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

 

 

 

 

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…

Less Than A Week To Go…

Praise the Lord.

My family has a tradition to spend Halloween at Disneyland. This year we are changing it up. We will vote on November 8th and head down south.

No matter what happens on election day, the day after we will be in the HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.

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Smartest decision I’ve made in a while.

This election season has been caustically dividing.

I realized the other day that only once during my adult life have I cast a presidential vote and gone to bed that night with my candidate declared the winner. I am not sure WHY I allowed myself to get so twisted up this go around, but I did. Praise the Lord I don’t have TV. I would likely have needed to be institutionalized…

As we round the corner into the final(ly) stretch, legitimate concerns on both sides about character are no longer what matter. We are here with these candidates. It will be one or the other. It is time to accept it and look at policy and the future.

Over and over again, during these contentious times, I have asked Never Trumper people what would have to happen for Trump to be a good president.

Not one answered my question.

Before we get too far, I should say that I watched Hillary’s entire convention acceptance speech. For the first time–ever–I did not agree with a single thing the opposing nominee said. Never once did I nod my head in agreement and think, “That’s a good idea.” Lest you think I am completely closed minded, I am the same person who thought that Al Gore’s VP speech at the ’92 Convention was fabulous. (“It’s time for them to go…”) So, I am capable of appreciating things from various sources.

From my perspective the only way Hillary could succeed as President is to fail at her stated agenda. Bummer.

Now I want to think through and articulate how Trump could succeed as President of the United States.

Pass a budget every year. In 2013 President Obama submitted a budget to Congress. Every single Senator and Representative who voted, voted against it.

He got zero votes.

That pretty much sums up how well things have gone for the last 8 years.

If Donald Trump can work with Congress enough to get SOME support that would be a step forward. But this is the greatest nation of the face of the earth, and it is unacceptable to NOT have a budget to work from.

Let’s start here. With the basics.

Repeal and replace Obamacare. I like what this article has to say about his plan. Obamacare has been a disaster for my family. Relief and hope for better medical care would be a welcome result of this grueling election process.

Increase the GDP. The third quarter GDP growth in this country was 1.4%. An article from 2015 in the Washington Post says, “Quarterly GDP growth or decline reflects real economic activity.” Low growth means low economic activity.

If you increase the GDP, you increase opportunities for a variety of walks of life. From the investors to the people working in manufacturing, higher numbers mean good things. Things have stagnated for years, and if Trump can get the GDP to 3%-4%, that would mean he is effectively leading.

Reduce the number of people receiving food stamps. Under this administration food stamps recipients are up 42%. I want to see every one who needs them getting them, while seeing the number of people needing them drastically reduced.

Make sense? I would love the solution to be two-fold. First, better jobs that come from reducing regulations, removing the Obamacare burden on small businesses (which leaves more revenue for investment), and tax incentives for job production.

Second, I would love to see the church play an even greater role in temporary aid for struggling families. I don’t have all the answers as to how this would happen, but I often think that most of the issues that divide the left and right of politics could be solved by a Christian community that took responsibility for solutions.

Make a significant change in the VA. I would like to see Veterans with easy, affordable access to medical care and counseling–counseling that helps and doesn’t just hand out medications.

I would love to see a reduction in suicides.

The VA offices in colleges are often woefully underfunded and provide no real help for veteran students.

Again, I don’t know what all the solutions are, but I know progress needs to be made.

I know this will make me a terrible Christian to some, but Roe v Wade is not my hill to die on. I care far more about the need for abortions than the legality of abortions and I see the solutions as economic in most places. Let me illustrate that for you:

Often women turn to abortion when they can not envision a decent life they can afford as a single mom.

Often men bail on fatherhood when they fear they cannot even pay their bills.

When moms and dads are working all the time and come home exhausted, families don’t get the intentional nurturing they need to thrive.

When dreams die, families struggle.

Let the politicians battle it out for legality of killing babies. The moral imperative on the church is the same regardless of what is legal, we must do a better job helping people know God and live Him out in daily life. If God is IN YOU, abortion is no longer an option.

My dream is not to take away abortion, but to take away the need for abortion. The only way I know to do that is to vote for economic policies I have the most hope will actually help people, and live out the Gospel that is the only hope to heal people.

There you have it. My somewhat measurable standard of what Donald Trump could do to preside well over this nation. And, of course, choose silence more often…

 

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.

I Am Not Kidding

I Am Not Kidding

What we need to put into our [kids] minds is often sophisticated, consistently reliable language. What is readily available to us is often unsophisticated, consistently unreliable language.”-Andrew Pudewa

Once again it feels like the nation has exploded.

I hear gut wrenching cries. I watch bullets out of nowhere. I listen to the questions agonizing what do we do?

Today, Kelly over at Mrs. Disciple is discussing books for her Friday Five. Providentially it weaves beautifully into the scenes unfolding around the country and provides an eloquent answer. The way forward is to read.

I am not kidding.

Language is the motor of thinking, which propels behavior, which dictates results. If we want to change the results it is incumbent upon us to change thinking. Arguing and demagoguery rarely (if ever) help. But reading? Reading has the power to change everything.

Here are my five suggested starting points:

THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.

You don’t have to be a Bible believing Christian to have your life enriched by Proverbs. There are many Chinese proverbs and Old English proverbs I glean wisdom from. Likewise, the book in the Bible has benefits for anyone who will listen:

  • “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it springs the well of life.” Proverbs 4:23
  • “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

What an easy place to start. Pray for wisdom for every single person, side, perspective, hashtag. If you follow that to the book of James, verse 3:17,  hope comes alive: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

Isn’t that something everyone could agree on?

A THOMAS JEFFERSON EDUCATION by OLIVER De MILLE.

Only when teachers realize that the principal cause of learning that occurs in a student is the activity of the student’s own mind do they assume the role of cooperative artists. ” Mortimer J. Adler

I am not a fan of the pubic school system. It is not that I don’t love teachers, I do. I believe the system is based on a flawed philosophy. Because the fundamental beliefs dictate direction, to me it is irrelevant how much money is spent in public schools because the money continues to move things in the wrong direction. I believe public schools are built on a myth:

“The myth is that it is possible for one human being to educate another…The fact is that the only person who can fix education is the student…[because] education occurs when students get excited about learning and apply themselves.” page 12.

Although this is not an emotional book, I cried as I read it.  It reframed much of my entire life…why, even though I was above average intelligence, I hated school and nearly flunked out. Why, even though I love God’s word, I struggled for years to get along and engage in Bible Studies. It boiled down to this:

People were trying to teach me what to think, and I was desperate to learn how to think.

According to DeMille, a primary goal of teaching students how to think is “to perpetuate freedom, to prepare people who know what freedom is, what is required to maintain it, and who exert the will to do what is required,” page 23. 

I want to be that kind of a person. I want it for my kids and as many people in this country who also want it. To bring that in context of this week, there is no freedom if the people enforcing the laws are not trustworthy. Likewise, respecting the rule of law is also demanded for freedom to reign. You cannot have one without the other.

THE READ ALOUD HANDBOOK by JIM TRELEASE.

Next to having a healthy, godly marriage, the very best thing we can do for our kids is read to them.

Study after study shows one consistent fact: “No reading outside school, low scores inside school,” page 5.

I believe this emphatically. The way to get kids learning and growing is to gather them around adults with books and to read to them.

I began with my kids as newborns. When my middle was 4 months old our pediatrician was part of a program to encourage literacy in families. He would give away books at well-baby visits. When we were finished with our check up, he grabbed a book and began his spiel about exposure to books.

Reagan lunged forward, grabbed the book out of his hand, opened it and started babbling as she “read” it. He laughed out loud and said, “I guess she knows what a book is.”

I believe teaching and encouraging parents to read good, quality books to their kids would, over time, help to fix many of the struggles in this nation. Some of the benefits to children include:

  • Increasing vocabulary
  • Encouraging growing attention spans
  • Giving a context for history and beauty

Reading Les Miserables, all 1300 pages of it, certainly would have a more positive effect than listening to rap music that says, “F#@!**^ the police” over and over and over again.

THE CLASSICS

These are my current obsession:

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Barnes & Noble has a beautiful, incredibly affordable collection of kids versions of classic books. I read them to my little peanut.

I cry EVERY TIME Gilbert Blythe gives up his teaching job for Anne Shirley, or when Jo comes home and has sold her hair to send money for her father. As Ryan grows, I want to start reading some of the abridged versions to her, finally reading the full length stories.

The classics pour into our hearts themes of family and loyalty. The villains show us how not to be while the heroes model endurance and faith. Studying character traits in third party examples helps to form our own character. We need to be pouring into the character of our nation…beginning with the leaders.

THE DOCUMENTS AND LETTERS OF OUR FOUNDING FATHERS.

Recently our teenager was doing a history report and needed original sources for the bibliography. She was getting frustrated because online sources were frowned upon and difficult to site. I started laughing and walked her over to a bookshelf.

“What do you need, kiddo? Here you are.”

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Common Sense by Thomas Paine? We’ve got you covered. Looking for the Declaration of Independence? We have several to choose from.

Members of the House of Representatives and Senate should have to read, out loud, the Declaration of Independence and Constitution once a month for 5 years straight… just to give a little perspective.

Rights are for all people, not some people. Let’s infuse our minds with the truths that set us free from tyranny so many years ago. It may be the only way to prevent tyranny in the years to come.

Yes, I know it may seem simplistic but no, I am not kidding when I say that reading may be the very best chance this nation’s future has.

I Need A Drink

I Need A Drink

I love Lays potato chips. The gentle crisp and the salt on my lips evoke satisfaction in my world.

Chips are a treat. They are often partnered with friends and other delicious foods. They come with good times.

They also must come with good drinks.

The commercials were made about me; I cannot eat just one. And as much as I love the salty satisfaction, chips bring their own kind of thirst. Too much of the seasoning and I am parched.

Which is why I struggle to have a social life.

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I am a potato chip.

Too much of me and people need a drink.

I think I have BACD… Biblical Application Confusion Disorder. It’s a thing, I’m sure.

I want to be salt & light. (Matthew 5:13-16)

I also believe man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)

What happens when I sow seeds of sodium?

My life is an ongoing battle. One moment I know and believe God created me and loves me filled with fiery passion.  Then I swing wildly to deep convictions, mixed with condemnation, and desires to change and be sanctified by Him. Or to be liked–I can’t really tell.

I want to be a cheerleader, rooting people on in victory. I also believe the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) which means I CAN NOT cheer on everything.

If someone I love is drinking poison, I am just not the gal to say, “Gee, that tastes good doesn’t it?” No. Spitting it out and throwing away the glass is the only rational choice.

That is not the best kind of cocktail party small talk.

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I have this really, really watered down prosperity gospel-ish thinking sometimes. I want to believe that if  I answer God’s callings and do what He tells me to do faithfully and with as much excellence as I can, life will be rosy.

Everyone will like me.

I will be invited to everything.

But that is not real life.

In 1 Kings 22, doing things God’s way didn’t work out well, according to the world’s standards, for Micaiah son of Imlah. Nope. He ended up in prison.

I have my already purchased, advanced copy of Lysa Terkeurst’s new book Uninvited highlighted in my head, because life doesn’t always turn out the way I want it to. As soon as it arrives, I am sure I will DEVOUR it.

I want to be salt, without being too-salty. How can I season without ruining the flavors of that which I am seasoning?

These are the things I ask the Lord in the still, small, sleepless hours of the night. I am searching for HIS hand to guide me, confident that is the only way to get the real answers I need. I want to be me, red-hot for God’s word and aflame for a life of sincerity, with out having people walk away from me taking a deep breath and saying, “I need a drink.”

It won’t be an easy journey, I fear…but with God, ALL things are possible.

I am linking up with Suzanne Eller today chatting about all things salty…

It Doesn’t Always Go This Way

It Doesn’t Always Go This Way

School got out two weeks ago tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

YAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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When I finished setting it up, I left it.

Again, I said nothing.

A few minutes later, she began exploring…

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

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

I didn’t melt down.

She didn’t veg out.

We all won.

The Finish Line

The Finish Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

First, there was HISTORY DAY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISAIAH 40:29-32

 

 

5 Reasons to Thank You on Father’s Day

5 Reasons to Thank You on Father’s Day

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

But I wouldn’t trade it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know how lucky that makes us?

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