The Begining of the Story

The Begining of the Story

Fatigued, full of family joy and a political hangover, I watched the WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR at Disney’s California Adventure the night after the election and the tears rolled down my cheeks.

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I thought about people I adore who were genuinely grieving.

It seems they believe, somehow, that this election means their stories don’t matter. They do.

The same way my story still mattered two years ago when things (politically) impacted my family negatively.

Friends who see things differently than I do stopped liking pictures of my kids on Facebook months ago. I suspect I have been un-followed and un-friended numerous times. I have un-followed some myself.

The next day I sat in one of my favorite places in the world: THE ANIMATION STATION. In the Animation Station scenes from the stories that become Disney movies are played to the music that makes them classics, the songs and the scenes of triumph and struggle; of conflict and restoration.

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While the familiar melodies in the background and the hypnotic moving pictures remind me of these stories of my children’s history on the huge screens, next to them come still shots in waves. Some images are directly from the movies themselves, other are drawings of ideas and future story lines.

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Tucked away in the air conditioned room of imagination it hit me: The beginning of the story is ALWAYS sketchy. The colors and the shading have not been filled in yet.

The stories that have meaning always have conflict. Without it there is no change; no growth; no victory.

My victory will be different than yours. My peace may come a different route. But the beauty and wonder of STORY is still here. The grief; the joy; the connection and the distance between people will always weave their way through our days. BUT NO MATTER WHAT OUR STORY WAS ON TUESDAY NIGHT, this is just the beginning. We do not know the ending.

May we pray for kindness and grow our capacity to see facts clearly, to distinguish the difference between them and feelings, and to give people the benefit of the doubt and the space to be heard with kindness whenever God gives us the chance and wait hands wide open for what is to come as the story unfolds.

It might be much better than you think…

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.

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.

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.

 

 

Guardrails

Guardrails

Again, I say, that Kelly from Mrs. Disciple. She hosts a FRIDAY FIVE link up for blogging friends, and her encouragement just keeps us coming back. Her diligence is admired tremendously by this California girl. I wish we lived closer, so she and I could have coffee and chat about all things Bible and Family.

Today her topic is Five Boundaries…so here I go…

I am going to steal from Andy Stanley.

A little while back I facilitated a weekly Bible Study at church. We did one class I called Change Your Mind, Change Your Life. I encouraged the women to read Bob Goff’s book Love Does. (Anytime a woman would walk in shaking her head and laughing I would say, “Chapter 4?”) We also did three Andy Stanley DVD series, Your Move, Take Responsibility for Yourself; Because No One Else Will, and Guardrails.

Andy STanley GuardrailsIn my mind, boundaries are the very farthest you can go, and stay safe. Guardrails are built THIS SIDE of the danger zone…guardrails leave room between where you hit them and where you would get really, really hurt.

I want GUARDRAILS in my life. I want to feel the tension and discomfort that comes from rubbing against the edges BEFORE I am in the disaster area.

Make sense?

Man oh man, it made perfect sense to me.

1.) Plan my calendar according to my priorities. I have read a bazillion books about this. I have listened to tapes watched seminars, and failed over and over again.

Then I gave birth to a child with Special Needs.

She can’t rush. If she needs medicine, I can’t forget or flash by because I am too busy. Her learning takes 10,000 more repeats that my other kids. If I want her to learn to write her name, I must help her write it thousands of times.

I’m not exaggerating.
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The only way to allow her the room to do that is to radically prioritize time.

I am rubbing the guardrail on this now…but the guardrail is here.

2.) I do the Christian basics. I am the poster child for the hypocrite in church.

That’s just the truth.

I pour over the Bible, study with friends, serve in ministry projects, rarely ever miss church, but I have this string of relationships that have crumbled.

People often say, “Well, you know how SHE is…” and the others in the conversation know exactly what they are talking about.

This unfortunate reality of my life would send me off of the cliff except for one thing: MY GUARDRAIL.

Here’s the gig: Because I go to church, listen to Christian music and go to Bible Study, I believe God is working in me.  I am not obligated to repeat the mistakes of my past, AND I am not obligated to conform my behavior to other people’s preferences.

Sometimes I offend people because of following Jesus. (I am not going to play that game, or watch that show…) That is a bummer, but it is easy. My guardrail means I have already made that decision.

Other times I flub up a thing so terribly that I can’t even seem to apologize right.

But God just keeps working in me; showing me this or that passage in the Bible, giving me this new Bible Study to learn a new way, showing me the character I lack in others who do it well.

3.) I evaluate the journey. After every Brighten A Corner project we evaluate thoroughly what happened. The good and the bad are all fair game.

The Leadership Team does not always agree on what is good and what is bad. Years and years of doing this has helped me be FAR LESS THIN SKINNED than I once was. At this point in my life I am much more interested in not repeating mistakes than I am looking good.

My hubby and I sit and write out the pros and cons of holidays, events, school things. We take a hard look and search for new ways for him to do things. (Still a little thin-skinned when I evaluate with my hubby…go figure.)

A ministry I am drawn to, Preemptive Love, puts out a FAILURE REPORT each year. Desiring complete transparency there is open conversation about what went wrong. Why? So you feel sorry for them? NO. Because facing and evaluating failures is one of the most effective tools for moving forward.

4.) I read a lot. Strange guardrail, I know. But a lifetime of learning is important to me.

Mostly I want it for my kids.

But that is unlikely if I don’t do it myself.

Recently I took every single book we owned off the shelves, and grouped them in categories.       This is one table out of 5.

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I gave away bags and bags of books, and grouped the rest of them together.

Classics here. Kids books there. John MacArthur on this shelf. (Yes, he got his own shelf…) Christian books together, success principle books gathered, novels all in one area. Let’s do this life well, and read…a lot.

5.) I laugh. I love to laugh. I laugh at myself. I laugh at funny people and funny things and funny memories.

My friends will tell you that I crack me up. Seriously, sometimes I can’t even control it.

I am so naughty.

Laughing is just a good idea. It is a wise way to get through life.

This past spring my dad had heart surgery. The first 24 hours after were awful. He was in agonizing pain, and an air bubble had gone into his brain so that he was considerably weaker on one side and could not really talk. (The bubble dissolved and all was well.)

But during those 24 hours, my mom and I found a way to laugh. We howled at private jokes. That laughter released chemicals in our bodies that helped us survive a very difficult time. I would make my mom guffaw with proof of my shady character and the claim that I am “going to hell for sure.”

Now…we know about being saved by grace and there was NOTHING real in it; but it was the perfect tool to lighten things for my mom. Laughter spared her from having to face hard things completely in the dark.

Because laughter is a guardrail, I give myself room not to be stodgy, when fresh air would help.

Guardrails make room for joy.

It is counterintuitive, because we buy the lie of freedom…that being able to do whatever we want whenever we want will make us happy.

But that is not true. And happiness is a pathetic substitution for joy. So I will keep my guardrails; and I will tend them so they remain effective. And I will be grateful for them.

Hello, 2016. Nice to Meet You

Hello, 2016. Nice to Meet You

2015 was not a bad year at all. I was stretched. I had adventures. I am closer to my kids and hubby at the end of it than I was at the beginning.

There were many moments of triumph and many moments of toil. But all in all, I chose to either enjoy or learn from them. Goodbye 2015, it was a pleasure.

And hello 2016, it is nice to meet you.

Again I am connecting with the spectacular Kelly over at Mrs. Disciple for her Friday 5 link up. (Kelly, and the gang of writers I met this summer at Jen Hatmaker’s home, have been a huge blessing to my little world in 2015. The For the Love  launch team experience, from beginning to now, has been an enormous gift.)

Five Goals for 2016

I am a huge proponent of acknowledging our priorities. I have said it before and I will say it again, we can only have one number one priority at any given time. It is because of that deeply held belief that I try to prioritize my goals, so they can build on one another…

#1.) Take Control of What My Family and I Eat. 

In 2015 I put quite a bit of prayer focus on trying to get rid of my laziness. I asked dear friends to pray for me, that God would mold my character and make me more efficient. I have made much progress, but in 2016 I hope to address another area of struggle.

I am tired all the time.

In that spirit, I have new cookbooks with recipes sticky noted. I have my calendar marked out. This will be a new way of doing things, combining foods in different ways to maximize energy. (And hopefully lose a few pounds while I am at it.)

My hubby and I both feel a bit better with just some minor tweaks. Once I get everything together and plow full steam ahead I am very optimistic our energy levels will see new highs.

#2.) Address and Fix Ryan’s Sleeping Issues. 

I was never a co-sleeping advocate. I believe babies in their own beds are a good thing…but then my one day old infant choked on her own mucous and turned blue. At that point we had never heard the term esophageal dysmotility, but suffice it to say she began sleeping right by my side.

For years every time we would talk about moving her to her own room she would get sick. Pneumonia. Epilepsy. Fever of 105.

We gave up, and she spent some or all of each night with us…pulling our hair, thwacking us with flailing arms, and hogging the bed. She would be quite satisfied with Mommy and a cot with one pillow to share.

It’s not very restful.

It needs to stop.

I have a plan in place, and I am hoping that the increased energy from eating well will help us endure the transition. Nearly 11 years of poor sleep has caused sincere fatigue, but I will actually miss her…

Sigh.

#3.) Getting More Organized So We Can Manage an Aggressive Homeschool Agenda

There is no way to fully communicate how organization impacts homeschooling the girls. (Actually, just Ryan. Reagan is completely in charge her home days.) It energizes it, and makes everything feel doable.

We have really high hopes this season. A huge emphasis will be placed on large motor skills, which we will use to help achieve goal #2. Continuing in gymnastics and much time in the pool will be staples. (I plan on making sure she is very, very tired.)

It is working. She can now play with the Wii…an amazing combination of motor planning skills that  show tremendous progress.

It is a huge hope to increase the reading we do with her. Audio books will be a component, but I am hoping to help her fall in love with books to a greater level. My older two kids were both avid readers…So much praying and planning will go into this. If we achieve success in goals 1 & 2, they will have an enormously positive impact on goal #3.

#4.) This Year’s Prayers for My Kids

After much prayer and contemplation, I have come to the conclusion that my prayer/encouragement focus for each of my kids is the same this year. I want all three of them to grow in being grateful, responsible and helpful.

So much of our lives is built around our faith. We only listen to Christian music. We go to church and youth group every week. We pray at every meal. I run a ministry. Bible Study is a large part of life. Both of our older kids attended Christian school for several years.

My heart for my kids’ faith is constant, and not a part of seasonal goals.

Although my middle is thriving academically and diligent about church, my husband and I are having regular conversations about the gaps that need filling before she launches off to college. These gaps, as it turns out, will also benefit our grown son who is just starting college on the GI Bill, and our peanut.

#5.) Honoring The Sabbath

Each of the previous 4 goals are actually part of sabbath success. Honoring the sabbath is not about forcing the family to take the day off, it is about being a good enough steward that I believe 6 days is enough, and the 7th day will add His beauty in  a new and fresh way.

Last year we spent many Sundays walking and biking after church. We’d have lunch by the beach, and head home. I hope to repeat that and take it to the next level. Healthy premade dinners, family games and reading by the fire would round it out beautifully.

Of  course there are other things rumbling around…ministry ideas and writing goals, but these five set the foundation for any other dreams I may have. They excite me about the coming days and make me happily say, “Hello, 2016. It’s nice to meet you.”

The Third Option…(A Lesson from the Good Samaritan)

The Third Option…(A Lesson from the Good Samaritan)

I woke up the day after Thanksgiving with lower back issues. I was in significant pain, unless I was lying down. So I was in bed (or the hot tub) for a day and a half.

I am embarrassed by how much I enjoyed it. It gave me time to ponder…

This has been an interesting year for me and my faith. I have been exposed to far more people than ever before who have a Christian walk that looks different than mine. I can possibly be accused of creating a homogenized environment.

Not totally. Maybe mostly.

My life often feels like it runs thematically. This season over and over again are these situations: One problem evaluated by two different perspectives. Not surprisingly, two different conclusions are made, and fought for, by the two wildly varying views.

It happens with my kids’ education.

It happens in politics.

It happens in current events.

And it happens in the church ESPECIALLY, it seems, about current events.

Recently an old friend, a new friend and I sat down with our Bibles wide open to discuss some differences in perspectives and theology. We asked questions of one another. We flipped through pages and looked at context. We opened my laptop to research original languages.

DSCN4879We connected, rather than divided.

It was wonderful.

We agreed on many, many things and understood each other’s perspectives on others.

That result is shamefully rare. I wish there was that a million times over.

In this heartbreaking season of terrorism and refugees, I seem to swing my way into battles with people on every side. Sigh.

On one side, a close-the-borders-friend posted a meme asking whether a Muslim Nation would allow Christian refugees to come to their country.

Because I believe that is an irrelevant question for a Bible believing Christian, and because we had been in Bible study together for years, I told her so. I contend we establish our morality–that which is right or wrong–not on what another religion says, not on what political leaders say, but on what the Bible says.

That didn’t go over well.

On the other side I have heard (more times than I can count) believers, who are cautious and don’t want the refugees brought by the thousands to America, called “un-Christian” or “not-very Christian.”

Double sigh.

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Reading through the book of Luke, it occurred to me that God provides us with a beautiful third option right there in Scripture…The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The 10th chapter tells the story of a businessman who is beaten, robbed, stripped and left for dead on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. A priest–someone who had chosen a life of faith as a profession–saw the victim and passed by on the other side of the road.

A Levite–someone who’s family history tied him to religious privilege and responsibility–also passed by on the opposite side of the road.

Each of them, by their inaction, decided the wounded, broken man was not their responsibility.

Any version of the story makes it abundantly clear that Jesus does not want us to be like the priest or the Levite.

The Samaritan bandaged him, put him on his beast and took him to an Inn, where he cared for him for a day. But as I read on, something really struck me. He then left him in the care of the Innkeeper, promising to pay for his needs.

He didn’t load the beaten man up and carry him off to a foreign land, far away from home. He lovingly cared for him where he was. He offered both his personal time and financial resources to help.

This is food for thought.

Another thing leapt off the pages of the book of Luke and seared its way into my consciousness. The story of Mary and Martha immediately follows.

I think Christians who want to serve the refugees in this country, who are so harshly judging those who don’t, should have a look. If I am serving, but my heart is judging, God is going to want me to change that.

Oh how I have lived that so many times over…

I think Christians who are shouting about terrorists and Radical Islamists should have a look at what is Jesus most radical teaching: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44.

Not my strength.

That Jesus. He doesn’t let me off the hook, but He does make me think that the Inn Keeper is the unsung hero of the parable. If I am the good samaritan, I need to make sure the Inn Keeper is financially able to do that work.

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I must not look the other way when lives depend on it.

I must be willing to support help where people are, where they can get back home someday. I must not dismiss people who see things differently without working to bridge the gaps. I must base my beliefs and decisions on the teachings of Jesus, which means it doesn’t really matter if they are our enemies, or if they would not help me. I help because I love HIM.

That is the only option that matters.

 

 

I Can Make A Great Pie Crust…

I just don’t.

I know. I know. That is blasphemy to some, including some in my extended family.

But that is my real life.

I love the holidays. I love that my kids’ favorite meals of the year are turkey and prime rib. I love a warm and decorated house and pounds of butter melted over everything. Several years ago I forced encouraged everyone to play games when we gathered. We’ve laughed through countless rounds of Apples to Apples, Cranium, Scattergories and poker.

However, real life and really great ideas can’t always occupy the same space.

In my little world, over the last decade, we have dealt with a daughter with special needs, a son at war in the desert a million miles away, two parents with Alzheimer’s, other family drama, the financial crash of 2008 and the daily mutiny of life. There is a lot.

And because we want to do this life we have with as much joy as possible, I had to let some things go.

Pie crust is one of those things.

Photo by saveur.com

Photo by saveur.com

Making it from scratch makes a big mess. Perhaps not for everyone, but for me there is flour everywhere. I rarely get to it in time to refrigerate it properly, so there is excessive ice water involved. It works, but it is not ideal.

Ironically I used apple pies to get my hubby to fall in love with me. I would go to church with him on Sundays, then stop at the store and get pie making ingredients. We’d have dinner and pie for dessert…with homemade crust.

As I have matured I realized that doesn’t illustrate my failure as a current-day pie maker, but the necessity of embracing seasons. This is not the season for homemade crust.

Letting go of such things truly allows this to be a season of gratitude. In that spirit, I am again linking up with Kelley at Mrs. Disciple.

I am grateful for prayer. Yesterday was Thanksgiving. My house was clean. I had all the shopping done early. The night before as I went to bed the pies were baked, the turkey stuffed, the mashed potatoes finished, the table set and the kitchen cleaned.

That is astounding for me…completely out of character.

But I have been praying for God to work on my laziness…to fashion and mold my character. I have asked dear friends to pray for me.

This Thanksgiving was a victory.

I want to keep in mind overcoming my laziness is not so that I can add more to my world; it is so I can do the things already in my world with greater excellence.

I am grateful for breathing room. We had a different gathering last night. A few faces who are always welcome, but rarely show filled in for others who are usually here, but not this year.

It provided breathing room.

Life is messy. Relationships are hard. Sometimes breathing room is valuable; restorative; invigorating.

I discovered that relational breathing room allowed for more energy to get things done. It shocked me…what an effect that had. It is causing me to look around and reevaluate.

I am grateful I am a terrible housekeeper. Obviously not always, because chaos depletes life. And, of course, I can’t and don’t let myself off the hook because God won’t let me.

But there are times when a family game of poker is more important than an empty sink.

When people have a long drive ahead of them after we gather, how will I choose to spend time with them? Doing dishes and sweeping floors or laughing and talking?

I don’t even struggle with this.

As our guests were leaving one said, “I feel so bad leaving you with all those dishes.”

“I am the kind of person who can totally sleep with a dirty kitchen,” I confessed.

Truer words have never been spoken.

Here’s the reality I often remind myself of: “There are benefits and drawbacks to all things.” All things. Clean people often miss out on moments. Messy people have to deal with the piles in the morning. I am trying to find a balance for the everyday, but yesterday I was glad to be able to easily let it go.

I am grateful for the ability to cook. I love when the smell of turkey and stuffing fills my home. I love watching my youngest devour mashed potatoes. I love how much my middle daughter looks forward to pumpkin chiffon pie.

Why don’t I gather more people around my table more often?

I am figuring that out.

But when I do, I really enjoy the smells and sights and flavors of good food.

It is not too much work for me, as it can be for others. I enjoy it.

Part of the reason I enjoy it is I am comfortable with store bought pie crust.

I am grateful for my family. Aching, stretching, beautiful gratitude fills me. I am happy to be married, and to have the marriage work for us. We are flawed. In many ways we have low expectations which leaves room for wonder.

We know the areas of our lives that need work…we are working on those places. We are so much less likely to get rattled today than we were years ago. In many corners the hard edges have been knocked off, not by the battles and disappointments but by surviving them.

I am so happy to be a mom. Sometimes I wish I were a better one, but mostly I realize that there is no such thing as perfection in parenting.  Each of my three kids, different as they are from one another, is a precious gift from a God who loves me.

Back when I gathered on Tuesday nights to study the Bible with friends, we would begin by making gratitude lists. Gratitude is imperative in my life…Yesterday and everyday.

 

 

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.