I had a great idea for a summer afternoon, but it was hijacked by a bad book. One of my daughters loves to read. She reads so much when she is in school that she gets in trouble for not paying attention to her teacher. I haven’t quite figured out how to discipline her for this. It happens year after year. I feel for the teacher, because she does the same to me at home. But in our age of technology overload, it is just difficult to ask a child to put her book down.
Today, after a fun morning together, I decided I would pick up a book my other daughter brought home from the library (I LOVE libraries! Just thought you should know). She has not taken to books the same way as her sister. For her it is still a chore, not a joy. This motivated me to turn lunch into story time. I began reading. My daughters were completely invested in this activity. It made my heart smile. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon on a hot summer day? We were off. We heard about the setting, the characters, the plot…wait a minute. I should have put it down long before we finished. This story was a little twisted for two young girls. It was about a boy who discovered an evil cell phone on the school bus and it would talk to him even if it was turned off (I will never look at cell phones the same way after today). It was a cell phone bully! And it didn’t even have a good ending. Our perfect activity was no longer perfect.
At the end, (yes… I read the whole book just knowing it had to have a good ending) we all just looked at each other. We talked about how ridiculous it was to keep reading it. We also talked about how scary it was to read. We decided to take a turn making up a new ending. Our endings were much better.
Tonight after I tucked my daughters into their beds (2 hours late because they were scared!!!), I had a chance to reflect on the days events. I did make a mistake…yes. What is done cannot be undone. But I also remembered how I encouraged my daughters to say a special prayer for peace since our hearts and minds were troubled. I gave them extra kisses and hugs. I even read more stories to them… princess stories… just to fill their minds with more pleasant thoughts. I modeled how some of our best intentions can turn out bad when we least expect it. We need God in order to get through days like this.
For many years, I tried to be perfect in every way. I was pretty successful at pretending, practicing, and thinking I was perfect. And then, through God’s grace, I discovered that being perfect is not in line with our faith. Our faith in Christ is about being in need of God’s grace. If we are perfect, we believe grace is for other people instead of us. I often call myself a recovering perfectionist. It helps me to remember where I was and where I want to be.
Today was a great example–I messed up. But instead of trying to cover up my mistake, I used it to show my daughters that I make mistakes and it is ok. In Matthew 7:24, Jesus talks about those who hear words of mine and put them into practice are like a wise man who build their house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall. Today I made a mistake, but thankfully there is a rock I can stand on at the end of the day end. One that forgives and gives us another chance. Is there something you need to let go of as well and start again tomorrow?
As for this house built on a rock… I think we will stick with princess stories and Dr. Seuss for our story time this summer!
P.S. I discovered that you all like quotes too. Here are a few that you sent to share… the comments are just as thoughtful as the quotes.
When you’re waiting on God to lead: When one door is closed, another one will open but these hallways are a drag!! (Seen on a magnet.)
There are so many words in the world and yet in some moments there do not seem to be enough. Speechless. It’s those moments when you see something with your own two eyes and you do not believe what your brain is telling you. Of course, our mouths want to say something to help bring reason back into the situation, but there are no magical words to undo what has been done.
Except one. Jesus.
When we cross paths with a speechless event, saying the name Jesus gives you a starting point. A word to stand on. A word to utter. A word to say. Each time it is said, it is like dropping a little bit of belief into your disbelief.
In our family (in our tent) we experienced a speechless event today. Speechless. I could feel myself melting into the earth as I tired to make sense of what my own two eyes were telling me. I could see my daughters, my husband and our event unfolding before me. And I knew I needed help. I didn’t know what kind of help at the time, but I knew someone who did.
I ran down the sidewalk…in flip-flops! I ran like American Pharaoh when he was winning the triple crown last month!! I knocked on her door and then I pounded on her door. I really needed her to be there. And when she came to the door I said that I needed HELP! Without hesitation, she took my hands and walked with me back to my home. All the way she said one word. One word that began to drop a little bit of belief into my disbelief.
Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. It felt like with each step, she said His name. Jesus.
I very much wish I could tell you that after we said His name we experienced a miracle. But we didn’t. Our event was still very much present with us. It wasn’t going away. We were going to walk through the next hours, days and weeks together and our hearts were hurting. But we didn’t feel alone anymore. Beyond our limited view, I knew there were loving, heavenly arms around us.
And I was thankful…thankful for friends, Sunday school lessons, sermons, Bible studies, spiritual conversations, mission trips, books, VBSs, songs, and Bible verses that thought my family and me about the power of the name Jesus. Because in that moment and event, we needed it all. Each little drop of belief to help our disbelief.
I know that there are hospitals full of very sick people you love. Checking accounts that seem to never cover the bills. Children who have pushed you too far. Parents who have disappointed you. Jobs that demand all of you…all the time. Marriages that have lost their vision. Tragedies that make you want to hide and give up hope. And more events that cause you to question what your own two eyes are telling you.
I invite you to try my neighbors recipe the next time you come across this kind of event…just say Jesus. Out loud. To yourself. Write it down. Jesus. You will not feel alone. You may or may not experience a miracle.
Jesus. It is a name you can count on when you are speechless.
Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20
Just this week I found myself in the middle a modern “fishes and loaves” story. I did not wear any thing special that day because I did not know I was going to walk into the story as a main character. I did not know how my ordinary day would end.
School is winding down for us (in fact today was the last day for one daughter) which means our afternoons are less busy. Routine has been thrown out the window…hello world! We even met friends for a snow cone after school this week… spontaneously. (Oh how sad that even a spontaneous, unscheduled, and unplanned snow cone date can feed my adventurous side. Next week I may spontaneously take on the Appalachian Trail!)
After we cooled off with our snow cones, we headed to the park. What we found there took me by surprise. Our neighbor. She is a teenager and she was with her friends. School was out and she was just hanging out before walking home. We chatted. Then I remembered that after her parents divorced, she is often home alone with her brother in the afternoons until her father gets home from work. Then I remembered this has been going on for a while, but I had forgotten.
Once we returned home, my daughters invited our neighbors over to play. I made after school snacks and started on dinner. For dinner I was preparing a salmon dish. (The fish in the story. But I doubt Jesus served salmon.) I knew the meal would feed my family of 4. But I was not sure about company. Before long, the dinner question arrived in my kitchen, “Can they stay for dinner?” I looked at my fish and it looked back at me as I muttered something like, “Sure”. (God’s response…ABSOLUTELY)
This is when my dinner plans were hijacked by God. God had other plans for my fish…hospitality and love. As I was finishing up the meal, God and I had a chat. My meal prep and serving suddenly turned spiritual. Our neighbors had a place at our table that night. They weren’t alone on the playground or in their own home. They were with us, their friends. Because they were with us, our circle became wider as we simply became aware that they needed us on that day. Our tent grew, our table grew and our love for them grew. And by the way…somehow the salmon (fish) and loaf (well…really Jasmine rice) grew. We all had enough and we were all filled with much more than food when we left the table.
Simply aware. Simply Available.
On the sidewalk, just outside our tent the other day, I enjoyed a “glimpse.” It was one of those days with nothing really to do. It was too early to start cooking dinner (but I really haven’t been cooking much lately because it is so nice outside…just being honest…cereal is a life savor!) And kindergarten homework just does not take up much of our precious time, so we journeyed to the sidewalk. On the way, I picked up a bucket of chalk…sidewalk chalk.
We spread out down the sidewalk and spontaneously added our artwork to each section of the sidewalk one square at a time. A rainbow. A flower. A heart. A butterfly. Once we ran out of ideas, I started to just look around. The weather has been beautiful here in Texas for many weeks. Just beautiful. A few weekends ago, I visited our ranch and the wheat in the fields was so high that it was hiding the new baby calves. It was truly a perfect spring sight.
On the sidewalk, I saw another perfect spring sight…flowers, green trees just showing off, birds…red birds, butterflies. It was all there just outside our door and on our sidewalk. Just there waiting for us to notice.
In a time when we are overwhelmed with disturbing news all around us we can chose to take a moment and step away. One of the ways we can step away from what we think is important (work, technology, perfection, phones, drama) and step into what is important (family, friends, solitude, peace, faith) is to just step outside. Walk on the sidewalk and discover nature again. Follow the path and let go of your agenda…just for a little while. You will be surprised at the lasting effects. Try it. And don’t worry. If dinner is not ready on time, there is always cereal!