Sunday, September 29, 2013

Messy Monday: Found

Yesterday was a moment to let dishes sit and lunch turn to crusty cement on our kitchen table, because my kids were ready to play outside. I was ready to play too.
 
We headed into the sunshine to run, bike, and roller skate while the men-folk played football in the yard. My three-year-old emerged from the cluttered garage with a packet of cilantro seeds that had apparently been shuffled into the unknown for the duration of the summer, as well as a package of Easter stickers from goodness knows where. She toted both in the woven white and magenta basket on her bike until a moment of enlightenment.
 
An impromptu game of hide-and-seek sprouted organically from our play. I climbed atop the tube slide, pressed against the wooden wall of our church's ark. I heard her giggles as she found her sister and they set off in search of me. One minute later a laughing face shouted, "I found you!" I was caught, but there was a consolation prize. "You want a sticker?" For each time she found me I was given a shiny Easter sticker, and of course so was she.
 
I drove to pick up our pizza, stickers emblazing the fact that I was a proud parent of a preschooler. I owned every bit of it.
 
To bear the marks of my daughter is a gift.
 
To bear the marks of my Savior, immeasurably greater.
 
For the run-down, bone-weary moments, we have a Savior who points to our lives and says,
 
Remember when I found you?
 
When we are tempted to feel failure as our very definition, He points to our lives and says,
 
Remember when I found you?
 
As though we could be emblazoned with days and moments that sing for joy, I belong to Christ!
 
 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
 
As though we could roll out of bed to the sight of our Savior smiling in the morning sun,  Found you.
 
when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
 

Remember when you hid behind your pride,
And I found you?
 
Remember when you couldn't see a way out of the darkness,
And I found you?
 
Remember when people were cruel and you cowered inside yourself,
And I found you?
 
Remember when the pain covered you with a patchwork of injury,
And I found you?
 
Remember when your anger was so great you feared it would consume you,
And I found you?
 
 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
Psalm 63:5-7 
 
Over and over until our whole lives are just enormous testimonies to the Founder and Foundation.
 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five Minute Friday: True

I was writing in my head tonight as I patiently waited from my husband to amble up the concourse and into my arms after a 3 day conference.

I have to admit, it works radically with this week's Five Minute Friday: True. (If you haven't met here for a Five Minute Friday yet- a globe-load of wonderful writers meet together at Lisa-Jo Baker's place. Her task: to gift us with her prompt. Our task: to write about it for five minutes- no editing. Some of the most heartfelt words stream forth on these Fridays. Come join us!)

So here it is, at 12:40 a.m. I am writing this because I know the creativity juices may dry up if I wait until I have rested. And it's only five minutes, but it's an important five minutes.

GO

For my daughters:

I write to you so late because flights get delayed and airports are far, and I just had to see your daddy tonight.

I stood for virtually forever waiting for his sweet face. His gait. And I sent up silent prayers thanking God for your daddy's bald head- so easy to pick out of the crowd.

Flight after flight passed me by and with each man that passed I heard the voice of wisdom, wait for him.

Darlings, waiting for the one God has for you is a lot like waiting for your dad tonight at the airport.

A steady stream of people will pass you by, and you may be impatient with all the waiting, but it's worth the wait. Don't go throwing your arms around just any young guy who crosses your path.

Before you know it, couple after couple will join, embrace, hold hands, smile, whisper. And they will seem just so happy. You are going to want that.

Just wait. Wait for the one who is true.

You'll know him when you see him. The one who pursues you with the godly love. The one who loves Jesus as much or more than you do.

He is coming. He is on the way even now- who knows what stops he must make along the way.

But it is true- He is true.

STOP

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Three Word Wednesday: Eight Days Later

I sit in the silence, rocking in the wake of yet another child's puking episode, but it is too close to rise and shine, so how about I get in that quiet time I have been neglecting? I open my study book and Bible and get down to business, making connections, having epiphanies, and all before 6 am.
 
I am directed to look up yet another passage when I feel that familiar tug on my lazy nature. "Just skip it. You know that passage. Ok, maybe if you don't you'll at least figure out what it is from the context of the lesson." Reluctantly, I will my hands to escort the fragile pages left and find myself eye to text with the story of Doubting Thomas (poor man to have a label like that, like Rahab the Harlot). I say a quick prayer as I peruse the words, that the Lord would open my eyes to something that sticks- something beyond what I've read before. It sounds altruistic, but really I am just tired and I want to make sure this is "worth it." (Yuck, Lauren. Really? Yes, really. I can be selfish even when I'm reading the Word.)
 
But you know the Lord (or if you don't, you should). He delivers on His promises even when we are tired and whiny, and His Word definitely did not return void. It hit me hard, and I've been puzzling on it for a few days now.
 
 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin,was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:26-29
 
"Eight days later?!" Wait, what? Did I know that? Surely I must have read that, maybe studied it even. But then why did I not see it before?" (Yet another case for rereading and praying while reading the Bible, no matter how many times you've seen it.)
 
Eight days later. A couple weeks ago my daughter asked what time period I would go back to if I could go for just one day. I would like to put this eight days in my top ten. It just has me asking these questions like,
 
- Jesus obviously knew what disciples would be present when He first arrived, so why did He come when Thomas was gone?
 
- Was it because of something with Thomas, or was He giving the disciples a chance to evangelize to one of their own? (Even us believers need some evangelism, no?)
 
- And if He knew Thomas wouldn't believe them, why didn't He just come back in an hour to show Him?
 
- Why did He let Thomas struggle in His unbelief when He could have just shown Him right then and there that He was back?
 
- Why didn't Thomas believe his friends? Were relationships damaged after the crucifixion? Was he just stubborn? Was He hurt that Jesus revealed Himself to the other ten, but seemed to leave Him out of it? (Ouch, that would hurt.)
 
- Was he afraid to face Jesus? After all, he had deserted Jesus too. Maybe he was afraid he had done something unforgivable. Jesus had spoken peace to the others. He had breathed on them, given them the Holy Spirit. Thomas had missed the crucial sending of the disciples and gift of forgiveness.
 
- Did Thomas try to make the others doubt what they had seen? Did he just have to be right?
 
I'm not sure of any of those answers really, but it did bring to mind some things I do know.
 
- We can evangelize til we're blue in the face, but if that person doesn't come face to face with who Jesus is and what He did, they won't believe. And half-pictures of Him are no good. He died AND rose!
 
- We can't make anyone believe, that's God's job, but that doesn't mean witnessing is a waste of time. Witnessing is a blessing from God. We have seen the Lord!
 
- It's not all about the outcome of our present circumstance. We want to skip the hard things, get to where things are good. So we rush it. We push our questions to the back burner and act like things are fine, because maybe if we act like it, that will make it happen. Jesus is okay with the struggles. He waited to show Himself, not because He didn't care or love Thomas. He knew exactly what Thomas needed, and delivered accordingly. God works within our struggles, and He loves us enough to wait until the time is right.
 
- Pride is always a snare. When our stubborn need to be right keeps us from celebrating the Risen Christ, we need to step back and be willing to conceive that maybe there is a better way beyond what our eyes have seen.
 
- You're mistakes don't have to define you. Failing once is not failing forever. Thomas had the opportunity to exercise true faith and he missed the boat. He wouldn't let that same mistake happen again. Years later he would have the opportunity to declare unbelief once again. Instead, he prayed to the Jesus he could no longer see and was run through with a spear. Sounds like a happy ending to me.
 
---------
 If you would like to join in Three Word Wednesday, or just read other writers who have, click on the button to the right, or right here!
 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Messy Monday: Schrapnel in the Sanctuary

There was a full-out war being waged during church yesterday morning, and the shot heard round the sanctuary was fired by my three-year-old daughter.

Let me preface this story with some facts pertinent to your grasping of the situation:
 
1. I am the praise team leader, so Sunday mornings can be pretty exhausting with the four kids and worship, and sometimes I feel like I need multi-tasking steroids to power through the service. (I would contend that most parents of little ones feel the same way.)
 
2. If you picture the seating of our sanctuary like a cross with the congregation seated down the middle of the tall beam and the altar at the top, our praise team "loft" is in the left cross beam section and slightly raised. Kind of like where a choir would sing or a handbell choir would play. Since our praise team pews are turned toward the center of the sanctuary, not the altar, my children are able to sit in the center pews just a few feet away and I am able to sit with them while we aren't singing.
 
3. I play an electric autoharp and sing as well.

A warm-up and some run-throughs and the service starts as usual. My husband welcomes the worshipers warmly and invites them to share the peace with those around them. As I don't play the first piece, I settle in to sing one of my new favorites, Take My Life. (A contemporary rendition of the hymn "Take My Life and Let it Be.")

Whether it was her middle-of-the-night excursion that put her into a more volatile mood than usual, or that she was just plain tired of asserting the independence she displayed all by her big-girl-self at Sunday school, I'll never know. But somehow the words to the first verse of our song trigger an immediate hunger, the pangs of which stab her poor tummy to tears, and that whole fifteen minutes since her last cupcake was fraught with carrying Sunday school projects and finding a seat in one of three of our usual pews, so naturally she has worked up quite an appetite that needs to be satisfied immediately. Did I mention IMMEDIATELY?

And as I am mic-ed for this song (and turning the mic off would be a bit obvious), I am forced to deal with the utterly public and nuclear meltdown transpiring before me and the entire congregation with a series of clumsy and ultimately futile gestures mixing baby sign language, mommy sign language, and dull stares by the only helpful child within eyeshot. (The eldest child politely minding her business a few pews back with some friends.) The boy  is staring at me, completely lost. I really need to learn more sign language.

I manage to catch a stray word amidst the singing and sobbing and something sounds like, "I need a snack! I can't find a snack!" I motion to check my bag (keep in mind I am still singing, and now glaring), but she insists there is no food in there. Not one crumb. (There is, and she has literally made no attempt to search its contents, but that's besides the point.) So, desperately and fully aware of the bad decision I am making, I point to the small Tuperware sitting beside my bag on the pew.

The Tuperware filled with cupcakes. The minion cupcakes our dear friend made for my son for his birthday. The minion cupcakes containing the dye that has tattooed many a little face with royal blue five o'clock shadows. "I can have a cupcake?" I shake my head wildly yes as I reach for the autoharp to begin our next song. (Grace Like Rain, my new favorite version of "Amazing Grace.")

I play and sing as my peripheral vision reveals the ruthless tearing open of the container. The invasion of little hands descending upon those pour, unsuspecting minions. Oh the carnage as minions are devoured whole, their remnants smeared on floor and pew. The only evidence of their existence: a smurf-blue lake of frosting ground into the church carpet and bits and pieces strewn down pew cushions.

Confectionary POW's

And all the while we sing, Hallelujah, all my stains are washed away. They're washed away... (No joke.)

The sacrifice is great, but I count it all worth it because the beast has been pacified until the chorus strikes her parched tongue. A scream of "WATER," and I'm back to square one...

  
I am painfully aware of the congregations less forgiving than ours. I hear the horror stories of harsh words spoken to struggling parents by people with a fabricated remembrance of when their children were little. Having forgotten the shame and despair that comes when you feel you have reached the end of your rope, they can't empathize with the exhaustion and feeling of powerlessness in the face of a disobedient child who knows better.

My girl knew better and she still did it. She was disciplined, but I'm not counting on her never faltering again. I love her just the same.

God chose us before the creation of the world. He knew what we would do, but He made the choice to create us.

He knew we would complain. He chose to satisfy anyway.

He knew we would wander. He chose to bring us back- even if we had to feel pain in the process.

He knew we would abuse He mouthpieces. He chose to raise them anyway.

He knew we would reject His Son, beat Him, taunt Him, yell at Him, kill Him. He still chose to send Him.

He knew we wouldn't fully "get" what our salvation truly meant while we were on this earth. He chose to let us live in that salvation and hope even now- not just after we die.

He knew we would bind ourselves to other gods, seek our own wisdom. He gave us His word, His body, His blood, as real-life tangible pieces of Himself to open our eyes to the God He is.

His sacrifice was more than just a mess made in a hasty attempt to shut us up- it was a choice. He planned it. It was messy, no doubt, but it was worth it.

Because I have a new life to celebrate today and every day, and I am full.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Five Minute Friday: She

It is Five Minute Friday and the birds are chirping away in the still utter darkness. But this Five Minute Friday just couldn't wait for the sunshine. If you are joining us for the first time, Five Minute Friday is a staple around these parts.

It's simple. You head over to Lisa-Jo Baker's blog and read the word for this Friday. (Today: She.) Write on the word for 5 minutes, no editing or going back. Just brave and crazy writing. You link your post to hers and get busy reading and sharing the love with all the other brave and crazy writers who also joined in. (To give you an idea, it's 6:36 and there are already 119 other people linked in.)

She

GO

I used to be jealous of her. At least I think I did. Maybe. It's been so long and we are so close in heart, though far in footsteps.

If you'd ask her what she thought of herself, I'm not sure what she'd say, but I could tell you what I tell everyone about my little sister: she's awesome. Amazing.

Our meetings happen by strict planning and plane tickets. By 18 hour road trips straight up and down. She's a Southern Belle. I'm a Midwest Mom. And when I happen to cruise down in my minivan with my super-husband and four little... super... kids... after days of driving, I meet up with new faces around her town and meet her friends, and they find out who I am (no longer defined as Pastor's wife, so-and-so's mom, I am now "Sarah's sister."), and they have to tell me about her.

She is amazing.
She is so good.
She loves her students.
She works her butt off.
She is so excited you are here.
She just cooked the most amazing...
She is a beast! (at CrossFit that is a compliment;))
She played a great game last night.
She...
She...
She...

And I don't know when it happened, but somewhere along the way all those things that would have struck me jealous pierce my heart instead with pride. Because that is my sister.


STOP
 It's faces like ours that make Jumbo-trons around the nation.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Three Word Wednesday: Walk As Children


Let's be honest, humankind has a pretty lousy track record with snake-related distractions. And my children are no different.

There is a new found freedom in our household, and it comes in the form of the two oldest kids adventuring the whole 1 block home from school by themselves. I'm not going to lie, I'm still nervous about this most days, and frankly, they haven't done a whole lot to assuage my paranoia.

Like when they didn't come home last week. Ok, we give them a grace period of about 15 minutes seeing as they have an uncontrollable urge to assault every person they have ever met ever with a barrage of hugs and high fives. I must say, I love that about their school.

But when 20 minutes have passed and still no kiddos? "Better go get 'em," I tell my husband, and he heads out the door.

It wasn't the first time a snake would be blamed for the transgression of man. This snake was a pet, and the student who brought it to school had a blast showing it off.

And my kids are easily distracted.

So when I tell you my three words, don't think I am inviting you to distraction, or irresponsibility. It is certainly not a call to childishness. Goodness knows we don't need any more of that.

Walk as children.
 
"For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light  (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)," Galatians 5:8-9

The point of this passage lies more in walking in the light, discerning right from wrong and avoiding the ways of darkness.

But golly, what if we were to do that as children instead of fuddy-duddy adults?

What if our days were less about plowing from Point A to Point B, and more about exploring the sights along the way?

Because if you have ever E-VER tried to walking anywhere with a child at a reasonable rate to keep on some agenda accomplishing pace,
and if that child has ever thrashed about to get out of their stroller so they could walk themselves,
and if you have felt the knot of anxiety welling up in your heart and the feeling of powerlessness in compelling your child to walk in a straight line,
and if you have then determined that all of Satan's powers have now been concentrated into every itty-bitty crawling thing and colorful plant that could possibly lead your child astray,
and if you have then prayed to the good Lord above that you make it to your destination before nightfall,

then you know what a curious thing childlike fascination is.


And sometimes you might want it back yourself.

Because sometimes walking grown-up style is tedious and boring, and who doesn't want to skip now and again? Hold hands with a friend? Run as fast as you can? Question your world?

Just plain play?

Take the detour that eats up the time we claim as our own and spend it doing something worthwhile: marveling at how good our God is. After all, kids do it all the time.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze,
 
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
-How Great Thou Art

-----
If you'd like to join in Three Word Wednesday, write your own three words, or just read some good writing, simply click on the button on the right and link up!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Messy Monday: Messy and Blind

I took my life into my own hands last week. Or my legs at least.

With the increasing darkness around us (and I'm not speaking metaphorically here), morning runs have become significantly more treacherous and the sidewalks around this town are a mess. When we first moved here I wondered why everyone walked on the streets. Then I saw the sidewalks. Bingo.

So I was cruising enjoying that moist morning coolness when I saw headlights ahead. Out of courtesy to the drive and regard for my own life, I cut into the nearest yard and climbed onto the sidewalk.

Bad move.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I chanted to myself in the darkness as I leapt from block to block of sidewalk, bracing myself for the inevitable crack or chasm that would send me plummeting to the concrete floor beneath with any variety of twists, sprains, or breaks.

In the light, it's no big deal really. The dips, the rises, the cracks, are all perfectly visible. The light gives me depth perception. It gives me sight.

The other morning I was running alone and blind.

And it wasn't the first time.
 
Perhaps that's one of the most terrifying things about darkness. The illusion that you are alone.

Even the most dangerous circumstance seems somehow surmountable as long as there is someone with you. As long as you aren't all alone.

I taught my Sunday School kids yesterday that God separated the light from the darkness and for them it was a plain fact, but for me the fact burrowed into my own dark places...

There is no darkness that God does not control.
 
There is no place, no matter how dark, where God cannot be found.
 
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.
Psalm 139:11-12
 
I could quote scripture after scripture about light and darkness.
 
How the light is hope.
 
How the light overcomes.
 
How the light is Jesus.
 
And crossing from darkness to light, there are no verses more meaningful.
 
 But for the sake of those around us, groping through darkness, believing the deception that they are all alone, scared to death, I give you this: 
 
 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
2 Corinthians 4:5-7
 
Sometimes those of us who walk in the light forget how larger-than-our-weak-little-selves the darkness was.
 
We forget the despair.
 
We like to pretend this is the way it always was.
 
Because to admit otherwise might expose those dark places that we would really rather keep to ourselves.
 
And why would we, having certainly escaped the judgment of God through the blood of His Son, offer up our lives to be judged by others?
 
Because we are living sacrifices. Because that is our cross.
 
Because there is no place where light is more glorious than when it is shining in the midst of palpable blackness.
 
Because no one is ever really alone.
 
Because people are dying in darkness, and we have a God of light.
 
Because Jesus did it for us.
 
Because all the power really belongs to Him anyway.
 
And we are sons and daughters of the King. A royal priesthood, a chosen nation.
 
 
It's a get well card for a friend who suffered a similar injury to what she endured.
 
Sometimes that's all it takes.
 
Lord, open our eyes to the pain and darkness around us today. Let us be lights to shine Your glory in ways that cannot be ignored. Pour out Your love in the world around us and give us the heart of Your Servant to be vessels of that love. Amen.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Mercy

Well, it's the Saturday edition of Five Minute Friday because I honestly was dragging yesterday. So please show me some mercy and indulge my tardy post:)

It's Five Minute Friday where writers across the globe get together and get their write on for five whole minutes with no editing or going back. Straight up thoughts spilling onto keyboards and it's always so good! If you would like to join us, come on over! or click the button on the bottom left of the screen.

Today's Prompt: Mercy

GO

I just showed my son mercy. I gave him all the way until the count of five to get his football downstairs before he lost his privilege to go the Iowa v. Iowa State party... That's mercy, right?

Jesus said it, "But go learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'"

I went to learn what that meant. My Pastor at the time explained it like this:

A man gets his wife flowers and hands them to her. Sacrifice is saying, "I got you these because it's our anniversary."

Mercy is handing them to her and saying, "I got you these because I love you."

The Pharisees had the same issue I face, only I am ready to repent of it. The empty sacrifices. I used to think sacrifice by nature included love. It just takes a quick sweep of the Bible to see that ain't so. Take a look at Cain.

Mercy on the other hand, while you can certainly show it outwardly and have selfish motivations, is so closely tied to love that mercy without love isn't truly mercy.

So all those little graces, those little gifts of love the Lord bestows on us poor creatures- those are mercies.

His mercies are new every morning, that's for sure.

The eyeball has over 2 million working parts, and all mine work- that's a mercy.

I have keyboard at which to type and glorify God- that's a mercy.

I have faith- that's a mercy.

I have four children alive and well enough to bug the heck out of each other- another mercy.

And so today I will count them, the little mercies. And feel the love.

STOP

Monday, September 9, 2013

Messy Monday: Waiting in the Weeds

"When?" And I see the answer in his eyes.
 
They narrow as if to say, "Don't ask."
 
I know he can't answer my question, but it's like a reflex. You hear something good is going to happen and you think when?
 
How long must I wait?
 
It's been the story of my life for as long as I can remember...
 
Christmas. Birthdays. Vacation. Summer. School. Graduation. Wedding. Birth days.
 
Landscaping.
 
We live in a parsonage with the most understanding and at-the-ready congregation anyone could ever pray for, so I am absolutely positive this situation would play out very similarly even if we owned our own home.
 
The weeds have taken over the front yard rocks and it looks like a bit of a mess. Still, I shouldn't bother with the weeding because it will all be dug up sooner or later to prepare for new landscaping. Overcome by habit, I say,
 
When?
 
And just as it was when we lived in a house we owned, some things have to happen before we can get around to other things. First things first.
 
So we wait.
 
And on the day of my "when," I look down at the toddler monkey jumping and hollering at my feet, gesturing the sign for "eat" wildly as I cut up her grapes, and I sympathetically tell her to "chill."
 
It's coming. Just wait.
 
I hear ya loud and clear, Lord.
 
Waiting is fine. Worrying, not so much.
 
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?... Therefore do not be anxious, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "what shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Matthew 6:25; 31-33
 
When we spend much time looking toward the not-yet's instead of the right-here's, waiting slips into worry and blessings are missed.
 
Seek the kingdom of God first.
 
Your heavenly Father knows your needs.
 
And He is meeting them right here. Right now.
 
Open our eyes to your mercies new every morning, Father.
 
When wait for the Lord. We will never be disappointed.
 
 
A prayer for this blogger and all her readers today:
 
"Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long."
Psalm 25:5

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Birthday Cakes and The god of Opinion

Last weekend, I had the honor of helping my sister-in-law pour cake batter into a pan. And we joked about it the whole time.

Because when it comes to cake making, we are the odd couple. She is awesome. I am not. Actually, I am horrible at making birthday cakes. Hor-ri-ble. Atrocious really. But my husband encourages, and my kids make well-meaning stabs at enthusiasm, and in the end it is edible and soon gone forever.

But one of the things that makes the shortcoming more palatable is complimenting my sister-in-law on her skills. She loves it and she's good at it, and I would gladly come up with any excuse to celebrate if it meant she would make us a cake.

And when I praise her for her mad caking skills, I take a moment to realize it's not all about me.

Or is it?

I imagine that if I complimented her and she completely disregarded it, or responded with a "tell me something I don't know" kind of comment, I would actually be hurt. Of course, that is completely against her nature, but complimenting anyone and having them treat your praise as garbage can be frustrating. Infuriating even. Because deep down we would like to think that our opinion matters to someone other than ourselves. We'd like to think someone esteems our praise enough to smile or feel heart flutters of fulfillment that warm them the rest of the day at least.

Deep down, it's actually kind of a pride thing.

Now let's stop here- I do not mean this to be a downer. I would hate for anyone to think they give compliments purely out of narcissism, or that everyone who compliments them is doing it for their own prideful reasons. I'm just pointing out a truth- our opinions can become an idol. I mean, you wouldn't want someone's livelihood completely dependent on what you had or had not told them, correct? A lot of pressure there.

And I really point it out only because I so enjoy giving and getting compliments that it takes a deliberate effort on my part to recalibrate what has value in my life.

When things are going well, the recalibrating takes a backseat to the limelight.

When I struggle, that is my godly nudge to remember what matters.

So, when I have the holy task of baking the birthday cakes- even with all the sweet encouragement in the face of my glaring deficiencies- I have to ask what really matters anyway? That my family loves me no matter what? That is a gift I cannot thank God for enough, but it just takes a quick gloss-over of Job to remind me that all flesh is like the grass, and we are all of us certainly flesh here today-gone tomorrow.

My husband's opinion? I sure do love and value his amazing support, but if he's ever not around for a birthday the cake isn't going to set or flop based on his two cents.

My kids' opinions? Ok, it is my goal to be the best mom ever for them, but even the best moms have their shortcomings and chances are cake-making won't be the biggest one they discover about me.

In the end I have to ask, what does God think of it? Because when people are praising or pouting about little-ole-Lauren's words and actions, in the end I only have One opinion that matters. And so it does me all the good in the world to take the focus off me and put it onto the One who cares for me, because His truth is life-giving:

He is My Father and He Loves Me!
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God;
and so we are. 1John 3:1
 
He is My Everlasting Love!
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Jeremiah 31:3
 
He Thinks I am Worth Fighting For!
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31
 
He Has Made Me His Bride, and Rejoices Over Me!
For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
Isaiah 62:5

In this line of work it is amazing to be recognized for the good in the middle of the chaos.

But more than that, it is amazing to be recognized as God's child, His bride, His love.

May God remind us that when we are tempted to fly high or sink in the mire of public opinion, it is His true love of us that makes all the difference.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Red

I'm back and it's time for the first Five Minute Friday of the school year! It feels really good to write this again. I hope it feels equally good (or better) to read it! Come join us too, if you'd like:)

The rules of Five Minute Friday- you write for five minutes, no editing, no nothin'. Just look at the prompt and get to work and let it work. Today's prompt: Red.

GO

It comes to us in greens and reds. The Giving Season.

It comes to us as Christmas in August, and while the gifts abound in the greens of zucchini and the reds of tomatoes, packages of squash wrapped in plastic shopping bags, the reason for the giving is the same.

Jesus is the reason for every season.

And the neighbor across the street knows abundance when he sees it and loads us down with a couple dozen of his ripest tomatoes and the ache in my heart is awakened. Because the abundance I should be sharing with him I am leaving behind the four walls of the church next door.

The church across the street from this kind neighbor who pets my dog, and shares his food, and strikes up conversation.

Red is giving. To look at what we have and say, "You know, this is really too much. We can't possibly use it all, " and just give it away- like we are supposed to- it sets our hearts ablaze with the love and generosity of our very Father.

To view all my belongings and all the grace in the light of a tomato and say,

"It is more than enough."

That is a gift I sure could use today.

STOP

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Quit Hogging the Bathroom!

I know my way around a toilet. (You're already glad you started reading, right? I have started this post three times now and that's the best intro I could come up with.)

And while it is not Messy Monday, I really wanted to start the new blogging season with a bang and a realization that came to me in one of my new favorite rooms in the house... the can. I'm thinking it's going to serve as my reminder of what the purpose of this blog is.

It's a call to honesty in a believer's life, and a hand to pull us out of the emotional bathrooms in which we lock our sorry saved selves.

Summer traveling took me into a lot (Read: too many to count and some I'd like to forget) of bathrooms. Two of which had me slack-jawed. Seriously, with the lighting and the d├ęcor and the mirrors, Jacuzzi tub, fireplace, television- how do you ever leave? I could just hear the concerned family friends: Where's Lauren? I haven't seen her in a while, is she ok?... Yeah, I don't know. She walked into the bathroom one day to do her makeup and I haven't seen her since.

But those dear friends manage to do it somehow. Walk into their oasis and then back into real life, and all for the better.

The summer has also given me a chance to explore some spiritual bathrooms and has me realizing just how easy it is to want to take up residency beside my toilet.

All of us have our moments- probably daily- that send us to a place where we just have to purge the negative junk in our lives. We are sick with sin and, as a result, we expel it. But I tell you what, sometimes I have the hardest time flushing it and getting on with my life. It's like I just want to revisit all the nastiness- dress it up with flowers and pictures, and spray the Glade...

It's sick really. Makes me want to grab a pillow and blanket and camp out on the tile floor so I can return to the hurt or guilt at my earliest convenience. And if I can make it a slumber party with all my besties, even better...

Now there are illnesses that require some extensive toilet time. We all need friends to hold our hand, and our hair back, as we muddle through pains and process problems. He gives us His Word, His Son, His body the church. He instructs us-

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
(Romans 12:15)

so we can confidently support those around us.

But what about the everyday little things? What about when comforting leads to captivity? I will surely sit in a soul-searching bathroom as a friend struggles with God's will in her relationships, but when does the shoulder to lean on need to become the arms that carry their friend out of the water closet and back into the living room?

I don't really know. That's why I'm asking:)

God did give me a clue about 7 years ago though. When I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis I had a friend with RA who told me, "If you need someone to come to your pity party, I will be there. But let me tell you something. I will not let you stay there." She was allowing me to deal with the reality of my life without letting me chain myself to the stool. She gave permission to be free when all I could see was a life-sentence of pain. She was a follower of Christ whose words served as a reflection of His own...

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you... I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. - John 16:21-22; 33

I pray the Lord uses this blogger, and her readers, as examples of honest lives lived, not void of pit-stops, but in the freedom of Christ. I say, "Quit hogging the bathroom!" But maybe I should leave you with Paul's words instead,

"For freedom Christ has set us free..." -Galatians 5:1