Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

Last weekend, my husband and I took our oldest daughter to visit Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky (but that’s another blogpost entirely!). Before we left, we stopped by the campus bookstore and I purchased a devotional book, This Day with the Master, written by Dr. Dennis Kinlaw. He was president of Asbury (then) College many years ago when Jeff was attending Seminary across the street, and Jeff has often mentioned the influence he had on him both personally and spiritually, so I figured it would be a good buy. I have not been disappointed!

As we begin the Advent season, I thought I’d share some thoughts from my prayer journal yesterday, inspired by the December 5 entry in this book. The Scripture reading was 2 Chronicles Chapter 30, in which King Hezekiah decided to honor God by inviting all the scattered people of Israel to celebrate the Passover Feast in the temple of Jerusalem even though they were a month late. This is the part that really stood out to me:

“Since many of the people had not purified (or prepared) themselves, the Levites had to slaughter their Passover Lamb for them, to set them apart for the Lord…” But King Hezekiah prayed for them and they were allowed to eat the Passover meal anyway, even though this was contrary to the Law. He said, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God— the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary. And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”   (2 Chronicles 30:17-20, partially paraphrased)

What a beautiful passage, Lord! Your people turning back to You and You receiving them, “even though they were not properly cleansed.” The motives of their hearts were pure and that was enough for You to accept the sacrifice made on their behalf. A gift of grace before the coming of the greatest Gift of Grace!

Dr. Kinlaw’s devotion uses this passage to talk about the importance of “Holy Moments” which change lives and the world— forever.  This passage is a reminder of how preparing our hearts before our recurring holy moments can make them even more impactful. When I go on a trip or host a party, there is so much involved in the preparation: planning, organizing, cleaning, packing, decorating, etc.

How little I prepare for spiritual moments compared to how much I prepare for everything else!

Forgive me, Lord.

How can I prepare my heart to receive You in a new way this Christmas?

First, I need to make room for You in the “Inn.” Not cast you off into the leftover rooms, but clear out space for You so You have the place of honor in my life. Practically, this means making my time with You each day a top prioritygetting up earlier if necessary, allowing enough time to really listen to You, choosing this time with You over other things. And not just “having God Time,” but coming expectantly, ready to see You and hear You and learn from Your Word. With our crazy schedule and chaotic life, this is more of a challenge than I would like it to be! But I know that is where my preparation begins.

It also may require some cleaning up and decluttering of my heart, mind, and schedule.

Lord, help me get rid of the things I store inside that really don’t belong there, things that just take up space and distract me from what matters. Some of these things are harmfulbitterness, unforgiveness, discontentment.  Most, however, are simply “good” clutter that must be intentionally removed if I want to make room for the coming of the Christ Child.

Oh, what peace is ushered in with the creation of holy space!

As I prepare my heart to receive You this Christmas, my heart sings out, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” God with us.

GOD… with us.

God WITH us.

God with… US.

Please come, Lord Jesus! My heart is waiting.

Let every heart prepare Him room…

A dream fulfilled

You may not know this about me, but when I was in college and my early twenties, I wrestled with a call to full-time mission work. After serving on several short-term mission teams in a few different countries, I had fallen in love with the people and cultures of Jamaica and Venezuela. I loved the food, the slower pace of life, the smiles and laughter of the children, and the true joy and sincerity of faith that comes from truly depending on Jesus because there is little else to depend on. I did not wrestle with whether or not I could leave my family and the comforts of home; no, I already felt at home there and would have gladly “left my nets” to follow Jesus.

Instead, I wrestled with whether or not my heart’s desire was actually His desire for me or simply my own. So, just as Abraham placed Isaac on the altar, I laid my dreams of mission work at my Father’s feet, trusting Him to do whatever was best with them. After much prayer (and honestly, to my great surprise- I mean, how could mission work NOT be His will??) I had my answer. The Lord clearly closed those doors and soon led me in a different direction… a wonderful life as a “pastor’s wife” while I continued in youth ministry, then helping Jeff plant a church, and eventually being a stay at home mom, homeschooling our four children. Still mission work, really, just an entirely different kind than I expected.

I am grateful for every step of the path my Father has chosen for me. No, it is not the sort of Elisabeth Elliot life that inspires future generations, and it doesn’t exactly look impressive or life-changing on social media, like the stories of so many others who are changing lives in Africa and around the world. Instead, my faith has been walked out in mundane, everyday, ordinary ways. I will be honest and tell you that sometimes that has been a challenge for my prideful heart. My heart’s desire has always been to offer all that I am and all that I have to Jesus, and for Him to use me in BIG ways for His glory.

      Apparently, His desire is to use me in small ways for His glory.

Wiping noses and cooking dinner and helping with schoolwork and praying Scripture over my children does not always seem like very much to offer Him. In fact, it seems rather small and useless most of the time!  But as I look at our children now, who are growing up to be kind, thoughtful, Jesus-loving people, the so-called “small ways” have become big in their own way. My prayer has changed- not that I would DO big things, but that my faithfulness in the small things would enable BIG things for His Kingdom, and I am grateful they have.

 

And that is why this week was such a gift to me…

 

 

This week our family had the privilege of joining some friends on a Family mission trip to North Carolina.  We served a small Hispanic mission church by putting on a Vacation Bible School for the children of their community. The pastor borrowed buses from larger churches in Ashville and then drove down the poorer streets in nearby towns, knocking on doors and inviting the children to get on the bus and come to VBS for the day. Children (as young as 4 years old) through teenagers climbed aboard, most of them for the first time, not really even knowing where they were going or what to expect. The buses arrived at the church by 8:30 each morning and departed around 2:00 each afternoon. During the hours in between, the children were fed breakfast, participated in a worship time with music, skits, Bible stories, and prayer time, and then went down by the river for snacks, games, crafts, lunch, and free play with our team.  The meals were important, since many of them would not have eaten because school is not in session. For five and a half hours, we were able to love on these children and shower them with the joy that comes from knowing Jesus. We were able to serve side by side with several Hispanic families from the church (most who did not speak any English), and plant seeds in the hearts of children who had never even heard of Jesus. It was powerful and precious and exhausting and inspiring.

Above all, it was holy ground.

I watched my husband step out of his comfort zone and, after decades of leading adults, joyfully lead worship and share Bible Stories with a room full of children from a completely different culture. I watched as our Eli overcame his shyness and made friends with the Hispanic children by playing soccer. There wasn’t a single moment that our Abby didn’t have a child hanging on her back or climbing in her lap, laughing with glee at the smile on her face and the love in her heart. Our oldest daughter, Sarah, gladly used her gifts in helping lead worship, and then chose to serve behind the scenes by entertaining the babies and toddlers for the Hispanic mamas as they prepared lunch for the group. And our little Noah, at 8 years old, was quite possibly the greatest evangelist we had, praying for the entire group whenever a volunteer was asked for, helping the other kids catch fish in the river and talking to them about Jesus calling us to be Fishers of Men (among the many other “lessons” he taught as he played). The rest of our teammates, mostly teenagers we have grown to love as our own, were just as involved and inspiring. It was beautiful!

 

And in the midst of watching God use my family for His glory, a little 4 year-old boy named Joel decided he liked me. With all those fun, spunky teenagers to choose from, for some reason, Joel chose me. He wanted ME to throw the ball with him and play soccer with him and find treasure with him. He wanted ME to take him in the river and help him catch fish and tell him stories. He wanted ME to eat lunch with him and hold him in my lap and pray over him (well, I’m not sure he wanted that last part but I did it anyway!!). It was like I was twenty again, in a far away land, loving this child in the name of Jesus. Jeff commented that it was beautiful watching me be totally in my element, which I was.  It was an unexpected gift; manna for this momma’s heart. I am grateful.

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Next week, we will be back at home.

I will continue to pray for little Joel and all our other new friends as I sort through curriculum and school supplies and get us ready for school to start back. I will be cooking dinner and folding laundry and lots of other “ordinary” things for the people I love most; all to the glory of God in the place He has called me.  I will encourage my husband and love my children and lead my small group girls, joyfully watching as He uses my small acts of faithfulness for a greater impact.  And I will be grateful, for I know beyond a doubt that God’s plan is the best plan, and I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. Yes, next week I will jump back into my everyday, “ordinary” life.

 

But this week, I was a missionary. ❤

Sneaky Grief

We had beautiful weather for the last week or so here in North Georgia. Sunshine, 80 degree temps, and beautiful blue skies have us all aching for summer to arrive and school to be out. But a few days ago, after another beautiful almost-summer day, I headed off to baseball practice with our boys, and within minutes something changed.

The sky darkened, the clouds rolled in, and out of nowhere the heavens opened up and pelted us with rain.  Instead of sitting on the bleachers cheering on my boys, I found myself covering my head (why do we do that anyway? It accomplishes nothing. But I digress.) and running for the shelter of my car. We were all left shaking our heads, exclaiming, “Where in the world did that come from?”

 

Yeah, grief is sneaky like that, too.

 

Maybe you have had a broken relationship or a broken heart. Perhaps you’ve lost a close friendship or a loved one. Death, divorce, disease, disaster… they all leave us holding a handful of broken pieces that somehow must be dealt with.  It takes awhile to sort through them- some pieces fit back together rather seamlessly, while others require a little more effort. And some pieces need to be put away for awhile, possibly buried, or even thrown away. A lot of this sorting happens pretty quickly, but the “odd” pieces take a little more time. Eventually new pieces find their way into our hands, and our hearts are slowly mended into something a little more whole. Not perfect, not the same- never the same– but a heart nonetheless.  Joy, hope, and love gradually find their way back to us, and our hearts begin to beat again.

 

And then, from out of nowhere, lightning strikes.

 

Perhaps it’s a song on the radio or a favorite food or an activity you shared together. Whatever it is, something happens and suddenly your heart aches and your eyes burn and you find yourself covering your head and running for shelter, fighting the tears as you flee. Grief pops up in unexpected places and unexpected ways.

 

My sweet friend, Diana, recently went HOME to be with Jesus after a long, painful battle with cancer that ravaged her body but strengthened her soul. She taught our oldest daughter piano for many years, and mentored her in life and faith, as well as music. We did much of our grieving throughout her illness, which made her death more a culmination of the grieving process  for us rather than the beginning of it. I have a total peace that she is in Heaven, and have even experienced great joy knowing she is finally completely FREE of the sickness that was consuming her body.  Before she died, she wrote precious words encouraging her family and friends not to mourn her with sadness, but to celebrate her with joy by moving forward with love and laughter, and we have done our best to honor her in that way.

 

But last week, our daughter scored really well in a piano competition, and without thinking I pulled out my phone to text Diana the news like I always do. Only I couldn’t.  (The sky grows dark.)

This week we are preparing for Sarah’s year-end piano recital. She texted me today to remind me to send her new teacher the “dedication” sentences for the program and to ask my help in wording it because she just can’t bring herself to write “in memory of Diana” herself.  (Lightning flashes.)

Mother’s Day was this weekend, and as I was searching for ways to celebrate the “moms” in my life, I suddenly realized her precious girls have no one to give their gifts to this year. (The rain pours down, pelting me in the face.)

And then, a photo of Sarah and Diana popped up in my “memories” on Facebook from last year’s recital. Curse you, Facebook!  And yet, thank you, Facebook.

 

Yes, the clouds rolled in quickly, seemingly from out of nowhere, and surprised me each time with an unexpected downpour of emotions when I least expected them. There was no way to prepare and no way to hide. I had to just embrace the tears, open my arms to the moment, and then…

 

Let it pass.

 

Because that’s the thing about a pop-up storm. It surprises us and it soaks us, but it usually doesn’t last long or cause very much damage. It just gets everything really wet, and then moves on.  If we really want to, we can chase after it, desperate for the rain, aching for the darkness.

 

Or we can let it go.

 

We can open our arms and lift our face to the sky (because, again, what is the point of covering our head?). We can feel the rain as it soaks us and embrace the grief for a few minutes as the memories flood our hearts. And then, we can wipe our eyes, dry ourselves off, and allow the clouds to pass.

The funny thing about pop-up storms is that within minutes, the sky is usually blue once again, and the sun shines just as brightly as before.  Everything is refreshed, greener somehow, ready for whatever is to come next.

Grief doesn’t always feel so sunny afterwards. But if we lift our face to the SON, there is hope and peace and even joy to warm us.

 

 

 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains- where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, The Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

 

 

 

 

This Moment…

(Author’s note: I wrote this several years ago on New Years Eve, but thought it was appropriate to post today, on Mother’s Day. Thanks be to God for the indescribable gift of allowing me to be a mom! It is, by far, the hardest and best role I’ve ever had. Oh, and the 10 year old is a teenager now and takes FOREVER in the shower. How quickly things change!)

 

This moment.

Our 12 year old daughter comes bounding down the stairs in her Disney Princess baseball T-shirt and converse shoes, ponytail swinging behind her, smile full of metal, as she heads towards the piano to play, yet again, that crazy fast run in “Let it Go” that she has worked so hard on for the past few weeks.  And she nails it; only this time she keeps playing the rest of the song, and I can feel her radiating with confidence and pride at the accomplishment and satisfaction that results from really hard work.

 

Our 10 year old daughter interrupts our dinner conversation to tell another random story about something that happened in a 90’s sitcom episode which has nothing to do with anything. After dinner, she chases her brothers around with a marshmallow blaster gun and their new bow and arrow set until we force her to take a shower (and have to remind her again to use soap. Seriously??).  From her room, I can hear her singing about “Taylor, the Latte Boy” at the top of her precious 10 year old lungs.

 

Then there’s the 6 year old. He’s trying so hard to be a big boy, to not cry when he gets hurt and not transform into the Incredible Hulk every time something makes him so mad that he feels like he’s going to explode, which is every other minute.  He thinks so hard about every decision because he just doesn’t want to make the wrong choice.  He is still a little bit timid and nervous in new situations, but he is slowly coming into his own.  I see him stand a little taller when he says something he knows is going to be funny, and that little grin peeks out the corners of his mouth when everyone laughs at just the right time.  In no time, he has convinced his little brother to strip down to his underwear and run around the house with him, as they try desperately to escape from the marshmallow-shooting monster in the minion shirt and ponytail.

 

And my sweet baby. Four years old, almost five; chubby cheeks, dimpled like his daddy’s, and a smile that melts the heart of everyone within a 10 mile radius.  These big words and phrases pop out of his little preschool mouth with uncanny timing, cracking us all up and causing us to temporarily forget the 2,397 messes he has left randomly around the house.  He sneaks another piece of candy off the week-old gingerbread village and scampers away in his bare feet and ninja turtle underwear, his round tummy poking out from behind the couch. A scream of laughter escapes from his lips as an arrow bounces off his bottom.  The big-sister-minion-monster is suddenly tickling him, much to his dismay and delight.  But have no fear; big brother quickly comes to his rescue, and they are off again into the hunt!

This moment. 

Prayers whispered, covers pulled up to their chins, messes remaining all over the house, nightlights glowing softly, and stuffed animals tucked in all cozy-like, too.

Eyes closed, a soft kiss brushing their foreheads, a last look, and the realization that this is the last time I will tuck them in this year.  Another whole year has passed.

My, how time flies!

It has been a regular year with ups and downs; exciting, frustrating, endearing, exhausting… blessed.  I was given another whole year with these precious little ones (and some not so little anymore. Sigh.). And 12 months later, we are all still here.  Another day, another breath, another chance to love and laugh and learn.

Oh, how grateful I am, Lord!

Thank you for the gift of this moment– the opportunity to reflect on all the other little ordinary, everyday moments that have made up this year, to unwrap them and turn them slowly in my mind, treasuring them in my heart like Mary did all those years ago.

This moment…

In Between

I woke up this morning considering how the disciples must have felt on this day in between. The shock. The emptiness. The broken dreams. The loneliness.

This isn’t how it was supposed to be.

And betrayed by Judas? He was one of us, one of our friends! He walked with us, ate with us, prayed with us. How could he just walk away? How could he just discard Jesus as though He didn’t matter, as though none of this mattered? None of us mattered.

Some friend.

And what about us? What kind of friends are we, to just let Jesus die like that? We should have stayed with Him, insisted that they let Him go, or at least that they take us, too. But who are we kidding? We couldn’t even stay awake with Him while he prayed. What is wrong with us?? We are not worthy to be called His friends.

We are no different than Judas, not really. We have betrayed Him in our own ways.

And what about Jesus?

How can He really be gone? We thought He was the One, the One who was to come. The One we have waited for, generation after generation.

The Messiah!

Who else could make the blind man see and the lame man walk? Who else could heal with a touch of His hand or a word from His mouth? I mean, we saw Him raise a dead man to life with our very own eyes! There was definitely something different about Him.

When Jesus looked into your eyes, He saw straight to your soul. He made you feel noticed, valued, seen. He gave us purpose beyond the mundaneness of our days. It wasn’t easy following Him, but it certainly wasn’t boring. If nothing else, we learned to expect the unexpected.

But now He’s gone.

How can He be gone?

He said He’d never leave us, that He would be with us always. That was a lie!

Where are you now, Jesus? How could you just die? Why didn’t you harness the power of heaven and FIGHT?

Are You even who we thought You were?

Are You even who You said You were?

We believed in You.    We believed YOU.

We have no idea what to do now. We are locked up here in this room together, afraid for our lives, terrified they will come for us next. And then what?

What are we supposed to do now, Jesus?

We don’t know what to do without You.  This is the last thing we expected.

You’re dead.

You’re really dead.

Oh, Jesus.

 

(*Spoiler alert… Joy comes in the morning!!)

 

Not Home Yet…

I love serving with teenagers.

More than that, even, I love that my husband and I have teenagers of our own.

But so often, in both cases, my heart just breaks when I hear these young people feeling alone, or left out, or different. I know that feeling. We ALL know that feeling. It is normal, and natural, and part of growing up; part of being human, even. But that doesn’t make it any easier to feel!

I have heard a lot of this from my young friends lately, and it reminded me of something I wrote several years ago- a note for my children about living in a world where they don’t belong. Since I shared last week about my gratitude for “my people,” I thought I’d share this tonight for anyone struggling through those inevitable seasons of not quite fitting in. 

(NOTE: Edited 8/28/17 in response to wise words from a good friend to hopefully be more encouraging specifically to teens wrestling with being in this world at all. Your life is SO valuable and you are not here by accident! Please hear my heart and reach out to me or someone you trust! There are brighter days ahead if you push through the darkness.)

 

I want you to know that there are days-

sometimes even weeks or months-

when I feel like I don’t belong.

Still.

And I’m a grown up.

I know you feel the same way, too. I am sorry you experience this- it is a lonely, sad feeling, and in the midst of it, you will begin to hear lies. The whispers in your heart will tell you that you don’t have any real friends, and that’s why you feel this way. You don’t wear the right clothes, you don’t have the right “toys” (i.e., iPad, phone, jeans, etc), you’re not smart enough or sporty enough or musical enough or good enough… and that’s why you don’t fit in.

You may find yourself wondering why God would leave you all alone.

You may even wonder why He would make you in the first place, just to leave you all alone.

But these are lies, sweet ones, and don’t you believe them.

You see, as I said, even as a grown-up I still feel that way, too. And despite what that voice may tell you, there is actually a very good reason we feel that way, and it has nothing to do with all those lies.

It’s quite simple…

We were not made for this world.

We feel like strangers here, “aliens” even, because this is not our Home! This is not where we belong. Our spirits were created for another world, and until we are Home, we will not completely fit in here.

There are wonderful things to be found in this world-

Love.   Joy.   Friendship.  Laughter.  Purpose.

These are glimpses of our life to come, sparkles of heaven that drift through the mist, encouraging us to run the race with perseverance, trusting that the finish line is more than just an end.

And it is SO much more!

But we are not Home yet.

When the time comes, we will run into our Father’s arms, join the angels in singing His praise, and the piece (and the peace) that is missing from our hearts will fall into place at last.

Until that day, though, we are to live as His children here on this earth. Don’t rush it. Know that He created you and placed you in this world for a purpose, to bring Light and Love in a way that only you can.

Know that’s it’s normal to not quite fit in- EVERYONE feels that way at times (sometimes even lots of the time). You are not alone.

Know that time and maturity will give you a different perspective on those experiences, and may even cause you to be grateful for how they lead you to lean into Jesus.

And in those times when we feel alone, we can trust that God’s Holy Spirit is with us always, teaching us, encouraging us, and reminding us of our way back Home, just as Jesus promised.

You will feel alone, like you don’t fit in. That’s okay.

I still feel alone sometimes, like I don’t fit in.

But we are NOT alone… Our God is with us!

We won’t always fit in, because we were not made for this world. However, we were placed in this world for a purpose…

So don’t give up. 

Make the most of this temporary home. Fight the good fight. Remain faithful even when it’s hard. Reach out to others so they don’t feel so alone. Make a difference.

And when you do,

Heaven won’t seem quite so far away after all.

 

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.”     -1 Peter 2: 11-12, (The Message)

 

My People

You’ve heard it before.

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

The Church calls it being in “Community.”

My friend, Leah, calls it her “People”

You know the ones; the people who show up for you. The ones you laugh with, hang out with, and share food with. The people you see every day, or every week, or maybe only every so often, but regardless, you know they are there if you need them, and you would drop everything for them as well.

It’s my friends bringing me sleeping bags and air mattresses at 10:00pm the night before we leave on a family trip because all of ours have magically disappeared. Of course.

It’s another friend not only recognizing that schooling two energetic boys at the same time can often be counter-productive, but then offering to take one of them to her house for the day.

It’s my precious friend offering me the leftover food from her own surprise birthday party just to save me a few hours in the kitchen.

Or my other sweet friend who picks up my boys for a few hours when my husband is out of town, just because she knows I desperately need a few minutes to myself. (Even if it’s only to shop at Wal-Mart without my parade tagging along behind me!)

That same friend drops her kids off at my house, only to end up with our oldest daughter jumping in her car. She not only offers to take her grocery shopping with her, but uses the time to listen to her share- about life and faith and boys- and then pours godly wisdom from her mama heart straight into the thirsting soul of my girl. (I love you, you know that right??)

It’s that encouraging text when you need it the most, that smile and hug when you walk in the room, the belly laugh over something silly, and the tearfully whispered prayer with hands clasped tightly when the walls are crumbling around you.

I could go on.

I am so thankful for my “People…

Because I haven’t always had them.

I can remember several different seasons of life when I made an effort to BE that kind of person for others simply because it helped me not dwell on the fact that I had no one to be that person for me. At one point, I remember wondering what would happen if something happened to me or Jeff. Would anyone even show up? Who would bring dinners or pick up our kids?

I couldn’t name anyone for certain.

That was a hard season.

And yet, the Lord has ALWAYS been faithful to provide what we needed when we needed it. By giving us opportunities to reach out to others, He was also laying the groundwork for people who would, in turn, be there for us. And those lonely years planted seeds of gratitude that burst forth in thankfulness every time someone “shows up” for me. I do not take it for granted. I do not expect these acts of kindness, this unselfish thoughtfulness from my friends! I am astounded by it, melted by it, overcome each time it happens.

And I give thanks to the Lord, from whom all blessings flow, for my village.

My community.

My People.

 

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

An Unexpected Fan

I take it back.

All those bad things I have said from the first second I heard about “fidget spinners,” I take them all back.

Well, okay, not all of them. In fact, not even most of them. I still think they are horribly distracting and have no place in a classroom or group setting, and accomplish exactly the opposite of what they were created to do. So there’s that.

However

I also must give credit where it is due, and recently my child had his life dramatically changed for the better by none other than- you guessed it- a fidget spinner. But probably not in the way you think.

You see, I made a horrible mom mistake. I ALWAYS check out movies before we watch them. I am that crazy, over-protective mom who believes we need to be extra careful what our kids are watching, particularly when they are young, and so we almost never watch a movie unless Jeff or I have seen it. At the very least, I do a thorough search on commonsensemedia.org to make sure it is age (and values)-appropriate for our family.

But last week, in the midst of about a thousand other things we had going on, our older son’s 3rd grade class decided to go see a movie as an end of the year celebration. It was the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie, and while I wasn’t thrilled with the choice, my daughter had seen the first movie and assured me it would be fine for the boys. Two very dear, respected friends have sons in the same class and we all decided to join in (without any of us checking reviews, btw. That NEVER happens!!).

I stayed and watched the movie with the group, and while I don’t intend to do a movie review here, some knowledge of the movie is imperative to this story. To be fair, there were actually several parts that made me laugh, as they were portraying the crazy, unplanned things that inevitably happen anytime a family attempts to bond via a family road trip. (And it really wasn’t a bad movie; it just turned out to not be so great for my kid). But scattered throughout the movie, as I should have expected, were multiple episodes of gross “boy humor” involving every type of bodily function imaginable. While the bathroom scenes were pretty disgusting, the worst part was definitely when the older brother climbs aboard the spinning ride at the county fair after eating several helpings of “fried butter on a stick.” You can imagine what happened next… only the movie didn’t leave it to our imaginations. Let’s just say it was a very descriptive vomit scene and leave it at that. (Coincidentally, I rode that same ride in images.jpeghigh school at our local fair in an attempt to impress some boy, and I hurled as soon as I got off. I don’t even remember who the boy was, but I am pretty certain he was not impressed.) Anyway, the whole thing was gross enough that neither of my boys really liked the movie at all. Just call me mother of the year…

Fast forward a couple hours, and our youngest son started complaining that his tummy hurt and that he couldn’t stop thinking about the movie. He actually made himself sick several times in a row right before bedtime because the images kept replaying in his head! He was fine once he went to sleep, but the next afternoon at a birthday party he asked to go home, again complaining of a tummy ache, but when we left the party he cried and said he just couldn’t stop thinking about that movie. Poor boy! (It just goes to show how powerful our thought life can be and how important it is for us to guard our minds; but that is a blog post for another day.)

I did everything I could to calm him down. We sang silly songs, I told him a story, we talked about the party, but he remained completely distraught. I realized then that this had the potential to turn into an anxiety-inducing trigger, and so we prayed together that God would remove those images from his mind and replace them with good, happy, peaceful thoughts (Philippians 4:6-8). That seemed to calm him down, and he decided to return to the party. Within a few minutes, though, he was back at my side, near tears, visibly distraught, which is so unlike him. I let him watch a video on my phone (which I NEVER do) just to try to distract his mind, and even that was only sporadically successful. Then, as I desperately began to pray that God would show me how to help my son, the birthday boy’s mom started handing out the party favors to all the kids.

It was a fidget spinner.

My first thought as I groaned inwardly was, “Seriously?? You’re giving my kid a fidget spinner??” (Sorry, Steph!!)

But y’all.

One look at my boy, and I knew.

God had answered my prayer through a fidget spinner.

He quickly tore it out of the packaging, ran off with his friends, and came back only to show me his new tricks he was learning. He didn’t bring up the movie again for the rest of the night. With each spin of the gadget, his fear began to flee and joy filled its place, and I was so grateful! He has mentioned the movie maybe twice since then (again, a blog post for another time), but overcoming it that night with the fidget spinner has given him the power to master his thoughts now when they do return.

And so, with my deepest apologies to my wonderful teacher friends (because I know these blasted things must make trying to teach in an already over-stimulating environment absolutely impossible!), I make my confession to the world:

I am now a fan of the fidget spinner.

And a firm believer that God often answers prayer in mysterious ways.

A BOOK REVIEW of Under Our Skin (by Benjamin Watson

Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race- And Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us is a fantastic book for anyone hoping to understand a clearer p41Y7mrZ25cL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgicture of the ongoing race issues in America.

I read Benjamin Watson’s Facebook post following the Ferguson trial results in 2014 and was impressed with his sincere, compassionate, intelligent, faith-inspired response. I try to be someone who ponders the different perspetives involved in an issue rather than reacting emotionally out of my own experience. I was not looking for an extreme perspective (black or white) on the current race issue- our media takes care of covering those “sides” all too well. I consider myself to (hopefully) be pretty open-minded and somewhat in “the middle” on issues such as race, so I wanted to read a level-headed, considerate perspective from someone whose experience was different than my own. Benjamin Watson did not disappoint. This is a thoughtful, enlightening, and challenging portrayal of what it’s like to grow up as a black man in America. I was surprised by some of his experiences and found some of my own pre-conceived ideas to be false. I appreciated his willingness to look at different angles to these complex situations and to readily admit how his own life experiences had led to bias and prejudice, even when he didn’t want them to. Those confessions resonated with me as my own viewpoints were brought under scrutiny.

The only thing missing, in my opinion, was a broadening of a police officer’s perspective in Chapter 5. Particularly after explaining how the majority of the black community is raised with a great fear of the police, it would have been so beneficial for those readers to understand what “a day in the life of a typical police officer” is like. After reading this book, I have a much greater understanding of why a young, black man’s first instinct is to run when he encounters an officer, and I think it might help the black community to understand why a police officer’s first instinct is to react (or perhaps in some minds to overreact) a certain way in certain situations. That outlook seemed to be notably missing in a book that otherwise did a great job of being open-minded and showing multiple sides of the current issues.

Under Our Skin was insightful, challenging, and thoughtful. It is not politically correct, nor is it (in my opinion) politically motivated. Watson gets to the heart of this and so many other issues that plague Americans when he names it for what it is: sin. He does not throw out easy answers or artificial solutions, but points us to the higher perspective of our mutual Creator as the starting place for healing and reconciliation. By all accounts, he seems to be a man who walks what he talks, thus earning the right to speak boldly on this subject. I see things differently after reading this book, and highly recommend it to everyone.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26167262-under-our-skin

 

Real Life Interrupted

*Note: This was written 2 years ago during the last week of school

This was not exactly how I had planned for the last week of school to go. The kids had already completed several subjects, so their lesson plans were much lighter than usual. Noah had lots of fun activities planned for his last week of preschool, leading up to his graduation on Friday. My goal was to finish our school work, and then use our extra time to organize our work from the year, pack away our books, and clean up our schooling areas. With any luck, I’d get caught up on laundry and start packing for the beach as well!

Instead, as I was in the middle of securing Abby’s bun for her dance pictures, Noah came running in complaining of a tummy ache. Fortunately, the trash can was near by and little man made it just in time. Needless to say, Abby didn’t make it to her pictures. After a turn on the potty and with his tummy still hurting, little Noah climbed into bed, where he slept through dinner and didn’t wake up until 6:45 the next morning.

The next few days left little time for any of the things I had planned.

The laundry piled up. And up. And up.

Lesson plans were half-heartedly completed.

The year’s school work lay scattered in piles around the house.

The books remained unorganized and desks remained cluttered.

Packing? Yeah, right.

All my efforts were focused on trying to get Noah well enough to participate in his graduation ceremony. After all, he’s our baby! I couldn’t let this milestone pass us by. By Friday morning he was up and running around again (Thank You, Jesus!). So, with the house a disaster and my to-do list a mile long, we loaded the whole family in the car and watched tearfully as our little man closed the door on the Preschool chapter of10464015_10206909151271494_3834277550112502004_n our lives and stepped confidently (and a bit comically) into the world of School-Age children. Wasn’t he just born yesterday? How did we get here??

I decided to take Friday afternoon off. After all, I was emotionally drained from watching my baby grow up before my eyes that morning! Yes, the house looked like a tornado had torn through it and the there was much that needed to be done before we could leave for the beach, but this momma needed a break. So I ran some errands, snuck in a quick dinner date with my hubby (a huge advantage of having a Pre-teen daughter!), and went to bed with prayer for good sleep and a list in my head of all that needed to be accomplished the next day…This morning, however, I was awakened by Eli complaining of a tummy ache, and well… Round 2 has begun. Will it ever stop? Will life ever go as planned? Being a mom has got to be the most unpredictable, interruption-filled job there is!

Oddly enough, I read a C.S. Lewis quote on Sunday night that prepared my heart for what was to come:

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.”

C.S. Lewis, The Collected Works of C.S. Lewis

Thank You, Lord, for this crazy, messy, unpredictable, exhausting, real life.

Now, I’m off to do some laundry…