The Perks of Being 45

I am linking up with my new friend Kelly over at Mrs. Disciple. Each week she hosts a FRIDAY 5 link up, and each week I think, “Hmmmm. I should do that.” Then I don’t.

Not a  huge shocker.

But today, thanks to my desire to stay in my comfy bed, I may just get it done.

Keep watching Little House on the Prairie, kiddo, homeschool will start a little late today.

1.) 45 JUST AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE. Really, I think my mom was so old at that age. Today there are better lotions and more health options. I think it is easier to stay younger longer than it once was.

Recently, my very tall teenage daughter, who can now look me eye to eye, said (with a horrified look on her face), “MOOOOOOMMMMM. There are two white hairs right there on your head!”

Calmly I replied, “You know I am going to be 45 in a few weeks. Two grey hairs is really not bad.”

“Tell yourself whatever you need to,” she said flatly.

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This is what I am telling myself: “A couple of grey hairs at 45 isn’t bad at all. I have earned them!” Sure, I would love to have cutely colored hair all the time, but apparently not as much as I want to keep my girls in the private school where they are thriving. Which leads me to number two:

2.) LIFE IS A SERIES OF CHOICES. Some good. Some Bad.

Somewhere along the line I learned the concept of OPPORTUNITY COST. This is simply acknowledging that every decision eliminates the possibility of every other decision in that time, space, situation. There is a price and a prize for every choice. (I am pretty sure that’s a Dr. Phil-ism.)

I get to choose what seeds I want to sow.

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows this he shall also reap. Galatians 6:7

Sowing seeds is a Christian term for making choices.

I love that it says not to be deceived. Deception is a tricky thing, because unlike an outright lie, deceptions carry a bit of the truth in them. I can tell just enough truth to make me feel better, blame someone else, get off the hook for finding a solution. But if the Bible is correct, which I have based my life on, the harvest I reap will be the harvest I have actually sown and not the one I wanted to pretend it was.

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3.) YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIKE ME. It’s okay. I get it. I am my own brand of cocktail that is not to everyone’s liking.

I like to laugh. I like to learn. I often think people are idiots.

That is because people are often idiots.

What does matter to me is that those I am shouldering life with know that I love them. I also pray I am better at loving them than I was in the past.

I want to get better at living the life I have.

That means sometimes facing the inevitable situations that will. not. work. out. “I suspect we are not going to be able to bridge this gap. How can we navigate our way out of this, so we can say goodbye peacefully?” is a perfectly acceptable conversation. Feel free to write that down and use it in the future.

You’re welcome.

4.) I DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING/BE GOOD AT EVERYTHING. I wish I would have known this as a teenager. I thought not being an expert at everything meant I was a failure at everything.

That way of thinking is so hard.

Letting go of wrong paradigms leaves me room to celebrate the wonder of others. I WANT to be around people who are better than me at many things. I want to learn from them and ask questions. I want to celebrate their victories, rather than waiting for an audience for mine.

In this season of life I am very comfortable with my own intellect. No one can make me feel stupid, even if they try. (Which they often do. I like politics, and today’s culture often tries to make a point by belittling others. Sad.) I know what I know, and I am not afraid to ask questions  and find new answers when I don’t.

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5.) Tough love is sometimes the best love. This one goes down like vinegar to some. We live in a day where much of the Christian church is rallying for grace everywhere.

Grace is everything.

And I cannot overemphasize my need for it.

But I also believe the book of Romans when it says: The wages of sin is death.

For some battling addictions and anger that can be an actual, physical death. In my life it can look like a death of relationships and dreams. It can manifest as a deadening of my walk with God or my love for His word. When I refuse to acknowledge and repent for my own sin, I am squeezing the life out of my world.

I am so glad I have friends who will say, “Hey…how you are handling this does not line up with Scripture…” or “You are called to behave this way…”

That is tough. That is love. That makes my life better.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

Not every situation calls for confrontation. Sometimes we pray. Sometimes we sit and listen.

But sometimes what others call grace looks like celebrating sin to me. Sigh.

In these 45 years, one thing I have learned for sure is that life is messy…and that I am increasingly okay with that.

 

My Demented Oreo

My Demented Oreo

I am part of what is called the sandwich generation, tucked between nurturing and growing my children and caring for aging parents. Because I am naturally soft in the middle, it makes sense to me that if I have to be a sandwich, I should be a cookie one.

So I have decided to be an Oreo.

Just over a year ago my father in law passed away from Alzheimer’s. The last few years of his life were a roller coaster. There were hospital stays and care facilities; anger and emptiness. The journey of Alzheimer’s is learning to grieve the living.

Although my father in law died first of Alzheimer’s, many years before he began to show signs my mother in law’s memory was disappearing.

My husband and I will celebrate our twentieth anniversary this fall, and for over 15 years of that my mother in law has been fading. Her mother had dementia, and she resigned herself to the same fate. She has never been responsible for caring for my kids. My girls have never gone to grandma’s for the weekend.

She is still one of my favorite people in the world.

I call my mother in law Winnie the Pooh. She has a heart of gold but a head full of fluff. She is never cranky, always happy. (I called my Father in Law Eyeore, because he was quite the opposite.)

While some in our family have understandably struggled with the reality of both Grandma and Grandpa radically mentally impaired, my youngest–our precious little peanut–knows no different and loves her world. She loved her grandpa.

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She loves her grandma.

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This week was Grandparents Day at my daughter’s school and I knew Ryan would love to have Grandma there. Her school is 20 minutes away, and the memory care facility where my mother in law lives is 40 minutes past that. That meant quite a bit of driving.

As Grandma and I were walking out the door of her home to pile in the car I asked her, “Do you know who I am?”

No. She did not.

By the time we reached the first stoplight two blocks away, she asked me half a dozen times who I was. The conversation usually goes like this…

          Me: I am a married to one of your sons. Who are your sons?

          MIL: Let’s see. (Starting to count on her fingers…) Bernie, Carl, Everett.

On occasion she’ll add someone else to the list, her husband or son in law.

         Me: Now which one would have been smart enough to marry me?

She laughs at that every. single. time.

          Me: I am married to your son Carl. Usually if you say it together, you can remember my name. Carl and _______________…

          MIL: Robin.

It is an interesting conversation. Or not. But it is my life.

For the whole drive we chat about the scenery and philosophy; family and the past. It is often the same conversation on repeat. I believe the fact that she is my mother in law and not my mom makes it easier for me to enjoy her as she is. There is not as much loss to bear.

We get the walker out and toddle to the group meeting.

I get Grandma a snack she can eat with her hands. She lost the ability to effectively use silverware a while ago, but she loves a sweet treat.

Then we headed to the classroom.

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Ryan was so happy. Daddy had to come along for the fun.

San Luis Classical Academy, my daughter’s school, is a beautiful part of this season of life. Ryan is on campus two days a week and homeschooled three days a week. I am hauntingly optimistic we will make tremendous progress this year.

Ryan did her “recitation” of Wynken, Blynken and Nod.

 

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When your child can’t talk, you must improvise and prioritize. I decided that for this recitation, being comfortable in front of the class was the goal.

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Look at that face. Today was a winner.

After recitations were art projects and show and tell times with Grandma.

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Keep in mind that at the very moment my these pictures were taken my Mother In Law had absolutely no idea where she was or who she was talking to. None.

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THIS IS GRACE.

THIS IS LOVE.

THIS IS BEAUTIFUL.

My daughter who can’t talk and my Mother in Law who can’t remember have a relationship that looks like this. And they both mean it with all their hearts.

I love this part of the Message version of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes:

A right time to cry and another to laugh, A right time to lament and another to cheer.

This is my life right now…a crazy, mixed up jumble of lamenting and crying while also laughing and cheering.

It is my demented Oreo of a life, and while I may not have chosen it, I do–in fact–love it.

 

 

 

To The Lady in the Lobby at the Hotel

To The Lady in the Lobby at the Hotel

Forgive me.

I had just landed in Sacramento after an amazing adventure in Texas. It is a 5+ hour drive home, and during the layover in Dallas I realized I was too tired to make it home so I called my hubby and asked him to find me a hotel.

He’s a great guy.

I am directionally challenged at times and masterfully pulled into the back parking lot. I was fatigued and drained as I rolled my polka-dotted suitcase toward the front door.

But I did see you.

I saw your 5 inch candy apple Stilettos and skin tight skirt. I noticed you fidgeting, looking around. I wondered if you were waiting for someone; perhaps someone you’ve never met who was going to pay you to meet him at a hotel.

I was returning from a crazy trip to Austin, Texas, where I gathered in a house with twenty women I had never met, and went to party with two hundred additional stranger-friends. There were so many conversations about calling, and loving, and being small.

Sometimes my face goes blank as I hear words but don’t really get the meaning. You showed me I have so very far to go.

I immediately talked myself out of any assumptions. I live in a bubble on the Central Coast of California. This is a city. People dress differently. Who am I to think….

I went inside to check in and, of course, couldn’t find my ID. I was digging through the papers and weekend remnants in my suitcase sized carry on when I heard a man say, “My room’s this way.”

He had his head down, dark curls covering his face. The see-through liquor store bag he carried was full of whiskey and soda. A dozen feet behind him you followed.

I looked up just in time to look you in the eye and smile. I couldn’t breathe as you rounded the corner out of sight. You see, I am certain I saw fear in your eyes and I had no clue how to help.

It wasn’t that I was scared–I wasn’t. I was genuinely lost. I had no ideas. I had $13 in my wallet, and believed that wouldn’t help fix whatever had broken in your world that led to this moment.

Making a scene in the hotel lobby didn’t seem like it would add to your dignity. No one else around appeared to notice or care. Was this normal in this place?

Yuck.

I went to my room and prayed but the whole time I was praying I was thinking about the passage in Joshua chapter 7 when God tells Joshua: Rise up! Why is it you have fallen on your face? 

Christians can sometimes use the term “On my face” as a badge of honor describing earnest prayer. But in Joshua, God is saying now is not the time to pray. I can so easily use prayer as a cop-out. “I’ll pray for you,” can be both a wholly beautiful promise of love, and a way to let myself off the hook because I don’t actually want to do anything.

This time I had no inkling what to do.

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Driving down the long stretch of Highway 5 to home the next morning, I couldn’t get you out of my mind. Flipping through radio stations to fill the silence and remembering the fear in your eyes, I became one of those people. 

I cried huge, prolific tears at a country music song:

It’s where I drank my first beer
It’s where I found Jesus
Where I wrecked my first car
I tore it all to pieces
I learned the path to heaven is full of sinners and believers
Learned that happiness on earth ain’t just for high achievers
I’ve learned I’ve come to know
There’s life at both ends
Of that red dirt road

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I don’t pretend to know one iota of how you got here, but I do know something has gone wrong and I am so, so sorry.

I want you to know there is still beauty. Beauty in you, beauty for you, beauty in the arms of God who is waiting to hold you.

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I have not lived your story, but I do know from my own sometimes shattered world that getting pummeled against the rocks wounds.

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And I know that it can be so hard to believe that just around the corner from the rocks is a new place, that can be the beginning of a whole new life.

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But more than anything I want you to know that I saw you. You are not invisible. You matter.

I don’t know what I will do the next time I am in that situation, but I will try to find answers that make sense. Fixing human trafficking is (as of this moment) not my calling, but that is no excuse to do nothing when something of value–you–right in front of me is about to be…

I don’t have the right words.

But I do know that I am so, so sorry.

For the Love of Owning My Own Life

For the Love of Owning My Own Life

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Several years ago I sort of set out on a journey to own my own life.

For me it meant embracing the good and facing the ugly in my world.

Dealing with imperfections and coming up with plans to work on them opened my eyes to beauty peeking out of the cracks and breaks in my systems. Layer upon layer of life–the bold goodness, the nuanced depth, the obvious flaws–began calling me to greater risk and steadier faith.

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Long before I read the pages of For the Love, I had begun the painful process of figuring out what to show up for, if I wanted to have a life that I loved.

Late one night, while finishing up a long day at a Brighten A Corner project, I scrolled casually down my Facebook feed to see that Jen Hatmaker was creating a launch group for her latest book. 500 everyday folks would get an advanced copy, join a private Facebook page, and help to promote the book upon its release….It sounded like an adventure and an opportunity to learn something new. Plus I have this friend who I believe will publish a book someday soon, so I thought perhaps I could steal get a line on some great ideas for her.

Apparently 4,999 other people thought it would be fun, too. Imagine that.

I was tickled when I got an e-mail a few weeks later saying that I had been picked for the launch group, would be receiving my book in the mail soon, and was added to the For the Love Launch Group on Facebook. I decided not to watch from a distance, but to show up and own the opportunity. In an instant everyone else on Facebook disappeared.

The Launch Girls were my world.

I shared prayer requests. I prayed for others. I had an opinion for everyone about everything. I survived the Supreme Court Decision while disagreeing passionately with people. I learned how to hashtag. I grew as a writer because of the input and support of the team. I found delightful friends. I laughed until I cried. I wept over losses. I shook my head in awe at how wacky life can be.

I lived out the words of the book that brought us all together.

Which is why I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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Life is a kick in the pants. Being a Jen Hatmaker fan has been a bi-polar experience for me. I have liked and unliked her page numerous times based on a moment, or a mood, or a half-understood perception.

Sometimes I just don’t get it.

This book, this group, this season of life forced me to figure out if I was looking for agreement or honesty.  I realized if I want a life that profoundly honors God, I was going to have to get used to the tension that comes with differences. Living in that tension is where the love people talk about really exists. It is not waiting for me to surround myself with homogenized versions of me. It is tucked away in community with variety.

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The book and the launch team could not have come at a better time. My life is richer, fuller, more on track to my dreams in the Lord than it has been in a long, long time. I so, so, so want that for you. I want you, and me, to own our lives. There is so much room for others when we do….THIS is what I am talking about:

Now fully able to cheer wildly for friends and colleagues, I am free to be me without the constrictive mesh netting around my heart. Everyone else is free to be themselves, and I am thrilled about us all. For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker.

 

 

Exposed

Exposed

I was caught unaware.

Scrolling through my social media feed, mindlessly, lazily filling my afternoon with unproductivity, and there it was. A beautiful picture of someone who I will always be connected to.  There came a catch in my throat.

The words were loving and seemed so sincere, and my inner conversation began, “Why am I not good enough for this? Why are there no words like this for me?”

Relationships, and people, are so messy.

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And the extended version of the winsome photograph I found myself staring at is the most disheveled human connection in my world. Sometimes family feels like it is on life support.

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In the swirling, I realize that I am feeling a wee bit vulnerable right this moment. My beloved Tuesday Night Bible Study needed to come to a close; my precious little ministry is flailing trying to plan for the next project; and unexpectedly I find myself discouraged.

I didn’t see it coming.

Mostly things are really good.

And my hubby and I are thinking through other things to make them better. There is no crisis. There is no overarching angst. But…every once in while…when I am looking in another direction…I suddenly feel exposed and at risk.

Here’s the truth I must face: Life is imperfect. Am I brave enough to accept that with grace?

The wacky thing is God is moving in my life. He has lovingly connected me with new friends, most of whom are writers, and I feel the itching to grow and learn in the very best of ways. I can sincerely cheer them on, applauding great work in the form of poignant words, embracing stories. It is lovely.

I am tackling a large project that has been laid on my heart. It is one that will hopefully bring women into deeper connection to God and stronger faith. I will find solutions for the ministry project and will be involved in a different Bible Study this fall. It will all be okay.

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Except for the situation in that photo staring at me from the computer screen. For that I have no answers. And although it doesn’t impact the totality of life, or daily happiness, there are moments–like this one–that leave me feeling hauntingly sad and exposed.

When Tomorrow You Knew Would Be Better Longs For Yesterday You Wish You’d Appreciated

When Tomorrow You Knew Would Be Better Longs For Yesterday You Wish You’d Appreciated

I can not count the number of times I have looked at an old picture of me and wished I still looked like that, weighed that number, was that size. But if I were to face the entire ugly truth, I would admit that I felt discontented with me then. As that picture was taken, I was having the “I’m fat” chat in my head.

Perhaps I am the only one.

My body image is not the only place I struggle with this. We’ve hosted many last day of school parties at our house. The kids swim, hubby bbqs and a good time is had by all. Last year I remember sitting at the gathering, listening to the splashing and laughter, and daydreaming about finishing our landscaping.  My hubby was having the best year ever in business and there was hope of having extra money. (It was hard work to remember what that might be like…)

Yesterday I dreamt of a water feature and a flagstone area with a fire pit. I envisioned colorful flowers (on a timed drip system so they would survive) and a walking path through  fruit trees that we could pick fresh fruit from. I had hopes for a raised vegetable garden that the girls and I could plant together. In my mind we would make a leap to a healthier way of life designed to more easily have people gather.

I wouldn’t have to apologize that we still had not yet finished landscaping…in spite of our best intentions.

Ahhhh….such great ideas.

Little did I know at the time that my hubby was planning a surprise trip to Disneyworld for the family.

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There goes the extra money.

And…that doggone el nino did not come through like I hoped. The draught painfully continues and we are on a well. That means when the water runs out of the tank nothing comes out of the faucet until the pump refills the tank.

Imagine sixteen people staying at our house for my father in law’s memorial service last fall, most of whom really wanted to shower before heading to the church.

Selfish, I know.

And when the showers were turned on there was…nothing.

The sound of air filled the room.

There was not even a drip.

Do you know how quickly dishes for 16 extra people pile up when there is no water to wash them? (That is a wonderfully legitimate excuse for not doing dishes.)

The yesterdays that I should have appreciated looked like this:

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And the today I knew would be better looks like this:

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Oops.

Here’s the deal: Basing my happiness on a tomorrow I can not control is a recipe for failure every time. Everyone knows we are in a draught. I can either move on with what I have or lament that which I have no command over. The weather is a great example of something I have no influence on. I need to decide, do I want to show off my yard or connect with people? 

My Hubby’s business is not having a great year so far this year. This means that what is, is what I must deal with. If someone thinks less of me because my yard now crunches when they walk on it, that relationship would find an end anyway. And whether I like it or not, Jesus wants my pride to crunch under the weight of His sandals. He walked the earth so I could learn what really matters and live it out. The Word became flesh…

Not easy.

Over pastrami sandwiches or chef salads at a local restaurant each Tuesday Night, my Bible Study friends and I have been talking a lot about Romans 1:18-27. It is powerfully relevant to battles that rage in our culture and it offers us the chance to dig deep into application and discussion. Tucked in the middle, verse 21, is the pivot point where things begin to move in the wrong direction: “For even though they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks…” 

The pivot point of my life rests there as well. How much of my life do I waste by not giving thanks? Do I realize that a lack of gratitude means I am not honoring Him as God?

The only way my todays will be what I long for, whether my tomorrows are better or not, is to marinade my thoughts in gratitude. The aroma of thankfulness can be what fills my senses if I will just. pay. attention.

It is my desire to thank Him for everything; to see Him around me; to obey Him purposefully, and the only way that will bring me joy is to do it now. Seeing the joy in hindsight is a waste of a life.

May His joy fill my life to overflowing…today, regardless of what may come tomorrow.

AMEN

The Gap Widens

The Gap Widens

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Parenting a child with special needs is that times a gazillion.

My precious little peanut lights my life. She stretches the boundaries of my heart and tugs at the capacity of my mind. She puts a mirror smack dab in front of my laziness for me to face, whether I want to or not.

I am a much better human being because of this journey.

But it isn’t easy.

She has rounded past her first decade and still cannot talk. She has a few words but they are hard work. She has sounds and a few signs, and ideas and stories and things to get across. (Mostly so you’ll do things her way, but I can’t criticize that.)

We’ve had some beautiful moments of learning. There have been many times when things looked and felt exactly like my heart imagines homeschooling could be for her.

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And many, many dry, disorganized, exhausted moments in between.

But the number 10 is keeping me up at night.

It feels so old.

Have we missed the chance to get it right? To help her all we can?

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I had my heart set on taking her to a speech clinic for Apraxic kids in Michigan this summer. But the Michigan therapist says Ryan is not yet ready for her. Ten years later, and we are still at the beginning.

Go to Connecticut, she says. Get more help with Oral Motor Placement Therapy.

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Okay. I will.

On the phone I chat with the specialist in Connecticut who tells me, “What you see in the body, you see in the mouth.”

Oh crap. Good to know.

I have always placed large motor skills at the bottom of the priority list.

We can only ever have one number one priority at any given moment. Physical therapy has not been my number one for her since she started walking at 2 1/2. But I didn’t know that what you see in the body you see in the mouth.

Gotta be honest, that is not good news.

Because of Ryan’s diagnosis, she doesn’t qualify for any government help. Tri-Counties Regional Center has nothing to offer her. We pulled her out of public school because it wasn’t working. I guess I could figure out services through the district but because her private school is in the town of a different school district than the one she used to attend, I’d have to start over. Yuck.

So we are shifting our focus in the weeks leading up to Connecticut. In that spirit we joined a hike with moms and kids from Ryan’s school. (She goes to a hybrid school where she is on campus two days a week and homeschooled three days a week.)

We all started at the exact same time.

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Soon, we were by ourselves.

Not too long into it she wet her pants. (HOW DID I FORGET TO MAKE SURE SHE WENT POTTY BEFORE WE LEFT? I am not an amateur, for goodness sakes.)

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It would have been so. much. easier. to turn around and go back. We could have waited for everyone else at the beginning. (My older daughter and brother in law were with the group.)

But I am terrified that if I am willing to turn back, I put at risk every good thing that lies ahead of her.

So we plowed forward.

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We saw cows. In the middle of the path.

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It was hard for her. Hard for both of us. I am not a nature girl.

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Turning back could not be an option. I cheered and waited and promised dry clothes at the car. I told her forward was the only direction we could go.

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I fight the thoughts that creep in: What if this is the rest of her life? A series of experiences where the gap between us and them grows until we are totally alone?

It is in these moments that my mantra saves my life: Head up, look to the Lord. Head down, get to work. 

I cannot look around. Comparing us to others will certainly kill my dreams. The only thing that makes sense is to put one foot in front of the other.

On this day, that meant finishing the hike.

In August, it means going to Connecticut.

In September it means totally reorganizing my homeschool days because what you see in the body, you see in the mouth.

And on most days between now and then it means repeating over and over: Head up, look to the Lord. Head down, get to work. 

Burn Day

Burn Day

There may be no more satisfying yard work than a burn day.

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Our yard needs it tremendously.

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There are times when my entire life feels overgrown, in the worst way.

Happily, this is not one of those seasons. Things are steady, and my hubby and I are both energized and wanting to shift momentum radically in a forward direction.

burn day is spiritually metaphorical because it illustrates how much room you make by getting rid of that which is already dead.

As a bonus, it is a testosterone driven activity…in the best way.

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Working together was a great feeling and made for a productive day.

I am gearing up for a new Brighten A Corner project. I am giddy about it. I am so ready for the body of Christ to be the real solution to heartache and struggle. I can almost see God’s hand every where I turn.

But the past serves as a reminder that if my own home and my own life are a mess when a project begins, the process of serving for a week straight (nearly 18 hours a day) can be unnerving. I am determined not to do that this time.

Burn day was a step in that direction.

The other beautiful reminder is as we trim the trees and the plants, getting rid of all that is unhealthy, it will make future rain far more effective.

We are in a drought. The leaner and healthier the foliage, the less water it will use.

When things are in short supply, lean is the most effective way to go about life.

So this next 4 weeks, gearing up to serve, I will be getting rid of as many things as possible. I will be radically putting things away to make room for the madness to come. I will be focusing on my kids by throwing a birthday party for Ryan; supporting Reagan as she goes to Bible Study, youth group and church outings; digging in to homeschool; and maintaining routine. I will be doing my best to support my hubby in our businesses–being self employed means a lack of steady income–so if we can get a financial boost in time it will make things far less stressful for him.

I will beg God to help me overcome my laziness.

And I will grateful because, as it turns out, a burn day was a great way to get started.

Nervous Grace

Nervous Grace

“You’re making me a bit nervous,” my hubby said.

I got it. I totally did.

“There are others who are way more deserving,” said my good friend.

I understood that as well. Perhaps I even agreed, just a tad.

My adventure started when I was browsing through Facebook one Sunday afternoon a few weeks before Christmas. One of my favorite authors posted a picture showing bags her church had filled to give to prisoners for Christmas. 32,000 bags put together just to say, “We are thinking of you.”

The honest truth is this: I am the daughter of a judge. Prison ministry doesn’t compel me–even if I admire other people’s service.

It would never occur to me to judge or belittle the 32,000 bags, but many others did.

There were many, many voices who piped in claiming that those bags were an incredible waste of resources. Didn’t that congregation realize how many more deserving people would go without? Those men in prison were guilty and deserved exactly the life they were living.

On and on they went.

Somewhere, tucked in the back and forth banter of comments a woman’s voice stood out to me. “I suppose you think the strippers I take packages to are not deserving either, but what if I told you that when I was 19, that was me?”

And it struck me…I should do what that woman does. An hour away from my home, in a neighboring county, there is  a strip club. Everyone around knows the name of the place. What if this Christmas season I took gifts to the women who made their living stripping for men?

I know, I know, they make a lot of money. Some may even think they enjoy it. We live in a culture where sexiness is as powerful as gold, and in the basest, least-intmate version of the word, strippers can claim that label.

But at what cost to their souls?

I ran the idea past my little Bible Study group, and they jumped in…

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There were scarves, gift cards, books and baked goodies. The packages were prayed over and we included a note that said:

If you ever need prayer, we would love the privilege to pray for you.

I included my e-mail address.

Originally everyone who was at the Bible Study the night we discussed it was planning on coming. But life happens, and so it was just my friend Kathy and me.

This was hysterical because she and I are the staunchest, most-to-one-sidest, blackest and whitest thinking-est of the group. Clearly, God was moving…wanting, ever-gently, to knock hard edges off my personality and help fill my world with grace.

We got to the establishment and it had not yet opened. We knocked on the back door and the manager answered it. We explained who we were and what we wanted to do.

He was incredibly gracious.

He held the door open, and asked if we would be offended by coming in.

“If we were, it would certainly be our fault,” I said with a smile.

Kathy asked if there was anything we could pray for him. He said just his health. He gave us his name.

He was very kind, and it has been easy to pray blessings that are consistent with God’s character for him and his life.

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We have begun to pray for every person that walks through this door. We pray for conviction. We pray for marriages. We pray for purity. I love my Tuesday Night Ladies.

I pray for purity in this nation and a sensitivity to effective ways to do my part in that quest.

I have also begun to pray that God would bless this business–the strip club in the neighboring county–in a way that is consistent with HIS character. I have no idea what that would look like, but HE does.

What a wonderful, stretching, learning, growing thing. Thank you, Lord.