In the early, early morning hours at the beginning of a road trip, I was asked this question, “Do you know where my white alligator is?” It would make sense if the question came from one of our younger members in the family. But this question came from my life partner and could only be answered after a period of silence. “Are you kidding me?” (I am sure he felt my hidden love in that response somewhere.)
For the past 24 hours, we have been preparing for another family road trip across part of our country. We sent numerous texts to each other about when we will leave, whose car we are taking, and what route we wanted to take. We actively took care of the to-do list. Snacks. Check. Luggage. Check. Movies. Check. Cash. Check. Children. Check. Teamwork. Check.
If the first question of the day was about the location of the allergy medicine, I knew the answer. If it was about leaving the garage door opener for the house sitter, I knew the answer. If it was about paying a bill, I knew the answer. If he needed to know the social security number of anyone in the car, I knew the answer! BUT the question he asked is one that I could not answer. I honestly do not know where his white alligator is located at the moment. Sigh.
Jesus is an expert in asking questions. The New Testament is full of Jesus questions. Why are you so afraid? Why do you doubt? What is it you want? Do you love me? His questions went beyond the obvious and invited his followers into a deeper understanding.
One of His best questions is “Who do you say I am?” He asked this question while with his Disciples. Peter courageously answered, “You are the Messiah.”
In life, we may know all the answers about our home, family, and career. We may even know a lot about faith. We probably know the location of the extra car keys or if we are out of butter in the fridge. We often pride ourselves in knowing how to answer a question when asked by others. But sometimes we are asked a question that we do not know how to answer. (Especially if it is about a stuffed white alligator!)
No matter how much we know, it is always a good idea to know the answer to this question. In the midst of all that you know, do you also know about the abundant, grace filled life that only Jesus can give us if we truly know who he is today and every day? If so, live it.
If not, Jesus is a good person to get to know for his was present when the white alligator was created, after all.
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. John 10:14
From our Happy Tent to Yours,
Love is in the air. According to one company on the radio, the perfect way to show that you love the man in your life is to buy him some perfect underwear. Good to know! Another radio ad suggested that this is the perfect time to buy the love of your life a star that will be named for them and recorded in the magic book. (Honestly, I wish I would have thought of that one because you would never, ever have to worry about running out of inventory or restocking the galaxy.) And another radio ad suggests to express love by investing in a new perfect, amazing, incredible mattress that will last for years to come. (This is not a bad idea!) A third grade class that we are connected to through our tent is also experiencing love. The report is that it’s hard to know who to love these days. (Adorable!)
For Christians, love is always in the air, right? Over in the New Testament of the Bible, the Apostle John (Zebedee’s son) captured a quote from Jesus that said, “A new commandment I give you: LOVE ONE ANOTHER. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Good to know!
As we move closer to the Hallmark Holiday of Love (aka Valentine’s Day), let’s add a little more love to the world around us. By adding some love around us, maybe more people will experience the love of Christ that is experienced in the blessings of clothes (and underwear), seen in the stars, felt in the comforts of home (and soft mattresses) and celebrated in the hearts of third graders.
Happy Tent Ideas for Loving Others
- Love your Neighbor–This week, choose one neighbor to check on and see how they are doing. If you are really feeling adventurous, choose a neighbor you do not know well (even if you have lived by them for 15 years!). Be traditional and deliver a box of chocolates, a batch of cookies or a loaf of bread. If you need some ideas, check out SoCe Life and the Neighboring Movement.
- Love your Spouse–Take time to discover your spouses Love Language. It will save you lots of time and energy. Surprise your spouse by doing the dishes, thanking them of their work, holding hands for no reason, writing a love note, or preparing their favorite meal (like the duck Mr. Bell keeps bringing home!). Small acts of love go a long way in a happy tent!
- Love your Children–In the coming and going of family life, sometimes the small connections get left out. If you children are still living at home, Crafty Texas Girls gives lots of idea on how to celebrate love together. I especially love the “love notes” in the shape of hearts. I have been taping them to bedroom doors this week. 14 notes and 14 days until Valentine’s Day! If your children have left the nest, find a way to connect with a phone call, a visit or a lunch date. All children (young and old) need to feel loved. They need to be reminded that they are a God’s beautiful creation.
- Love your Friends–Can you imagine a life without friends? Can you imagine a friend who does not love a box of chocolate, a surprise coffee date, a card in their mailbox or a phone call from you? Choose 14 friends and love them to pieces this month!
- Love your Self–Have you experienced a stress free day lately? Have you personally experienced God lately? Loving yourself means many things. One important aspect of self love is to make space in your life to breath deeply from the grace of God that reminds us that we are enough. We do enough, have enough and are loved enough by God’s standards. Take a nap, exercise, read a book, dream, relax and remember that God is big enough to handle everything else.
- Love a Stranger–While waiting at the doctor’s office, I found myself loving a complete stranger who was obviously anxious about their doctor’s visit. By joking that I would take their place and offer my arm for the blood sample, the stranger began to laugh and relax. Start a conversation with a stranger, you may be exactly what they needed at that moment of their life.
From our Happy and Loving Tent to Yours,
This week, while attending a funeral I heard about a man who lived in love with the world. He loved baseball and all the small details that make baseball fun. He loved family and he had a lot of family to love. He loved his wife for 73 years! That is a lot of years to love. He loved farming. He loved sharing his opinion. While listening to the sermon sitting in the overflow section, I noticed so many people. It was easy to understand that he lived his life in love with the world and the people around him.
As we approach a natural pause in our lives this week, I wonder if we are living as people in love with the world? It seems that there is so much negative noise around us that it is hard to remember how incredible our world truly is every day. Maybe we just need to notice. This week is a perfect time to turn off our normal rhetoric about problems in the world and turn on our five senses to remember just how wonderful our world is.
Birthday candles are magical when you are 1 or 101 years old. Licking the bowl after mixing cake batter is the best bonding time with any child. Hearing owls screech in the night while you are trying to drift off to sleep is mysterious and a little scary. A hug anytime is the best way to pause life. Watching fall leaves dance down the street while driving in neighborhoods makes you feel like they are performing a fall recital with leaps and pirouettes. Walking through the front door of a home you have been away from is life giving. Sharing a meal with friends and family is love at its best.
Ordinary, simple moments every day teach us how to be in love with the world. These moments are connected to our souls. They give us breath. They center our minds. They connect us to the God who created the stars and the starfish. To miss these moments is to miss our chance to see a glimpse into eternity.
This week, enjoy the energy and enjoy the stillness. Let’s give thanks for all the ways you are in love with the world. And maybe we can fall in love again.
The Lord is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all his creation. Psalm 145:9
From our Thankful and Happy Tent to yours,
P.S. Here is a Netflix show, The Kindness Diaries, about a guy finding a way to stay in love with the world. Enjoy!
Whether it is the best way to parent or not, in our tent we practice “all-in” parenting. Because of this we often find ourselves in the middle of family projects where we have NO previous experience. Recently we started “Family Project #674: Bunnies.” This project began just before Memorial Day. We were given five New Zealand rabbits, pens, poop trays and a wonderful consultant (a sophomore at Texas A&M University…whoop!). The rabbits lived on the back porch for two weeks. And then I had a “hissy-fit”. The rabbits could no longer stay on the back porch. The solution…move them to the yard, cap the sprinkler heads in one section, and build a pole-barn. We spent Memorial Day weekend building the barn. (Our motto…family projects bring you closer!! Smile! Ugh). The rabbits moved in and I reclaimed the back porch.
Our next step was an exciting event which we called “The Breeding Party.” At 11 o’clock one night, I found myself sitting in chairs around the pen with a 19 year-old young man and three girls ages 11, 9, and 7. We were watching the rabbits breed. (Mr. Bell has already retired for the evening.) Once the event took place, “The Breeding Party” was over and everyone went to bed. We talked about the event for weeks. And then we waited thirty long days before…BUNNIES!!
These new little bunnies have filled our home with love and joy all week during a week that we needed love and joy. These new bunnies have been moving around in their sweet little bed that their “all-in” mother made for them during a week when comfort from nurturing mothers and friends is just what we needed. These little bunnies have shown us new life in the midst of death during a week when we have seen the fragility of life next to the promise of eternal life.
I hope and pray that you too have experienced moments of love, joy, comfort and new life in your tent this week. Remember…God is always around even during difficult weeks.
Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. Psalm 46:10
P.S. Bunnies for sale!!!
We are working on basic math in our Tent. With one of us in first grade, we all get to practice simple math facts. 1+1=2 2+2=4 3+3=6 We are all reminded that you have to start simple and learn the basics. Simple math facts are just as important as advanced math.
I heard a quote this week by Kevin Leman. Leman said, “No one person is more important than the family.” If I understand Leman, he is saying that every person in the family is important to the family. AND there is not one person that is more important than the others. Leman’s simple math looks like this…1+1=1 2+2=1 3+3=1
So often, we forget this simple truth about family math. So often, we focus on one person’s needs in the family and pour all of our energy into that person. When we spend all of our energy on one person, there is not much energy left for the rest of the family. The whole family loses.
There is a great, humbling reminder of this in the Bible. Remember when Jesus said, “So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last”? Jesus was speaking through a parable about a landowner who paid his workers. No matter what time the workers began working, at the end of the day they received the same amount of pay…one denarion. Jesus’ math is simple too. All people are equal and precious in the eyes of Christ. 1+1=1 2+2=1 3+3=1 No matter when we accept God’s grace and begin our Christian life, we receive the same result…eternal life. Everyone is going to the same eternal life, together.
Take some time this weekend take a tent survey to check your family’s simple math. Is everyone important? Does everyone feel special and a part of the family? Is one person using up too much of the family energy supply? Pray about what to do about the survey results. Remember…Jesus is a part of your family too! Working on the basic areas of family life help prepare us for the more advanced dynamics of family life.
From our Tent to yours…happy weekend!
Strawberries in water. A comfortable and warm bed to sleep in. Soul conversations. Laughter. Open doors. Delicious meals. Simple hospitality. All of these experiences simply say, “You are welcome!” It is a wonderful feeling to be welcomed into someone’s home and life. It warms your heart and releases your anxiety. It feels you with peace that can only come from God.
Some of my favorite memories of hospitality took place around someone’s table. My conversations with my grandfather (and best friend) always took place at a table with a bowl of strawberries and sugar. All teenage worries disappear with strawberries and sugar. My grandmother’s table would often be decorated with a beautiful holiday arrangement and she would offer me a quick sandwich. Challenges about the future seemed to feel smaller at her table. Coffee, while sitting at my mother’s table looking at the hummingbirds, always tastes better and replenishes my soul. The back porch of my in-laws home always makes me thankful to be a part of a loving and supportive family. An afternoon cup of hot tea ,with a friend traveling the same parenting roads that I am on, gives me time to pause and be thankful for the children God has placed into my care for a short time. Strawberries and water with a nice lunch after a super stressful morning reminds me why friends are important. And a key to the front door of a friends home makes me grateful for friendships that are deeper than I can even understand. All of these moments simply say, “You are welcome.”
I imagine God’s eternal home is similar. It is a place where all feel at home. A place where stress falls away and laughter grows. A place of community that replenishes our souls. A place where pain does not exist. A place where love is deeper than we can even understand. No matter if we sit at the kitchen table or on the back porch of God’s house, we know that we are welcome.
Until we personally experience God’s home, we each have the opportunity to open our homes and our hearts in a way that simply communicates, “You are welcome!” We each have an opportunity to provide a glimpse into eternal life through our hospitality to others. Just like God is always ready and available to hear our thoughts and prayers, we too need to be available to have meaningful conversations with others and welcome them into our home and lives. Your small, thoughtful acts of love and kindness will be remembered in the years to come.
You are always welcome in our home!
Don’t neglect to open up your homes to guests, because by doing this some have been hosts to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2
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!
When I was in college, I collected “Love Is…” comics by Kim Grove Casali. I found them in the Dallas Morning News. I cut them out and filed them in an old wooden box that had belonged to my grandmother. The comics were cute and they helped me to dream about a marriage I would enjoy one day. They were also insightful…love is a lot of things and it is not simple. But it is what makes life full. Some of the comics include love is…watching shooting starts together. Love is…protecting her when lightening flashes. Love is…picking up the dry cleaning. Love is…sometimes tough.
Every now and then I will pull one of these comics out of the box (that I collected almost 20 years ago) and place them by my husbands sink as a surprise. I enjoy finding one that reflects our relationship on that day. They remind me of how rich life is because I have love.
This week, love has meant a lot in a lot of different ways. When tucking my daughter into bed she reminded me that love is…reading her a bedtime story even if it is ten o’clock at night and I am so tired. My other daughter reminded me that love is…simply holding her because she is scared even if she is almost as tall as me. My husband reminded me that love is…moving forward together. My friend reminded me that love is…just spending the day together and enjoying friendship.
In my bathroom, I have a sign that reads, “Love is why we’re here.” It is a good reminder…all the other stuff that gets in the way of pure love is just stuff. This week, let’s focus on why we are here…simply to love.
So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13:13