Tuesday, February 25, 2014


“ . . . live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.”  Colossians 1:10
Although the words “Cat fan” will never make it to my resume under “hobbies” I was engrossed watching an online video of a kitty opening a door to a laundry room to escape. I am easily impressed. I was equally impressed when hunkered down, ogling over a massive hot dog covered in ketchup, mustard, and a tight row of raw onions sat a four year old girl excited to dive into her lunch. I stared, expecting the girl to unleash a fit of rage when she took a bite of her hot dog and the rough, onion taste bit her back, however, she chewed, as the edges of her mouth turned upward in a satisfied grin and she leaned back in her chair to chew in utter content and satisfaction. I continued to stare out of shock. Had the authorities been in close range I would have been arrested for over stepping my starring boundaries.
It takes large amounts of prodding and cash to get our kids to venture over to garlic bread from toast and butter. Raw onions would never happen in our house.
 “I am so impressed that she likes raw onions.” I said to the mother understanding her concern for my gaze. “I have always given them to her so she has always eaten them.” She replied. I shook my head in disbelief as my kids sat eating their cheese pizza leaving the crust on the plate because it is “gross” and picking the “burnt bubbles” off the top of the cheese. Admittedly, that gene was passed down from my side of the family. Raw onions and burnt cheese bubbles taste terrible.
In the New Testament, Jesus tells stories about people who seemed to impress Him. Although that isn’t possible, Jesus is smitten over the widow who gives the only coins that she has left, the shepherd who spends hours looking for one sheep while the other 99 wait, the faith of a centurion who asks Jesus to “say the word” and his servant will be healed, and the pack of friends who send their injured comrade through roof of a building on a cot so that he could get in front of Jesus and be healed. These people do simple acts with mighty faith. They are unrecognized, unassuming, and unpretentious. They do the right thing not the impressive thing.
Although it is impossible to impress God, it is not impossible to please Him. Simple acts of faith, obedience, sacrifice, submission, and love, please God. He loves when we serve others without needing recognition, act lovingly without setting off lights and sirens, and when we give anonymously.
Pleasing God should come naturally, but it does not. Impressing others should never matter, but it does. When we learn to please God and to neglect our need to astound others, peace will ensue. And even if you are old enough to have acquired a taste for raw onions I probably wouldn’t be too impressed unless you were eating them while riding a unicycle around an ice skating rink while holding a cat. That’s impressive.

1.     In what ways have you become too satisfied with impressing others instead of pleasing God?
2.     What are some specific ways you can please God this week?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I love them.


“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:24 (NIV)
There were two tests that every girl must pass in order to become the perfect runway model at Henshaw’s Department Store. When standing straight with your feet together your legs must touch at the calf and knee, and you must master balancing on one leg while supporting a book on your head. My legs were too skinny to touch and my poise was poor so after my 8-week stay in modeling school, I was dismissed—epic fail.
My charm, composure, and stature, had no merit in the modeling world, which I was certain to be the perfect career for this sixth grader. Any hopes of draping trendy outfits plucked from the department store racks over my tall frame for the Fall Fashion Alive show were wasted.
In spite of my failure to be model perfect I still had a measurable dose of confidence and self-esteem and learned over the years as my relationship with Christ grew, that God doesn’t expect perfection from me. With that I can breathe a sigh of relief. He created my legs and the rest of my body exactly as He intended, off balance and broken. I, like everyone else have flaws. When I look closely at the defects in my character I have to make a choice. Do I remain the same, convinced that I am whom I am, or do I seek to make a change to become who Christ intended me to be?
As I read God’s Word, the Bible, I learn how to act, think, and speak in a way, which pleases Him. In addition I learn that as I read, I need to apply what I have learned to my every day life. And contrary to what others believe, choosing to follow what is written in the Bible and following God’s standard for living righteously doesn’t hinder my fun, it hinders my pain. God desires progress not perfection
Since leg liposuction and knee augmentation are out of the budget I have to rely on the fact that I can still pop a wheelie on my bike to make a good impression, unless my ridiculously delicious made-from-scratch carrot cake sounds better since my modeling skill have been shelved.

1.     What imperfections are you allowing to keep you from believing that you are perfectly created by God?
2.     What changes can you make today which allow for more Christ like character?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Milestones

Birthday milestones are fun when you are turning ten. They are equally fun when you are turning 13, 16, and 21. The fun leaves, and the "ugh" arrives after twenty-one. I cannot recall any 29 year old fist pumping because they are about to turn 30. In addition, I cannot recall the moment in time when you stop wishing that you looked older and begin to wish that you looked younger. These two episodes must coincide and I'm guessing that it all happens around the age of twenty-nine.

Our oldest boy is not nearly as excited to turn 17 as he was to turn 16. Other that becoming legally able to purchase a ticket to an "R" rated movie and reading Seventeen magazine for the first time as an actual 17 year old (him personally, but other girl variety 17 year olds), there aren't many perks which come with seventeen. In fact, those who are seventeen spend the last half of the year telling people that they are almost eighteen. Anticipating the next birthday for six months can't be much fun.

Our other boy turns 12 this year. There are not many perks with that age either. He told me the other day that next year he will really be grown up. Turning thirteen is so much cooler than twelve, unless all of those notorious body changes have you wishing you were eight again.

The youngest of the family turns 10. Now that's a milestone, I'm told. Double digits mean something amazing, I'm just not sure what. Does it mean the exit of adolescence and the entrance to pre teen, or is it simply the exit of those pesky single digits which are associated with preschoolers and blankies? Double digits hang out exclusively with other numbers, and in pairs, and altogether, like a party. Whatever the reason, it's big although we don't have big plans.

Our daughter turns 20 but not until December. She exits her teen years and will enter the age of a 20 something. She will have the option to say "I'm in my 20's" or "I am almost 21." People expect more from a 20 year old. By this time she better be capable of hard boiling an egg and doing a load of laundry along with a whole host of other things otherwise I have failed as a parent. Fifty years ago, 20 year old women were married and had children, and were doing much more that boiling eggs and making sure that the darks and whites didn't mix in the washing machine. I'll take the 21st century expectations over that.

I just turned 50. Milestone yes, but definitely no fist pumping involved. This year I'll settle for raucously celebrating, ten, twelve, seventeen, and twenty, and in addition, thanking God for 50 amazing years and a spectacular husband and family.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Near Death

When I decided to "mix things up" in my exercise routine, attending "Boot Camp" at 6:30 a.m. should not have been one of those options. Had the coffee shop nearby opened at 6:00 a.m. instead of 7:00 a.m. my unwillingness may have diminished more quickly. Six thirty in the morning mixed with no caffeine, sprinkled with 40 degree weather, was the perfect storm. Remembering  the treadmill which was located inside a 70 degree room was taking its toll on my will power.

While mustering every ounce of energy I had, I pulled on my running pants, zipped my jacket and walked to the field house where the boot camp was taking place during a conference I was attending. I was the first to arrive. The instructor gave me some descriptions of the class and filled me in on what I could expect---misery.

Sixty year old lady and her husband were next to arrive and then two young gazelles free of make up and body fat. I surmised that I was first going to die from attempts to keep up with the gazelles and second that I had a good chance of beating out the 60 year olds and coming in 3rd place. Even though this wasn't a race I knew that there would be mental point distribution is one way or another. I had to make my mark quickly and stay in the game. The mental challenge caused me to break into a sweat before we even started.

The class began, and with a hint of pride, I took first place in "jog around the gym." Before I could question whether or not this class had any hopes of challenging my cardio stamina we burst into 30 jumping jacks, another lap, 30 squats and leaps into the air, another lap, 30 push ups, another lap, 30 burpies, another lap, and then 30 high knee marches. By this time I was about to pass out but stopping was not an option. Sixty year old lady and her husband were keeping up without a problem and naturally, the gazelles we leaping and dancing as if this was just an exercise in fun.

When instructed to grab a yoga mat I was certain that the next 30 minutes would be devoted to abdominal work or more push ups that I could fake my way through but when everyone was then issued a medicine ball I knew that the next 30 minutes would perhaps be more painful than the first.

The details of the last 20 minutes are fuzzy. I slipped into unconsciousness several times, lapped water from the drinking fountain like a weary hound dog after an entire day of hunting, and fell exhausted onto my mat for the final 5 minutes of stretching.

The gazelles exited before the final stretching and barely broke a sweat, 60 year old man left but lady stayed, and at then end of the class the instructor had the audacity to ask me if I was okay.

I refueled on guzzles of water and a large coffee, welcomed a hot shower, and popped some ibuprofen anticipating sore muscles. I will never, I repeat never, attempt boot camp again, ever.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Great Expectations

"Expect nothing and you will not be disappointed." If I had reminded myself of that poignant quote I wouldn't be composing this blog post. However, when I returned home from a 5 day writer's conference, our 16 year old acted as though I'd never left. He handed out his last dose of hugs as if he was sharing his final sip of Red Bull after a raucous sleepover; reluctantly and with few words.

He left our short conversation petting the top of my hand as a final sarcastic act of affection. There was no, "How was your trip?" "What did you learn?" "We were lost without you!" or "Please don't ever go on another trip without us!" He simply left the kitchen with no reassurance of a quick return.

The narcissism of a teenager is often overwhelming for a mother who needs a speck of affection after 5 days away. Thankfully, the gift of a 9, 11, and 19 year old who desperately missed their mother and smothered her in hugs and conversation, was enough to soothe the sting of sixteen year old drowning in a moment of self centeredness.

Seconds later our son's friend who thankfully feels comfortable enough to enter the house without knocking, arrived. He was more talkative. He always is. I listened as he talked, making a point to ask very few questions and to take my ironic position as one who should been seen and not heard. The conversation dance is tricky with teens and often difficult to interpret.

Here is how the dance is performed: I listen and don't give much feedback. I don't dare ask a lot of questions. Nodding and feeding them seems to work well. Freshly made cookies really make them talk. I make them forget that I am  there while they engage with each other and I listen while pretending to not. I don't try and fit in, but absorb instead. If I ask too many questions, or try and join the conversation, they roll they eyes and make me feel like a conversation stalker who ought to be arrested. If they decide to let me participate I know that I must sign in on the sheet and wait for my name to be called. The dance isn't open to just anyone. I need a ticket and the ticket can expire at any time and without warning.

The evening ended with our son sitting at the kitchen counter where I was washing the last stack of dishes. He immediately burst into conversation dolling our sacred information regarding his day. I fed him first. While listening, I continued to remind myself of the dance rules being conscience not to over nod or share my opinion. We chatted for 20 minutes, and although he never asked about my trip or told me that I was missed, he accepted my ticket to the conversation, and that alone, was completely unexpected and utterly appreciated.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

J-E-L-L-O

In spite of the fact that I lack the credentials and maturity, I have recently volunteered to guide the spiritual minds of 12 seventh grade girls from our church and lead them in a small group. I'm in it for the sleepovers and candy. The wrestling and screaming I could do without.

Since snacking is a must, in addition to the Bible teaching and journaling, I inquired with my 9 year old as to what snack I should bring to our first meeting. In addition to my insatiable sense of humor and fashion know how, I was hoping that my reputable and highly creative snack choice would supersede my age factor and make the girls fall in love with me. The disappointed whispers of "Aw, we got the mom and not the teenager" would die quickly when they saw my snacks hence the need to acquire wisdom in the snack area from one who knows snacks well.

"Jello!" was the first suggestion from our youngest child. Although initially skeptical, I knew that expertise was greater than my negative intuition. "And popcorn?" I suggested hesitantly. I wanted to bring popcorn because the last time I saw red Jello it was cut into smallish cubes and spiked heavily with vodka. It's been a while. Popcorn was a good back up if my cooking skills failed.

My popularity hinged on the Jello so I nervously blended two boxes of strawberry Jello with boiling water and dumped the contents into a large metal bowl. The mass of red goo was impressive but I wondered how much would actually leave the bowl.

Before leaving for my small group I grabbed a large can of whipped cream. At least we could do whipped cream shots straight into our mouths if the Jello was a flop. That's fun.

When I arrived to my small group I slipped the bowl into the kitchen quickly before the girls arrived. I couldn't bear any ensuing negativity prior to delving into God's Word.

The group went well. The stifled outbursts of giggling were reaching their peaks and I knew the snacks would need revealing soon. After prayer I unveiled the Jello. The girls jumped up and down like, well, excited 7th grade girls about to get sugared up and sent home for the aftermath. My snack was a success.

As the girls left, throwing out hugs and thanks I was certain of a three things. The bouncy 13 year old middle schoolers have a small group leader who loves them, is dedicated to their spiritual growth, and currently wears the title, "Queen of awesome snacks."