Epiphany Day

Epiphany Day

Epiphany is my favorite word.

Long before I became a Christian epiphany, defined as an “illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure,” meant learning and wisdom. Epiphanal moments were cherished.

I had them watching Oprah, laughing with friends and reading good books.

Decades later, I learned there was actually an Epiphany Day. What a beautiful discovery.

It was a long time after I discovered Epiphany Day that I learned it is actually deeply rooted in the birth of Christ:

noun
  1. the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi (Matthew 2:1–12).

The original epiphany was the beginning of the story for those of us adopted into God’s family.

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Just this week, 20 hours between midnight and dawn have found me awake and caring for a sick kiddo. Warm baths, cleaning up sick messes, dosing out medicines night after night stood in the way of precious sleep.

In addition, there have been a dozen hours in emergency rooms and doctor’s offices with my mother in law and my little peanut when I was finally convinced she was not almost better.

Lots of buggy things got in the way of my lists and my peace of mind.

But what has poison churning in my soul is none of those things, but rather what I see in the world of my teenager and the teens around the world. It is infinitely harder to raise high schoolers today than just ten years ago. Chatting with my pediatrician about the craziness and uncertainties in the culture and the world, and lamenting my ineffective search for answers, he said, “There are a lot of people to claim to have answers, but at this point they are really just opinions.”

Drugs, graphic images available 24 hours a day on hand held cell phones, distresses taunt and haunt from every visible corner. Not to mention a gazillion “sexual identities” available and supposed to be acknowledged and accepted.

I am a very simple “In the beginning God created them; male and female He created them” kind of a gal. While our doors are open wide to teenagers of all beliefs and walks of life, I yearn for simpler days and less pressure on our kids.

Social media bombards endlessly.

Pressures mount daily.

Already pondering and praying about these things, I was forced out of complacency in early December. A friend across the country asked for prayer when her son was in lock down at school. A young man hung himself in the gym and when the paramedics came to get him to the hospital, no one wanted the students scarred by the image. The boy in the gym was taken off life support a few days later. Within 24 hours of praying for that another friend across the state asked for prayers for her dear friend whose son had been killed in a car accident.

Sometimes it feels like filling my lungs deeply with fresh air is impossible, because the strain and fears I have for our kids has me so constricted…

I decided I would revive a practice I have used before of fasting on Fridays. I know what specifically I am fasting and praying for…sometimes I choose a Bible verse to pray when I runout of words…I allow myself drinks and break the fast at 6:00 pm. I use the pangs of hunger to remind me to pray and look to the Lord.

I threw it out on social media and some friends will be joining me in January, to fast on Fridays and pray for our kids.

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I want to be obedient to God. Obedience to His word and His nudgings matter to me, but this life of growing in Him is not always one with clearly defined edges. In my world it can be a bit fuzzy.

Is that what He is asking?

Am I sure?

I committed to praying on Fridays…fasting and focusing on freedom for teenagers everywhere, mine included.

By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. PROVERBS 24: 3-4

I know this is a good practice, but imagine my thrill when I looked on the calendar and the very first Friday of January is, of all things, Epiphany Day.

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And so tomorrow, Epiphany Day, I will begin my January commitment to fasting on Fridays. I will be praying for victory for our kids. I will be praying for joy in our families. I will be praying for a cleansing in our culture and a rise in God honoring ideas and principles.

Join me? You can join our little Facebook group here.

It is time. The need is huge. If you are a parent, friend, grandparent, aunt, teacher or concerned citizen, you are welcome to join us. For some of the stories that drove me to this there will be mourning, but my cry is that by the end of the month we will start collecting stories of victory.

“Even now,” declares the LORD,  “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

Joel 2:12

 

 

 

 

Hello Kettle. My Name Is Pot. Nice To Meet You.

Hello Kettle. My Name Is Pot. Nice To Meet You.

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Let me begin by saying that I am in a season of repentance. My emotional entanglement and dread over the election is, simply, not godly. It is rooted in fear rather than faith and indicates that my hope is not in the Lord…

I am sacrificing Jesus on Golgotha because of worry I will not get the political salvation I desire.

I am like so many Jerusalem citizens in the first century.

Sigh. I don’t want to be.

So I am praying for forgiveness and heart change…

In that spirit, I am linking up (late) with the spectacular Kelly at Mrs. Disciple in her #FridayFive discussion of wisdom.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and  their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…Romans 1:21-22

This discussion, challenge, thought process on wisdom Kelly is encouraging me to embark upon is poignant in its timing. Providential…one might say.

Deeply pondering my own beliefs, our nations future, and raising my kids led me to an epiphany this past weekend: In the past, people from the left and the right had their biggest disagreements about how to solve problems. Now we disagree on what the problems actually are.

It is a stunning and sad revelation. It is relationship and conversation stunting because no longer is there an easy segue between problems and different perspectives on solutions. Doing life together now involves huge offenses–on both sides–at what people call “problems”.

I feel like I am on an island, and the island is burning. I can’t say for certain that the entire island will be destroyed, but I feel sure that enough of the island will be damaged  to change things permanently.

There are two boats waiting to sail away from the flames. One is captained by an unreliable, morally degrading leader. But the ship has a compass I believe works. I am confident it is headed in the right direction to get me where I need to go, and that the boat has no holes.

The second ship’s leader is equally, if not more, morally repugnant, but nowhere near as bombastic. That captain may (or may not be) more pleasant, but I believe with all my heart the compass guiding the ship will move me farther and farther away from freedom to live out God’s truth. The ship looks like it has holes in it. I am sincerely afraid for the health and safety of my family, should I travel a long time in that ship.

In the few moments I have to decide what to do with my family, the decision is easy: I care far more about the compass than I do about the captain. Certainly the captain may choose to deliberately go in the wrong direction, but the broken compass–even with the best of intentions–is guaranteed to get me lost.

People reel in disappointment at my conclusions and convictions and I struggle to care.

People rail in disappointment at things I think are beautiful and I care too much.

And so I am pushing PAUSE…and seeking WISDOM from the Lord. Digging deeply into Romans 1, these are the steps in my quest for wisdom:

  1. Know God. For me this comes from studying His word. I am in a bit of a dry spell–I do not love the Bible Study we are doing at church–and there is no question this both sets the foundation for and feeds my struggle. I will pick up the project I began this summer–writing out the words of Jesus and collecting my thoughts about them. Ahhhh, it will be sweet joy for my heart.
  2. Honor Him as God. This may be a discipline rather than an emotional outpouring for now, which is OKAY in my world. I will write it out and repeat it often, “NO matter what happens this election YOU ARE STILL GOD. You cannot be dethroned. You still love my family. I still trust You. I still look to You for guidance.”
  3. Give Thanks. Time to break out my gratitude list and, perhaps, reread 1000 Gifts. Gratitude to God centers me. It gives me hope. It reminds me what is true. It shows me I will be okay, no matter what.
  4. I Will Stop Speculating. I will doggedly and with great compassion leave the outcomes to God. They are HIS anyway. I will remind myself out loud and in writing to LEAVE THE RESULTS TO GOD and pray for His strength to be obedient.
  5. I will let my heart be light. Darkness may not take root in me if I beg Jesus to fill me instead. Practically speaking that means I will SERVE. I have a Brighten A Corner project this weekend which will nourish my love for others. Coming along side people of varying beliefs to serve people with varying beliefs is just what I need this contentious season. I will also LOOK FOR THE GOOD and celebrate it.

What people are shouting, “Not on my watch!” about one particular side is, quite honestly, readily available with the other option. If a person decided early in the process not to like one or the other, there has been PLENTY of evidence gathered to support the position. Hypocrisy is reigning from each and every self righteous corner.

Including mine.

Seeing that and wanting to change it means that I am on my way, and while letting go and trusting God may not be easy, it is the only path of hope. My hope is not in who is president. It is not in how much I pay in taxes or even whether or not I can afford good medical care for my kids and my mother in law.

My hope is in the Lord.

May I be faithful to remember.

A New Corner

A New Corner

There has been wailing and gnashing of teeth here on Park Hill Road.

Mostly from me.

It was slowly becoming more and more apparent that I should homeschool my precious little peanut full time this year. A thousand little pieces of information added up to a clear picture: In order to make progress we’d have to make a change.

Homeschooling is time consuming and patience strengthening, but that is not where the wailing and gnashing originated.

I am just so sad that I am the best option for my daughter.

This is not some whoah is me, the sacrifices I must make thing. It is truth.

Last summer my little person and I hopped on a plane and flew to Connecticut to meet with a speech therapist and an aqua therapist. They worked with her and taught me and she bloomed.

When I pulled out of the parking space on the last day, I was a mess. In that school lot, the smell of chlorine thick in the rental car, a new realization was forged in my heart: We only grieve things we are grateful for.

I was so, so grateful for the time we had been given. And I was so, so heartbroken that we had to fly to other side of the country and leave them behind.

People who are excellent at what they do are unique. To see people who are gifted at helping my daughter was vulnerably beautiful. To come home where I have been unable to such find help was hard. And sad.

I had to grieve the loss.

I would MUCH rather have gifted, great therapists to work with my daughter than have to do it all myself as an amateur.

But we have rounded another corner and here we are: A homeschooling family.

I have it all thought out:

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I have prayed and researched and I believe God has guided me to the right focus and approaches for Ryan…If I do all I have set out to she will thrive.

If I do all I set out to do, our family will thrive.

My goals for the first trimester are fairly simple:

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For my Precious Little Peanut, that means stronger jaw, tongue and lips for speech; and core and hands for writing. For the rest of the family, it would just be good.

Here we are prayerfully, humbly on a new adventure; hauntingly optimistic that we will make progress. This I know: The biggest weak spot is me.

I am flakey.

I can be lazy.

I naturally gravitate toward chaos which means I have to fight me very nature in order to succeed at this.

But God.

I believe HE is for me. I have prayed through my natural laziness and made great strides. I have people praying for my character, so that I may be the educator my daughter needs.

So here and now, for this season, I am coming out of my corner swinging.

 

 

Missed Boat: A Letter to Women’s Ministry Leaders

Missed Boat: A Letter to Women’s Ministry Leaders

In my minds eye I see a group of women circling around a kiddie pool. There are rubber ducks and floating boats. There is splashing and laughing and chubby toddlers spilling out of swimsuits.

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Sitting close by are older, more experienced moms chatting with the younger gals engaging and listening. The sun is shining. The colors are vibrant. There is fruit cut and skin tanned and it is beautiful.

Behind them (just out of ear shot) is a grey, damp, worn down industrial shipyard. Lurching away from an old, beat up, barely functional dock pulls out a huge cargo ship. There are no windows. There is no color. Its destination is not clear, but trapped inside are the moms of teenagers who can barely catch their breath.

Leaders in women’s ministries everywhere: YOU ARE MISSING THE BOAT.

I remember my teen years well and do NOT hope to repeat them with my kids. (Do as I say, please, not as I did.) Our oldest is 26 and our middle is now a teen. It is MUCH harder today than it was a decade ago to raise sane teenagers.

There are moments when I feel I have this thing NAILED; then, without any warning, those feelings are replaced by a tight chest and sick stomach. I am nauseous at how many things there are seeking to poison our kids.

Poison their minds.

Poison their hearts.

Poison their values.

Poison their wills and want-tos.

It is not only the things looking to destroy them, but the very nature of the season of life that stack the odds against us. In her book The Teenage Brain, author Frances E Jensen, MD, explains:

Before leaving adolescence behind, a boy can have thirty times as much testosterone in his body as he had before puberty began…That explains why adolescents not only are emotionally volatile but may even seek out emotionally charged experiences–everything from a book that makes her sob to a roller coaster that makes him scream. This double whammy–a jacked up, stimulus-seeking brain not yet fully capable of making mature decisions–hits teens pretty hard, and the consequences to them, and their families, can sometimes be catastrophic.

The thing is, teens today have access to far more degrading and damaging things to excite them. Sexual images are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on hand held cell phones that can be tucked away in their pockets. Medical marijuana cards and prescription pain killers have put drugs in more homes than anything I could have imagined when I was a teen. It is easy access for almost any high school student to acquire mood altering substances.

Kids from middle class, activity attending families are crumbling under the weight of the realities our kids are facing. Imagine a Friday night, kids are drunk, a boy decides a girl (who can barely even walk and will not remember) must want to have sex…so he takes it from her.

Cast into the dirt, she is not sure what happened. Zipping up his pants, he is sure he’s done nothing wrong. At home, asleep, are the parents (of yet a different teenager) who bought the alcohol that got the kids drunk and started it all…

Versions of this scenario are playing out weekend after weekend after weekend…

Where can any of these moms go for help? Church?

YES! to MOPS and Mom’s mentoring groups and so many other programs sweeping the young mom cultures around us. That work is vital and holy.

But I personally have sat and watch thousands of tears roll from the eyes of moms of teens. Kids are gone–at boarding schools and military programs–last ditch efforts to stop the spiral. Women are sharing stories of feeling like their families are being damaged by this season of life with teenagers…living daily with an invisible anvil sitting on their chests crushing hope and joy. What can we do for them?

In our own area we have lost dozens to heroin. These were good kids from loving families.

The days of the typical addict laying in an filthy alley with a needle stuck in their arm are over. These are our friends and neighbors. We must wake up!

Let women’s ministries be a haven. May they be real and transparent full of answers and hope.

YES! Make meals for the brand new mama just home from the hospital. But are we helping the mom of the 15 year old connect around the table as well? With more than just words, can we come along side with answers and aid? Can we use our voices to tell the kids, “The future is bright. Set your standards high. Don’t sell yourself to the lowest bidder.”

Can we look each other in the eye and say, “I will hold your hand while we hold each other and our kids accountable?”

Can we gather around tables and collaborate, acknowledging that the teenage brain is seeking high impact activities? Let’s brainstorm about healthy opportunities to fill that need in the faint hope of keeping them from finding their own ways?

Yes, they may roll their eyes. No, they probably won’t volunteer to join our quest. Let’s parent anyway.

Recently I had the privilege of helping to plan a prom for a local boy who was restricted from going to his own senior highlight because of medical complications. A whole group of parents came to put the event together. I was STUNNED by the conversations…”You know, the high school just had their prom. If we don’t make this REALLY special no one will want to come.”

“You can’t serve a sit down dinner to high school kids. They don’t like that. They want, like, sliders and finger foods…”

Parents’ expectations of teenagers has hit an all-time low.

Our kids are going to be adults someday. Are we doing all we can to help them be productive ones?

500 teenagers got dressed up, sat down for a polite dinner, and celebrated with that boy–giving him the prom of his dreams. 125 other kids showed up in their finest to dance and join the after party…where tons of teenage favorite foods were served. The parents who doubted the kids would behave well were wrong.

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This is war for our children. We are fighting low expectations and morals, along with easy access to pornography, drugs and alcohol. Other parents and teachers are turning a blind eye saying, “Kids will be kids,” but, church, let’s not join their cry.

I often say that parenting is a crap-shoot. It is a roll of the dice, where we can guarantee no out comes. Let’s lock arms, look each other in the eye and say, “We are going to face this head on and do all we can to stack the odds in our favor.” Let’s listen to each other’s heartaches and fear. Let’s commit to praying boldly and telling our truths. Let’s tell God’s truth to our kids and your kids and their kids.

Let’s find ways to have fun with our teenagers and with each other. Laughter can build a bridge…Let’s see great examples and paint bright futures and let high school students everywhere know that we believe in them. Let’s invest in them and tell them we want them to make good choices and make their marks on the world, leaving a trail of beauty behind them.

When the wheels come off the bus, as they certainly will, let’s sit together without judgement and give support until we can breathe again. When our kids fail, which they MUST if they are to learn, let’s remind them that mistakes don’t have to define them; that taking responsibility is ALWAYS the best way to move forward; and that tomorrow provides a new opportunity to do better.

Time is running out…we can do this.

5 Things I Want To Learn

5 Things I Want To Learn

Life is funky.

I live a few miles out of a tiny town that has no stop lights.

There are no stop signs on the main street. There are, however, two bars and a winery. Anyway…

Finding community, that super-cool kicked around word, is not easy…perhaps it is not even available in my area. It is much easier to come by online.

And, lest you discount such a thing as shallow and unproductive, it is only online that I have found friends who crave to do their craft better. Kelly is one such person, and I am so grateful to be linking up again with her Friday Five chatting about what I want to learn…

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There are so very many things

**I want to learn to begin each day loving God and pursuing HIS love for me and others.

Many of the boundaries of my life have been put in place to support my Christian walk. I listen to only Christian music–except when I am on the tread mill–and don’t have cable. I watch DVD’s or nothing. I go to church every Sunday.

I do many things to support my faith but I don’t begin each day on purpose with HIM.

What could happen in my heart and my head if I capture those first moments of the dailiness I am interred in and POURED purity and goodness from Jesus straight into me?

**I want to learn to manage money with excellence.

Pathetic, I know.

But I have NEVER learned the discipline of earning, spending, tracking and STOPPING before you run out. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I am a stay at home mom, so I am not even earning. My management “skills” are only in the conversation in my head of how I will spend my lottery winnings…but I do, someday, want to be that person that Proverbs 31 talks about: “She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard” verse 16.

**I want to learn to be effective at speaking God’s love into my kids’ lives.

Okay, so I really, really, really believe that God loves my kids.

But do I live that way? Do I TRUST HIM in a way that reflects HIS love for my kids? Do I speak that into their hearts?

Keep working, I tell myself. Keep growing. Keep speaking God’s love into my kids’ hearts. And PRAY, PRAY, PRAY to learn to do it with greater excellence and effectiveness.

**I want to learn to let discipline dictate my day.

I am lazy.

Now, in fairness to me I am not AS lazy as I used to be. I am progressing well on my journey out of sloth-i-ness.

And yet.

I am about to enter into a new season. This fall my precious little peanut will be home with me nearly all the time to be home schooled.

To say that I am anxious is a ridiculous understatement.

I have researched and looked into and decided and in my brain the fall will begin a beautiful season of learning and growth. That CAN ONLY BECOME REALITY IF I am disciplined in doing what I am thinking.

PLEASE, Jesus, help me dictate my days with discipline.

**I want to learn to create a social life with my husband.

Could be wishful thinking, but whatever.

I think it would be/could be great to have couple friends. We HAVE tried…but flopped. We have brief moments of YAY…but no longevity.

How can I have more YIPPEE experiences without the inevitable THUD that follows? I don’t know. I have to learn…

I do learn a lot. I read and study and grow. But these things we have talked about? They would add depth and longevity to relationships and life…THAT would be beautiful.

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

 

 

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.

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.