgrow this someday?

Perhaps.

Don’t judge.

I am convinced that much of life is wishful thinking.

I have tried and tried to assemble a team of people to help us help her. But I have failed at that.

So, I am back to the drawing board assessing and making lists and praying that God would transform my character to be that disciplined, scheduled, routined person who will find the way to do all the things I think about doing. Successfully. And make it enjoyable and magical.

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While making money somehow.

No problem.

Let me throw in getting in shape and losing weight while I am at it. Then I’ll REALLY have something to talk about.

My son is so far away. 

I still hate that.

I miss him.

I want to be creative about ways to connect.

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Our life has stress. And it always will. But that does NOT mean that we can’t eliminate or deal with some of the stress that we have. Purposely living my days the way I want them to feel will automatically reduce stress!

I will never have more time in my days. Twenty-four hours will always be my limit.

What I DO with those twenty four hours will make all the difference.

Keeping that in mind, these will be my mental markers for a successful summer:

  • The number of times my family sits down to a meal together. It won’t be all my cooking. We love the BBQ and plan on having our teenager make one family meal each week. In a perfect world, this will also be evaluated on how many different places we eat. Out by the pool? Let’s do that! On the front porch? I love it. Picnic at the park or beach? Absolutely. The manifesto gives gathering a prime position. IMG_3199
  • How much time is spent outside together. No vitamin D deficiencies allowed. After church on Sundays is a great time for us to make this happen. For a while we loaded up the bikes and took the trail to the beach where we would get lunch then head back. Carl and the girls on wheels and me on my two feet, we would trek the five miles. Exercise and sunshine and great for physical and family health, I want to make this a reality again this summer.
  • Consistent chores I encourage my kids to do well. This falls on me. Will I be calm, ordered, and happy as I teach us to organize and clean with excellence? The manifesto lines up specific times to be set aside to approach these skills as a family. Creating a home which is cleaner with less clutter is the BEST thing I can do for my hubby; and helping my kids be more respectful and responsible about living with other humans? That is a MUST.
  • The number of books read aloud. Audio books are fine. In fact, I am hoping to listen to some as a family while sitting around the table coloring. I am making progress with my precious little peanut’s fine motor skills and this would REALLY help. Also, more and more people are talking about the stress/anxiety reducing benefits of adult coloring which would be fabulous for my hubby AND my teen. We will start on audio with Les Miserables. That is my teen’s reading assignment for the summer, so we can support her by joining the conversation. While she is at camp, I will be reading Harry Potter and the Little House series to Ryan…along with the Illustrated Classics from Barnes & Nobles. They are my current obsession. DSCN6146
  • Cards and letters put in the mail. I want to encourage my kids to be letter writers. And thank you note senders. Me too. This will make all of our lives better and sow seeds of friendship and love.

There you have it. The five things that will anchor my summer. (5? Perfect. I will link up a bit late to the FANTASTIC Kelly at Mrs. Disciple.) There are goals and plans about Bible verse jars for the dinner table and prayers for a fresh fire on my Scripture study, each of which will be more likely if I make the manifesto a reality.

5 Suggestions for Victorious Mothering

Saturday is the best day to get to a Friday Five, don’t you think? I just love Kelly, at Mrs. DiscipleYesterday Today she is encouraging us to celebrate victories in parenting. This is FANTASTIC, because it has been a good week.

Two weeks ago, I probably would have heaved sobs trying to write this. But life constantly fluctuates and this is an “up” moment. We are coming out of a plateau. Last month, in just over 5 weeks time, my precious little peanut and I put 7,000 miles on our car driving to therapies and classes. It was time, energy and money well spent and now we are moving forward again.

My best homeschool days are every other Wednesday. That is most certainly because I get my house cleaned every other Tuesday. While Alma scrubs and vacuums I organize, put away and toss. The breathing room created leaves more room to homeschool the way I REALLY want to. This week was that time. I actually did these 5 Things that make mothering life feel victorious…here are my suggestions for you:

Give Attention To The Areas You Want To Change. Parenting a child with special needs guarantees there are deficits…somewhere. I am reading several books about the brain, and using that information to influence our choices.

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In everyday language, the brain gives extra attention where there is stimulation. We are working on writing and speaking, so before we got our work going I woke her mouth up with various speech tools, and gave her hands a massage with lotion. I am telling her body, neurologically speaking, help me teach her. This is brand new to our routine, so stay tuned to see how it helps!

Start Where You Are Strong. Review. Review. Review. Learning is layered. Trying to build a new concept on top of a failed concept is like building a house on shifting sands. It doesn’t make for long term success.

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We have to repeat things thousands of times for them to stick with Ryan. That is not an exaggeration. So we repeat and praise; repeat and praise. Then we repeat and praise again. There are many times when the number one goal is to NOT get discouraged.

Get Your Wiggles Out. Lazy parenting breeds bad behavior. Recently I had a challenging night with my youngest, and I knew that much of it was because she had too much energy left over at the end of the day.

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(Did you know rolling down a hill is one of the most neurologically stimulating activities?)

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The best mom-days for me are when my kids go to bed wiped out. Brains and hearts full, bodies tired from sunshine and movement and (hopefully) laughter. This is why I love summer.  Water parks, swimming pools, picnics and bbq’d peaches with balsamic vinegar help me be the mom I want to be.

Invest In The Things That Matter To You. We do church every Sunday. We pray before every family meal. Bible Studies are a regular part of our world. Through Brighten A Corner and greeting at church, service is a given.

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For our teen we also invest in her world view. We send her to The Young America’s Foundation because we believe in knowing how the world functions. We read. We clean and cook when family comes to stay, so that they will enjoy being here.

We are being more intentional about inviting her friends to do things with us.

We have access to a good counselor when we need it.

Sometimes the wheels come off the bus in our family–just like every other family out there. But when we have invested in things that matter during the good times, it is easier to get back on track during the bad times.

Grow. We are building a garden.

My mom has a wonderful garden space in her yard that was completely overgrown. California has suffered a record-breaking drought, and so gardening was a luxury no longer necessary.

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Funny thing…weeds don’t seem to care about a drought. The grew anyway.

This is a winning proposition in a million ways. We spend time with my mom. We remind ourselves that life is like a garden…weeds grow, need to be pulled, grow again, and need to be pulled again.

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We have sown seeds and watched them grow.

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We planted plants and watched them get eaten by earwigs. We planted more and protected them from said earwigs.

Now we are maintaining the plants we have by watering and weeding. Next we will turn the garden into an art project. Red and yellow sunflowers, grown from seeds we planted, will color the fence line. Ryan will paint the herb box and paving stones.

All the while we talk about the process and progress.

Sometimes she is fully engaged. Often not so much. Once the food is ready to be picked, however, I KNOW she will be excited about harvesting and cooking.

All in all a good week…

And God looked at all He had made, and indeed it was very good. Genesis 1:31

I Am Jonah

I love a good church service; one that makes me look deeply at my own flaws, and at Scripture with fresh eyes.

Sunday was such a day.

We had a guest pastor. A retired senior pastor shared on Jonah, a book I love. I saw myself in the pages. This is not a new thing, but I recognized myself in a new way. Habits. Mistakes. Areas of total lack of generosity.

I am excited! Seeing those things means that I can repent! And with repentance comes hope.

Perhaps part of the reason I could see things clearly is because I am in fairly good spirits. This is a good season of life. I am busy with the things that are important and seeking Him with a renewed zeal. There are times when my introspection is not born of (or with) condemnation, but just flow out of a life walking with Jesus.  Some of the things I learned were review, some were fresh revelations. I LOVE learning about the Bible.

Here were my AHA! moments:

  • Jonah fled from his assignment. Yeah, not new. I do this often. I let fear or finances or exhaustion keep me from what God has assigned. I may not run away from home, but I do sloth my way in the opposite direction of His calling.
  • Jonah was irritated by God’s blessings for those Jonah did not approve of. Well, golly. There I am in the middle of Scripture, yet again. If I were to be completely, vulnerably honest I would have to admit that I kinda don’t want God to bless those on my personal do not bless list. The pastor said, “We all have our pet evil…” Then he pointed out that the answer is ALWAYS love your enemies. Ouch.
  • Jonah’s theology was right but his heart was wrong. This next insight leapt off the page at me! Once God saved Ninevah, Jonah asked God, “Please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life.” Jonah decided that only the worst, most extreme thing–ending his life–was an option. BOTH my hubby and I have the tendency to do this. I call it catastrophizing. I have made progress in dealing with this by eliminating ALWAYS and NEVER from the narrative in my head; and by trying to remember that I trust God even when I don’t understand His ways.

I don’t ask for my life to end, but I do tell the story of hard things in a way that predicts the end of ideas, or opportunities, or relationships or dreams. I am Jonah.

I noticed more. In chapter 4, when the Ninevites had repented and God forgave them, Jonah went “out from the city and sat east of it. There he made himself a shelter for himself and sat under it until he could see what would happen in the city.” 

I have often wanted the vantage point to see what happens. Mostly so I can point out where I was right, and judge the people I think are wrong, but whatever my thing, it was not my finest moment. To be fair, I am not as demanding as I once was. I am now more willing not to know answers and details, and am often praying for the wisdom to leave the outcomes to God.

But there is still part of me that is Jonah.

 

Five Favorites

Five Favorites

love the Bible. I love to study it. I love to be changed by it.

I am linking up today, a day late, with the fantastic (and disciplined) Kelly over at Mrs. Disciple. Really. She is amazing. Today’s Yesterday’s Friday Five was 5 Favorite Bible Stories. I had soooooo intended to get this done yesterday, but then I accidentally took two Tylenol PM’s instead of regular Tylenol, and my afternoon was a little fuzzy.

But Kelly is grace personified, and she won’t mind if I finish today.

So, here I go.

1 Kings Chapter 22. A few years ago I wanted to get to know Elijah and Elisha. We dug into 1 & 2 Kings at Tuesday Night Bible Study. During that time, I “met” Micaiah, son of Imlah.

This section of the Bible is heavily influenced by the evil King Ahab and his notorious wife Jezebel. In   1 Kings 22, Ahab (King of Judah) is partnering with Jehoshaphat (King of Israel) to try to defeat Aram.  Before they go into battle, they ask the prophets if it is wise. ALL of Ahab’s prophets of Baal were celebrating and predicting victory. But Jehoshaphat asked if there may be just one prophet of the Lord to ask.

Ahab’s response to the question is his life’s motto: “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah, son of Imlah.” 1 Kings 22:8. (Say it in a whiny, petulant “GIVE ME WHAT I WANT” voice. It helps.)

Evil is defined as anything Ahab doesn’t like. Sound familiar?

Micaiah, after being told to just agree with the other prophets, doesn’t. He tells Ahab the truth: not only will he lose, but he will die if he proceeds.

Ahab, true to his character, tells his guards to throw Micaiah into prison, feed him bread and water sparingly, until he (Ahab) returns from battle. As if threatening the prophet with discomfort would change God’s truth…

Micaiah says, “‘If you indeed return safely, the Lord has not spoken by me.’ And he said, ‘Listen all you people.'”

I love this because:

  • God’s truth is not validated by people’s belief. It just is.
  • Those who hear it spoken are marked by it, whether they want to be or not, and should pay attention.
  • He is unflinchingly willing to pay the price for his belief. There is no wailing or gnashing of teeth recorded.

Spoiler alert: Ahab died.

Philippians 4:2-3. In this tiny little passage, “I urge Euodia and Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are also in the book of life,” is me.

I am Euodia. Or perhaps I am Syntyche.

I humbly acknowledge that my history is speckled with conflict, often in serving the Lord. Women can be so hard.

And I am a woman.

This little ditty in the New Testament gives me hope because:

  • Conflict happened THEN! WITH PAUL’S PEOPLE!
  • Paul does not take sides or belittle the women. He encourages people to help them be united.
  • Paul edifies and validates them, as women, in service. I believe the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, values women.
  • Their conflict, according to these verses, does not erase them from the book of life. Whew. That’s a good thing for me.

Life is messy, even when the apostle Paul is personally involved.

Numbers Chapter 16. If you were to ask me why, Biblically, I am a complementarian I would not refer immediately to 1 Corinthians or Colossians. I would pour us each a cup of coffee and open the Bible to where it tells us all about Korah’s rebellion.

The Tabernacle had been finished. Each of the twelve tribes of Jacob had been assigned places and responsibilities for God’s house. They had been counted. (Except for the tribe of Levi. God said not to count them.) They were no longer slaves in Egypt, but were also not in the Promised Land.

If you browse the chapter titles from Exodus to Numbers 16, there are some indications all was not going smoothly. “The People Complain”, “The Quail and the Plague”, “The People Rebel”, and “Moses Pleads for the People” just to name a few. Change is hard.

Chapter 16 opens with this: “Now Korah…took action.” Rising up in anger before Moses, complaining that Moses and Aaron gave themselves the “unique right and responsibility to represent the people before God, exalt[ing] themselves.”-John MacArthur.  Korah, as a Levite, already had significant responsibilities in/for/with the Tabernacle, but wanted to be a priest.

Priesthood was designated for the line of Aaron. (Numbers 3:10)

Korah found others who were angry at Moses for other things and incited a revolt, convincing people that God had given the better thing to other people.

Korah’s rebellion did not end well for Korah. He and his compadres were swallowed up by the earth and taken to Sheol.

Uhhhhhh. No thank you.

Do I believe that God has given the better thing to men? Or do I believe that God has given a different thing to men, in order to prevent chaos?

Whenever I begin that conversation in my head…“so and so has something better; God gives these people more,” I try to remember how dissatisfaction and comparison worked out in Numbers Chapter 16. Then I reaffirm my trust in God, remembering that mine is the responsibility to do what He has given me well, and not to worry about what He has given anyone else.

It doesn’t make me less than anyone. It just makes me, me.

Satan bugs me. Several years ago, I went through a very difficult time in ministry. Conflict abounded. I loved how I was serving, but not the person over me in service.

I was learning more than ever and bonding with women as we had real, deep conversations about applying God’s truth to living daily life. But the fiery darts rained down endlessly; I was constantly jumping through hoops in order to maintain a place in ministry.

I hated it.

It was during that time that Luke 31:22-23 was seared into my soul:

Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

That situation did not end well for me. After I left, it did not go well for the people left behind. Sometimes Satan gets a victory.

That verse reminded me that Jesus was still on my side, and that sifting actually separates the wheat from the chaff. It results in a higher quality substance.

I turned again. I am encouraging my sisters. And Jesus is still on my side.

The 3:16’s. One of these days I will teach a Bible Study on the 3:16’s. John 3:16 is the most widely known Bible verse, but the rest of them are really, really good as well. Genesis 3:16 is pretty key to the whole story, but I am going to focus on Revelation 3:16: “So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

This verse terrifies me in a holy way. I don’t ever want to be lukewarm. It is also followed, in verse 19, by, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” 

Whenever I am spiritually tepid, I know I need to start with repentance.

I am exceedingly grateful for God’s word and how it is radically revolutionizing my life…these are just 5 ways of the many with the promise of more to come.

A Letter to My Kids: KNOW THIS

Character matters. It just does.

I know the world around us lives differently, and it can feel impossible to find examples of character that are worthy, but it is vital. 

This has been a hard week. Elections, naked people, riots and accusations flourish with momentum that destroy the humanity in us. Don’t let any of it take profit in your life.

You don’t have to sell all that is beautiful in you to the lowest bidder.

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Words like character and integrity get bantered about endlessly, but I want you to know specifically what your father and I believe about them, why they count and which is more important.

Character is the essence of who you are. It is your nature. You can change it with hard work, new information, getting some help when needed, and habits.

Integrity is the wholeness of your life. It comes from the same root word that integer, a whole number, comes from. The integrity of a building indicates its complete ability to stand. To live a life of integrity means your life will look the same no matter which angle you examine it from. Some people refer to integrity as a high moral standard, but we believe wholeness fits it better.

Pursue character first.

Adolf Hitler had integrity. He was a maniacal, anti-semitic in public and private. Having integrity if you are evil is not to be admired.

When building character you have our permission and our encouragement to fake it until you make it. Sincerity is over rated. Doing the right thing insincerely beats honestly being a schmuck every time.

You don’t feel like going to church? Go anyway. Good things are often a discipline.

Recently at Bible Study the leader asked about a habit we’re trying. We make gratitude lists as we eat dinner, on 4×6 cards, each person’s thanks in a different color. “How do you keep it from being rote?” she inquired.

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Let me tell you the same thing I told her: I couldn’t care less if it is rote. Walk through the drudge if you have to but good habits are immensely better than bad habits. Being grateful, without meaning it, is still more pleasant than genuine griping.

Every time. Not even close.

Let me tell you what I pray for you and your character, so that you will know what I want you to look for in others…

Fail well. I am exhausted of the conversations implying failure is bad. OF COURSE WE WANT TO SUCCEED ALL THE TIME. Who doesn’t? But it is far worse to be so afraid of failing you never try anything worthwhile.

Failure is guaranteed in a life that has value. What do you do with failures? Do you fail the same way at the same thing over and over again? Face it, change and try something new.

Do you take responsibility for your failures? I cannot encourage that enough. I believe it is the fastest way to heal…face it, own it, apologize when appropriate and move on better for the experience.

Think. This is predicated on a willingness to learn. Better yet, a love of learning.

We see this in each of you. It takes different forms…research, grades, learning the basics of life…but all three of you have a tremendous capacity to seek information. Keep at it.

THEN use that information to inform your thoughts and beliefs.

Your dad and I believe that pursuit of knowledge that is true will always lead you back to God. We are not afraid of facts or science or history.

There is this implication sometimes, that to change your opinion is weak. Don’t buy that lie. It is foolish to think we always have all the information there is, and ridiculous to stay cemented in old beliefs in the face of a new reality.

Let me give you a personal example. I am fiercely pro-life. As the presidency bounces back from one party to another, one of the first things usually done is funding for international abortions. My straight-forward mind could not even HANDLE such a thing. WHY WOULD WE FUND ABORTIONS IN OTHER COUNTRIES I would chide.

Then I read Half The Sky and wept. My little brain in my safe little world cannot fathom what other women go through every day. Funding abortions is an over-simplified term for funding women’s health, and if it could stop some of the things I read, it should be done. At very least, it should be talked about in depth with all of the details and ramifications faced directly, before a decision is made.

Aborting a baby that is healthy and growing is not the same thing as helping a woman whose baby has died and is now rotting inside her. But the funding is the same.

So I changed my mind.

Seek beauty. 

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Philippians 4:8

Beauty is all around.

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Purposely filling your mind and life with beauty will make you acutely aware of the beauty in others. Adding beauty to others’ lives is always a good thing…think about it. Do you want to make the world around you ugly? Then don’t fill yourself with smutty things. There is no value in it.

Cook good food. Buy flowers. Be funny, which you do so well. Listen to harmonies and melodies and how they complement each other. Go to museums. Appreciate work that others have labored on. Realize that your taste does not equal the best.

Pursue radical humility. Modesty is lacking in our world.

(Where is the State The Obvious prize?)

People don’t need to see every inch of your body. Save SOMETHING for marriage.

But modesty and humility are not just about nakedness and clothing. They are about the everyday acknowledgement of God and others.

I have sat at many-a-Bible-Study and listened to well meaning silver haired women say that if you think you are humble, you have guaranteed you are not humble. I am not sure how helpful that is.

Let me tell you, as your mom, what I think…

It’s okay to work hard and feel like you did well on something. I just want you to frame it, in conversation and perspective, with all the people who helped you to do well. Who taught you that thing? Who believed in you and your cause? How much applause was given along the way? Who did you watch and admire that showed you excellence? Where is God’s hand in your life?

The mere act of acknowledging and appreciating others opens you to humility.

FIGHT ARROGANCE with everything in you, but please don’t confuse that with being a doormat or convincing yourself you aren’t good at anything. Be humble enough to get help when you are lacking and to offer help when you have abundance.

Social media, politics, magazine covers, public schools and reality television can make you feel like character is irrelevant. That feelings and emotions outrank right and wrong. That is malarkey. You know it. Those who make that argument probably know it too, deep down.

Much of the vitriol is actually the bi-product of cognitive dissonance.

For you three, our precious kids, your dad and I want you to pursue character within a relationship with Jesus. Obviously. We have lived that as best we can, incredibly flawed and fallibly, but with enough consistency that you likely know it’s true. But if you search for character demanding Jesus from other people, we believe you will miss out on additional depth and beauty.

Live in a way that points people to the Lord. Live that shoulder to shoulder with people who won’t see it except through you. It makes things interesting.

 And remember always that we love you madly, and overflow with pride whenever we think of you.

Love,

MOM

Easter: Dead Ahead

Easter: Dead Ahead

I am sitting at the kitchen table, dishes piled in the sink, remnants from last weekend’s birthday party strewn around my world. Over 1100 miles added to the odometer of my car since Monday, as my daughter and I literally drove up and down the state to spend time with gifted therapists.

And as the raindrops splash in their splendor on my driveway, my heart is full.

Full of gratitude. Full of hope. Like the drought parched creeks and reservoirs in my neighborhood, I am soaking in the rain of His provision.

The last several Easters have been seasons of struggle. Aging parents, Alzheimer’s, hospital stays and rehab facilities filled the late winter several years in a row. By the time Easter rolled around my little family was gasping for air.

We didn’t get much out of the Easter Season.

One of those years the kids’ school chose to have spring break NOT in line with the Easter. That turned out to be one of the stupidest things EVER. Let’s NOT do that again, OK?

I am so happy to again be linking up with the spectacularly amazing Kelly over at Mrs.Disciple. Today we are talking about Easter…and what a pleasure to do.

I told my hubby that we were really going to do Easter  this year. Many things are in our favor…Grandpa went to be with Jesus, so there is an area of our world that is naturally simplified. We are kinda figuring things out…and these are FIVE THINGS we will lean into as the season rolls around.

1.) We will celebrate. Because we try to have our faith define our lives, I am super loose with bunnies and eggs. If it makes the season happier, more memorable, and impactful I say GO FOR IT. 

Ryan’s birthday is actually mid-February, but another child in Primary (1/2 combo classes at her school) was having their party the weekend of her birthday, so that was out. I was gone the following weekend, so her party needed to be in March. As it turns out, Easter is also in March this year, so we decided to have an Easter themed party.

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We do our parties family-style. We want you to bring siblings and join us for a meal.

“How many drops of food coloring can they add?” parents would ask.

The answer, of course, is, “As many as they’d like.” We chatted about remembering there were lots of kids who were coloring eggs, and limited resources to share. There can be such beauty in freedom.

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That one egg was worth saying YES. Isn’t is spectacular?

The kids hunted for eggs in the rain.

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And ate ham.

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Jesus gathered and lived and loved and celebrated in the weeks leading to His crucifixion. So will we.

2.) We will continue to bring order to our home. The benefit of my creative calm is that kids can run around, make slime, use an excess of dye on their eggs and I enjoy it. The drawback is that my home can be a bit…disastrous.

I am a messy. I struggle and fight and progress but it is just. not. easy. Some of you have no clue what I am talking about because cleaning up is like breathing to you.

Bless you. If I fall off the face of the planet tomorrow, I hope that for my hubby’s next wife.

For now he is stuck happy to be with me, but he does like the house in order. Cleaning up, organizing, simplifying is ALWAYS something I can do to move my life in the right direction.

Before the day’s end the sink will be empty, the laundry will be washing, party supplies organized, and many things thrown away because it is such a small thing to do to make peace. And I will pray as I do it, asking the Lord to make HIMSELF known deeply to my family this season.

3.) We will live life in priority. Here’s my belief: Holidays are life intensified. If my life is out of whack going into a holiday season, the holiday season will be whacky.

Obviously parenting is an all-the-time gig, but this particular calendar is FULL of specific, purposeful investments in our kids. YAF Convention for our middle with a friend, therapies for our peanut, great conversations with our son who is too grown up and too far away.

I bought a new game I think our teen will love. I told my hubby he HAD to play with us. He seems willing…

4.) I will serve at church. If I were to be honest, (shocking, I know) part of our struggle for those few years was that we didn’t really care for our church’s Easter Service. It was big and outside and it drizzled, or was cold, or was hot and just… Aaaargh.

So we sometimes went to a church that was not ours for Easter, which was fine.

But I actually don’t want an Easter that is fine.

A year and a half ago, we moved churches so that our middle daughter could attend youth group with the same kids she went to school with. It was a fabulous decision for our family, and opens the door to a different Easter experience. This year, the church wants to go all out and create a wonderful, fun-filled, Gospel-centered service, and I signed up to help.

5.) I will fill my brain with the Easter story. Years ago I taught a Bible Study that looked at the Easter story through the eyes of the Gospel writers. I wanted to examine how their personalities may have shaped their perspectives.

Want medical details? Read the book of Luke.

Want names of the people involved? Read the book of John.

What did they all include? Which details were individual?

I want to go back and re-look at that. Honestly, the Bible Study class I led was one of my least successful ever, but I still think the idea is incredibly interesting…and my Bible digging in is in bit of a dry spell. (Do you have any idea HOW MANY women’s Bible Studies you can sit through without ever opening your Bible? The piercing scream you hear in the distance is me…)

The rain continues to pound on the kitchen skylight. The weeds that were once my beautiful lawn until the water ran out will be an inch taller next week, but I don’t care. The rain is water for the land, and the Easter season is water to my soul. I just need to drink it in.