This is a simple story of a simple family trying to slow down this crazy life and enjoy the "moments"...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Break That Chain....

Yesterday I made a big fat mistake.

I should have known better.

In fact...I DID know better.

I just somehow forgot what I knew.

I was reading a verse I really love that says:

"And not only that but we also glory in tribulations, know that tribulation produces perseverance (sometimes translated as "patience") and patience produces character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
Romans 5:3-5

Great verse, by the way.
And upon reading this verse I thought of ALL the ways I have been showing how much I lack patience.

(And you KNEW this was coming....)
I asked God to help me with patience.

Bad idea.
Good thing to want....but bad idea.

Because in order for me to learn patience....
Well....look at the verse.
What produces patience?

(Give you a hint....the answer is not "a calm peaceful rainbow-y kind of day".)

And so.
To sum it up?

The kids woke up and the morning went to pot.

They whined...I yelled.
They crept like snails...I barked orders.
They picked on each other...I snapped.
They spilled stuff...I fumed.
They ignored me....I got louder.
They got upset....I did too.

That bad boy didn't even get one foot in the window.

On the sullen quiet snuffling ride to school I took a few deep breaths.
I knew what I had done....
And I felt awful.

Sure....they need some discipline.
In fact they need discipline, manners, stop watches, referees, groomers and an occasional drop-kick,

But they are really good kids.


Kids who are learning how to be responsible God-loving adults...
And who unfortunately have psycho mom as their example.

So I did what I must sadly too often do...

I apologized.
I told them I shouldn't have lost my temper and raised my voice.
I asked their forgiveness and told them how very much I love them...
and tried to change the focus to other things they were going to do that day.

We got to school without further incidents and they climbed out of the car smiling and shouting (or whispering for those in 4th grade and above) "I love you's!" and moseyed on in to class.

And I pulled away with tears in my eyes because I felt like the biggest jerk in the world.

What had I done?

God gave me these three little people...AS A GIFT!
Three precious beautiful souls.
Children I was supposed to teach about God's love....

I am so unworthy of these gifts.
I am truly a lousy mom.
I am the WORST example to them.

That's what I sat thinking in my car.

These kids deserve so much more than I can give them in terms of leadership, love, and calmness.

Maybe they'd be better off if I went back to work and hired a cool nanny who was a cross between Mary Poppins and Jessie from Nickelodeon.

But then I remembered what I had told my son a few days before.

He had requested for me to do something, and when I told him "no" he came back with his typical 9 year old response (which is actually the typical response for all my kids because they adore their aunt and cousins),
"But Aunt Kim lets the cousins do it!"

And I retorted with my standard reply,
"Aunt Kim is much cooler than I am.
And sorry kid....but for some reason, God picked me to be your mom."

That was it.
That IS it.

God PICKED me to be their mom.
He picked me.
He chose me.
He selected me to be the one to raise these beautiful souls.

I truly have no earthly idea.
I suck at it much of the time.

But...God knows what is going on.

He knew...
even before ever creating my great great great a gazillion times great grandfather...
that I would come along with my short temper and desire for order and perfection.
He knew how I would react to whining and "accidental" elbow bumping.
He knew what noises would make my left eyelid twitch....and He still chose to give me these children.

"For I have chosen her, that she may command her children and her household after her to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has promised him."
Genesis 18:19 (underline/emphasis mine)

God knew.
He knows.
And God simply does NOT make mistakes.

I mess up with my kids.
Some days more than others.
That is a sad true undeniable fact.

But...God knew that before He gave them to me.

I have to remember....that He knows best.

I can't berate myself...yell at myself....make myself feel even lower than I already do about the mistakes I make with my kids.

I have to break that chain...
Remember that I need and have God's help...
And just buck up and try again.

Does God want me to snap at my kids?
To lose patience and get angry and frustrated?
To raise my voice when things don't go smoothly?

Big fat NO to that.

I need to be a godly example to them....
And that includes the areas of patience, tolerance, self-control....
AND following God's word.

God's word which says, 
Despite my MANY inaptitudes...
I am chosen to be a mom.

I have to break the chain of self criticism that I wrap around myself when it comes to mothering.
Funny....(or not!) but I ran across a Cool Blog today that showed me how many moms struggle with this.

Apparently there are a lot of us.

We're not all great moms.
I'm nowhere near great most of the time.

But....I am enough....because I am chosen.

No matter how badly I mess up...
I can turn it around.
I can realize,
and try again.

According to God.....I'm still the right girl for the job.

Will my kids hate me at some point for what I do to them?
Probably they will....that's why I'm saving for their therapy now!

But even when they yell at me and tell me that I'm personally ruining their life...
I don't have to feel trapped by the fact that I'm awful and they should have another better mom.

By knowing that God chose ME....
I can break that rusty rough chain that has bound me to the idea that I am not good enough for the job.

God chose me to be the mom.
And I'm sticking with it.
Because God knows what He's doing....even when I don't!

He'll help me with these little critters.....
I just have to remember to ask Him BEFORE I become Unglued.

And while I am truly and honestly grateful to have an opportunity to learn patience....
I think I won't specifically ask for that again for a while.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


My six year old LOVES to help.
Loves it.

(Except when I ask her to help clean her room or pick up the dog "souvenirs" from the backyard. 
When I make those requests she always seems to be suddenly deathly ill or otherwise occupied. 
Go figure.)

She wants to help me
start the dishwasher,
drive the car,
push the shopping cart,
saute loudly popping things on the stove,
put on eyeliner,
wash the dog,
put groceries on the check-out belt,
cut my toenails,
and on
and on
and on.

According to parenting books I should encourage this behavior....and for the most part, I do.
I think it's great to have someone who really wants to help me...
And I know that if I "train her" now, then when she's older she will be a huge help.

I would guess that I am not a parenting book author's favorite person.
There are some things I simply say "no" to.

The stove thing isn't so safe,
My eyesight is too necessary to have an eyeliner shoved into my retina,
And I have had my foot mutilated by TOO MANY shopping carts to allow "helping" with that one.

For the most part though ...she is my tag-along-assistant-extrordinaire.

And I don't think her esteem has been too damaged by my "no's"...
Because she keeps on asking to help.
(A lot.)

But here's the thing....
She's happy when she helps me....
But she is THRILLED when I ASK her to help.

And if it is a job where she can tell she has been truly and honestly needed?

She is down-right over-the-moon giddily ecstatic.

She will get this look of joyous amazement like..
Wow...I was really useful!

I mean after all,
Doesn't everyone like to feel that way?

When you get your paycheck at the end of a long week,
It's good to be able to take care of your bills...
But it's also nice to know you were useful to your customers.

When you can answer a question on some obscure subject and save someone a ton of research
(or a quick trip to google-land)
It feels good to know you can be useful to them.

When someone tells you that they, "Couldn't have done it without you!"
It's a great feeling to know that your knowledge and/or skills were usable.

What's really cool to me though,
Is when I don't think I am usable...
And I am chosen anyway...
And somehow,
I become an asset.

Last month the kids and I went to Moore, Oklahoma to deliver some thank-you goodies to all of the volunteers helping around the town.

We knew that our city needed those volunteers desperately when we had our storm 2 years ago....and we wanted those people to know how appreciated they were.

Bunches of amazing friends and neighbors baked and brought over  DELICIOUS treats for us to deliver for them.

One special lady brought yummy muffins and a huge tupperware container full of....
Stuffed animals?

She explained to me that her children had put some "comfort kits" together.
Each one consisted of:
a new stuffed animal,
a toothbrush,
and a pair of cuddly PJ's.

Originally her kids (ages 13 and 10!!!) had a vision of these kits being given to children abruptly entering the foster system so they would have something of their own.
(How awesome is that!?!?!)

But when their mom explained why she was baking muffins, they asked if they could send some of these bundles with her because there might be kids in Moore who would need them.

Once I wiped my eyes enough to see
I promised the mom that I would do my very best
to put these precious gifts in the hands that needed them most.

So....we went to Moore.
FYI....not a bunch of kids around a disaster zone.

We met a woman who's grandkids had lost everything and she happily-tearfully took a few bundles to give them...but that was it.

By lunch we had passed out almost all of the baked goods....but still had the huge bin of "comfort kits" in the back of my car.

After we had eaten the kids and I discussed HOW we were supposed to find people to give these things to!!

We didn't know our way around the town and had NO idea where to find specific groups of people.
We gave up.
On ourselves, that is.

We realized that God was going to have to do some serious rein-grabbing and steer us to the right people or place.

We bowed our heads in Qdoba and prayed,
"Father God,
Thank you for letting us come here today.
Thank you for all of the people back in Joplin who want to help this town.
Please us what to do with these bundles.
Give us a divine appointment with whomever really needs them.
Guide us to where you want us to be...
Show us where to go and what to do...
And thanks for being with us."

Then we loaded in the car and drove back to the site where Plaza Elementary School used to stand.
A chain-link fence encircled the area, and people milled around putting mementos on the fence and just looking and talking.

We pulled up to the curb and parked, and I said,
"Thanks, God!"
"We understand, God!"
"I am faithful to follow Your leading, God!"
"Now what???"

I saw a man with three younger kids standing by the fence.
I was out of the car before I realized it (left the door open in fact)
and walking toward him with my kids scrambling after us.

"Excuse me, Sir?" I asked.


"Are these your kids?"


(What?  Dang.  Dang.)

"Well...sort of.  They're students of mine.  I am a teacher....used to teach here in fact.  Those guys were students here.  So many of them lost so much...."

(And here he teared up and couldn't go on.  He later told me that he hadn't cried in days....and he wasn't sure why he suddenly did.)

"Ummm....this might sound strange....but....
I think you're the person we've been praying to meet."

I certainly received an interesting look...but when I went on to explain what we had and what we'd been praying for....he started smiling.
And crying.
And smiling.

He told us that he was going to a meeting
at a church that would serve as a temporary school next year.

And at that meeting would be many of the kids and families who had been "displaced."
In other was a gathering of families who had lost their homes and weren't sure what to do about the upcoming school year.
The teachers and administration were going to discuss options and try to learn the families' needs
AND give them some uplifting hope.

These "comfort kits"??

You bet your sweet doozy they would be well used and received there!!

So we transferred the big Tupperware container into his car and I gave the last pan of brownies to a volunteer group from Alabama that was riding around with this teacher.

We got to see where school would be held that year,
And met some truly wonderful people.

And when we piled back in the car I turned to the kids and said,


And one of them asked,
"Do you think God let us meet that man?"

"Duh!" said the sensitive other sibling,
"Why do you think He put that guy there right after we prayed?  And why do you think we had all of these animals in the car anyway?"

After gently removing the offended sibling's vice grip from around the "duh" sibling's arm, I sat back in my seat.

Well.....God saw fit to use us.
To use me.

Even in my dirty cracked dented and dinged state....
He allowed me the unbelievable privilege of being a courier.

Of being the transportation that delivered some children's beautiful gifts
into the hands of someone who would put them
just where God wanted them to go.

God knew that there were certain little souls who would benefit from the packages that people in Joplin had put together.

He could have just made care packages appear outside these kids' doors.
He could have convinced the makers of the care kits to go to Oklahoma themselves.
He could have hinted at the teacher to make some comfort bundles himself!

But no.
He let me in on it.

And He let me be useful.
And He let me feel needed.
And in that....He made me feel loved.

And I stand amazed.
Humbly amazed.

when my daughter is helping me...
If she feels even an inkling
of this amazement...
this wonderful feeling of being useful to someone who does not actually need help but is using you to show you how loved you are.....

Then she can totally clean toilets with me anytime.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Opportunity is A-knockin'....

I read a news story recently about a waitress who received an amazing surprise.
One of her regular customers left her some crazy big tip....
Crazy big like over $400 on a 6 dollar tab.

The patron said she did it because the waitress had always been.....
Just plain nice.

The waitress was completely floored and tried to not accept the money,
but the woman insisted.

Apparently the customer had been coming to this restaurant for years and this waitress had always taken special good care of her.

The waitress (like many people in the service industry) probably tried to be friendly to many people.
That's how the wait-staff makes a living, after all.
Tips for a job well done.

Apparently this waitress had gone above and beyond many times.

Did she do that for a tip?
I don't honestly know....but in my happy smiley bubble I would like to think not.
I'd like to think that she just enjoyed making people feel good...
That serving other people was just how she like to live her life.

Or maybe she did it solely for gratuities.

Either way....she did her job well and was recognized for it.

And that's a nice thing.

I know that I appreciate being appreciated.
I think most of us do.

And that "appreciation" can come in all kinds of forms:
...a paycheck award
...a thank-you note
...a bonus
...a referral
...a special favor
...concretes delivered from Shake's

...all things that acknowledge that you have done something that the "receiver" feels grateful for.

There are so many things we do for other people because...
because we have to.

Maybe it's because it's our the waitress.
Maybe it's because it's our volunteering at school or church.
Maybe it's because it's for our family.
Maybe it's just things that holding the door open for someone with full arms.

Those are all things we do every day because it's just plain LIFE.

What I have on my mind are the other types of things.
The ones that inconvenience us....
Stretch us....
Make us go beyond the boundaries of regular service...
Mess with our plans.

If someone asks you to watch their 4 kids for an afternoon...
or take them to the doctor/store/Austin, Texas....
or water their plants while they're out of town...
or teach them to bake a cake....
or anything else that requires a commitment of time and makes us switch our lives around in big or small ways.

Those kinds of things.

I have an aunt who, when her kids were little, belonged to a babysitting "co-op".

The purpose of this group was to provide childcare for each other's kids.
They had tickets...and would exchange them per kid per hour of child care so that no one would feel taken advantage of and everyone would have fair time of care vs. freedom.

(Neat idea, by the way. Wish I'd lived in her neighborhood!)

Occasionally, as a favor, one of the moms would let the kids stay an extra hour or so.
BUT...that had to be returned by the "free" mom later.

When a favor was done...a favor was expected in return.

How many times have a heard my own kids say to their siblings,

"Will you please please please let me use this amazingly-precious-object-that-I-never-cared-about-until-I-saw-you-playing-with-it??
I PROMISE I will pay you back and let you use my equally-as-junky-precious-thingy???????"

Favors require repayment.

The Bible even says it with:
"Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt."
Romans 4: 4

Work, or a "favor",  leaves a debt that must be paid.
It's not done just to be nice....but with the anticipation that something will be given at some point in return.

It might not be  fairly obvious "wages" such as a paycheck or next-night babysitting.
It might simply be knowing that you have someone indebted to you....and that if you need something you can call on them to provide it.


On the flip side....

One day not long after the tornado I was standing outside the remnants of my kitchen trying to decide if it was a smart idea to retrieve all my beloved cookbooks from the one remaining saggy baggy cupboard.

A police car (from somewhere in Kansas???) showed up and two officers walked through the drizzly rain to ask me what I was doing.

I explained my random dilemma...and without a second's pause the guys grabbed someone's giant plastic flower pot,
climbed over a tree and a grill,
went through a shattered window,
filled the pot with wet moldy cookbooks
and carried it to the back of my car.

In tears and shock I thanked them and thanked them.

And you know what they did?

They thanked me.

They said they had been hoping and looking for an opportunity to help someone....
And they were really grateful I had let them do it.

They they drove off on their shiny white horse back to Kansas.

These sweet men had been searching for an opportunity to serve.
They felt grateful that they had been able to help.

They didn't want any kind of repayment....
They were happy to be a blessing to me...
And they,
in turn,
felt grateful and blessed.

They were appreciative for the opportunity.
They weren't looking for appreciation.

They weren't working for wages....but for grace.

Almost every day I  ask God to show me how I can serve Him.
And almost every day oh-so-inconvenient needs show up around me.

My daughter's teacher asks me to make copies for her as I'm rushing to make a coffee date.
I'll do it
But am I just happy to be a blessing?
Or do I think that she will be appreciative to me and be nicer to my kiddo?

God ALWAYS give me chances to serve.
Opportunities to bless.
Instances where I can help one of His babies.

I don't have to go across the globe or move mountains....
There are openings all around me.

Do I look at them as favors?
Or opportunities?

Do I require wages?
Or will it be counted as grace?

You know what I've found?
When I get off my cushy little high horse and realize that God is giving me a chance to be of use to Him...
When I do the task with the pure joy that comes from truly serving...
I usually end up a heck of a lot more blessed than whomever I am "serving."

Bonus with purchase.

Favor vs Opportunity.
One entitles you to repayment...
The other is a two-way service.

I mean after all...
I'm pretty much of the opinion that God's given me everything I have....including time.
So how can I claim it as my own and only grudgingly parcel it out when it's advantageous to me?

I will try to see opportunities instead of inconveniences.
I will try to work for grace instead of debt.
I will enjoy and appreciate the joy that comes from serving.

But...I will not say no if someone sends me a wedding cake concrete.
I believe those are gifts from heaven, too.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I'll Take a Diet Coke Please....

When my kids get a coke
(which is a southern generic term for ANY type of carbonated beverage...)
at a "serve yourself fountain drink" kind of place
they like to fill their cups with a little bit of each available drink.

They call it a "suicide."

--side note....
I tried to convince them to call it a "kamikaze" because that's what I called it as a kid and it doesn't sound so bad to me.  Then my eldest pointed out that "kamikazes" kill more people than "suicides' I gave up.

I did that as a kid.
Fun times, fun times.

Well, the other day we were sitting at lunch.

I picked up my cup to take a sip of my Diet Coke...
and just about spit a mouthful of NASTINESS across the table.

I had grabbed my kids cup instead.


After my precious offspring stopped laughing,
he asked me if I really thought it tasted that bad.

Upon consideration....I told him it most certainly did taste bad,
but probably not bad enough to warrant the spitting reaction.

Thing was....I had expected a Diet Coke taste.
Thing was....I got a weird lemony peppery funky orangey taste.

It wasn't my favorite...but it was deal-with-able.
It just wasn't what I was expecting.

Had I known I was going to get a "new taste sensation"
I would have been anticipating it.

But I wasn't.
It was a minor shocker.

If perhaps the lid had been off of the cup and I could have seen the strange orange tint of the drink...
....then I might have realized it wasn't MY drink before I took a gulp.

If you have a little opaque cardboard cup sitting in front of you...
the easiest way to figure out what's in there
(other than chugging it)
is to figure out a way to see the contents. see the overflow of the contents.

When some of the liquid pours out
(on the table or into your mouth)
then you can identify the drink.

Yesterday I was in the middle of paying bills.
I was really focused on trying to figure out some numbers when my 9 year old came up to ask me a random strange innocent question about atoms.
I answered the best I could,
but apparently it wasn't good enough because he kept asking related questions.

I finally said (not yelled, but said quite firmly),

"Ethan!  I said I didn't know.  I have no idea whether protons or neutrons are bigger.  You'll have to call your grandfather.  Now please let me finish this!"

Later, after I was done, I found my son sitting quietly in his room.
His eyes were watery and he wouldn't look at me.

"What's wrong, bud?"

"You're mad at me."

"What??  No I'm not!  Why would you think that?"

"Because you yelled at me.  You told me to go away.  You wanted me to talk to someone else instead of you."


I sat down with my arm around him and tried to explain to him that I had just been concentrating on my little job.
That I truly didn't know the answers to his questions....and that I thought it would be a fun conversation for him to have with his grandfather.
That I loved him and I loved his curious mind AND its' questions.

He looked at me and said,
"That's not how you sounded."



He was right.

In my heart I adore my son.
Beyond adore.
Cherish, love, need, crave, LOVE love LoVe love. many amazing talents as my kiddo has...
Reading minds (or hearts) isn't one of them.

The only window Ethan has to my heart....
is what comes out of my mouth.

"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."  
Matthew 12:3

The overflow of what's in my heart trickles out of my mouth.

If someone wants to know how I feel about them...
They will pay attention to how I speak TO them.

How many times have I had a disagreement with someone...
A misunderstanding of sorts....
Only for that person (or me!) to say,
"But that's not what I meant!"

It's possibly and probably NOT what was meant...
But it's what was heard.
It's what came out.

Who can look inside a person and read their heart?
Nobody I know.

Say I hand you a styrofoam "to-go" cup...
And as you're reaching for it boiling hot coffee sloshes over the top and all over your hand.

Then, while you nurse your scalded fingers,
I tell you that it was a crazy one-time weird occurrence.
That it couldn't ever happen again because the cup is actually filled with cold milk.
And I try to convince you to take the cup again.

Chances would tell me I was out of my ever-loving-mind and not trust me with being your beverage distributor for a long long time.

So too with what comes out of my mouth.
How can I
... profess to love someone and speak nastily to them?
...claim to love God when horrid mean things spill out of my mouth?
...tell someone I support them and constantly criticize them?

No one can see my heart.
They can only guess at its contents from observing my actions and words.

I pray daily for God to dwell with me.
For the Holy Spirit to be evident in me.
To open my eyes to the people He is putting in my path that He wants me to speak with....or help.

How will those people
(strangers, parents of kids' classmates, friends, checkers at Walmart, cousins, people at the gym, drivers who are mad at me and giving me interesting hand gestures,)
know that I am full of God's love?

They will know by what I do and say.

Matthew also says:
A good man out of the good treasures of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things."
Matthew 12:35

In order to be able to say and do good things.....I need some good treasure buried inside of me.

Because....I am clumsy.
What I mean is...I trip and stumble a lot.
And when I do....I want whatever "sloshes over" the top of my cup
To be good things.

When I run into bumps
(which happens every now and always)...
When I am squeezed by life
(which occurs on a daily hourly minutely basis)....
When the state of my heart overflows so that the world can see

I want my words and actions to show
that my heart-shaped cup is full of God's love.

So I will work on acquiring good "treasure."

I will try to fill myself with.....
I will ask God to fill me.
With His presence.
With His strength.
With His peace that passes all understanding.

And then,
I hope,
my actions will be good
and my words gentle and pure.

I may not ever know whether protons are bigger than neutrons....
But I have a dad who does...
And would enjoy teaching his grandson about it.

I have a Father who MADE neutrons.
And He can see inside of cups.
And He can make sure that my cup is full of exactly what I need.

Diet Coke...
Wedding cake concretes...
But not kamikazes.
Ever, please.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Palms Up....

"Put the ipod down."

Familiar refrain between my 9 year old and myself lately.

"Time's up.  Give me the gadget."

And he does.
Ever so slowly.
Making sure to move in sloooooow moooootion.

He hands it toward me....
And pulls it back.

"I just want to log-out."

He moves it in my direction again....
And pulls it back.

"I just need to make sure I set my alarm."

The ipod comes toward me....
And he pulls it back.

"What time did it say again?"

And again.
And again.
And again.
Until I grab the bloody thing and wrest it away from his sweaty over tech-ized hands gently remove it from his grip myself.

Kid likes his gadget.
Kid likes to be in charge of how much time he gets with said gadget.
Kid likes to retain control of things.

I get it.

Do I get it.

There might possibly maybe potentially be a bit of a familial control issue here.

When I was struggling to regain a semblance of footing in my life following the tornado,
I realized that a huge part of my problem was
(as sad as this sounds and all kidding aside)
that my calendar had been blown to a neighboring town.

(Actually....I found a few pages of it.  May and August, I think)

I was sure that once I had all of my "life" written down on a new calendar then
my memory would return and
my orderliness would return and
my organization would return and
some normalcy would return.

My mom found me some random calendar she'd received from some random real estate company and I
flat went to it.

I called people to find out birthdays and anniversaries...
I recorded kid activities....
I penciled and penned in appointments....
I filled as many of those little squares as I could.

It helped.

For a few days.

Then I accidentally buried it under mounds of insurance papers and couldn't find it for a week and realized that chaos was apparently going to reign for a while yet.

Point being....
I wanted to be back in control.

I wanted to be in charge.

I LIKE that.

Now I don't necessarily want to RUN every event my family is a part of....
But I DO prefer knowing the details of the event and
where we are supposed to be
at what time
and what our responsibilities entail
and who is riding with who to get there.

I like order.

I like definite.

It's true.

In this season of my life,
I try to make some sort of plan in my head for how things are going to go.

It usually not how I want them to go for my personal pleasure...
It's more like: how-they-should-go-so-that-the-other-4-people-in-my-life-can-all-do-what-they-want-and-get-where-they-need-to-be-to-keep-everyone-happy-and-punctual-and-fulfilled.

I'm a logistical orderly people pleasing planning psycho.
(Put that on a resume´!)

When situations arise that thwart my plans....
I stress.
I stew.
I get irritated.
I snap.

And that snapping thing?
It never really helps.

My 13 year old has started making his own plans on his own phone.
That's how it should be.
(Granted....since I'm the driver and custodian...I should probably be made aware of these plans before they're confirmed....but it's good he's taking initiative like that.)

I've found myself gritting my teeth today when he told me he made plans with his grandfather.

I love him spending time with his grandfather....don't get me wrong.

It's just that....
I had already made a plan for the day.

And it included my eldest.
And now he's not going.
And he's doing something he likes better.
And it's an awesome opportunity for him.
And it won't really affect the other two if he's not there....
But it wasn't how I pictured it.

And I don't know when they are going and when they'll return and where I should be and how I will meet up with them...and I don't like not having knowledge of the details.

My control....slipped down a cell phone shaped drain.

This control-desire is in other areas of my life, too.

I have people in my life whom I love very very much.

They don't have much of a relationship with God.
They certainly don't believe that Jesus loves them.
They don't really even believe that Jesus is God's son.

This eats eats eats at me.
Not so much because I can't convince them....
But because I see so many of them struggling with the idea.

And they are good people.
Really good.
And they do so so so much for others.
They sacrificially love people.

And I know that God said good works is nothing without faith....
And I know that He loves them even more than me...
And I know He's given each person free will to make choices...
And I want God to crack open their hardened hearts with a big giant sledge hammer and rip the blinders from their eyes and let them see the truth.

I am apparently not in charge of those situations either.

Sometimes I find myself irritated.

It's hard for me to pray sometimes.
Or read my Bible more deeply than looking at the ink.

I feel distanced from God....
and it's hard to find my way closer.

And I have begun to realize that my desire.....
my need...
for control is a big part of the problem.

When "life" changes my carefully laid plans....
 I don't look at the interruptions as "blessings"...but as hurdles.

Because I didn't plan them?

When I think about "my people" who don't know God and won't experience life forever with Him...
I accept, but I don't really comprehend.
Or maybe I am just too sad.
And because it's so hard to understand....I push away.

And while I know that these two situations are WAY different in many ways....
I have also realized that they have similar roots.

I can't understand.
I can't control.
I can't.

These are the facts.
I simply simply can't.

And sometimes, when I honestly realize that truth...
I mean TRULY accept it....
There's some peace.

Sound contradictory?
A little weird?
Yeah.  I know.

Here's the deal.
I know that God is big.
Really big.
And He knows everything.
Every. Thing.
He knows the big picture.
If I knew what He knows....then I would understand and agree that all the things that happen are really ok.
That, in the end, all these things will bring glory to Him.

I certainly do NOT understand how.
I confess...I have moments I doubt how it can happen.

But....I believe it will.

1 Corinthians 2:16 says:
For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?

If I could understand everything about God....then would He really be big and amazing and wonderful enough for me to worship?

Isaiah 55:8-9 reads:
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways...For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.

If I always knew what was best for myself (and all the people in my life)....and I knew the perfect paths for all people to follow, then what would I need God for anyway?

So....I give Him control.

And there is peace in that.

But....I tend to snatch that pretty parcel of control back up.

Then I give it back.

Then I grab it again.

And again.
And again.
And even again.

I simply have to open my hands,
Hold them out with my palms up,
And ask Him to take away my control.

Take this day, God.
Use it for Your own.
Let me embrace and be thankful for opportunities that arise.
Help me find the appointments You have made for me.
Remind me again and again that Your ways are not always the ones I would choose.
Thank you for saving me from my wrong choices.
Thank you for being so much bigger and wiser and kinder than I can imagine.
Let me remember that You are directing my paths....
And help me not fight against that direction.
Remind me that the details are not usually salvational.
Show me Your way...
And help me keep my hands wide open,
Palms upward,
Letting go of my attempts at control
And giving them to You.
Let my open hands receive the gift of peace You have for me....
And hold on to that tightly.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Beautiful Disasters....

There are many
different levels of disasters.

My daughter's room after a 12 minute play-date:

My teenager's closet after he "organizes" his room:

My RH's bedside table (which is piled so high with junk important stuff that it's continually toppling over in the middle of the night LOUDLY):

Really...I've found that I use that word kinda often.

The state of my garage,
An attempt to make banana bread in a convection oven,
The basement after a ping pong tournament,
The kitchen table after six kids devoured cupcakes,
The idea of doing "summer math",
RH's dog's encounter with a skunk,
Shake's being out of wedding cake for my concrete.....

All things I've labeled "disasters."

But seriously?

Minor inconveniences, really.
Many of them are even kind of humorous.
(But not the Shake's one.  Not at all.)

Real disasters.....
Those are different.

A tornado ripping through your town?
Pretty disastrous.

A tornado taking away someone you love?
Even way way worse.

Disasaters are relative....
and there is always something worse.

My family and I saw our town turn into a disaster area a little over two years ago.
'Ol Obama himself came and declared us an official disaster zone.

We walked over it.
We climbed on it.
We smelled it.
We lived in it.

It was hard...
And sometimes kind of scary.
But after a while we became somewhat....
Accustomed to it?
Used to it?
Pretty blasé about it?

You almost have to, sometimes.

Then a year later we were in Indiana a few weeks after some horrible tornadoes had ripped through several communities.

The damage was no where as wide spread as Joplin....but it was pretty nasty.

I was worried about how the kids would react to seeing the damage around us.
Would they have flashbacks?
Would it be scary to them?
Would it bring back memories they'd worked to overcome?

We pulled into town and came up to some of the more damaged areas and turned off the kids' (mind-numbing keep-'em-quiet for the trip) movie and told them to look.
They did.
And kind of shrugged their shoulders.
"Looks like Joplin.  Not as bad.  Where are the people we can help?"

Ok then.
Have they become numb to disasters?
Are they compartmentalizing?
Have they run out empathy?

Fast forward to Hurricane Sandy.

I have family on Long Island.
They had to evacuate and we kept in close contact with them.
When the ocean met the bay over their home....we tried to convince them to come to Missouri.
("Forget it! Too many tornadoes there!" )

My kids were worried about their relatives....
But didn't seem too shocked by the pictures of the damage.

When we went to New York this summer and saw a boat still in someone's front yard they thought it was interesting.

We were in Moore, Oklahoma this summer where the damage is still quite fresh.
I believe that it's an official disaster as well....thank you Mr. Obama.

Again....the kids were relatively unimpressed with the rubble fields previously known as homes around them.
Again....they kept their eyes peeled for people we could make contact with.
People who wanted to tell their stories.
People who wanted to be heard.
People who wanted cookies.

That afternoon we went to the Memorial Museum for the Okalhoma City Bombing.


(Side note:  That might be the most impressive and heart-wrenching place I've been to.
Beautifully done.
Impossible not to be touched deeply.)

Lots of pictures and examples of the debris.
Lots of survivor stories.
Lots of tributes to those who were lost.

As I walked around I noticed that my kids were drawn to the pictures of rescuers.
They seemed most interested in the stories of the people who came to help.
They loved seeing a wall of T-shirts with all of the places on them that people had come from to help.

I realize my kids have been exposed
(purposely in some cases)
to many "disaster areas".

I've had people question my reasoning and parenting in allowing them to see these things.

Here's the deal.
I did NOT choose to expose them to their first "big disaster."
But it happened.
And they saw. they kept seeing....
Their focus became directed toward the "helpers."

to how they could help.

Apparently the legendary Mr. Roger's had a quote he used when disasters were unfolding:
"Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping."

My kids have not seen Mr. Rogers.
I'm relatively certain they have no idea who he is.

Kids (and people) WANT to find the good.
They WANT to find the helpers.

They naturally search for the good....the Godly....the pure the midst of disasters.

Even when I find myself tearfully aghast at someone's story....
I have a kid tugging on my sleeves and smiling and waving at volunteers walking toward us.

They look for the good
Because they know there IS good.

Have I done something to teach them this?

They just haven"t (perhaps)
Grown up enough to become negatively focused.

Where I might see shattered dreams....
They see cool youth groups coming to help clear someone's lot.

Where I might fixate on the "could have been so bad"'s.....
They focus on the "it turned out ok!"

When I might see an overwhelmingly huge (literal) debris field...
They notice the sunflower growing next to piles of smashed homes.

My kids have shown me lots.

Some of it I don't always want to see like what random food they're currently chewing on  because, as an adult (or is it just me????) I need to see the "ugly" so that I can empathize and sympathize and be 100% ready and willing to sacrificially help.

But....when I do see what they see....
I find hope.

And don't kids live in a perpetual state of hope?

And isn't that a pretty darn good state in which to live?

(Less tornados there, I think.)

Point being....
I think it's ok for my kids to see real life.
I think them seeing that bad things can happen
(because they do)
is ok because THEN they see how goodness blooms out of all of that dirt.

That being said...
I don't let them watch certain movies.
I turn off the news when certain stories come on.
I monitor what they see on the computer.

I want to preserve their innocence to certain kinds of ugliness for as long as I can.

I know,
That someday they will be thrust out from under my wings into the real cold scary world.

I pray that by then they will be so good at looking for...
the helpers,
the good things,
the way God brings beauty out of disaster..

That they will be able to keep on keepin' on without
cynicism or
despair or
paralyzing fear
or anger....

That they will be able to look past the "yuck" and find the hope.
And...that they will be able to search for ways to serve and help.

I want my kids (and I want myself!)
to know know know know know
that in the midst of any type of disaster....
God is there.

And when He is there,
Because He is there...
it will,
be ok.

And doesn't God, in His awesomeness, sometimes use people to show other people how He loves??

By being there...
By being in the "disasters"...
By being ready and available....

Maybe we can be lucky enough to be used.

So we will keep on.
Trying to be there.
Looking for ways to help.
Searching for the good.
Pointing out the helpers.

Learning gradually daily minutely to focus on the bits of beauty amidst the chaos.

And maybe...
Just maybe....
we will even be able to find the clean spot on my daughter's floor and use it to stand in as we begin cleaning up the mess.