Month: June 2011

Gone With the Wind

I got a parking ticket where I work at the hospital. While I was busy saving lives, (perhaps a slight exaggeration for effect) someone was checking my parking pass and found it to be expired. I have one that’s not expired, it just happened to be in a car I was not driving that day. “Honest officer, it must be in my other pants.”

I plopped down in the driver’s seat, cranked up the engine, and saw it waving to me through the windshield. I immediately knew what it was. This is not the first time this has happened. So mumbling under my breath, I reached out and grabbed the ticket from under my windshield wiper. Taking care of this issue is a little tricky. The parking people leave an hour before I get to the lot. I’ll have to see if my boss will let me leave early in the next couple of days to get there before they take off for the day. Banker’s hours, these parking commandos have. (I wanted to call them parking Nazis, but I don’t want to be harsh.)

I placed the ticket on the seat next to me, pulled out of the parking lot, and turned my car toward home. It’s super hot here in the south in mid-June, so I rolled down the windows in the car to circulate some air. The inside of my car felt like an oven. As I pulled out onto the highway the wind blew the ticket right out the window. I watched it as it blew down the street and out of sight. The sight of it made me smile. I wondered if that meant I no longer had to pay it.

Wouldn’t it be great if life worked that way?
No more would we have to suffer consequences of bad decisions. They could all just blow out the window like my parking ticket. I even scolded God about this incident a little. Imagine that. Me, scolding God. I had a pretty good argument I thought.

Matthew had left the house really early that morning and had taken the car I usually drive to work. The one with the unexpired parking pass. Why, you ask? It’s a matter of parking order. My car was the last one in the driveway. Because he left out earliest, he jumped in my car and took it and my parking pass with it. Where was he going?

This is about the point in my argument with God that I thought I really had him. Matthew was leaving out early to go meet with a small group of men from our church over breakfast. He leads this group every Monday morning at a local restaurant. They pray, talk about man-ish stuff and encourage each other. So I didn’t have my pass because my husband was out doing the Lord’s work! So I shouted this to the sky through my windshield, “What? You couldn’t spare me one ticket? You couldn’t throw me a bone here? Let me get away with it this one time?”

He was quick to remind me that I chose to leave the parking pass in the car. This HAS happened before, he said. Did I not learn from previous mistakes with this issue? I did break a rule and I did not have what was required of me to park in a space reserved for hospital employees with correct parking passes.

In all honesty, I‘m not a fan of consequences. I’m a much bigger fan of grace. You know Grace… “unmerited favor”? Consequences are always inconvenient. They almost always require that you go to far more effort than had you just done what you should have done to begin with.

Sometimes God does choose to show us grace. Give us an undeserved pass. But often the most loving thing he can do is allow us to suffer those consequences we deserve. In this case, paying a parking ticket… After I explain why I no longer have said parking ticket… I think I’ll start off by asking if they ever saw the movie, “Gone With the Wind”.

So It’s Father’s Day

Father’s Day is like the ugly stepsister of Mother’s Day. There’s quite a bit of fanfare around Mother’s Day. No one wants to forget Mother’s Day, but Father’s Day? It just doesn’t seem to carry the same appeal. Sometimes it feels like we have Father’s Day just to be fair. Mother’s Day is one of the US Post Office’s busiest times of the year. Not so of Father’s Day.

Father’s tend to be under appreciated, and taken for granted. The role of the father has received a bad rap during the last few decades. Just watch how they are portrayed on television. More often than not, dads are characterized as buffoons, or idiots. One of my favorite shows from the late nineties was Everyone Loves Raymond. I laughed a lot at that show. But as a husband and father, Ray Romano played a really big idiot, and his wife on the show said as much again and again.

Some might say that dads getting a bad rap is something they have brought on themselves. Could be. I’ll admit there are too many dads out there that don’t realize how important their jobs are, and I’m not talking about the jobs they go to everyday to earn a living. Those jobs are very important, but I’m talking about the job of father.

We have elevated the role of Mother to near sainthood, and where does this leave the role of the father? Time and time again, when you see a college football player on television, he will wave into the camera, and say, “HI Mom!” Never mind that it was dad who taught him to run, throw a ball, and get back up from a tackle.

A father’s job description is nearly impossible. They must be strong, yet gentle. They must provide, but be available. They should be stern, yet playful. Both dependable and spontaneous. Brave but willing to be transparent.

Father’s carry a heavy load. As head of the household, they bear the responsibility for the family. The Bible teaches that fathers are head of the family as Christ is head of the church. As a mother, I will not be the one to stand before God one day and give an accounting of how I led our family, but my husband will.

Despite the media’s portrayal, I think a lot of dads are getting it right these days
. I see dads engaging with their children. I see dads honoring their wives and supporting them in their important role as mothers.

I see how my husband influences his own children. We have three boys and one girl. He is definitely a bit more forceful with our boys. He pushes them to be young men of character and integrity. Sometimes he has to push hard. But he knows that one day they, too, will stand in his place at the head of their own families.

Our daughter is a different story altogether.

I am thankful we have but one daughter to raise. I’m not sure he could live through another. At least without chemical assistance. Daughters are difficult for dads. Dads just really get sons. Daughters? Not as much. But dads are as important for daughters as they are for sons. Dads can’t afford to put their heads in the sand regarding their girls, just because dealing with them is tough.

Girls need so much the love and affirmation of their fathers. When I see a young girl showing a bit too much skin, I know that more than likely there is either an absent father or one who might as well be. Young girls crave male affirmation. Ideally this comes from dad, but they will get it one way or another. Wise dads know this, and make sure their girls see themselves through their father’s eyes.

The challenge we moms face is in allowing our spouses to be the head of the household. After Eve ate that apple and then served it up to Adam, part of the resulting curse we face is our desire to usurp the head of the family. Yet our husbands need our respect and affirmation. They need us to be their loudest cheerleader. After all, our Heavenly Father has ordained their position in the family.

I’ve seen the result of a man constantly beaten down by his wife. After a while, he withdraws from the family physically or emotionally. As much as we might think we can do a better job of this or that, only the father has been given the role of head of the family. As wives and mothers, we will not be held accountable for how we led our families (unless, of course, the father is no longer present), but we will likely be held accountable for how we showed respect and honor to the one who was.

This Father’s Day, lets honor those dads who are trying every day to be the fathers God has called them to be. They are out there, and I believe their numbers are growing.

Fear Not

I recently heard a message at church about fear. Our pastor is out on sabbatical, and in his place has been a revolving door of visiting preachers. The latest one talked about fear. He said that the words “Fear not” are in the Bible 366 times. I’m taking his word for it. Otherwise I’d have to go count them all myself, and I just don’t have that kind of time. Do you?

I knew it was in there a bunch. I mean, every time an angel appeared to a person the first words out of their mouth were “Fear not”, or “Do not be afraid” which is essentially the same thing. I’m thinking… “What do these angel dudes look like that they are forever telling us not to fear them?” They must not look anything like the sweet angels I’ve always seen depicted in art.

Come to think of it, I’d rather my guardian angel look pretty fearsome if he’s out there fighting the powers of darkness on my behalf.

The speaker’s point was that we should not live our lives in fear. We should stand firm in adversity knowing that God will be faithful. His words so struck me that I sat there thinking… “I’m going to paint those two words over my front door.”

Fear Not

I will confess that sometimes my initial response to unexpected situations is to be afraid. Most of the time, I manage to remind myself that God is still God and he’s still in control of my life regardless of what my eyes are telling me. Having those words where I can constantly be reminded that fear has no place in my life could prove beneficial. It’s embarrassing how quickly I can forget things.

The kids and I drove home after hearing this message on fearing not only to find a really BIG BUG was still on our front steps. He had been there when we left out for church that morning, and he was still there waiting for us to return. We had carefully stepped around him on the way out hoping he wouldn’t notice us.(Well, my daughter didn’t. She chose to leave out the back door instead.) He didn’t seem to notice us.

When I say big bug, I mean BIG BUG.

We’re talking three inches long. I took a picture of him with my phone, and my daughter Googled it on the way to church. I love technology. She discovered the bug is a Cicada. Next to the picture of a Cicada on Wikipedia it says, “Big Bug”.

When we found him still in the same spot as when we left, I decided he was probably dead. I figured it would be best to get it off my front steps so that my daughter wouldn’t have to continue using our back door. Dead or not, she wasn’t going near this guy.

I wasn’t one hundred percent certain he was dead, so I grabbed a stick out of our front yard to flick him off the steps. I’m not fond of bugs myself. And did I mention he was big? I reached out with my stick and flicked him a bit. He turned and faced me. He was not dead. Definitely not dead. I knew this for sure when he spread his really big wings and took flight. He sounded like a small helicopter. He hovered in the air at about face level. My face level. It was at this point that I completely tossed the message from the morning church service.

Fear not? I was sure this didn’t apply to grossly big bugs hovering in front of my face. I froze for a moment, and then I turned in my high heels and ran for it. I am told that I screamed some, too. Loudly. He came at me for a bit, and then veered off to find some place less disturbing to rest.

I’m pretty sure when the Bible says, “Fear not” it wasn’t particularly referring to big bugs. Had it ever come up in conversation, I am sure Jesus would have said, “Be afraid of big bugs for they are creepy.”

It’s when those other things in life come at us that he doesn’t want to us react in fear. Job loss. Illness. Relationship breakdown. Uncertainty.

Because we know him, we know he is in control of it all. Even if the outcome really stinks, he’s got it all under control. Have you lost someone? Take his comfort. Your loss is not for nothing. Are you sinking financially? Accept his peace. Your dependence upon him will see you through those lean times. Whether in times of prosperity or loss, you were made for such a time as this.

If he told us once, he told us 366 times not to fear. Maybe there’s something to that. Perhaps he knew that nothing paralyzes the way fear does. Fear grips us and holds us hostage. It’s as if it seizes your mind and thoughts are not able to form. No rational thoughts anyway. If we don’t quickly get on top of our fears they can overtake us.

So what if we don’t allow fear to overtake us? What if we weren’t afraid? What if we didn’t let fear paralyze us ever again? What if, instead, we continued to move forward in the peace and knowledge that God is still God regardless of what we see in front of us? Even if what we see spells disaster? Can we trust him that much? Can we afford not to? I’ve stared fear right in the buggy eyes, and I don’t think so.

Happy Birthday

My younger two kids love it when I mention them in my blogs. My older two… not as much. My younger two see me typing at the computer and rush over to see if I am writing about them. I think my older two just hope I’m not. Alas, since this blog is pretty much about things I am dealing with, and since two of the things I deal with are them… occasionally they are in it. Like now.

Today my second son, Ryan, turns sixteen. So “Happy Birthday” to Ryan. I’m not really sure what all I was doing while he managed to make it this far, time seems to have flown by, but I hope it was good parenting stuff.

Lots of my friends, like me, have kids that are learning to drive or are graduating high school. Some have kids graduating college… those friends started the baby making process a bit earlier than me. Without fail, when I see prom pictures or graduation pictures posted on Facebook, the caption moms post is “Where did the time go?”

As moms, we work so hard in the raising of our kids that when we reach the end of that course, we look up from our busy-ness and are shocked to see young adults standing in front of us.

When did they grow up? We wonder.

How did this happen? We ask.

But I’m not ready for this! We exclaim.

The question we should be asking is, “Are THEY ready for this?”

“Did we do our jobs as parents?” is also a good question. Hopefully the answer to both is a resounding “Yes!”

Very recently my husband made the comment of our oldest son, “Our job with him is pretty much done.” That statement took me a little by surprise. But then I decided, like it or not, he’s actually right. We’ve done all we can to instill good values, the ability to make good choices, and a good sense of self. We’ve shown him how to follow after God and to trust Him in all things.

We’ll be moving into a different role with him now. We’ll still be here for him. Always. I’m still Mom, and dad’s still Dad. But it’s time for him to step out a little. Test the waters in this world we live in. He’ll have to see if all we taught him really works in the real world.

Honestly, I have loved every stage our kids have gone through. Well, there are a few days of puberty I can recall that weren’t all that much fun… and then I still remember many nights of not enough sleep when they insisted they had to eat every three hours as infants, yet otherwise I’ve loved it all. I didn’t really have a favorite age or stage.

Until now.

I know most moms face kids growing up and out with some apprehension. Me, too. But my heart is filled with excitement for all God has for my kids as they each, in turn, grow up and out from under my wings. I wasn’t sure I would have this excitement. Instead I was quite certain I would be filled with dread. Yet, surprisingly I am not filled at all with dread.

Instead, what I feel is joy. There’s a heaping amount of anticipation there, too. I have trusted my kids to the Lord, and I have not yet been disappointed. They have so much more of a sense of who God is and who they are in Christ than I did at their ages. The world is a hard place, and I would be so afraid for them if they didn’t have this knowledge. It won’t make the world any less challenging, but knowing and loving the Father will give them a better opportunity to live above the chaos in the world.

My sixteen-year-old has his first job, and my husband is amazed at how “grown up” he’s behaving about it. He’s really taking it all very seriously. It’s been great to see. He’s so much like his dad.

We understand that he, and our other kids, will still mess some things up, make some mistakes. The potential is still there for them to make some whoppers. And as their parents, we’ll still be there for them to help them sort it all out, but I have high hopes for all of them. And I am looking forward to seeing all that God is going to do in their lives.

I’m actually enjoying having a front row seat in watching my kids become. It’s odd, but I am just as excited, if not more so, to see what God will do in and through them as I am to see what He’s doing in my life. Odd thing, this motherhood gig…

Best Laid Plans

Have you ever noticed how things rarely ever turn out the way you think they are going to? I heard it said recently that ninety percent of the things we worry about never come to pass. But I am not talking about just the things we worry about. Just things in general- generally don’t turn out the way we think they will.

I usually have a plan mapped out in my head of my best-case scenario in every situation I face. I tell God all about it and try to convince Him to see things my way. I spend an embarrassing amount of time in this pursuit. I cajole, whine, plead and present my case before the Father. I do this for myself, and on behalf of the people I care about. It can be quite the investment of time.

I am learning, as I see God’s hand in my life and in the lives of those I love, that as in the poem by Robert Burns,

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry] 
An’ leave us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promised joy.”

The poem itself is an apology by the author to a field mouse who had built its nest in the field only to have it plowed up by Burns. Obviously the mouse thought it had chosen prime real estate only to find it had made a really big mistake!

God’s plan for us is oh so much better than anything we could conceive for ourselves.

When we moved back home to Alabama my immediate desire was for my teenage boys to connect with mentors in the faith. This is just something that I believe in wholeheartedly for their spiritual wellbeing. They had left behind some great mentors in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I worried that they would not find new ones here in Alabama.

Once we joined a church here, I set about trying to make that happen for them. I’m good like that. We had joined a big church that connects people through small groups, and I just knew that would be the way my boys would meet their new mentors. Yet I searched in vain for a group that they would mesh with. They tried, I tried, and nothing happened. I spent a lot of time reminding God of how important these would-be mentors could be to my boys. Still nothing.

But all the while, God was working. After about eight months of attending the new church, my husband was offered a position there in production. It turned out that he would be managing production in the new building our church calls the Theater. It’s where the youth have church. Every Wednesday night more than 700 teenagers converge and worship together. Our church doesn’t have a youth group… It has a youth church! My boys started serving alongside their dad in the area of production, and began meeting the youth leaders and others in production that are speaking into their lives more and more all the time.

It is because of the youth pastor that my oldest son just went on a mission trip to England… with that same youth pastor… and about four other twenty-something males…. any of whom would be wonderful mentors for my son. Because of this youth pastor, my son will be working as a summer intern at our church where he will be spending time EVERY DAY with leaders in our church who will mentor him and help him grow in his faith.

My younger teenage son just took a job at the church working in the coffee shop. (Yes, our church has a coffee shop. Actually it has two!) No doubt he will meet other great folks who will speak into his life and influence him in positive life-giving ways.

I look back at my insistence to God and, frankly, I am embarrassed. I had to convince Him that I knew what was best for my kids, and how I thought He should go about making that happen for them. And my younger two kids? They are doing really great, too. God really is amazing.

As I see all that the Lord is doing in the lives of my kids these days, I just stand back and say…

“Or You could do that… which is really much better than what I suggested… but then You know that…”

So I guess you’d assume that I have stopped all my planning and scheming.

I am getting better. I do still work out scenarios in my head and pose those to the Father, but I also leave room in my head for His plan… which will always, without fail, trump mine.

How about you? Do you have it all worked out in your head? Do you think you know how the days of your life should go? Maybe you are facing an uncertain time in your life and you think you know the best plan to work it all out… be patient. God’s plan is so much better.

After all…
remember the mouse…

Fan or Follower?

“Just because they are Christians does not mean they are necessarily followers of Christ.”

This is a quote from a book I read recently. The power of this one statement has stayed with me now for a few weeks. Some may think, “Aren’t they the same?” Perhaps they are, but I don’t think so. They are similar, but not completely interchangeable. One can be a Christian without being a follower of Christ. So what’s the difference exactly?

We live in a country that loves its sports. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer (yes, soccer)… even Nascar. You can watch golf on TV. I’m not sure why you would want to, but you can.

Here in the south, college football is a religion. When we moved back to Alabama my kids were flabbergasted by the cult following of Alabama and Auburn football. The icons for both schools are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I’ve seen them on underwear, watches, hats, purses, necklaces, plates, cups, cars, trucks, shoes, and sunglasses.

Without fail, each of my four kids was told they had to choose a side, a school they would pull for. It’s part of the ritual greeting here. “Hello. What’s your name? Who’re you for?”

My youngest wasn’t sure what to say so he asked me when he got home from his first day (yes, first day) of school here, if we pulled for Alabama or Auburn. Oh my. I told him it really didn’t matter, but that he came from a long line of Alabama fans, so it might make life in the family easier if he just said Alabama. Sheesh.

What I have come to realize here in football land is that there are fans, and then there are followers. Fans own a t-shirt with the logo of school they like. They watch the games on Saturday with friends, and cheer loudly when their team scores.

Followers are a different breed altogether. Followers buy the underwear. Followers know the player’s names and the player’s momma’s names. They know who all the coaches are. They know who the water boy is and who’s wearing the mascot uniform this year. Followers own season tickets, and plan their fall schedules around football games. They’ll miss work if they are sick, but they will not let a small bout of appendicitis keep them from the big game!

I wish I were exaggerating that last one… I am not. Last football season I saw a patient who went to an Alabama game knowing he was seriously ill, told his friends at halftime he was going to his truck because he wasn’t feeling well.

After the game his friends found him unconscious in the truck, and he was only then transported to the hospital. After the game they checked on him. They couldn’t be expected to miss the game to check on him, could they? I asked him why he didn’t call his friends from his truck to take him to the hospital, and he told me he didn’t want them to miss the game. He listened to the game on the radio until he passed out.

So often we come to Christ and decide that’s enough. We are fans. We love what he did, we are thankful he did it for us, and we smile occasionally when he does it for someone else. We wear his cross around our neck. We might even put an outline of a fish on our car bumper. We go to church once in a while, or perhaps we go every week. We are Christians. We will live for eternity in heaven when we die. That’s enough, right?

That’s enough for a fan. But a follower craves more.
Much more. A follower wants to know Jesus. He desires to walk as Jesus walked. A follower wants the mind and heart of Christ. She wants to be his hands and his feet in a world that needs him so much. A follower wants to leave religion behind and follow the person. A follower lets go of the rules and embraces the relationship. In the seventies a Christ follower was known as a Jesus Freak. One definition I found of a Jesus freak was, “someone who displayed an unusual or embarrassing amount of enthusiasm for Jesus”. I like that.

Our enthusiasm for sports teams can easily be called unusual or embarrassing. Most of us just roll our eyes and shake our heads when we see large bellied men take off their shirts and paint their swollen abdomens with their team colors. We tolerate their enthusiasm, but how often are we accused of displaying unusual or embarrassing amounts of enthusiasm when it comes to our faith?

It is absolutely enough to be a fan. But if there are times when you wonder if there is more to this Christianity thing than fire insurance, consider becoming a follower. You’ll find the answer is an enthusiastic, “Yes!”

So how about you? Are you a fan or a follower?

Losing Control

Did you know that giving up control is much different than losing control? I’ve lost control of lots of things in my life. I’ve lost control of my emotions (did that just recently). I’ve lost control of a car once or twice (scary). I’ve lost control of a classroom full of kids (this is why I became a nurse and not a teacher).

I am not a fan of what it feels like to lose control of anything. I very much like being in control of myself, and the things around me. I feel safe when I am in control. I have influence when I am in control. I can steer things in the direction I want for them to go when I am in control. People behave the way I would like for them to when I am in control. I don’t look like a fool when I am in control. To lose control is such a helpless feeling.

I believe in the sovereignty of God. I do believe that ultimately he is in control. But I also have to believe that I play a part in this life he has given me. I don’t believe I am a puppet. The Lord has given me choices to make in this life. I can choose to follow him or not. I can choose to love him or not. Love is only real if you are allowed the choice of not loving. The biggest thing God is teaching me right now is how to choose to give control of things over to him. It is through this, that I am learning that giving up control to him is oh so much better than losing it to the chaos around me.

I’ve mentioned that my oldest son just graduated from high school. He doesn’t turn eighteen until September, but he reminds me often that the day is soon in coming. He tells me that’s when he will be a legal adult. I laugh and tell him it’s only because the government hasn’t met him that they will call him an adult. Yet in reality he is growing up and out. He is entering adulthood, and I find that I am learning a thing or two as he does.

A couple of blogs back, I talked about Hannah. Hannah was a woman desperate for a child. She begged God to give her a baby. She eventually promised to give that child to the Lord if he granted her the desire of her heart. He did, and she did. She took that child and gave it to the priest for it to be raised in the temple. She didn’t lose the baby, she gave it.

There is a huge lesson in there for us moms. We hold so tightly to our little ones. Heck, we worked hard to get them here. We lost nights of sleep to the point of crazy once they got here. We diapered them, rocked them, fed them, taught them, loved and disciplined them. We cheered them, consoled them, and invested ourselves into them. After all that, don’t we deserve to hold tightly?

My son is in London this morning. Without me. He is on a mission trip to Birmingham in Great Britain. Without a cell phone. I have no easy way to contact him, nor does he have an easy way to contact me. He graduated high school and flew off to London. I could easily feel as though I have lost control of this child. But I don’t. It’s because I have given control of him over to God. My son is not just a Christian. He is a Christ follower. He is no longer following me as I follow Christ; he is following Christ on his own. And this following has taken him on a ten hour plan ride over the big pond.

I do feel some melancholy at times over this change that is taking place, but I don’t have those feelings I get when I have lost control. It’s just the opposite, in fact. I feel peace. I think it would be great to feel this peace over everything in my life. To just give over control of it all to the
Peace Giver. I hold tightly to lots of things, but I want to let loose my grip and free it all to the One whose hand controls the universe. Am I ready for that kind of peace? Are you? The peace that will come just might knock us over!

In a good way…