Month: June 2010

Sucker Punch

Sucker punches to the heart. They hit you unexpectedly. Ever had one of those? I bet you have. Think about it. I’ll give you an example. The new Toy Story 3” movie is out in theaters, and one of my good friends went with her husband and family to see it. I’m interested in going to see it too, so I asked her what she thought of it. She said it was good. She also said she cried during the movie.
I reminded her it was a cartoon.
She said she knew that, and told me that in the movie, Andy grows up and goes to college, and that one day her son would, too. That fact unexpectedly made her cry.
Just to clarify, her son is ten. We’re not packing his suitcases just yet. My point is, she went into the movie totally not expecting it to hit her that way. But it did.
I had a sucker punch to the heart, too, recently. I took my oldest son to have his senior portraits made at school. As he stood there with his red cap and gown on, sort of smiling for the camera, it hit me how quickly time was passing. Wasn’t it just a few years ago he was graduating from kindergarten? (I cried then, too) As I watched him stand there holding a fake diploma for the photo, tears were unexpectedly filling my eyes! Now I plan to take Kleenex when I see Toy Story 3”.
These things hit us women more often than they do men, but it happens to them, too. I’ve seen it. Oh, they try to act like they’ve just gotten something in their eye, but the truth is they get sucker punches to the heart, too.
Most of the time as women, we just go with it. We take the hit and like it or not, open the floodgates. We cry at movies, during commercials on TV, and during songs on the radio. Or what about songs at church? Good grief, I hardly ever make it through a worship set with completely dry eyes! And what about those videos they show in church? I’ve seen the video about the dad who pushes his handicapped son’s wheelchair in marathon races at least half a dozen times, and yet it still gets me every time. Want to see what I mean? Play the following video…

(I just watched it again, and again it made me cry.)
We can blame it on hormones if we want to, but the truth is there are just things our hearts are susceptible to.
I believe those tears come as a result of our being made in the image of God, and it’s often in those moments that our humanity becomes a little less wretched and a little more Christ-like.
It can be frustrating and embarrassing to cry over a commercial- or a cartoon movie. But the next time you do, just remember, it’s one of those things that sets us apart from all other creation. We have a heart that can grow, change, break, and be moved.
Tell me about your last sucker punch to the heart… but before you do- watch this commercial… this time, grab a tissue first….

Sniff, sniff…

The Real Tooth Fairy

I recently watched the new movie, “Tooth Fairy” starring Dewayne Johnson, with my family.

It’s about a guy who’s lost his zest for life and tries to ruin a little girl’s belief in the Tooth Fairy. To teach him a lesson he must become a tooth fairy and learn to believe again. I sat there watching the movie, and couldn’t help but smile as it took me back about ten years to when my two oldest kids were in the throws of losing their own teeth, and getting frequent visits from the Tooth Fairy themselves. I was reminded of the night I had to tell them the truth about the whole Tooth Fairy thing.

We had company staying over with us, so it was all fruit basket turnover with the beds. No one was in their own bed. My two oldest kids were about six and eight at the time, and had wound up in my bed. The six-year-old had lost a tooth, and as always, we placed the tooth in a little pillow my mother-in-law had made for them. It has a sweet little verse stitched on it about how the Tooth Fairy would exchange the tooth in the pocket for money. I read the verse to my kids again, and placed the pillow underneath Ryan’s pillow.

As I was tucking them in, Ryan began to ask questions about the Tooth Fairy coming into our house after he was asleep.

I tried to explain to him that it was all in fun, and that no harm would come to him, but the thought of someone sneaking about in our house at night was beginning to freak him out. Pretty soon I could see his older brother wasn’t too thrilled about the idea either. I tried for about twenty minutes to calm them down. Nothing worked. Finally, exasperated and with no other choice, I took a deep breath and said, “Okay. I didn’t want to have to do this, but you give me no other choice. I’m going to have to tell you the truth…. I’m the tooth fairy.”

There was a short pause and then together their eyes widened and my oldest said, “No way!” It was then that I realized they thought I meant that I was THE Tooth Fairy.

In that instant, I had a choice to make. I could tell them the truth and let them know that there was actually no Tooth Fairy at all, or I could let them continue to think that I, their mother, was the Tooth Fairy. What do you suppose I did?

I spent the next half hour answering their questions about how I got the job done.

How I managed to get into houses without being seen, how I decided how much money to leave, and what I did with all those teeth. I know, I know… but I couldn’t resist. In the end I made them promise to keep my real identity a secret. I mean, I couldn’t have them going to school and blowing my cover, could I?

I remained the Tooth Fairy for quite a long time. It was great fun. We didn’t really talk about it much, but each time they lost a tooth, they’d just bring it to me. No need to put it under your pillow and wait when you live with the Tooth Fairy.

Through that experience, I learned children have a huge capacity to believe.

The Bible teaches that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven you must have faith as a child has faith. You must have the ability to open up your mind to the wonder of God’s love for you, and the tremendous sacrifice Christ made on your behalf. You must trust in a Savior fathered by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, who lived a sinless life, was murdered on a cross, and three days later rose from the dead thereby conquering sin and death forever.

That’s one wild story to wrap your brain around.

In the end, whether or not your children believe in the Tooth Fairy really doesn’t matter. But whether or not they believe in Christ matters for eternity. There’s no better place for them to learn it than from a parent. And I can promise, when you see the light come on and the understanding and wide eyed belief come to them, it opens up your own faith experience all over again.

Quotable Quotes

I truly believe kids say the darnedest things.
My daughter got me to thinking about this today when she said, “I think Harmonica would be a good name for a country. All the people from there would be Harmonicans.” Yep. She’s twelve. And then there was the time my teenage son was teaching my nine-year-old son to throw a Frisbee when we heard him say, “Aim for my head.” Speaking of the nine-year-old, he once asked, “Just how big ARE elephant eggs?”
If you are a parent of a child old enough to put words together, I am sure you have similar quotes, too.
I remember driving to church one Sunday with my four-year-old and my two-year-old in the backseat. Both were crying. I remember yelling, “I can’t drive and listen to both of you crying!” The four-year-old turned to the two-year-old and said, “Ryan, you stop crying, I was crying first!” I just had to smile.
When my niece was a toddler, we were trying to teach her to say where all the adults in her family worked.
Who knows why, except at that age, you still want them to say stuff. It’s cheap entertainment.
We asked her to tell us where her mom worked. Her response was, “Taco Bell”. Her mom actually worked at Bell South, but they went to Taco Bell a lot, so we accepted the answer. When it came to what her minister uncle (my husband) did for a living her eyes lit up because she knew she had this one right. Her response was, “He’s a creature!” Get it? Rhymes with “preacher”? She’s nineteen now, and I still laugh about that one.
Parenting is tough. No doubt. I think that’s why we get these cute little reprieves that remind us why we don’t make them sleep outside. Somehow we can stand quietly and watch them sleeping and quickly forget the struggles of getting through the day.
I’ve heard it’s the simple things in life that matter.
In the midst of hard times economically, environmentally, and politically, and even with our own children, I think these precious moments in our lives are what helps us count it all as joy. These little moments with our kids are fleeting. We can miss them if we’re not paying attention. Go ahead, I know you have some super cute quotes from the “littles” in your life. Post them here, and let’s all grin and count it joy together!

Father’s Day

I had the pleasure of visiting with my dad on Father’s Day. It was nice considering it’s been about ten years since I lived close enough to do that. My life has been blessed with a great dad.
As I was a kid growing up, he did what he had to do to provide for our family. He took an active and consistent roll in my life. He made sure I had every opportunity to hear the Bible preached, and then accept its message for myself. He showed up to every one of my dance recitals, piano recitals, school band concerts and halftime shows. He was a regular on the sidelines during halftime with a camera snapping picture after picture. He paid for my education, and has been involved in every major decision of my life. He also expected a lot of me.
I expected a lot of him, too. There has never been a time in my life, then or now, that I have called on him and he didn’t help. Not one. He provided me the safety and security I needed to grow up with confidence and self-assurance.
My dad probably didn’t know it, but he played a big part in who I chose to marry.
I look at my husband, and see so many of the great qualities my dad has. My husband is a great dad, too.
My dad played a huge part in the way I grew to view my Heavenly Father.
Check this out… I trust that my Heavenly Father will always meet my needs. I believe that He is involved in my life- in every area of my life, and I include my Heavenly Father in the decisions I make. Sounds a lot like my earthly father, doesn’t it?
Sadly, I know everyone doesn’t have the warm feelings I have when they think of their own dads. Some dads just can’t be bothered. Some dads are too overbearing or belittling. Some dad’s can’t be counted on to be there for their kids. And even worse, some dads abuse the trust their kids place in them in ways that leave permanent scars.
Those dads often make it hard for kids to ever see their Heavenly Father in the proper light. After all, the only example of a father they’ve had was everything God isn’t.
It’s why being a dad is a position that should be highly valued and entered into with humility. Proper dad’s support their families and point them to Christ. Proper dads are dependable, providing safety and security for their families. Proper dads love on their kids. Proper dads live a Godly example in front of their children so that following after God on their own one day feels as natural as can be.
Today I pray for all the dad’s in my life. I pray that they continue to hold up the standard set before them by their own Heavenly Father. That they continue to live lives that point others to Christ, especially those children and grandchildren placed intentionally in their paths.
I also pray for those I know who didn’t have such an awesome dad growing up. God can cover even that. Sometimes He provides a wonderful earthly substitute, and sometimes He steps in on His own, becoming exactly what is needed, single-handedly healing those broken places in the hearts of His kids.
If your dad did a great job painting an accurate picture of what God looks like for you, make sure you thank him sometime for that. If he didn’t, forgive him first, and then look to your Eternal Father who loves you with a crazy inexplicable passion, a wide smiling pride, and an unquenchable love, and He will more than fill the needs of your heart.

Shrink-wrapped No More

As my daughter grows up, I see she is growing out in some places, too.
It’s enough to keep her daddy up at night. The shrink-wrapped look young girls like these days doesn’t help that either. Just go to any store selling clothing for girls twelve to nineteen and you’re going to find it hard to clothe a girl modestly.
The shorts are manufactured by Daisy Duke herself, and the tops are so fitted the girl had better take a good breath before she puts any of them on cause it might be her last till she takes it off.
I began to notice a couple of years ago that shopping with my daughter had become predicable.
She’d try something on, I’d say it was too tight, and she’d argue that it’s what everyone at school was wearing. More often than not I’d be talked into buying something I was not completely comfortable with. Yet, unless I was willing to sew it myself, there were not so many alternatives out there. At least none my daughter was willing to be seen in public wearing.
Knowing this problem would not go away, my husband ordered a book called, Her Hand In Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World. Now, this is not a book I would have picked up to read, primarily due to the cover art. It shows a girl back in pre-electricity time wearing a completely frumpy dress. I know, you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Still, they maybe should have taken a longer moment, and thought that one through.
It’s a really short book, so I read through it one afternoon. I didn’t read it word for word, as it quickly became apparent that the author was hitting his points home again and again.
These points being, that it is the father’s job, biblically speaking, to insure his daughter’s virginity until marriage. That sons grow up and get married while daughters grow up and are given in marriage. (We tend to skip quickly through the ritual of the father giving the bride away in our ceremonies today. But in reality, again biblically speaking and according to this author, the father is giving his word that he is giving his virgin daughter in marriage.)
The author also brings home the message again, and again, that the Bible speaks often of attractiveness in women as being a good thing, but a woman should never strive to be publicly seductive. The author also makes the point that if a girl strives for a seductive look she is going to attract the attention of the wrong type of young men.
Bingo. There it was. I don’t honestly know what the last few chapters of the book say. Maybe I’ll read it sometime, but I had what I needed to have a great talk with my daughter.
It went great. Much better than I expected. I talked to her about how what she wears speaks louder than anything she might say one day about her personal dating boundaries. She may say No with her mouth, but her clothing might be yelling YES!. We also talked about how boys are very visual beings, and how a “No” coming out of her mouth probably won’t always be heard over the “Yes” he sees standing in front of him clad in a tight shirt and short shorts. Not to mention how that could make for a difficult situation on a date. (Another thing that keeps her dad up at night, and she’s not even dating yet.)
We talked about how the Bible speaks of attractiveness in women positively, but how a woman must be careful to not be dressed seductively in public. So in summary: Attractive: good, seductive: bad. That meant we had some closet cleaning to do, and some shopping to do, too. She was all for that part. Yep, that part made her smile.
I actually thought maybe that next shopping trip would be different.
It was. We hit several stores and although it was a challenge, we found several cute shirts that would not make her look poured into them. She actually began to see how she looked even better in her clothes.
Step aside Stacy and Clinton! We were developing our own “What Not To Wear” episode.
I told her that a little mystery goes a long way, and that its really not necessary to put all the goods on display. I saw a near complete change in her attitude that I can only credit the Holy Spirit with prompting. It was the first shopping trip where we didn’t have one single argument.
So, if you find yourself in my shoes with a daughter who feels trapped into buying the shrink-wrapped fashions, there is hope. First, your daughter must value what the Bible says on the subject or else none of this will work. Second, in typical Stacy and Clinton style, we established some fashion do’s and don’ts. We didn’t throw everything in her closet away. On the days she wears her skinny jeans, she’ll pair them with a tank top with a loose top over it. On the days she wears a skirt or Bermuda shorts (Forget it, Daisy!), she can wear one of her more fitted tops.
The end result is that my daughter has regained control of her wardrobe, and of the message she is sending the world through it.
Hopefully these changes will help her when she is thirty-five, and her dad finally says she can date.
In reality, the day we send her out on her first date will be here before we know it. It is my hope that she will still be matching what she says with what she is wearing, that her outside matches her heart inside, and that one day when her daddy does walk her down the aisle, and gives her in marriage, we will still be proud of the young woman she is.

Memorial Stones

Memorial stones. Each time the people of Israel accomplished something in God’s name, He had them erect a memorial; a way for them never to forget what they had done by His leading. God is big into remembering significant things. You don’t think so? What about the rainbow? I’m just saying God knows how to erect a memorial.
Who can help but stop and look to the sky and remember the promise behind the rainbow? When the disciples sat down to the last supper, Jesus created a memorial through the cup and the bread. The disciples probably had no idea how significant that memorial would be even today to those who love Jesus.
Memorial stones. I visited one this weekend. We celebrated my son’s fifteenth birthday this weekend. Ryan’s come a long way in fifteen years. Being born at twenty-eight weeks gestation, he started off a bit early and small. And he suffered a great loss before he was a month old. He lost his twin brother.
I didn’t get to see Ryan on his birthday this time- he’s traveling with his older brother and his grandparents making memories of his own, but I visited the cemetery and spent a few moments in front of his brother’s memorial stone, remembering his twin, Justin.
I always cry when I visit. I know he’s not there, but my heart breaks that he’s not here. It breaks for us, not him. I know he’s fine. Like I said, I know he’s not there in the cemetery. And yet I go sometimes. Just to remember….
In honor of the one I get to see grow up, and in memory of the one I don’t, I’m sharing a piece I wrote a while back to Ryan about his early days with Justin. It’s my memorial stone of sorts.

Twins Tag
You were two precious boys, you and Justin. Who decided to come so early? Was it you, Justin, or did you decide together? Was it a race? A game of twins tag, perhaps? You were so much alike. Truly twins. So small and so tender, but so beautiful!
They dubbed you boys twin “A” and twin ”B”. Justin was “A” because he raced into this world a few minutes ahead of you. What a pair! The two of you quickly became the talk of the small hospital.
When I see the two of you, I wonder how anyone can doubt there is a God, and that He knit you together, both of you, in my womb. You’re not supposed to be here yet, but there you are. Perfectly formed, right down to your tiny fingernails!
The NICU can be a scary place for a mommy and a daddy. All of the machines, and the wires connecting you to those machines, that beep and blare at us, and make us worry. Yet you and Justin lay in your beds content just to be in the world.
Justin’s bed is the closest one to the entry door, and right next to the sink where we wash up before our visits to see you. It is easy to just step over to see Justin first. I spend several minutes with him, just singing to him and stroking him. Does he know its mommy with him now? I hope so.
I realize far too much time has gone by, and I must come to see you, my precious one. I’m sorry; I’ll come visit with you first tomorrow. But tomorrow comes, and somehow the same thing happens. I am inexplicably drawn to Justin’s closer bedside first. It’s not fair to you, I know, but I cannot seem to change it. So again, I am sorry, and I will try to see you first tomorrow.

——————————————————————————————————

We ring the doorbell to the NICU, but we are not allowed in right away today. The nurse tells us we need to wait just a moment, they are having difficulty with a baby, and must focus on that for a few minutes.
Okay. I say a quick prayer for the baby in need, and wait patiently. Another fifteen minutes go by before the door is opened to us, and we can visit you both.
But the nurse has tears in her eyes as she opens the door to me. She tells me she is sorry, and she doesn’t know what is wrong, but the doctor is on his way. She turns to look at Justin, and I know immediately that your brother is in trouble.
My quick prayer had been for him. I should have prayed longer, more fervently. Again as always, but with fear and panic this time, I go to Justin first. He looks sick, and he is seizing. It’s a horrible display.

——————————————————————————————————

It’s a few nightmarish days later. Justin is now off the ventilator. We are holding him for the first time without wires and tubes attached. His breathing is shallow and irregular. The nurse, crying, says it could be anytime now.
So we wait with him, holding him, while friends and family are allowed in to see and comfort us. Ironically, you are growing stronger by the hour. You are off the ventilator too, for the first time, and are holding your own, on your own, I’m sad to say.
Finally Justin breathes his last, and my dreams of twin boys running through fields of tall grass are gone.
Now, looking back, I can see how God arranged to have Justin in the first bed instead of you. He knew my time with Justin would be short, while I would have years of precious moments with you. I no longer feel badly about those longer visits with Justin. In the years to come, I will tell you about your first days, and how you both came crashing into our lives so early and so unexpectedly, bringing much joy to our lives.
You will wonder why it was you in the farther bed and not Justin. I won’t be able to answer that question completely. I hope you understand, why in those early precious days, I was drawn to that first bed.

Feel free to post your own memorial stone here. Or just take time to remember a significant time in your life. A time you think God would have you to erect your own memorial stone to visit and remember.

Everyone Loves an Original

Everyone appreciates an original. Collectors will pay top dollar for one. Recently the art world was up in arms over the stolen original works of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and others. My oldest son appreciates original ideas. His especially. When he was little, he wanted to be an inventor.

Through the years he has drawn pictures of his creations, and a few of them have been quite good. He is always devastated if he learns that an idea he has is not actually an original. He hates to hear me say, “Sorry. Someone already came up with that one.” Yet I encourage him to keep trying. Who knows what he might actually come up with one day? He also likes coining phrases from time to time.

He shared one once that made me laugh. I laughed not because what he said was funny, but because I knew he thought it was really good, and it was not an original. He had even taught it to one of his friends. His phrase was this, “If you don’t ask, then the answer is always ‘No’.”

After a moment, I broke the bad news to him.

“Sorry honey, that’s not an original.”

“Really?”

“Nope. It’s actually in the Bible. James 4:2. In the old King James it’s ‘You have not because you ask not’.”

He was really bummed.

“It’s still a good quote”, I told him.

My son’s quote was a little different from the Bible version in that mostly he meant if you never ask your parents if you can do or have a thing, then it’s just as if you asked and they said no, but if you actually do ask there is at least the potential they might say yes. James’ point is a bit different. James is saying we don’t have what we want because we haven’t asked God for it. Instead, we have schemed ways to get it on our own.
I know lots of people who do that. Well, I know I do that. I decide that I just must have this or that, and then I go about figuring out how to have it. It’s a lot of work and stress really when all along I should just ask God for what I want. The Bible even teaches that God loves to give good gifts to his children.
I guess part of the problem is so many times what I want is probably not what God would want me to have.
So rather than addressing that issue, I ignore it, and go about getting what I want on my own. When if I would just follow James’ advice it would point me back into relationship with the Father, which is above all the very thing I should want. Perhaps if I spent more time working on that relationship, and less time figuring out how to get what I want, I would find that those things matter less and less to me.
Our pastor once said how God has a plan for our lives, and how He weaves even the unpleasant and painful things into the fabric of our lives for good. How in just the last moment God has been known time and time again to swoop in a provide for our needs. But He won’t do that if we are always manipulating our circumstances to get what we want. Nope. God can be quite polite. He’ll just let us go ahead and try it on our own.
We might even obtain what it is we want without His help. But how much greater would it be to allow God to work in our circumstances to bring about a wonderful outcome on our behalf? Then we can turn around and give Him the glory for it, and save the strain on our arms as we reach around to pat ourselves on the back.
That’s not an original idea either, but it’s a pretty good one.