Tag Archives: kristi burden

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Can I speak in normal dramatic fashion and say "This past winter lasted FOR.EVER…"? When I say this past winter, I'm not just talking about the earth's season. I'm talking about my soul's winter season. This past winter, with many of you, I experienced loss. It was a icy cold winter. And it clinged to my soul though I tried to rid myself of it. I found myself stuck in a mopey depressed-like state . I was negative; grumpy as a matter of fact. I lacked general motivation and my fervor for serving. But as I mentioned it was winter.

Easter is next week.

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The last couple of days Pandora has been playing the Easter "Jesus songs". This Sunday in church we sang one of my favorites-When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. Such a powerful song. Simply listening to its words I was reminded of the gift of the cross.

Through the cross we receive forgiveness for our sin, forgiveness for our wretchedness.
Through the cross we receive the gift of life
The gift of hope


The gift of a future winterless forever

What could possibly be an appropriate response to the ultimate gift of the cross?

"Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small"......

As the song goes, if I were able to lay all of nature at God's feet it would still be an unmatched gift to the life Christ brings through the cross. And, of course, the whole realm of nature isn't mine to offer.

I don't control the changing winds and seasons.
In fact, there's not a speck of nature under my control. I'm rather glad too. I'm pretty sure things would go badly if I controlled any portion of nature. I'm thinking of Queen Elsa from the new Disney hit Frozen. Like Elsa, the exposure of my ungloved hand would be enough to send all of nature in a tizzy.

No. Thankfully nature isn't mine.

But a thought struck my tender heart while singing.

There is a realm of nature that is my very own. -My human nature. The complicated emotions are mine. And the ill responses are all mine too. My sorrow and my guilt and my tendency to hang on to each, my hope that is too easily dashed when my feet have taken two steps backward, my fears, my fatigue and my restlessness all originate in my realm of nature. Those things are all mine.

And though the whole realm of earth's nature would be too small a gift, God allows us to offer up a nature (our nature), something rather the opposite to a gift. He allows us rid ourselves of our filthy soul by offering it up to the cross. And then again and again, he bids us come and lay down our long wintery mood, our consumed with trouble, consumed with self, nature.

Newness in Nature.

Not only when I became a child of God, but always the cross stands ready for the offering of my humble gift, my nature. Over and Over.

Can't explain it better than these lyrics by Rend Collective-

My future hangs on this
You made preciousness from dust
Please don't stop creating me

Your blood offers the chance
To rewind to innocence
Reborn, perfect as a child

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

When sin and ugliness
Collide with redemption's kiss
Beauty awakens by romance

Oh Your cross, it changes everything
There my world begins again with You
Oh Your cross, it's where my hope restarts
A second chance is Heaven's heart

Listen to the song here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6RNJ6HDTpU

 

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I grew up on a dirt road in the middle of Texas. I used to have a distaste for the dirt road because it was miles from town and because it caused flat tires with its jagged rocks (every time the road was grated). The dirt road causes you to slow down,..... such a bother. I see that road differently now. The dusty road leading to the house where I grew up still makes me sneeze something awful, but I've learned that the brown cloud of dust that envelopes the car as we drive down FM 1232 is rather enchanted. It transports me to a place where the clock works differently and where things other than my schedule matter.

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Things I can count on when I go back home

  1. Sunday dinner; ham with a healthy side-dish of arguing. Every once in a while we'll have roast, but we usually have ham and we ALWAYS have arguing. Home is where I learned that people who love each other don't always agree.  Disagreeing with people lovingly takes practice.  There's been plenty of that practice in the house I grew up in.unnamed (39)
  2. Hands rustling in the M&M jar – My mom has a huge glass container of M&Ms. Always. She even has micro candy bowls. When I say micro I mean small, but the bowls most always go into microwave too. We melt our M&Ms. I've written about this before. The way the whole "M&M melting thing" got started is a pretty special story. You should read about it here http://godsgirlies.com/?p=1458.  I've thought before that it's quite miraculous, the feeding at my parent's house. There are always twenty plus people there. And we can eat a lot of M&Ms.  We eat everything else in the house too. This leads to the next thing I can always count on back home.
  3. A trip to Wal Mart. I never go back home without making a trip to Wal Mart to "get a few things". M&Ms and several gallons of milk are always on the list. This doesn't sound like a big deal, except for the fact that the nearest Wal Mart is thirty-five miles away.
  4.  Eating at Jake and Dorothy's - in Stephenville, TX-Home of the legit Fried Chicken Dinner with Waffle Fries- This is one of my favorite places to eat in the entire world. Eating there on a trip back home is a given. A whole wad of us meet up. Their waffle fries are indescribable. They're cut thin and fried crispy. Putting catsup on them would be an insult. The chicken is fried just right. That's all I can say.
  5.  We go to the creek -with its mostly dry bed and small swim hole. The Duffau is a playground for all ages. This is a popular spot for the man card ceremony. Let me explain.unnamed (37)
  6.  An informal man card 'earning' ceremony typically takes place. These kinds of ceremonies are presently pretty frequent at family gatherings because there are six boys who are either teenagers or close to being teenagers, and one younger one watching. In the country, you don't just get your man card (with fear of it getting taken away). You have to earn it. Over and over. Earning a man card usually involves doing something stupid and somewhat painful like jumping in near freezing water just because. (just because you want your man card) Occasionally one of the girls will try to earn a man card too which I find odd, but I was one of those girls on a few occasions (like the time I volunteered to be the first one to have my foot shocked with a Snake Doctor stun gun.) I'm still trying to figure out how to redeem those man card points.

    You can see somebody got his man card -Proud moment
    You can see somebody got his man card -Proud moment
  7.  I can count on a downtown that feels unphased by time. There's one blinking light in Iredell and I'm almost sure it blinks slower than other blinking lights I've ever encountered. People still stop on the road to talk to other people. If the weather's nice at all, they drive around with their windows down. You can count on getting waved at by everybody you pass; even if they don't know who you are.

    Mom and Pop at his shop downtown Iredell.  He's saying hi to somebody who'd stopped in the road to shout "Hey".
    Mom and Pop at his shop downtown Iredell. He's saying hi to somebody who'd stopped in the road to shout "Hey".
  8.    The hum of a mixer in the kitchen -You can bet there will be brownies or cookies; the homemade kind. We like to eat them piping hot. Not just because that's the way they taste better. If you don't get a hot cookie or brownie, you don't get one at all. They disappear before they cool off.
  9.   I'll always hear the creaking of a screen door -I noticed my parents got a new screen door that leads into the backyard. I wonder how long it's been there without my noticing. And I wonder if the new one actually creaks. Even if it doesn't,  I can still hear it along with kids running in and out. It's one of my favorite "home" sounds. It indicates that the real kind of playing is going on. I imagine I'll always hear it
  10.  Going back home is always a reminder for this "just starting to gray" girl-

Change your opinions, keep to your principles;

change your leaves, keep intact your roots.
-Victor Hugo
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Dear Hallie,

Tomorrow is your 13th birthday.  I have a million things I want to say to you. I could tell you the story of how you put yourself in time out when you were three and told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn't allowed to talk to you while you were self-disciplining. Oh there are stories. I could rattle off my hopes for your future. But I'll spare you those tales and wishes because the events leading up to your thirteenth birthday are worth being recorded.

You've been wanting a dog since last Fall, if not long before then. You're an animal lover, if not part animal. Still, getting you a dog had not been a part of our plans.
One week before your birthday, I asked you to get out of bed (around noon) and to do something stimulating (besides washing your hair), something that would better your life or the life of someone else. You wrote me a witty, charming and convincing text explaining that getting a dog would provide just the stimulating opportunity you needed.

Your dad originally was't having it. I, however, was "ON IT"!  I began to look at the Humane society website for pictures of a possible pet. Several cuties didn't work out and being approved to adopt a dog was a pretty serious process. I'm pretty sure we could have adopted you a baby brother just as easily. But going through the frustrating process revealed some good stuff.

1. We found out Griffin has a mild case of heartworms. Had we not tried to adopt a dog, Griffin would have gotten more and more sick without our knowing. Getting the bad news is the first step in solving problems. You can only mend what you know is torn.

I also found out that you're supposed to give your dog medicine EVERY MONTH to prevent them from getting heartworms. Who knew? (Apparently everybody but us). Boy I felt like a dummy. But here's the deal. You'll have more occasions than you want where you'll figure out you messed up, sometimes royally. Wallowing in dumminess does nothing to better the situation. Educate yourself. Learn from your mistakes. You'll be better because of it. And you'll serve people better by your learning from errors.

2. Several times I saw a dog I thought "was the one" on the shelter website.  You almost got a dog named Mallie; a couple of the dogs I had my heart set on weren't available. Some times when things don't work out?..... They really do. Remember this every day of your life.

3. I relearned the importance of patience.  I didn't say that I like being patient or that I'm good at it, I said that patience is important and sometimes the only option, besides freaking out (which, by the way, is never a good option).

4. I was faced with a test of my integrity. I had the chance to lie to the people at the shelter so that we could for sure get the dog. Everything else had checked out and all I had to do was give them one little dishonest answer when they asked a question about Griffin. I had to silently pray repeatedly something like "Please don't lie, please don't lie..." while I talked to the people at the shelter because I have a creative mind (which is a nice way of saying untruths at times pop in my head and find their way to my mouth conveniently and quite naturally). Sometimes being dishonest to ensure you get what you want is SO tempting. Integrity is always the right choice.

5. Dogs are fur real friends. The minute I met your little dog we were instant and forever friends. I think about the trouble we go through with our people friends and the people we think are our friends. I'm glad to have them but it's nice to hang with a canine girl who may not "get it" but just loves you like the dickens. The handful of girls in this world  with whom you find friendship is easy and real, be thankful!

6. The whole "To give is better than to receive" thing? That's legit! I've been more excited about this gift than ANY gift I remember receiving. Be giving and trust that God will put you on the receiving end more than you'll deserve. Let Him be concerned with your "getting". 

I hope this is a birthday that will go down in history as one where you felt love and experienced laughter and one which made you look forward to rest of this thing called life.

I love you much,
Mom

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I got this little jewel on a notecard some time this past summer. I think it was one morning when a little cranky girl and big cranky girl collided.

"I whant to star over",

the note begged. And I obliged, because we all want the chance to start again.

Do overs aren't always an option. I remember back in third grade, it was the end of the school year and we were about to have a trackmeet of sorts. The coach who was also our recess teacher impulsively told us girls, all five or six of us, to line up on the playground. He told us to run as fast as we could for about twenty yards to a concrete slab past the swings. I trucked it as fast as my little arms and legs would allow.

And I came in dead last.

The coach grabbed the first four that finished, fashioning the third and fourth grade sprint relay. My cousin looked at me disappointedly, so I told her I'd gotten a little tripped up (which may or may not have been a teeny lie). My champion defender, she told coach that we needed a do over....... to which he did not oblige. I think that may have been the dead-end of my dreams for a sprinting career.

Dead-Ends and the Chance to Begin Again

My dead-end, on a good day, comes around 9:00 PM. This morning the kids and I had to do a "start over" by 7:15 AM. Approximately five minutes after we had done a short devotion on the power of the Holy Spirit, I was reminded of the power of the will. I heard one kid yelling at the other to "Shut up" and one kid taunting another because they couldn't have Cookie Crisp for breakfast. By 7:18 we tried again to have breakfast peacefully and pleasantly (with the help of the Holy Spirit).

God offers "do overs".

Because we fail

We tire out

We get "a little tripped up".

Sometimes we find ourselves wishing we could start over. Or we want to quit altogether.

Grace-The gift of a new day

We don't have to look any farther than creation described in Genesis to see how God brought newness to space that was "formless and empty".  What I took particular notice of this time in reading these familiar verses on creation, was that God is in the business of separating things. On the first day, He separated light from darkness. The second day he separated the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth. He called the expanse in between sky. It was the fourth day when God put light in the sky to separate the day and night.

Look at all the times the word separate is used.

Separate-cause to be apart. God gave us each day; one apart from the other.  Maybe the verse that sticks out the most is the fifth verse.

and evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.

Genesis 1:5

I'm thankful that evening passes. And that by His grace, morning ALWAYS comes.

This the day that the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

It doesn't say a day or another day. Today is the day sisters and brothers. Where is your gladness? Are you going to rejoice?

A picture referencing Joshua hanging in my house says, Choose you this day whom you will serve…..

A life of praise is our goal, but a life of praise is built on our willingness to wake up each day making the choice to acknowledge Him. There will be many days we find ourselves unsuccessful in this endeavor even if we woke up with good intentions.

A new day gives us new opportunity to do what we failed to do yesterday; there's a new path springing from our dead-end. Sure a new day often brings with it consequences from yesterday and responsibilities waiting to meet you. But our momentary troubles pass us by, while the ceaseless love of Christ goes on.

-the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-24

So like they say, "Take the bull by the horns".

Carpe diem- Seize the day! The day is waiting.

The gift of twenty four hours is yours. What will you do with this grace gift?

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I've worked in Day Cares and church nurseries enough to see countless block towers sabotaged. I bet you've seen them too. A child constructs a tower by tediously placing blocks one by one and then someone comes along and knocks it over. And the result is always the same, the tower builder is devastated. I can't tell you how many kids I've had to console over crashed towers. I also couldn't count the times I've warned kids to stay away from someone's tower lest they accidentally knock it over.

I knocked over Hallie's tower this morning. I didn't mean to. In fact, I helped her build it all day yesterday.

She had EDA today. Don't ask me what that stands for, but I know it's a contest where she reads poetry and prose and performs dramatically. It's really important to her; so important that she asked me to wake her up at five-something this morning so she could be ready.

Yesterday I picked her up from school and we headed to the mall. I offered to buy her the pair of shoes she's been wanting since last Fall. She needed new shoes (Shallow or not, I think every girl knows that wearing something new gives you a little extra flair). She was thrilled. We had stimulating conversation. We talked about how her little sister had been hurt by some unkind words at school. We talked about the power of words. She helped me pick out some picture frames for my new bookshelf, we then ended our short date with a Coke and some chocolate. I was so happy to have had the time to invest in her, particularly with her having a big day the next day. Last night as she rehearsed I beamed with her as she recited her monologue about having Wonderbread stuck in her braces. She's practiced for days.

She bolstered out of bed this morning and was ready in near fifteen minutes. She walked in with her hair in a high bun. I reminded her that she'd said last night that she was going to wear it in a low, side bun, my favorite way she wears her hair. And then as she left the room, it occurred to me that she was ready, but hadn't washed her hair.

And that's when I crashed her tower.

With urgency I knocked on the bathroom door jogging her memory of the condition of her hair when she doesn't wash it daily. Giving her a picture of herself as an impending greasy mess, I made her wash her hair so she "might be presentable" to a panel of judges. In less than two minutes I demolished an entire framework of confidence building and the effort I'd put in to let her know how valued she is. No. This morning, all she heard was I don't care how good your acting is, your appearance doesn't cut it. Those aren't the words I used, but I'm pretty sure that's what she heard.

We expect small children to wrecklessly destroy towers, but we never expected we'd be moms destroying our own kids' towers.

Towers can be rebuilt, but the more a tower has to be put together again piece by piece, the more that tower is going to be guarded. Towers aren't always built easily.unnamed (14)

Everybody wants their tower to be safe.

Moms are good at helping their children build towers. We clap and cheer them on.  We speak words of unconditional love and affirmation into their lives, only to undo those words when we barge into their safe zone and speak wrecklessly.

When Hallie was four, I sat in the kitchen floor with typing paper and a pencil. I'd told her countless times before how smart she was. I showed her how to write her name step by step in teacher fashion. I teacher-talked her through the "H", "pull down, pull down, and across". I helped her through each letter. But the marks she made on the paper in no way resembled my well-formed letters. I will never forget swiping the pencil out of her reach. She hasn't forgotten either as she's reminded me numerous times. I crashed her tower.

Behaviors have to be demolished, attitudes have to be taken down and mistakes should be corrected, but as Moms, we have to figure out how to do that without crushing their spirits. I read a blog just the other day about a Mom who has overcome yelling. She was writing from a sweet place relating about the improved health of her family. I'm not writing from that place. I'm writing from a place I believe many of you find yourself in. As Paul says in Romans 7:15-

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

We're our kids biggest fans, but we're still sometimes their biggest "Boo" section. Our kids will have enough nay-sayers in their lives without us being one of them.

So what do we do?

  1. We do the obvious thing. We pray about it. Not just when we've fouled up majorly. We make it a matter of daily prayer asking God to help us in our speech, and keep us from our condescending looks. We ask God to remove those unnecessary and critical thoughts that creep into our brains and right out our mouths.
  2. We ask our friends to pray. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit my austerity, but I know I'm in good company. By that, I mean that there are good moms out there that say stupid things while wildly loving their kids. And I know those moms would pray for me rather than dub me a bad mom.
  3. We have to be willing to apologize. I apologized to Hallie this morning. Twice. Though I know it wasn't an immediate fix to her self-esteem, she knows that I know the mistake was mine. I tried to get the point across to her that my words were wrong, not her appearance.
  4. We bite the unnecessary words on our tongues.  As my dad says, choose your battles.  Some words or conversations aren't needful.  Rylie came prancing downstairs this morning in two shades of pink (that equaled awful) just as she was about to go out with her daddy.  I swallowed my disapproval.  Does what she's wearing really matter? 
  5. When words are necessary, choose them carefully.  Because we need help with that, we must write words of wisdom on our hearts. Proverbs speaks right to us moms.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

Set a guard , O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3

6.  We forgive ourselves. I'd be so bold to say that we moms have all made the mistake of using abusive speech once, if not a thousand times. Wallowing in shame does nothing to better our parenting. Giving our weakness to A God who understands and heals, is our only recourse.

I'm lucky Hallie has a strong will. I'm thankful that my children recover more quickly than I deserve. I'm thankful for grace in parenting that helps rickety towers to stand and allows toppled towers to be rebuilt.

Side note: Hallie approved this message.  And she's going to State in EDA!

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Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her and she will guard you. Proverbs 4:5-6

I'm helping with ESL (English as a Second Language) half days at Helena Park. I love it. I work with a handful of really cool third and fourth graders. The innocent banter between one fourth grade boy and myself brings me unexpected joy. He has a collection of smooth sayings. For instance, if he answers a question really quickly before I have the chance to explain the question he smiles announcing, "You just got burned". Sometimes with a self-approving look he says, "Aww, yeah". I love his spirit.

Yesterday, though, was a different story. Most likely due to his disrupted sleeping patterns during the holidays, he was a little off his "A game". I had to assist him a little more than usual. He, like most of the students I encountered this week, seemed slightly sluggish. So when he answered a problem incorrectly, I explained the problem and then threw my arms up gangster style and said, "You just got learned". I don't know, but I think it was pretty effective.

Yesterday after school, it was just me and my girls. The oldest' birthday is coming up in several weeks, so some planning was in the making. I proposed going to Painting with a Twist. My daughter loves painting and I've kind of wanted to check the place out myself. My idea was immediately, but kindly dismissed.

"They tell you what to paint," she scoffed. "I really like to paint what I feel like painting."

 

"But you might learn something, like a new technique," I offered.

 

Then comes the honest reply, "I don't really like to learn."

 

"What!" I gasped.

 

Both girls started to chant, giggling "We don't like to learn, We don't like to learn………"

It was as I was feigning shock at the absurdity of their mantra that I realized the apples don't fall far from the tree. Truthfully, I don't like to learn all that much. I want to do things the way I want to do them. I'm comfortable with what I already know. There's vulnerability in the newness of learning ( I might not get it right). Learning can be painful.; sometimes humbling.

If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it-how shortsighted to refuse correction!

Proverbs 12:1

To think that you can work hard to deepen your well of knowledge, only to hear God say that your lack of willingness to learn more means that you're being shortsighted..... Ouch.

Learning takes up too much of my precious time. It means that I have to be still. It means that I have to temporarily cease the pouring out of my knowledge….. shamefully I rather enjoy doing that. As I listened to the girls chanting (much after they were finished), that fourth grade boy appeared in my head. He threw up his arms gangster-style, and smiling, said, "You just got learned".

Yesterday I was learned ( reminded rather) that I still need to be learning.

I need more books in my life to inspire my monotonous inner and outer dialogues.

(More time in THE book)

Talking is pouring out, in which case I should be pretty empty. Listening is filling up. I need to do more listening.

My prayer word count could stand to decrease too. I hardly take the time to actually listen to what God may want to say to me.

I want to learn more often from my experiences; better shaping tomorrow.

…for everything that was written in the past was written to teach us

Romans 15:4

I want my opinion and thoughts to matter less and for my understanding of things and people outside my realm to grow.

Maybe I could better inspire little minds by my desire to know more and not by what I think I already know.

I want to know… that I don't always know. And in the mystery and with the questions I want to search for The Answer,……you know the one.

 

There was never found in any age of the world, either philosopher or sect, or law or discipline which did so highly exalt the public good as the Christian faith.

–Francis Bacon

 

 

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It's a new year. I always start the year, a mixed bag of emotions. I feel nervous, but excited......overwhelmed at all the empty white calendar squares with the possibilities and responsibilities they hold. Speaking of those calendar squares,

I have a job!

Not a new job per say, but I have a real job. An important one. I was born for it....

It's the same job I had last year, but it's a pretty good one so I thought it worth mentioning. Really, the same job was mine when I was in diapers and it remains mine today even when I stink things up (like I did when I was in diapers). I don't really know the official title for it (um, maybe Christian?), but my job description is really quite simple; bring God glory. That's it. I didn't have to interview for it or turn in a resume'. With God aim, it fell in my lap.

I can do my "bringing God glory" job wherever I find myself. I'm allowed, rather encouraged, to work at home And I can work while I'm driving down Nederland Ave or over nachos at Carmelas.

I have a thousand  other things I do like being a wife, a mom, a coworker, a life coach, a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a chauffeur, a counselor, a chef, a maid, an activity planner, a nurse and a friend, to mention a few. Those jobs compete to fill up the white squares I mentioned earlier. But I got to thinking today. When I'm working really hard at being an awesome mom, I'm usually lacking in the friend department which may explain why I forgot to call you on your birthday or to check and see how your doctor appointment went. If I'm a really good maid, I'm talking I spent hours spiffying the place up, you can bet I'm going to score poorly in the mom department. Especially if you spill something on the floor. My chauffeur job takes away from my nurse job and my activity planning keeps me so busy that sometimes I forget I'm a wife. And that doesn't even cover my work outside the home.

Back to my "bringing God glory job".

I was thinking fresh thoughts today (It is January, right?). Bringing glory to God is truly THE job. It's the job from which all other jobs should stem. There aren't that many mom bible verses. I've looked.  The bible does, however, provide some examples of Godly women.  Those women are all about bringing glory to God more than they are the other "stuff". The bible doesn't prescribe the perfect maid. I haven't found that much direction in scripture on activity planning.

It's not that all of my other jobs aren't important. The thing is, if I am truly seeking to bring God glory, then God will make me into the wife, mom and woman he intends for me to be. He might even fire me from a couple of those other jobs I don't need to be doing in the first place. Hallelujah.

2014 is feeling a little freer.

Here's a little motivation to get after it in 2014 from the job-giver himself:

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through

Christ Jesus, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. 1 Peter 4:11

…..but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

 

 

Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God. Romans 4:20

I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:30

Because your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You. Psalm 63:3

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Romans 11:36

 

So the moms, the waitresses, the teachers, the wives, the diva wannabes, the clerks, the minivan drivers and the calendar square fillers said

Amen.

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I dropped the cap to a full gallon of bleach behind the washing machine this morning.  I don’t actually know how you can “drop” something behind a washing machine when you’re standing in front of it, but I did. I’m special like that.  Any thought of trying to retrieve it is ridiculous.  I’d be consumed by the world of fuzz back there, never to be seen again (kind of what December feels like right now).

Last night was Rylie’s Christmas program at church. I bought her a black sparkly sweater to wear.  After I safety-pinned it to make it fit right, we discovered that it was made from some “hyper”allergenic fiber.  She scratched herself silly during practice, but the sweater was there to stay

1. Because the red tank top underneath lacks the Christmas feel by itself

and more importantly

2. The threads in the sparkly black sweater were somehow wrapped around the curvy part at the end of the safety-pin….. (for life).

To make matters worse, she had one small duet part in the program to get right.  Two lines. We'd rehearsed.

Today we come singing out to you

Good news, great joy, Jesus is born.

How hard can that be?  But as we had our last quick rehearsal, what is Rylie doing during her part but playing with a small bead and uncurled paper clip she found on the floor.  She was deep in satisfaction. She was also in trouble. The wee moments before the program held no singing (from Rylie’s lips) and no great joy. And as has happened many times before with having three kids, I sent her off to what is supposed to be a happy memory-making time, tearful.

There’s no time I’m more aware of how things go wrong than during “the season”.

All is merry and bright.  What a crock.

Sure I smile at seen gestures of kindness and I enjoy the company of family and friends. There's nothing like the tastes of Christmas or the sounds of old familiar carols.

Both the wonderful and the blunderful seem magnified this time of year.

Shopping at the last minute, I get the shopping cart with the damaged wheel that clang clang clangs my cart slightly to the right.  Stern on not making Christmas about things, I pile the unnecessary into my basket. I overdo.  And I don't do enough.

I burn cookies and the soup I made for the neighbor gets old before I have time to deliver it.

Besides my usual blunders evident during the “all is bright” Christmas days, there are other things that cause me to get the Christmas blues. I lost my cousin and best friend twenty-two years ago, tomorrow, to a car wreck two weeks before I got my driver’s license and just weeks after she got hers.  Somehow the memory of her tragic death clouds part of the holidays.  I’m convinced that there are more deaths during December than any other month. The pain of loss isn't felt probably more strongly any other time than at Christmas. I can’t imagine not being able to spend Christmas with the ones I love, but there are a lot of you out there doing just that. That makes me hurt.

Jason and I have always been able to get the kids pretty much what they want for Christmas.  There’s usually not anything that they need.  That’s not the case with many.

Beyond the packed shoeboxes, random acts of kindness and wrapped angel tree gifts there’s a world of poverty and loneliness that we can’t even touch.

But life is wonderful

Not because “all is calm” in these harried days.

Life is wonderful because Christ came long ago and gave us the gift of hope; the foretaste of glory divine that is our’s forever through faith in Him. Hope can't be extinguished though sold-out Zoomer robot dogs or failed attempts at Christmas magic.

And with all our blunders and pains life is wonderful because Christ offers a peace that passes these things we can’t control nor understand.

Life is wonderful because Joy doesn’t cost “us” a thing.  Jesus offers deep contentment, if we’ll let Him, that exists in the midst of burned cookies, itchy sweaters and icy winds.

It’s a wonderful life because Christ came.  Immanuel.  He’s with us.  And he’s coming again.

In all of our blunders and  brokenness, life is wonderful because Christ is wonderful.

 

I believed the Little Drummer Boy was an actual participant at the birth of Jesus. Like, I'm talking when I was in High School I believed this. I should be embarrassed to share that, but oddly I'm not.  His attendance was never mentioned in the Bible and he's not one of ceramic figures in any manger scene I've ever beheld.

Still, words have been sung for the past fifty Christmases indicating his annual presence.Though I know he wasn't there at that first Christmas, I see him in a tattered red and blue outfit, offering what he has.  He's sort of a surprising figure because everybody else at the manger looks like they stepped off the pages of the Bible, as I imagine them in robes. But he joins them.

I am a poor boy too , pa rum pum pum pum,

 I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum,

That's fit to give a King, pa rum pum pum pum,

Rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum.

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum

On my drum?

Every year there's a manger to remind us how a Holy Savior became small and approachable. Even a poor, small Drummer Boy is invited to his side.  The heavenly choir has already sang out and the wise men, in our story bear fine gifts year after year, but the stable holds room for more than these, and room for more than Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and livestock.  An odd picture, the sacred ground surrounding the newborn King is a place for the unworthy and the simple.  The Inn may have been crowded, but there's always a place at the manger.

We're invited, even if empty-handed.

But like the Drummer boy we know that a King like this is deserving of our offerings-

 like the gift of gratitude for a family and friends who love us

and the gift of joy expressed in a giggle when you take-out the garbage can (with your car)...for the sixth time

-A sigh paired with a smile when looking at a kitchen floor covered in Christmas cupcake crumbles

We come to the manger with the gift of awe that God allowed himself to be wrapped in a tiny bundle

though He's so much bigger than what we see.

We offer a contrite heart, full of things that don't matter

and we offer up a heart full of things that do

-Friends broken by loss and those we love who are bound with fear.

Strangely the giving of these burdens with the little faith we can muster is a gift to the King.

We come to the manger with moments of stillness aware that among the hustle and bustle, the one work that had to be done

began on Earth some two-thousand Christmases ago.

We're invited to come, and come often, to the manger this season. There's room.  And whether we have some extravagant thing to bring or something simple, may our hearts beat in rhythm with the Drummer boy who offers, but more importantly is captivated by a little King who makes room for us all.

 

I've joined the Facebook fad of posting one thing I'm thankful for every day in November, so here's Day 8

I'm Thankful for Tests

That's right.  I said I'm thankful for tests.  Don't misunderstand.  I didn't say I enjoy them; most times I rather loathe them.  Hayden has a big Algebra Two test today; A Spanish Three test too.  I was no help in his test preparation last night.  The material, especially for Algebra Two, far overreaches my "Killin' it" mom skills.  I'm glad I'm finished with Math tests, and scantrons; with paper and pencil tests in general.  I'm still not finished with tests though.  They come at me, the ones that I dread, and the pop tests that fly in my face too.

Just this week I received some tacky correspondence which I felt was undeserved.  All of my kids, at one time or another, acted unreasonably.  I faced the test of putting down my phone and spending time with my kids and husband.

The tests come other times too.   I'll get behind a lady in Target who knows I'm in a hurry so she gets right smack in the middle of the aisle and goes as slow as humanly possible playing with, who I assume, is her grandkid forgetting that she's supposed to get out-of-the-way of antsy people.

Tests aren't fun (for normal people).  They're not something we ask for.  I guess I can think of a couple of students I've had in the past who welcomed an opportunity to "show what they know", but honestly tests aren't really tests if they're easy.  A test is more something that challenges and ultimately grows you.

The best tests, whether it's right before, during, or after you've failed miserably, help you realize that you're inadequate on your own.  They reveal a need for One who can help you through. When Hallie's band uniform still lays across the same chair where I saw it three days ago after having asked her to move it four times, I need help in my approaching her concerning the matter -Otherwise, we both end up sour after a thirty-five minute "conversation". Tests are another invitation to go to God.  He has the answers He's the "good kind of cheating"/ help we can ALWAYS use on a test.

I think we make the mistake of believing that a test's primary importance is showing what we know and often times who we are.  Looking at challenges in this manner makes us believe that if we do well, we are well, we are excellent.....until the next test.  For those tests we fail, we feel like failures.

We do learn for the test, but most importantly, we need to learn from the test.

We learn from the test by remembering when the next test of a similar nature comes along, how we can better be prepared.  How will we react, or will we, when the next abrupt person who speaks needlessly comes along?  What would be a better way to approach your daughter next time she's experiencing a mood swing rendering her unreasonable for a small spell?

Tests are the pits, because too many times I stink it up when they come along.  They remind us of always accessible help.  They teach. They provide a platform for grace......and for that I'm thankful for them.

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