I was asked to do the dreaded this week.  My middle schooler asked me to come have lunch with her at school. I know I should be grateful for the invitation. And I am.

It's just that Halloween day was the only time I could swing it. You know how kids go and act at Halloween. To make matters worse, she asked on a week where I've been experiencing chronic headaches. In case you didn't know, headaches and school cafeterias don't mix.

Like a good mom. I picked up her favorite, a meatball sub, and signed in at the front desk. I slipped into the lunchroom just in time to hug some girls who became some of my favorites last spring after doing a study with them. My daughter, Rylie, joined me at a table I'd unwittingly picked by the garbage can.

I didn't bring a lunch for myself, so I did what I do best while Rylie scarfed down her sandwich. I people-watched. More specifically, I middle school people-watched, scanning every table. I checked the crowd to see if anyone was sitting alone. No one was.

I like to think I have a radar that searches for the broken and alone.  Middle school is a place you can often find such characters. One of my daughters sat alone for a spell during those years. The other daughter (during lunch one year) was voted the one they most wished was absent from their table. Another day, when the voting game had progressed, she was the one at her table voted most wished to be dead. Of course both of my girls survived the nonsense. But now I scan lunch tables to see if there might be some other kid who's suffering lunch time nonsense.

What I saw today, instead, was a room full of appropriately livened conversation (which is hard to accomplish.) I saw smiles and a certain seventh grade boy who flossed like nobody's business while Thriller played on the loud speaker.

Several, who were clearly employed to oversee lunch, lead the kids in singing Happy Birthday while seventh and eighth graders sang along, many delightfully off key.

I asked Rylie who her favorite cafeteria worker is.  While taking the last bite of her ice cream push-up she pointed to her favorite, but she likes them all.

Close to the stage a cheery custodian, in Halloween makeup and a bright orange tutu, danced with her broom as she scooted between tables. As I watched several boys allowed to show their dauntless dance moves, I recalled the prayer service parents and community members held at CO Wilson this fall before school started. After praying together we were permitted to individually pray in the hallways and over the lockers and classrooms.

I chose to pray for the cafeteria. I prayed that there wouldn't be a single child who ate alone, and that students would make the best of their opportunity with this daily unstructured thirty minutes. I prayed that students, at an age where they likely struggle with their own self-esteem, would positively pour into one another...both into their best friends and the kid they don't hang out with who ended up at their table.

I don't know if the CO Wilson cafeteria is this happy a place all of the time.  I pray it is. I just know that I'm grateful for you lunch ladies, custodians, and those employed to monitor and emcee while students eat their one hundredth turkey sandwich and swig down their milk.

You do a job that doesn't always receive much thanks. While I didn't see a single kid alone today, I saw kids who had forgotten about basketball tryouts, confusing math problems and the mess they'll go home to this afternoon. And I saw you. I saw your meaningful engagement and I want you to know...it makes a difference.


An old round oak table sits in my breakfast nook. Unmatching worn out chairs surround it. But even If I had a million dollars to spruce up my house, I wouldn’t part with it. The table was my Granny’s. I must have eaten a hundred bowls of ABC soup scooted up to it. I delighted in the same number of folded over pieces of butter and sugar bread while growing up around it. I was blessed enough to have inherited this treasure.

Were you to put the slightest amount of weight on it, you’d notice it wobbles, or else creaks and rolls slightly across the tile floor. It’s made to be used with a leaf, but we just keep it in its small round state. If you were to come and sit at it, I’d advise against you looking between the two wooden half moons that fit together (where the extra leaf goes.) There are likely crumbs in the crevice, because it needs a good cleaning.

At least the table’s base is intact these days. Thirteen years ago it received significant damage when being moved from one house to another.  The pedestal base cracked after it was dropped. For two years our visibly broken table entertained guests while the base was being held together by two blue ratchet straps.

The base has been repaired, but the table top could use a refinishing. Underneath layers of Old English Scratch Cover, you can see Sharpie marks left over by one of the kid’s school projects and a few unfinished spots where I’d used rubbing alcohol to get ink out of a pair of jeans without realizing it would soak through to the table.  There are dents and scratches too; each one has its unique origin.

While the table is certainly in need of restoration, I have no desire to bring it back to its original state. I can’t imagine stripping it of its history. The grain, written upon and worn, has stories to tell.

I don’t suppose we’re much different.  We’ve witness to bear, but often we’re too tired, too defeated, and maybe even too fearful to allow ourselves to be known. So we stay covered.

Maybe you need a refreshing; a holy renovation and some new wind in your spirit.  You're in need of restoration. You're due some extra time with your maker. No matter if your weariness is showing. No need to be polished or shiny. No matter your stains. Bring your wobbly doubt. Just don't be surprised if evidence of your struggle remains.

Though we wish for our troubles to melt like lemon drops, it's unlikely God will eliminate, or help us hide, our inadequacies and hurts. No, its precisely our scuffed up self that God wants to employ. He'll tend to our wounds and heal them, but often the scars will remain as a beautiful display of his power. God has taken the imperfections of people since time began; creating masterful art.

In Luke 8, we read the story of a demon possessed man who for a long time had not worn clothes or lived in a house (v. 27), but rather lived in the tombs. Naked and wretched he emerged from the solitary place (where the demons had driven him). He met Jesus. As we know, Jesus cast out the demons; sending them into a herd of pigs. Verse 36 tells us that those from town, who saw the man now dressed and in his right mind, were spreading the word, but who better to share the victory than the one who suffered the demons himself? Though the healed man begged Jesus to go with him and perhaps start a new life (void of any evidence of his old life), Jesus told him to

Return home and tell how much God has done for you. Luke 8:39

Certainly the man could have toured with Jesus. Instead, Jesus sent him back to the place from where he came. And so familiar him went back to familiar territory and likely astonished all those around him, for he now carried a powerful and undeniable new presence in the face of those who’d known his chains. That demon possessed man they’d known had truly experienced change.

You might remember that Jesus also healed a paralyzed man (in Mark 2), not before canceling the power of sin in his life (v. 5.) Jesus gave him a new spirit and then told him to get up and take his mat and go home. Clearly he didn’t need his mat anymore, but Jesus made a point to tell him to take it with him. Jesus purposed him to carry it. We’re told that he walked out in full view (which) amazed everyone and they praised God (v. 12.) His mat had become a useless accessory, but also a compelling illustration to onlookers. I hope he kept it always, as his own reminder of the victory found in Jesus.

What scars from the past, or current hurts, do you bring to the table today?

What fear or current difficulty has you wobbling, or else paralyzed?

Dear God,

You are author of all that is good. Help me to trust you to use any and every part of my life; especially the seemingly unusable parts to bring you glory (the tired part, the scared part, the part I keep covered) Restore me and use me how you see fit.

This Friday and Saturday, October 24 and 25, I'll be attending a local conference held for minister's wives and women in ministry. This is a devotion for the women who will be there. Please pray for restoration. Pray that we would learn new steps in the delicate dance of both resting in Jesus and serving him diligently; a dance he desires we all take part in. May we bring him glory this weekend and in the days ahead.

If by chance you're a minister's wife or a woman in ministry let me know if you're interested in attending.

Hallie, my daughter who’s a senior, got your college brochure today. I sat it on the bottom of the stairs so she’ll see it when she gets home from work.  She loves getting mail so she’ll likely be excited to see the small stack of invitations to check you (all) out.

She and I both know you send these out by the thousands.  We also both know that your invitation to her isn’t based on her intellectual merit or character as much as it’s based on the dollar signs in the collective eye of your university.  Don’t be offended. I'm sure you value your students and prospective students...I just know it takes money (a lot) to run a reputable, effective and successful institution. And each student=money.

We had a good laugh last year when she received several letters from some of you claiming to be highly interested in her coming for a visit, and eventually applying. Several envelopes addressed her as Ha Llie. For fun, her dad and I called her Ha for weeks.

If she sees your brochure/letter in the next few days and decides she might like to become a Wildcat or a Yellow Jacket I suppose she’ll check out your website or fill out some paperwork. You’ll ask for her birth date, social security number, SAT score and possibly a list of her extra curricular activities, but you’ll still not know any of the things that make her,  her.

You, along with all these senior planning meetings, seem intent on reminding me that she’s fly the coop age, You don’t know who she is, but you’ve got me to thinking more about this treasure that her dad and I are about to somewhat hand over. By the way, she’s worth knowing.

If you get the pleasure of meeting her you’ll notice right off the bat that she’s beautiful. She has her own sense of style that’s seldom dictated by current fashion. She knows everything there is to know about makeup and skincare and will be able to tell you what skin type you have and what products to wear to "youthen" your overall appearance or cover those circles under your eyes.

You won’t know, however, that she loves spending time at home without her makeup, wearing a sloppy ponytail and an oversized sweatshirt while she chills out watching documentaries on Netflix.

Hallie is conscientious. She’s a rule follower and a hard worker. The few times that she makes a mistake she’ll likely have disciplined herself before anyone else gets the chance to help her get back on track. (She’s fiercely independent.) Speaking of strong and independent, she consoled me when she was in second grade after I found out she had been eating lunch alone at school. Though she prefers to accomplish things by herself and spending time by herself, she’s a loyal friend, a supportive sister, and a loving daughter.

She’s genuine. You can trust that any hug or compliment you get from her is sincere and not just a kindness of going through the motions. You can be sure that her support and/or involvement in any activity is based on one of two things; duty or passion. It won’t be because she was manipulated or peer pressured. I probably shouldn't disclose this, but she won't laugh at your jokes if they aren't funny.

She’s still learning her worth. She hates to lose. She loves popcorn and gets anxious driving in the rain. She’s dependable. She’s intelligent. She's oh so witty. And she loves Jesus.

More than likely you’ll never get the chance to know her. I just thought that, given your supposed interest in her, I’d jump on the chance to let you know exactly who she is.


Her Mother

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I had my annual mammogram today. I could write about that and how I think my clavicle might be cracked from the violent nature of that procedure, but I won't. Stay on track, Kristi!

I'm feeling compelled to talk about something else. I was handed the clipboard in the waiting room this morning just like every time. Rather than reading each paragraph, I, like always, looked for every line that required my signature. I filled out the family history section and any other information that was required.

A bubbly brunette directed me to the dressing room where I was about to slip into my drab gown when I was interrupted. When did you say your last cycle was?, she asked. I looked at the clipboard and told her that it was somewhere around the day I had written down. She informed me that I'd have to take a pregnancy test if that was the correct day. Apparently if your last cycle started more than ten days ago you have to take one.

I quickly picked up my phone to look at my calendar figuring I needed to wrack my brain to come up with the right day. I'm not sure when this became the standard (I don't remember being asked to take one before.) I'm assuming it's about the danger of radiation. It's not a bad thing. I'm all for using caution when it comes to the possibility of harming a life that might be growing inside me or someone else.

All this is on the heels of another appointment yesterday. I took my teenage daughter to the dermatologist. He suggested a medication he was certain would help with her skin issues. He then drew his leg up on his opposite knee and rolled his chair back in the corner to start a spiel I could tell he'd given numerous times.

He informed us that for her to be on this skin medication she'd have to take a pregnancy test. The medication is known to cause birth defects. I get it. We're protecting a potential pregnancy.

I'm glad.

What I couldn't get off my mind as the technician today told me a dozen times to relax my arm was the fact that it would appear that the law and the medical profession care about babies.

You don’t have the “choice” when it comes to whether or not you want to take the pregnancy test if you want to participate in these health options.

In these cases it isn't about your body. It's about a body that may be growing inside you; a body that (apparently) is worth protecting.

They mandate that you take a pregnancy test based on the fact that you might be pregnant and that the procedure/medication might hurt the baby.

Only I don't think such lengths are taken simply because we value a baby's health. I would suggest that doctors and facilities are protecting themselves from responsibility for a potential birth defect stemming from their medical (mal)practice. Our laws don't suggest that we really care that much about babies. We care about protecting our skin.

Our laws don't give me the idea that babies are important, well some babies anyway. We care more about our rights to our bodies. A baby is only a baby if the mother wants it to be. Otherwise it's a clump or cells, or as I saw someone write the other day, a pea that will turn into a kid.

We've presently decided as a society that we create our own truth. As if the truth isn't something that's constant. I read a meme today that said, I stand in my truth. Truth isn't wishy washy and it isn't negotiable.

I hate abortion with every fiber of my being. God's truth, the only truth, says, my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place...(Psalm 139:15). The truth is, an unborn life is a life that is already made.

The thought of social media wars stresses us. The idea that someone might see us in more of a negative light for being open about things like abortion brings anxiety. It's easier just to not say anything.

A verse I read in 1 Peter this past week reminded me that love considers when to speak.

...If anyone speaks, let it be as one who speaks God's words... 1 Peter 4:11

I believe this is a truth worth speaking up.

This isn't about my truth and it isn't about yours. This isn't about that common claim, it's my body. For those of us who are believers we know that it isn't honestly only our body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own...

1 Corinthians 6:19

All life is precious. We're under the impression that we can do what we want with it.

That doesn't change the truth.

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It must've been precisely 5:59 am this morning when I had a peculiar dream. It was a dark scene except that I could sense myself and one other thing in the nothingness. A big bucket (held by no one) was looming overhead. Just as I expected, it tipped over, pouring more water than I thought possible to handle.

My mind raced as to whether get towels or the broken mop that sits in the hall closet, but my alarm woke me up at 6 before I could do either.

I rose and made my way downstairs aware that the bucket dream closely resembled the way I approach stillness. I let anxious thoughts, expectations, and briefly forgotten to-do items collect like drops in a bucket. How illustrative that they pour down on me before I'm even awake.

I made my way to the kitchen to fix salad lunches, making sure to write croutons and toilet paper on a notecard shopping list.

I walked past the downstairs bathroom and made the irresponsible choice of stopping at the mirror. Make a hair appointment, I told myself as I aggressively made a swipe under each eye, insisting the leftover mascara at least move to each eye corner. (Ironically I'd be fussing at one of the girls minutes later for not properly removing her own eye makeup the night before.)

Shortly thereafter I was confronted by a pile of mismatched socks, a load of towels waiting on the couch, an unruly Schnauzer, and the strong smell of vinegar reminding me to go finish cleaning the microwave. All this didn't begin to cover the things that needed doing after the kids left for school.

Knowing what my morning needed, I unlocked the front door and scampered barefoot down the sidewalk (hoping no one would see me in my morning glory). I grabbed my Bible from the front seat, clutching it as a lifeline. I was stopped by a colony of ants who'd claimed a new address in our sidewalk crack overnight.

I sit now surrounded by that aforementioned pile of socks and load of towels. Dust on the nearby bookshelf and Rylie's sagging "13" balloons battle to capture my attention, but I won't let them have it. I'm chasing a good thought.

Those ants outside want in on the swarming thoughts inside my head, so I Google search those guys. Come to find out they're pavement ants. When the heat gets too much to handle...when life gets too crowded, they move. Strange enough, sidewalk cracks seem to be prime real estate...location, location, location.

Horticulturalists believe sidewalk cracks are a good move because they're an entryway to aerated soil below. Ants can aerate the soil through effort, but sidewalk cracks are an already-prepared place for them to breathe.

("the pavement ant ...prefers dry, well-aerated soils such as those commonly found under pavements and sidewalks..." -Walter Nelson, horiculturalist)

More toil won't fix things. Neither will a break... or our favorite coffee. We don't just need a new book on the best-sellers list, a Frappuccino, or a housecleaner to refresh our spirits (don't go and cross those things off your list). It's just that we need something more.

Whether life's bucket looms overhead or is reigning down terror we need a place to truly escape; a place that may initially seem less-productive. We need a spot beyond the toil where the world disappears for a bit...a place where heavy sighs can be exchanged for breaths of fresh air.

God has prepared such a place for the weary and hurried. Time with God through prayer and reading scripture invites us into His refuge from the busy and often hard road overhead. God wants to take hold of our bucket. He's waiting for us to ask.

Hear my cry, O God,

    listen to my prayer;

from the end of the earth I call to you

    when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock

    that is higher than I,

for you have been my refuge,

    a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!

    Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!

Psalm 61:1-4

Our church is going though A 14 day devotion by Tim Keller. Click on the link to join us.

Growth isn’t always good. Aging is teaching me this valuable lesson. My waistline is growing. Grays are too. The nest that was carefully and lovingly built for my three children isn’t growing, but my kids are, to a point where the nest isn’t as comfortable as it once was. Thus, sorrow grows.

My fears grow from time to time without my having fed them. Shame grows within me when I think about choices I've made in the face of a gracious God. Guilt grows too.

Feelings of inadequacy tower over me sometimes, like a giant beanstalk. I find myself immobile in the shadow. Strangely, I can be feeling inadequate one minute, and then pride sprouts right alongside a well-established "I’m not good enough” plant.

Jealousy grows.

So does selfishness.

Gluttony swells.

Impatience builds.

No, growing doesn't always benefit .

I thought on this today while I tackled a weed-filled flowerbed in my front yard. After killing the intruders, I did my best to bury what remained with bag after bag of mulch. I raked and I wished those weeds dead, beyond any hope of resurrection. I looked at the covered ground and was perfectly pleased.

We have a tendency to focus solely on growth. We forget that growth is intermingled with death; often dependent on it.

I can do a little about my expanding waist. I can hide my grays, though they’ll really still be there. Some kinds of unwanted growth we learn to live with.

Sin is meant to die.

Sure. Pray for growth. But don’t give up on conquering. Though we have no power of our own to defeat sin, that power exists.

The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5:4-5 (The Message)

The power is in the cross. Death is the precursor to life.

What unpromising seedlings have begun to sprout in you? Worse, what has held on to you with clinging roots, supposing that you’ve given up; submitted to its stubborn presence?

What do you need to believe to death today?

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I’m guilty of being sucked into sensational news. I’ve passed this not-so-admirable curiosity on to my youngest who reads tabloid headlines out loud while we wait at checkout to purchase chips and bread. Thankfully, the reporting on a beautiful pod of orcas, or killer whales, has captured my attention over the last two weeks.

You've probably read, or heard, about it. Seventeen days ago, off of the coast of British Columbia, an orca named Tahlequah gave birth to her calf. The calf died shortly thereafter. The touching event that has taken place since has tugged on the world’s heartstrings.

Photo credit-People

“The whale, known as Tahlequah or J35, is one of just 75 Southern Resident killer whales left in the ocean, and her calf — which died minutes after it was born last month — was the group’s first live birth since 2015. Tahlequah has been spotted in waters off the Pacific Northwest multiple times over the past two weeks, often pushing her calf’s corpse through the water or swimming with it balancing on her forehead.

-Here's the kicker-

Other members of the pod have even taken turns carrying its body.”

(according to TIME)

In some capacity we can relate to this mother’s broken heart. We can understand her inability to move on from this insufferable loss.

It’s her pod, though, from who we can gain a valuable lesson. They’re not leaving her to carry her grief alone. Eventually her deceased calf will be abandoned to a watery grave. Not now. Her pod isn't choosing to distract her. They’re not encouraging her to move on. Instead, they’re entering into grief with her; carrying her sorrow as their own.

We’d rather there not be such loss, but we have no control over that. We only are in control of our response.

I’ve had more conversations than I can count, some recently, about the difficulty in knowing what to say or do when it comes to ministering to those suffering loss. The answer is that we never truly know what to say or do.

We can all recount a time when we approached a hurting soul. Maybe we practiced what we’d say, knowing no words existed that could provide healing in that moment. Maybe we hugged extra hard and long, willing our heart to communicate our pain on their behalf.

We might have made a casserole, bought a plant, donated to a Go Fund Me account, or sent a card. Whatever it is that we've said or done, it wasn’t so much about making them forget their sadness, as if that could happen. The note we wrote likely didn't have wisdom to make sense of their situation. Our casserole wasn’t about filling their hungry bellies, as if having their stomach filled eased their pain.

We entered into grief with them. We reminded them that they’re not alone. We offered them a little extra strength to get through the day.

We will never be able to eliminate someone’s grief. We can only hope that we’ll ease it by offering to walk alongside the hurting. We can help carry the unbearable load they bear.

Entering into grief with others isn't pretty. We grapple with words. We're often frightened by this darkness in which we have little light to offer. But sharing in someone's grief is deeply beautiful; and an act of love we're all called to.

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Romans 15:1

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Some of life's most impacting conversations are short...and in the car. One of those happened today while on the way to the orthodontist and to get a meningitis vaccine for the youngest. We'd been talking about personal strengths and weaknesses. It was Rylie's turn to name mine as we intersected Nederland Avenue.

She was silent for seconds (that seemed more like minutes.) Was she able to think of any of my strengths? Was she wondering whether or not she wanted to say out loud what she thinks I'm not too good at? As we rolled up to Avenue H she casually mentioned my ability to know when they were having a bad day or a hard time with something. I'm perceptive. Check. Good.

She, then a bit nervously, explained my second strength, which in her opinion serves also as a weakness:

"You really want us to be happy. "

That's a good thing for us, she commented. But a bad thing for you, she got out before she changed her mind. She proceeded delicately, trying to explain, but I knew exactly what she meant. And she was right.

I do want them to be happy

-So I discipline them, careful, not to raise my voice. If I do raise my voice, or regretfully huff or roll my eyes at them, I profusely apologize.

Not only that, I explain, in detail, my every decision. You can't be out late tonight with an inexperienced driver because it's been storming and drunk people celebrating the fourth will be out on wet roads (add in 600 more words of reason delivered with a smile.)

I didn't get a fourth and fifth gallon of milk this week because...

Here's why it's totally reasonable for me to ask you to clean your bathroom...

When they're disappointed

-I share statistics that make sense

-I might let them skip a chore

-I remind them how much I love them

-I make sure to say yes to something after I've said no to something else.

I don't neglect to correct my children, I just soften discipline to a fault.

Without discomfort or disappointment there's little opportunity to mature.

I know that!

I've watched my kids suffer rejection and be treated unfairly without trying to fix things because I know that struggle grows them.

In a bold moment one time when wisdom wriggled up my tender heart and out my mouth, I told my oldest that I wanted him and to be happy (but that) his happiness wasn't my main responsibility. The idea was based on truth,

but I was lying through my teeth.

I have made their happiness my main responsibility.

I want them to be happy (most importantly)

I want them to be happy with me!

They can be disappointed with the rest of the world, as broken as it is, but be unhappy with me? I can hardly bare it.

I suffer the thought that they might not think I'm a good parent. What if they don't believe I care about what's best for them, but instead they believe I'm an uncaring, controlling dictator. What if they leave home and never want to come back?

Those thoughts interrupt appropriate parenting, the kind that, does in fact, disappoint and bring about temporary unhappiness.

Knowing is only half the battle. The problem for many of us sissy mamas is that we have to put sweat-producing, muscle-aching practice into what we already know. Our kids will continue to be unhappy with us from time to time and in and out of seasons. That might make us a little unhappy too.

But happiness truly isn't the goal...maturing to completion is... (theirs and ours). We better toughen up and get on with it.


...I will hold you in my arms

And joyful be

There will always, always be

A place for you at my table

Return to me -Josh Garrels

My kids love spaghetti. I’ve never been a fan, but I’ve become even less of a fan in recent years at which point tomato-based dishes started causing volcanic-like activity in my chest. I take a little yellow pill daily that promises to help unless I rebelliously partake of something like spaghetti. Still, I decided to make spaghetti on a morning with an already bursting at the seams schedule. It was a Monday morning at that.

And not just any spaghetti, I searched the internet looking for an award-winning recipe; one that would cause my husband and kids to arise and call me blessed.

One recipe I stumbled upon looked similar to the one my friend Kelly uses, in that the sauce has a hint of sweet and it boasts a strong presence of garlic. Most important, the sauce simmers for four hours. That has to be good, right? Proud that my kitchen was slowly starting to smell like oregano and garlic I took a load of clothes out of the dryer and then I stirred the pot. I quickly washed my hair, and then I stirred; certain that every turn of my wooden spoon would bring my family closer to a memorable experience around my table.

Around a quarter until four I popped two loaves of cheese bread into the oven; watching them closely for ten minutes. I wanted to make sure that they came out of the oven right when the edges were beginning to turn golden brown. Our middle kid, Hallie, a spaghetti lover, walked in the front door after work and joyously joined me in the kitchen. So delighted was she that spaghetti was on the menu that she filled the glasses with ice and got out the silverware without so much as a slight eyebrow furrow at having to help after a long day at work.

To make the dish even better I’d made homemade meatballs. My prideful smile was soft but unmistakable as I stirred the spaghetti noodles into the pot that smelled like love (to borrow a phrase from my husband.)

Something unexpected happened as my spoon made its near one thousandth turn around the pot, some six hours later after that first stir. The noodles I’d just added became uncooperative. Rather than marry with the sauce, they selfishly swallowed it up.

I grabbed the ziploc bag of extra sauce I’d already placed in the freezer and offered it up to the one package of noodles in the pot. I silently begged them to do their job and not embarrass me in front of my people; family who’d turned to spectators; critically, and now impatiently, holding their forks.

Defeated, I plopped a gloppy pile of spaghetti in each bowl hoping that the offering of their favorite accompanying bread would add points to a dish that I knew had fallen short of my expectations, and likely theirs too. I hadn’t even made a vegetable to go with it. My table was set with a meal that lacked appeal and nutritional balance. Once again my efforts had fallen dreadfully short in reaching my expectations. Honestly, I silently lamented not getting the outcome (I believe) my efforts deserved.

That seems to be a trend in life; carefully pouring myself into people and projects. I keep a tally on the time spent, passion poured out, and the fight I encounter along the way. I decide what I believe would be a fair result considering the cost I paid. This trend frequently ends in disappointment. Maybe most recently I’m suffering this disenchantment in parenting.

I long for the days when a sippy cup soothed thirst, exhaustion, or a skinned toddler knee. I remember fondly the magic of the youngest’s silk blanky and how scooping my son up in my arms protected him from danger. Him perched on my hip prohibited him from harm and it kept him from making messes, unlike the time I let him walk alongside the shopping cart in HEB. All it took was a slight extension of his chubby arm to send a row of potted plants to the spotless white tile floor, one by one like dominoes.

My soothing power has lost much of its effectiveness. My plots and attempts to scoop them up no longer removes most opportunity for mess or trouble. The truth is it was never about my ability. Every season and every success has been covered in his grace.

Our effort isn't enough to ensure we get what we work for. Our plans don’t always pan out. Our passion alone won’t heal. Our wisdom isn’t capable of holding all the answers. Things can still go awry when we’ve followed the recipe to the best of our ability. Not even the most zealous commitment level is sure to produce the results we desire (no matter how we tend the pot we’ve made ourselves wholly responsible for).

It is often in our most ardent, heartfelt attempts to do right that we’re brought to our knees in humility. We’re reminded that every bit of desire in us to fix and do good (without the grace of God) yields little fruit, if it doesn’t result in downright failure. It’s particularly in the midst of watching our children stumble, that God picks us up and wipes off our knees (or wipes our tears), reminding us that no matter how much we think our children need us, they need Him, and we need Him. Intent on maturing us in our faith, he helps us increasingly realize how little control we have other those things most important to us and those we love the most. He, however, is in control and he has good plans, plans that will work out.

And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8,9

We’re never so accomplished that we don’t need to be held. Our biggest failure might be not placing our children in the right hands.

May it be Him that we hunger for and may we always acknowledge that it's His table at which we dine.


I flounder between fixing things and waiting for the thing that needs to happen.

A classic example?...The bottle of catsup that sat on my kitchen counter for a day...

(I could do without catsup. My food is adequately flavorful sans catsup, thank you very much.)

Being that catsup continues to exist in my household, there's a simple rule here at the house. You get it out? You put it back up. If only it were that simple.

Yesterday someone felt they needed catsup on their chicken strips, which were perfectly good without it. Despite my instructions to put it away, there it sat this morning; a big reminder of my failure to easily bring about desired results.

This isn't a new problem. I've shaken my head at sock-stuffed shoes left by the couch, a backpack dumped two feet away from its designated basket, and a tube of toilet paper pointlessly taken off its metal roll by the toilet. That's the little stuff. There are harder things plaguing our residence that seek to consume me.

I stared down the catsup bottle as I prepared to go to church. It wasn't going to move itself. Despite a seemingly hopeless situation I had a few options.

1. I could call down said kid that left the catsup out and tell them to put it up (making them do it that second and then clapping sarcastically in mock victory at their accomplishment.)

2. I could pick up that hated bottle of Heinz and put it back in the fridge detesting myself for caving in once again; promising next time to just not buy more catsup.)

3. I could leave the catsup bottle there and wait for the accomplice to 1. notice her mess there on the counter, 2. repent of her actions, and then 3. put the catsup back in its place. Might I say I've tried this one numerous times. I dare say Jesus might return before that would happen.

Still, option three is probably best. My hope is that those I love will grow in their awareness of what is right and their desire to do what is right. My making them do right produces immediate obedience but it doesn't always increase their faithfulness. So many times, when I'm not watching, not harping on them, they go back to problem-making; leaving mess right in my midst.

Please don't think I'm still talking about catsup.

In error, I believe I'm the one to fix it all.

No, they're going to continue to do things that make me shrug my shoulders and ball up my fists in frustration. Where I'm really going with all this is that we're going to be witness to situations that our loved ones are in that make us silently shriek in fear and sorrow.

Some messes, even the messiest ones, are meant to be left alone. There's no need for a Houdini to make trouble disappear. The best solution won't always be accomplished through force.

Disappointment and defeat will offer to be our company while we wait for things to get cleaned up.

We've got to take our eyes off the catsup; our bottled up trouble. Give it a glance, but leave it there. Learn to wait. We can affect change but we can't necessarily produce it. Learn to hope for, what we can't produce.

Besides, we've got our own mess we're leaving on the counter while we're distracted.

...we’d better get on with it...no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus...—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross,shame, whatever.

When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Hebrews 12:1-3 (The Message)