This past spring I visited a church in Mississippi. In the service, God wanted me to hear one thing…it takes a village. This simple message came from the youth pastor. He gave the announcement about the youth’s trip to the bowling alley that afternoon. But instead of simply reminding the youth, he was actually challenging the congregation…the village. He was challenging them to become a friend to the young people in the church. The church goal was to partner five adults with each young person in their church. He reminded the village of the goal and encouraged them to get started (or keep going) by going bowling that afternoon. Sounds fun!
This made me start thinking about my youthful years. Did I have five people outside my family who I would call a friend? Did I have five people who mentored me and believed in me? Did you?
These people in my life are called the unsung heroes of my life. Their names are not on any diploma, they will probably not be listed in my obituary and they probably don’t even know the impact they made on my life…but they were my heroes in many ways. They had a conversation with me that changed my life. They saw something in me that I did not see and nourished it until I did see it. They were patient. They would answer my phone call anytime during the day or night. I was always welcome in the homes. Some of them were teachers, coaches, friends, fellow church members, and pastors. They were my village. They were my unsung heroes.
This too made me start thinking and open my eyes. (This is probably why God wanted me to hear one thing that day.) Who needs me?…it’s time to go bowling. Who needs you? There are so many people around us young and old that need a village to love them and encourage them. And it may just be time for you and me to take them bowling (or to something else that sounds fun like eating ice cream).
Paula Gooder wrote a book called Everyday God: The Spirit of the Ordinary. I keep my copy on my back porch to read in the morning. It is warped from being wet and yellowed from being scorched by the sun, but it still shares treasures with me each morning. The other day I read these words:
Part of the point of God’s calling to each one of us is that we are called to be God’s unsung heroes and we will know we are succeeding, not when people begin to notice us but when they begin to notice God.
I would love to chat more, but I think I need to write some thank you notes and find some more people to add to my village…especially if bowling and ice cream are involved!
Some events and moments in our lives give us a clear glimpse of God and God’s relationship to us. Scripture may describe the glimpse, your friends may tell you about their glimpse, but to experience a glimpse into the true purpose, power and character of God is a humbling experience.
On Monday, I walked my daughters into a new school in a new town. I know I was more terrified than they were. In the months and days leading up to this moment, I had completed the check lists like many of you. School supplies. Check. School uniforms. Check. New backpacks. New lunch boxes. Check. Check. New shoes that light up. Check. Meet new teachers. Check. Check. Check. Perfect prepared mom. Check. I had perfectly controlled the whole experience up until we walked through the doors of the school.
Then it dawned on me (the sleepy me because I didn’t sleep much the night before)…I am not in control of this. NONE OF IT! I am walking my children into a strange place and walking out. UNBELIEVABLE! I did not remember signing up for this the day they were born. On the way out, my supportive, loving husband asked me if I was breathing. I never gave him an answer. He didn’t ask any more questions as Niagara Falls poured out of my eyes.
That is when I heard God whisper to me…”See, it’s hard to love your children so much.” God created each of us. Knows the hairs on our heads. (The only time I was close to counting the hairs on my daughter’s head was during a lice episode…you are probably itching now!) God created us. Check. Provides clothes, shelter and food. Check. Gives us supplies for the journey that fill way more than a backpack. Check. Lights our path. Check. Sends us new teachers and friends daily. Check. Check. Check.
And yet, God does not control us. God let’s us be free to choose. Free to experience all that life offers. God basically says, “I’ve got this! Enjoy life. Watch and see how good life is when we are together.”
The rest of the week, I have been reminding myself that God truly is in control and present. God loves me and you so much that it sometimes hurts. And I have a choice. (Of course you do too.) I can live a life full of beauty, peace and adventure. Or I can live in fear, worry and obsessive control. It’s a pretty simple choice when you see it in writing.
Take a field trip (a walk, a conversation with a friend, a nap, a museum, attend church) this week to recapture the joy of life that easily slips away and toss all the negativity out with the garbage.
This week my mom sent me a text saying, “Every day is a miracle!” Perspective adjustment. Check.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17
Here is another tale from our tent. The three main props were popsicles, toilet bowl cleaner and a toilet bowl brush. Throughout the summer, we have enjoyed popsicles in our home. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s been great.
Our summer has also been full of sibling bonding. I have heard phrases such as,” Mom… get her out of my room.” “Mom… she won’t play with me.” “Mom… (fill in the blank).” Bonding. Lots of bonding. After one such episode, I simply explained to one daughter how the other daughter was just having a selfish day. She had fallen into the trap of thinking that the day was all about her.
Fast forward to the evening. While we were playing a game, our lawn men came to mow our lawn. (The last time I mowed the lawn was after my husband almost lost four fingers trimming the hedges. Spring 2010. I am retired now.) It was hot outside and they were hard at work while we sat inside the cool house and looked out. I asked our popsicle manager (age 7) how many popsicles we had in the freezer and she said 8. I suggested that after our yard team finished their job we should offer them popsicles. This is a big deal for our manager to give up that much of her stock. But she agreed with the plan. The lawn mowing team enjoyed their popsicles.
The next thing I knew, the manager of the popsicles came to me (the manager of the house) with a toilet bowl brush and cleaner. She announced she was going to clean her sister’s toilet. (She has NEVER cleaned toilets before in her 7 years!!!). She not only cleaned one toilet, she cleaned ALL the toilets, showers and bathtubs in our house. Her sister decided to mop the floors. I grabbed the vacuum (I didn’t want to look like a slacker) and attacked the carpets. I asked the popsicle manager why she was cleaning? She said, “Because it was fun and I am not thinking about myself!”
When he (Jesus) had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. John 13: 12-15
Our popsicle manager gave us an example this week too…serving others IS fun and it helps us think less about ourselves and more about others. Her gift kept giving as our house transformed into a clean house full of laughter and clean smells. (The manager of the house was certainly happy!)
It’s your turn to serve this week. Find an opportunity to serve someone else just as Christ served others. I guarantee you will discover fun! Especially if you use popsicles!!
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.)
Driving down a road recently, our car passed fields and fields of sunflowers. They were in full bloom and all of their little yellow faces seemed to be smiling back at us. We smiled at them. In their own little way, they lifted our spirits and gave us something to think about the rest of the day. They created JOY. It made me think about all of those little moments in our day that offer us JOY. A phone call from a friend, a funny text, ice cream, unexpected flowers, a laugh, a good book, a nice meal, a hug…these are moments of JOY on my list.
My daughter’s favorite book before bed is Tickle Monster. It is about a monster that comes from planet tickle and tickles her from head to toe. She loves the book. It is not the best book (in my rational, boring, mom opinion) before bed because it does not really settle her down. Maybe it is the monster gloves we wear or the way the tickle monster grabs her boney little knees. She wiggles. She screams. She laughs until she cannot breathe. She is filled with JOY! Just JOY. No wonder she chooses the book night after night. I imagine that she probably sleeps best after having a day with JOY.
Leon Bloy said, “JOY is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” I am sure God loves to see us full of JOY in the same way I love to see my daughter laughing so hard that she needs a break from tickles. JOY lifts us out of the seriousness of life and into the presence of God. JOY reminds us to celebrate life. JOY puts us on the path to hope, peace and love.
One of my college friends lost her mother to cancer this past year. I spent time at her home in college. She was a gentle and loving woman. When I heard how she was walking through her fight with cancer, I was not surprised…she was Pimpin JOY. You can read about her JOY journey. She chose JOY over everything else. Since her death, her family has done the same. And I know they have experienced the presence of God all along the way.
As our country celebrates today, I encourage you to experience JOY. Make your own list of JOY moments that work for you. Share JOY with those you meet this week. And if you really want to dive into a day of JOY, there is always Tickle Monster at the end of the day!
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Psalm 98:4
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
We usually kick off the summer by sending our daughters to camp for a week. Prior to camp, we pull out the trunks. Decorate the trunks. And then fill the trunks. Three simple steps that take many many many days. We check our list and check it twice. We fill ziplock bag after ziplock bag of outfits, costumes, swimsuits, pajamas, and more. It is quite the process. (I can’t imagine sending them to college!!)
But the day we drop them off…emotions are everywhere. One daughter captured it very well. She said she was ner-cited (nervous + excited). To be honest, we were all “ner-cited”…even the dog. But we pressed on. The trunks were already packed and in the car. The care packages were ready to be delivered. (By the way….I may just sign myself up for camp next year. No laundry. No cooking. The blob. And care packages EVERYDAY!!) We were headed to camp and nothing was going to stop us!
And then a funny thing happened in the car on the way to camp. One daughter held my hand and one daughter leaned on my shoulder. If I had been close enough to my mom, I probably would have held her hand too. We were on our way to experience something new. We were anticipating something around the corner that we cannot see yet. A change was coming, we just needed a hand to hold and a shoulder to lean on for a little while.
I do not know what “camp” experience is going on in your life this week. Maybe you have planned for something and it is finally happening. Maybe you can’t see around the next corner but you have a feeling things are changing. Maybe you are about to try something new. When you find yourself “ner-cited” remember the words of found in Deuteronomy 31:8. “It is the Lord who goes before you, He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Know this…Jesus is right there with you. And someone who loves you is available to hold your hand or let you lean on their shoulder for a while.
After we settled our youngest daughter into her cabin for camp and said our goodbyes, we walked out of the cabin. (Honestly, I had to walk out fast before I broke down crying!) I was so impressed with how easily she told us good-bye. And then the door to the cabin popped open and she said, “Mom, where are my notes to write you?” My reply was simple…”In the ziplock!” with everything else. And I should have added, “Right next to Jesus. He will be with you all week baby girl.”
Have a great week because he is with you too!
I don’t know the day the hermit crab, Crabby Cakes, actually died. He (or she) has lived in our home for two and a half years. Before that Crabby Cakes lived four years with Mrs. Barbara, the science teacher at our daughter’s pre-school. When Crabby Cakes came to live with us I thought four years is a long time to live in captivity…surely this arrangement will only last a little while longer. How long can a hermit crab really live??? It lasted much longer than I expected. And over that time, I have to say, that little guy (or girl) grew on me and in its own way made a happy difference in our home.
But sometime over the past week of crazy in our home and schedule, Crabby Cakes moved from this life into the next. Sometime in the middle of homework, dinner, gymnastics, work, church, trips to and from school, Crabby Cakes stopped moving. It could possibly have happened while we were out on Wednesday to celebrate the arrival of Christmas with an-over-the-top Christmas Festival and up-close-and-personal firework display. Crabby Cakes might have fallen asleep then. Or it could have been one of my sleepless nights this week…maybe that is why I couldn’t sleep. Or maybe it was while I was sitting in Bible study and a prayer that I had been praying for over a year began to be answered with each passing minute. When did it happen…no idea!
Today, in his (her) little way, Crabby Cakes sent a message to me…stop for a minute. Check on my friend, Critter. (Time for pastoral care…crab style.) Remember that God is both small and big. God is present in the small, baby steps that we take towards a dream or vision and God is present on the big flashy firework days. When we remember this, we know that each moment of our lives is created and desires to be experienced fully. We also know that each little part of our life matters.
At the funeral for Crabby Cakes, I stood before the toilet (because we know from Nemo that all drains lead to the ocean) and said a quick thanks and farewell. Thankful for the tinniest part of my life sending a big message…all life matters. Itsn’t that the message of the cross too?
And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” (Genesis 1:20)
Whew…after we finished dinner the other night I was even more worn out that I was before we began. I LOVE the idea of sitting around the table at night together to enjoy one slow meal. Our only slow meal of the day. We get a chance to talk about our roses and thorns (our highs and lows) of the day. It gives me a great insight into the lives of my children that I don’t get to see. This ideal meal (conversation, good food, laughter) is at least what I expect.
What really happens is this…pleaseeee eat your green bean. When asked how many at the beginning of the meal I decide on number 5. Eat 5 green beans. By the end of the meal I am begging…just eat one…just one. Just eat one green bean for my sake. Only because I know the pediatrician will ask me that one question at your annual visit. “Does she eat a balanced meal?” I always say yes…but it is a stretch.
And then both my children began using my own lines on me…”I love you to much to argue”….then they would laugh…
I once heard Kevin Leman encourage parents to talk with their children at the dinner table the same way they would talk with diner guests. For instance, I would not demand that my dinner guests eat their green beans before they left the table. So why do I talk with my children that way????
Thankfully I will be invited back to our dinner table tonight. Maybe I just need to focus on my own green beans and not worry about controlling everyone else’s. I’m learning that a Happy Tent usually includes a happy mom…not one who brings stress and control to the table. There is enough of that in this world.
I pray my table will reflect more love, acceptance and peace.I want to enjoy these years because I know in a few short years, some of my dinner guests will not be at my table on a regular basis.