How YOU Doin’?

Last night after the Newcomers meeting at church, one of our new(ish) families to CIL walked up to me.  The father simply said “How have you been this week?  I’ve been praying for you.”  Immediately, I knew he wasn’t giving me the standard “How are you?” greeting that we so often use to simply convey feelings of goodwill towards one another.

Last week, I spoke at church while Aaron was out of town and encouraged… or challenged, rather… the congregation to go deeper with God.  One of my challenges was to seek out fresh manna every day (instead of running on the fumes of past mountain-top experiences).  I mentioned that I felt God inviting me to give Him the first part of every day – getting up early (i.e. before the kids – yikes!) – to spend time in His presence.  The manna mentioned in the Bible would come to the Israelites overnight and they had to gather it in the morning before the sun came up and burned it away.  I confessed to the church that I’m so not a morning person, but I believed that if my relationship with God was going to go deeper, I needed to seek Him out in the morning.

At first, it went great!  It was literally as though God woke me up before the kids each morning… to bask in His presence, read His word, listen for His voice.

But as with most things, I quickly started slacking.  How can that be, after I so vehemently challenged the church body to press in?  The past few days, I had already started making the choice to stay in bed until Lincoln (who gets up with the chickens, btw!) dragged me out for breakfast.

Sigh.

But I would get back on track, I told myself… TOMORROW!… or eventually.

Then, last night – no doubt at the prompting of the Holy Spirit – this man who barely knows me asked a very innocent but (perhaps unwittingly) loaded question.  How are you this week?  No, the more I think of it, it wasn’t unwitting.  He looked me in the eye and he may as well have said “Frequently, after giving a challenging message, the enemy will do everything in his power to pull you off-track.  Are you fighting this by staying close to the Lord?”

And that he did.  (the enemy, that is)  Library books I’d been waiting on for weeks suddenly became available… my kids slept LATE… we stayed up LATE laughing and having a good time…

But I digress.  That isn’t really the purpose of THIS particular blog post.

My point is… how often do we give people the courteous “How are you?” question – and maybe even mean well… maybe even mean it – but fail to ask them the more important questions:  How is your walk with the Lord?  Are you spending time with Him?  What have you learned lately?

It almost seems intrusive, right?  Rude, even.  But truly, I was so thankful for that pointed question.  I think I crave it.  Not for someone to come and tell me how I should be doing things or what I’m doing wrong.  Just to ask.  And with a simple question, my rudder is adjusted.

So, let’s find one person this week that we can ask, in all seriousness:

No, REALLY.

The Retainer of my Youth

When I was in 8th grade (I think… or was it 7th?  No, it was indeed 8th) I got my braces off and almost immediately began wearing a retainer.  For whatever reason, it wasn’t long before I was able to start wearing my retainer only at night.  This was a huge step!  FREEDOM!

Classic retainer

Of course, even though my Orthodontist, Dr. Allen, plainly told me that it was in my best interest to wear this retainer EVERY night, over time I slipped and wore it less and less.

But I never lost it.  Ever.

All through high school, I would watch friends go digging back through the trash at fast food places, the school lunchroom, etc. to find their retainers. Because I only wore mine at night, it was easy to just pop it into the little green plastic container every morning and it was safe.

So, I never lost mine… until Friday night.

Recently, I noticed my teeth had been shifting – nothing major, just a little – and my front right tooth has been a bit sensitive. Ok, a LOT sensitive.  [Hello, world! Look at me – I’m getting old(er)!]  Because of this, I began wearing my retainer again for just a few hours a day.  OH MY WORD, it really hurt at first.  I never imagined my teeth and hard palate would’ve changed that much over the years… but then again, it had probably been 10 years or so since I’d even attempted to wear it.  Maybe longer.  So… OUCH.

Prior to Friday night, I ONLY wore the retainer a few hours before bed and would promptly take it out and return it to the little green plastic container.  But this particular night, my tooth was giving me fits (nerve pain?  dunno) so I popped the retainer in as I was getting dinner ready.  My brother and his kids paid us a surprise visit and I got so wrapped up in playing with the babies that – when it came time for dinner – I took out my retainer and placed it on top of my purse, thinking I would easily see it there and take it upstairs later.

That’s the last I’ve seen of it.

I’ve looked everywhere.  I took everything out of my purse.  I offered my kids $5 to whoever found it somewhere in the house.  (thanks for that suggestion, Kim!)  Nada.  I searched under furniture and inside toy bins.  My last resort was the trash, because… well… ewwwwww!

By last night, it was clear there was only one option left.  Ewwwww.

As I rummaged through our garbage, it hit me that:

1) Even if I found it, there’s NO WAY I would ever put it back in my mouth.  Trash really is disgusting.  And no amount of disinfectant would ever make me forget some of the sights and smells I encountered while digging through that.  (In all of my years of being a mommy, I’ve either blocked it out completely or this is the first time I’ve actually had to rummage through the trash for something.)

2) in light of the fact I’d never wear it again even if I DID find it in the trash, the real reason I was searching high and low for my retainer wasn’t because I desperately NEEDED it  – but more because it has sentimental value.

Yes, it’s true.  The retainer, in it’s little green plastic container, has been with me for a long time, and I’ve just grown accustomed to having it.  When I moved to college, the green container went with me.  When I moved to Traverse City, it went there, too.  The same for Nashville, the little farmhouse in Princeton, TX… on to Frisco, and back to Nashville again.

Somehow I managed to hang on to that thing for 27 years.  It’s possible that I had a bit of pride over having… (wait for it)… RETAINED my retainer this many years.  hahahaha  Ahem.  Ok…

I suppose it could show up.  I’m sure it could.  But perhaps it’s time to admit that – even though I was ABLE to wear it – it really didn’t “fit” me anymore.  As with many things in life, there comes a time when you just need to put away the things in your past and admit that you’ve changed.  When you’re young and fresh out of braces, you’re still growing and need that retainer to help maintain that which was put properly in its place.  So maybe this whole thing with losing my retainer has shown me something deeper.

Is my inner “shape” different from when I was 14, which was in constant need of restraint and bridle?  Yes, and no.  While I will never be without the need to daily spiritual guidance and direction… the growth process calls for a re-fitting, if you will.  The borders, barriers, checks and balances that I had at 14… 24, even… have changed now that I’ve matured.  (Hopefully.)

So, maybe it’s just time to say goodbye to that ill-fitting retainer, bite the bullet and get one that fits.

But, you know… the mini-hoarder in me will still keep the little green container.  😉

It looks lonely, no?

“What He Said” Wednesday – Bread. Stone. Gum?

Yikes, it’s been a whole week since I’ve blogged. I mean, I’ve blogged a million times in my head since then… it just hasn’t found it’s way to the blogosphere. It’s been a busy week – medical procedures, choir concerts, HUGE birthday party, sick kid, leading worship, work, going to the theatre… I’m not complaining! I’ve just found myself too tired to follow through with getting the thoughts in my head onto the computer. Blah blah blah, right?

On top of all of that, I’ve had a tiny little newfound obsession with Netflix! I know, I know – we are SO five years ago. I just honestly haven’t felt the need for it until lately. But alas,we did the 1 month free trial and I am hooked. I blew through Downton Abbey Season 1 in less than a day! In fact, right at this moment I’m seriously jonesing for season 2. But that’s neither here nor there and has absolutely nothing to do with this post.

Tonight at church, I was sitting with my dear friend Jackie. We’ve been friends for a LONG time and she’s moving away from me and I’m sad… but I’m so proud of her and EXCITED for her! She’s off on a grand God-adventure in a week or so, and as much as I’d like for her to stay here and have God-adventures with us, I’d never dream of holding her back from the path God has laid out for her. She’s gonna ROCK IT. No doubt. But again, that’s not the crux of this post.

Like I said, there I sat beside Jackie, with her ipad in her lap. At the end of worship but before Aaron (my hubby) got into his sermon, Jackie was perusing through her twitter feed and randomly showing me funny tweets. Her, me, and giggles are a deadly combination.

At some point in Aaron’s sermon, I could tell he was most-likely moving towards an altar call… which meant I would be praying for people… which meant I needed to pop some gum in my mouth. It also meant I needed to get serious. Right.

I realize that I’m making this story WAY longer than it needs to be, but… I haven’t blogged in a week. So…

Anyway… I reached into my purse for grab my packet of gum and pulled out THIS:

It's a rock. A BIG OLE HONKING ROCK, too.

Of course, I have no idea how it got there. And of course I muttered some sort of exclamation under my breath, which caused Jackie to look over, see the rock, and start giggling (silently, of course) all over again. Maybe you just had to be there…

2 things immediately went through my mind: 1) No wonder my purse has felt like I was carrying around a sack of rocks lately – I WAS!!!!! No really, it’s been unbelievably heavy and I couldn’t figure out why. And 2) To make matters worse, all I could think of was Matthew 7:9 where Jesus says:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?

I guess I should just be glad it wasn’t a snake! (Read verse 10 😉 ) If you know my kids at all, you know this is not a far-fetched statement!

And that, my friends, is my contribution to “What He Said” Wednesday. They can’t all be homeruns! hahaha

Oh, and P.S. here’s what was in my gum container:

My daughter strikes again...

“What He Said” Wednesday: Didn’t You Know?

On Wednesdays, I’m going to try to take something Jesus said and write about it.  I’ve been busy with work, kids, church, and band practice today… but I still have 30 min left in my Wednesday, so let’s do this!!!

Let’s start with Luke 2:41-52:

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival. When Jesus was twelve years old, they attended the festival as usual. After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.

When they couldn’t find him, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him there. Three days later they finally discovered him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.

His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.”

“But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  But they didn’t understand what he meant.

Then he returned to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. And his mother stored all these things in her heart.

Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.

First of all, every. single. time. I read this, I’m amazed that it took Mary and Joseph so long to realize Jesus was missing!  It really makes you stop and think about how different life was back then.  Raising kids was a community effort.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say Mary & Joseph were pretty good parents.  (God wouldn’t entrust His only son to just ANYONE, now would He???)  And yet, on the long walk from Jerusalem to Nazareth, they never once checked on their son.  And it took them THREE DAYS to find him.  I can’t even imagine the grief they were going through!

Hmmmm, 3 days…

Believe me, I’m not pointing any fingers here – just recently, we lost Lincoln – TWICE – at  Six Flags in Texas.  But that’s another story for another time!

My real focus here is how Jesus responded to his parents.  For 3 days he was separated from them – no cell, no email, no way to communicate to let them know he was ok… and yet his response was “Why did you even need to search?  Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  He was basically saying “Hello!  Do you even know me???”

Jesus was 12.  He was fully God and yet fully human.  What a conundrum!  The God part of Him needed to be in the temple, being about His Father’s business.  The human part of Him should’ve told his parents he was staying behind.  I love how it says that – once they found him! – he went home with them and was obedient.  Yes, He was the son of God, but He still had to mind his mama!  THEN, after obeying, He grew in stature and wisdom and favor with God and everyone.

Again, I believe Mary & Joseph were good parents… but DID they really know their child?  Were they able to fully comprehend the responsibility they had been assigned?  Like most parents, I think not… until they were reminded.  “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  

My friend Mary just wrote an EXCELLENT, convicting, inspiring blog about the uniqueness of each child, and how the Holy Spirit can help us do what’s best for them.  I urge you to take the time to read it:  Here.  After reading (my friend) Mary’s blog and then reading this passage, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it might’ve been like to be the mother of Jesus.  Did he get discouraged?  Was he a typical tween?  (Please. Jesus wasn’t a typical anything!)  Did Mary (mom of JC) have to give Jesus pep-talks?  Give him the “look” if he was talking during synagogue?  My kids think they know everything  – can you imagine raising the child that actually DID?  Haha.  You get the picture.

As I ponder all of these things, I know I need help from the Holy Spirit in order to help my kids achieve their full potential in Christ.  I have good kids and I’m thankful for that, but I need wisdom in how to parent each of them as unique individuals.

Lord, help me to fully know each of my kids in such a way that I might better guide them to a life of following You!  Amen.

P.S.  I finally finished at 12:30 a.m. (and then just went back and edited/added because I’m compulsive like that!!!) I’m sure I’ll be able to plan ahead better as the weeks go on and not be scrambling to finish this – although Wednesdays are very hectic so I’m not entirely sure WHY I picked Wednesdays as my day to do this.  In light of that, I may only do this every other Wednesday.  Or just switch to another day of the week.  Just depends.  We’ll see!

Poison and Fruit: Preface

I love social media.  I do.  But I also hate social media.

I love being able to keep up with far-away family and friends as well as those close-by.

But I’ve noticed something disturbing in the past 2 years:  I get antsy when anyone speaks in phrases longer than 140 characters.  Like BORED.  I think things like “come on… cut to the chase… chop chop.”

I don’t like this about myself!  I’ve always loved words.  I’ve always loved TALKING.   However, after using Twitter and Facebook for the past several years, I fear I’ve broken my ability to interact on an untethered level.  Ok, maybe not broken but at the very least seriously maimed.

So, I’m attempting to get back to words.  I don’t have the best track record when it comes to blogs.  I’m great at starting.  Not so great at consistency.  I’m not even sure I remember how to string sentences together for something longer than a status update… so hopefully it’s like riding a bike.

I want to muse… to think out loud… to dream without editing.

But I will use a measure of care because words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit.