Feeds:
Posts
Comments

locust

Stinkbugs, ants, spiders, and now…locusts!  Forget Target, my seven year-old has decided she cannot even frequent the restroom in her own home alone anymore.  Every day, several times, she takes my hand and begs, pulls, and whines for me to “come with” her.  Her phobia?  She claims that she is terrified of a chance meeting with a…bug.  A bug!

This, friends, is a little girl who has insisted on dressing herself since age one.  This is a little girl who would rather tie and retie her shoelaces ten times in five minutes than allow me to tie them once.  Yes, this is the girl known by her sisters as, “Little Miss Bossy Pants.”  It is her way or the highway and you better get out of the way thank you but no thank you, Mommy, I can do it myself.

Couple that with my eleven year-old who now claims that she is the, “best golfer in all eternity,” because she doesn’t golf.  She says she will be known as the best golfer in the history of the sport if she just commits to never play.  “Remember, Mom, the lower the score, the better you are.  If I never play, I will never mess up my zero score.”

Somewhere, somehow, over the past, I don’t know, five months perhaps, my seven year-old know it all has regressed into a need it all and my eleven year-old has become a figure out a way to win without risking anything spectator at life.

Did I mention that my baby – their youngest sister – is now five months old?  Yeah.  Maybe that explains some of our new found fears and failures.

My little one is no longer my littlest one.  She is feeling insecure.  Some days she bounces brazen out of bed in her bright pink “big sister” shirt.  Other days she pretends to need me more than she has in the past seven years combined.  I know it is a stage.  She just needs some reassurance.  She needs encouraged.  So I take her hand and stand in the bathroom.  I hug her for no reason and I carry her like a baby.  I tell her she is a big girl and a good big sister.

My oldest has more responsibility now, too.  She recognizes her role as a leader and often helps tremendously around the house and with her sisters.  Maybe she is feeling overwhelmed or maybe she just wants to find the easy way to get the most out of life.  Maybe she is just being silly and trying to get a rise out of me like her daddy does.  The truth is that the principle behind winning without trying is one that hints at presumption and pride.  Risk and failure are necessary pieces of success’s great puzzle.

Isn’t it funny how half of our job as parents is convincing our children that they do not need us and the other half is convincing them that they do?  What a concept.  One encourages them when they are insecure and the other protects them when they exhibit pride.  I need to get this.  If I could just get this, wisdom would follow me.

Presumption and pride say, “I do not need you,” when I do.  Insecurity and selfishness say, “I need you desperately,” when I do not.

There I am.  There. I. Am.  Staring small back at my children is their spitting image.  Which side do I err on?  Both, always.

How many times God has had to pry my hands off his pews and practically push me out the door to do the – even simple – things my selfish insecurities stall and stagnate me from setting out to start!  How often he has had to pull me back by my bib when I become Little Miss Bossy Pants and protect me from the self-interested purposes I plan that are rooted in presumption and pride!  Oh!  How dull I can be!  Even still, I am his darling as my daughters are mine.  What grace!

Do you want to stay safe?  Just don’t do anything.  No risk equals no loss.  That is great news for the insecure and the prideful but no risk is also no gain.  No one grows by staying safe, never trying, and never failing.  Insecurity and pride are vices that will suck the life out of every spiritual, emotional, and physical relationship you have.

Therefore, Target or no Target, go to the bathroom.  Know when you need a friend and when you can go alone.  Try your hand at golf and ruin your all-time zero score.  Lead by example.  Your children, family, and friends can find the way to faith from neither a need it all nor a know it all.  Hug.  Pick up.  Reassure.  Encourage.  Protect.  Push out the door if need be.  Become a pray it all and see what happens.

Busybuddies

dishes

I overheard my girls talking about a game.  They were playing house – which is relatively difficult when all you have is three sisters.  Once, one of them even chopped eight inches off of her own hair in order to “be the prince” for her princess sister.  Well, there is still some dispute about who really cut those locks, but I suppose that is another story.  Anyway, the game.  This house-playing was online.  Child number three said, “I have three moms!”  Child number two said, “My mom never plays.”  Child number one said, “I only have one mom.  She is always busy.”

My mom never plays.  I only have one mom.  She is always busy.  

It was as if the Lord was speaking audibly in answer to the previous week’s parenting prayers.  Conviction stopped me dead in my busy-making business.  The foremost characteristic my oldest daughter recognizes in me is very likely that I am always busy.  I am.  Guilty as inadvertently charged.  Translation: The foremost characteristic that my children likely recognize in me is that I am often unavailable.

Now, before I make the mistake of assuming that busyness in the household is all bad, let’s just clarify that it can also be good.  When mom isn’t available to meet a child’s every need, the child learns independence, responsibility, and how to be resourceful.  There are good reasons to allow children to figure things out on their own when they are capable.  I am, proudly, in every sense of the term, a free range parent.  However, that is not the issue I’m dealing with today.

I always say, “Don’t take me to the beach.”  I just cannot sit still.  It drives me nuts to not be doing something on my almighty list.  I like to spend time making plans so I have a plan and a plan for my plan.  Without structure I often feel lost and become extremely unproductive.  Not to mention the fact that the things I am busy doing are needed, necessary things.  Four kids, house, lawn, business books, bills, devotional time, exercise, writing, reading, groceries, cooking, etc.

We all know how life goes.  It is busy.  But how do I determine what becomes too busy?  I cannot sacrifice purpose and priority for perfectionism on the perfunctory.

They say some of what children learn to become is taught to them but even more is what is modeled before them.  In other words teaching kids about the importance of exercise does not have the same effect as them seeing and watching us exercise daily.

So, on one hand I am thankful that my kids will (hopefully) learn not to be idle, lazy, and unproductive with the time given to them.  On the other hand I am concerned that they will be so busy with the details of life that they will miss the major and the minor moments meant to be experienced and enjoyed.  Just. Like. Me.

Just like me?  Is that me?  I wonder.

I try to find balance in all of life.  I do.  I evaluate and reevaluate.  I do not see where my time management is mediocre.  How can I fix this busyness problem when I know the vast majority of what I am doing is absolutely necessary for the health of myself, my family, and my household?  I do not believe I am slacking and I only have one speed: GO!

When I think on how to “fix” this, I find that the root problem is not in what I am doing.  I do not think most of that can be altered.  The change must come not in what I do, but in how I do it.  I believe the Lord is calling me to change the way in which I do the duties that he has so graciously given me.

Instead of cooking dinner while the kids play without me, I can include them in finding a new recipe, prepping the ingredients, preparing the meal, and setting the table.  Instead of mowing the lawn while they watch TV, I can have them pick up trash and sticks in the yard and rake up behind me.  Instead of working on bookkeeping while they incessantly whine about wanting to shop, I can teach them to sort and staple receipts with a reward of shopping afterward.  Instead of asking them to be quiet when I am studying or writing, I can have them write their own ideas during that time.  Instead of going to the gym alone to swim laps, I take them all with me and they swim, too.  Most of these ideas we have already touched upon, but it is more a matter of discipline in continuing with those methods and enforcing them.

I have found that my issue is not a matter of wrong priorities or wasted time, but a lack of creativity and direction in guiding them in how to follow suit as they are here with me day in and day out.  The things I must get done are not wrong, but it is the fact that I am often failing to teach my children to do them alongside me that has been misplaced.  Let’s face it, I can do everything myself – and more efficiently to boot – but what I cannot do is do everything myself while the kids play video games if I want to end up with hard-working, resourceful, responsible time managers who understand my deep care and concern for them.

Therefore, over the past couple weeks since school obligations have dwindled almost to an official finish, I have begun praying about how not to lose my mind with ipod-less children.  I have begun placing a higher expectation of “help” upon my children.  Since then, they have successfully weeded our flower garden, washed dishes, swept and vacuumed, cleaned their rooms, put away laundry, given the dogs a daily brushing, taken care of their baby sister, and started their own blog sites.

I just cannot allow my kids to miss out on life on account of our culture’s obsession with technology.  If they do, it will be no one’s fault but my own.  I cannot allow myself to miss out on my children on account of my own ambitions being more easily accomplished without their help.  If I do, it will be no one’s fault but my own.  Both trends are equally destructive.  As a society, we need to think about how to avoid these traps.  I believe the first step is figuring out how to best befriend our own families amid the busyness of life.

dance

Life is a dance; you learn as you go.

Twenty-some years ago, a country artist made a lot of money on a song with those lyrics.

 The longer I live, the more I believe he was righter than rain.  Life is not a read the manual once and understand how to do it kind of thing.  Life is a read the manual daily, decide to do it your own way, try to do it the manual’s way, mess up both attempts repeatedly, and find yourself back in the manual wondering what you did wrong this time kind of thing.

Most of life is just a matter of having (or gaining) the wisdom, humility, and courage to read the instructions every time you even think about moving your feet.  It is a matter of being able to recognize how awful we are at dancing and having the humility to ask for help.  It is a matter of being able to admit when we have been stepping on someone else’s toes the entire song long.  It is having the wisdom to excuse their stepping on ours.  It is understanding how much we desperately need each other if we are going to do this dance together and recognizing how much we all so desperately need the teacher.  It is knowing beyond all doubt that we simply cannot dance apart from Him.

Even when we read the manual, we often move mechanically – like a robot.  Which is good, if you’re doing the robot, but mostly too awkward and jerky for a smooth and grace-filled dance.  We become the bookworm with no experience when we try to follow the instructions apart from the teacher’s guidance and example–and we all know how difficult it is to work with someone who has never left the student library but thinks they can dance with the stars because they read about it in a book.

There are two kind of people in the world: leaders and followers.  Dare I say that great leaders are those ones who have mastered the art of learning when to follow and great followers are those ones who have found the courage to lead unafraid when necessary.  We are all called to be both regardless of which personality trait is dominant.  All of learning life – especially Christian life – is a matter of learning balance.

For those of us who call ourselves “Christians,” the dance requires a great amount of both following and leading at all times.  We follow godly leaders and we lead by example.  We follow the truth and we lead in denouncing falsehood.  Primarily, our purpose is that we follow Christ and we lead others to him.  If we are to do well in any of these pursuits, we must first find wisdom, humility, and courage.

When I was a little girl, I just wanted to fit in.  I guess every little girl does.  I so wanted to be accepted by my peers.  The only problem was that I was not.  I just wasn’t.  I did not have the right clothes.  I did not live in the right neighborhood.  I did not come from the right family.  I did not have the right personality.  All I wanted was someone to play with at recess.  So, I copied what I saw the cool kids doing and saying and wearing.  Instead of being who I was, I tried to be like them.  Fail.  Instead of seeing my attempt as flattery and friendship, they saw me as even more ridiculous.  They made fun of me and stole the look-alike trinkets I thought would help me gain entry to their cool kid club.

It was summertime when the New Kids on the Block came out with their eight-time platinum album, Hangin’ Tough.  I had not heard of them until I ran into a girl I went to school with over summer vacation.  She started our conversation with a question: “Who is your favorite guy in the NKOTB?”  I still remember the feeling of horror that swept over me when she asked.  Maybe that’s why I still remember the conversation 28 years later.  I pretended I knew all about them throughout the entire conversation.  I even asked her, “What if someone did not know about them?” just to see her reaction.  Her reply?  “Well they would have to be pretty dumb.”

I ran out that very day and begged my mom to buy me their album.  (Yes, I owned Hangin’ Tough on a legitimate 33 vinyl record album.)  I played it continuously until I knew every word to every song.  But what I found was that liking the same things that the cool kids liked would never make them my friends.  Wearing the same things that the cool kids wore would never make them my friends.  Doing the same things that the cool kids did would never make them my friends.  It took me a while, but I learned that maybe the cool kids weren’t so cool after all and that true friendship is a gift.  It is not given on the basis of pretense.

Those experiences early in life taught me when not to follow.  They taught me why not to follow.   God used the rejection of my peers to mold me into a tenacious individual who knows who she is – which comes with a whole new set of challenges.  Being a strong individual can be counterproductive when I am called to follow.  Leading has proven to be just as difficult as trying unsuccessfully to follow.  It makes falling in line behind other leaders difficult because following feels like failure and comes complete with the backstory to prove it.  It takes wisdom, humility, and courage to lead, and, especially, to lead knowing when to follow.

I have been trying to convince my eleven year-old to join the public speaking club.  Judging by her personality, I can see she is a natural-born leader – just like her father.  I know she would be great at addressing a crowd once she gets the hang of it.  But…ever since I brought it up, she has been making excuses.  First, she told me she cannot speak because she is like Moses.  Since then, she intermittently, purposefully stutters and then makes sure I heard it adding, “See, Mom, I would be terrible at public speaking.  I can’t even talk.”  Right.

It just makes me think of how often we avoid taking charge out of fear of failure or fear of rejection or fear of having to stand alone for the right when we or others are being wronged.  We need an extra helping of wisdom, humility, and courage to lead.  Good leaders may have followers, but great leaders know their ultimate goal is to make more leaders.

How is your dance?  Robotic?  Painful?  Awkward?  Jerky?  Join the club.  Whether you are leading, following, or undecided, we all have something new to learn.  Keep dancing and pray for wisdom, humility, and courage.

9-livestock

Pharaoh has denied God’s command given through Moses and Aaron to let his people go four times.  The fifth plague is more severe than the first four.  Again God calls upon Moses to “Go to Pharaoh…”

Moses obeys.  He gives warning beforehand and even a whole day to think about repenting and avoiding it.  Pharaoh’s heart was hard, though, and he would not listen.  Now, all the livestock belonging to the Egyptians die.  The livestock belonging to the Israelites are not touched, though.

God again makes a clear distinction between his people and those who do not belong to him.  He again proves himself omnipotent by setting even the time when it will happen.  “When God’s judgments are abroad, though they may fall both on the righteous and the wicked, yet God makes such a distinction that they are not the same to the one that they are to the other.” ~Matthew Henry

By now everyone in Egypt has to know that there is some credibility to this God of the Hebrews.  Everyone in the vicinity of these events has to understand that supernatural forces are working all around them.  Think about the day to day events for a moment, though.

Every day the people of God were still waking up slaves.  Every day they were working from sun up to sun down.  Every day was back-breaking, miserable labor.  Every day the Egyptians were dealing out degradation, abusive authority, and no mercy.

There must have been a hundred injustices playing out against God’s people at the hands of their Egyptian slave drivers on a daily basis.  Yet, God does not send Moses to deal with any of them individually.  No.  Moses’ command is singular.  He is a broken record; a rerun; a one-string banjo.

Let. My. People. Go.

And that is all.  Over and over.  Loud, clear, concise, and repetitively – just one command is given.

There is something to be said for prioritizing here.  Many times the trickle-down effect of sin is so great that we find ourselves entrenched in a number of injustices all at the same time.  In those times, we must remember Moses’ singularity.  We must hone in on the big idea and stand there, unwavering.  One clear command has more power than ten cloudy complaints.  For us, that big idea is the gospel and the singular command is, “Repent!”

Do not allow the peripheral issues to muddy the waters or derail the big picture.  Do not miss the forest for the trees when dealing with injustice, sin, the world, or our issue-ridden culture.  Repentance is the command and Christ is the solution.

Repentance is the command and Christ is the solution.

On the other hand, when we are the ones continuously hearing a singular command from God and his people, we need to recognize our own need for repentance.  When we hear the same command three or four times, we can rest assured that it is important and that we must obey before judgment becomes more severe.

text

Upon entering the store I say, “Wow, look at that flower!  It is crazy!” My oldest daughter immediately replies, “Yeah, I should probably buy it for you because it matches your personality.”  I laugh.  Upon exiting the store my second youngest daughter asks, “Where does the water go when you flush the toilet?”  I laugh.  Then, I think.  What if either of those statements had been a text?

How do we decide when to text and when to call?  Do we even consider whether a “message” is worthy of a phone call anymore?

I propose that much of what we are sending through cyberspace and data world would be best communicated with a simple old-fashioned dial up delivery.  Being a more comfortable writer than speaker even among those I am closest to, I am as guilty as the next guy in this conundrum.  Therefore, I wanted to examine the subject and offer a few things to consider when we have got something we need to say.

1. What is our relationship?

Consider my daughters’ initial statements.  Here’s how I take these statements if they are coming as a text depending upon who it is from:

Statement A:

My best friend knows how crazy I am.

My daughter has a cute sense of humor.

My husband better be joking.

My mother-in-law literally thinks I’m nuts.

That co-worker doesn’t even know me.

Statement B:

Is my best friend having a midlife crisis?  (Send chocolate)

Did my daughter flush a toy?  (Prepare to enter trenches)

Is my husband thinking about remodeling?  (Browse home decor)

Why is my mother-in-law quizzing me?  (Ask Siri and send correct reply)

Is that co-worker going to try and pin a dirty job on me?  (Inquire why she’s asking)

Clearly, our relationship matters when it comes to how we interpret what is being sent via text message.  Always take into consideration, firstly, who you are about to communicate with.  This is the first step in being wise about when to call versus when to text.  It matters whether we are close friends, just acquaintances, family, or someone with whom there is already tension or a history of miscommunication or misunderstanding.

2. Is either the subject or the relationship (or both) stressful?

A good rule of thumb when deciding whether to text or call is how you feel about what you need to communicate.  If you feel awkward about calling, you probably should.  If it is a situation riddled with tension or misunderstanding already, do not add fuel to the fire by using the means of communication that is most easily misunderstood.

3.  How important is the information?

I am picturing men proposing via text here.  Come on.  If what you have to say has any amount of depth, you need to pick up the telephone and use your voice.  Texting matters of importance makes them less important and much more impersonal.  If you have five minutes to text two paragraphs, you have five minutes to use some common decency and respect and call that person.

4.  Would you want to receive the information you are texting to someone else in a text message?

Most rules of etiquette can be traced back to the standard of the good old golden rule.  Do they even teach this to kids anymore?  Do unto others as you would have done to you.  Do not drop bombs on people via text message.  Call them when the details involve depth.

5.  Do you want the relationship to grow?

In order to become closer to someone, at some point, you will have to either speak audibly or converse in person.  Show me a text-only relationship and I will show you a shallow, immature relationship.  If there is to be maturity, there must be more than one mode of communication.  Texting is linear.  Talking is fluid.  With texting nuances are nuisances that no one understands.  With talking nuances are natural.

I would not want to be told my personality type is crazy in a text unless it was from a very few select persons.  I would be scared if I were so randomly asked a question about toilet water in a text.  I laughed at both in person.  So from one I would rather write it out and let it land without having to converse about it writer to another, let’s learn to evaluate the importance of what we want to say, to whom we want to say it, and whether it is really wise to write it rather than rap it out of our windpipes.

eggs

I heard part of a sermon on marriage yesterday and something the man said, well, as my oldest daughter would say, “punched me in the face.” The preacher said, “Marriage provides the security to deny independence.”

As I drove on, I heard the concept of self-sufficiency come up three more times in different ways and I really felt that the Lord was pressing this idea upon my heart.

All I could think of was our culture’s obsession with individualism and independence.  Beyonce made a song about it a decade ago and I still cringe every time I hear it.  The message?  I do not need you, man.  I do not need anyone.  I can get it all on my own and I prefer to be that way.  Independence is power and I need nothing else.  Self-sufficiency and independence are not only idols, but gods of the majority in our culture today.

But what is the alternative?

Dependence.  Needing others.  Needing help.  Trusting another person with the deep things as well as the daily.  From finances to feelings, many marriages fall by bowing to the god of independence.  Dependence is not popular, at least not here in pull yourself up by your bootstraps, independent America.

It got me to thinking about not only my own marriage, but the fact that Christ chose the church to be his bride.  He chose marriage as the symbol of his relationship towards his people.  Dependence is a huge part of being a Christian.  Oops. There I go again saying things no one wants to hear.  The truth is that no one can be saved apart from total dependence on the work of Christ.  No one can live in line with the gospel apart from dependence on Christ.

I have two examples stirring in my mind to illustrate these realities: the insecure wife and the overprotective mom.

The Insecure Wife

I have never been a particularly good cook.  I’m not as bad as I used to be but, well, ok I suck at cooking for the most part.  I remember early in our marriage, my husband would often stop at his mom’s house to eat on the way home from work.  One could hardly blame him, and a lot of it was just part of transitioning from being a 19 year old at home to a 19 year old in his own home, but as a new wife it was very discouraging.  Often I would avoid cooking altogether because I did not want to risk rejection over it again.

As time went on and when I did cook, he would come into the kitchen and offer “suggestions.”  I am not sure if that was more or less worse than just not showing up, but it did not make for happy meals.  I would not take his advice because I was proud.  I would not take his advice because I was insecure.  Instead, I would get mad feeling like a failure and wondering why he just could not see my effort.

Now, when he walks into the kitchen and offers help, I pinch myself to see if I am dreaming.  I am grateful and welcoming his help.  I delegate as much as possible when my husband comes in to give me assistance.  When I place a meal in front of him – even if it is sub-par, he compliments and thanks me.

What changed?

The maturity level changed.  We stopped clinging to the independence and selfish rights we believed we had.  His suggestions transformed from condescension to servant-hood.  My focus changed from duty, obligation, and approval to how I can best please the one I love.

My error with cooking was one of inexperience, insecurity, and ignorance.  There is another way to err on the opposite side of this coin, though.  It is realized in trusting in self as well.  Have you ever seen a helicopter mom?

The Helicopter Mom

This is the overprotective mom who does absolutely everything for her (often only) child.  The child does not fail because mom never allows him to get that far on his own.  She does literally everything in order to “protect” him and create a facade of having a responsible child or, even, husband.

When a woman does this in her family, she frustrates and cripples her children.  She disrespects and emasculates her husband.  When she does this at work or in the church, she exacerbates those around her and they give up trying to contribute.  This woman does not understand that responsibility must be given in order to be learned.

There are many people who never get to maturity regarding dependence.  Both in marriage and in the church, we often get stuck in the “I need help but do not want it” martyrdom camp because of pride or insecurity or both.  We fail to realize that dependence is paramount.  It is never a matter of needing help vs. being able to do things individually as much as it is a matter of reflecting our dependence and need for Christ by recognizing our dependence and need for other people.  It is a rejection of the idol of self-sufficiency and an acceptance of a faith which requires humility.  Humility hears suggestions as help rather than hate or hurt.  This is counter-cultural.  No one is teaching their daughters to depend on a man these days – and perhaps for good reason.  No one is teaching women how to let their children fail for the greater good of learning responsibility anymore.  But the church must not forsake the practice of interdependence and learned responsibility based on cultural norms.

Maturity is often rooted in dependence.  The world will tell you just the opposite.  Dependence is often rooted in maturity.  The world will tell you just the opposite.  When we throw away the idols of insecurity, pride, approval, individualism, and self-centered thinking, our families – both church and home – will thrive.

flies2

The fourth plague God brings upon Egypt is swarms of flies.  Each plague becomes more unique and makes any thought of coincidence become more ridiculous.  The last could not be reproduced by the magicians and this one affects only the Egyptians.

Moses is commanded to go to to Pharaoh early in the morning and warn of the coming flies.  He also differentiates this time and tells Pharaoh that none of God’s people will be afflicted.  If there were any doubt before about whether this is an act of an Almighty God, now there is none.  He alone commands both nature and all creatures of his creation.

What must it have been like to be Moses in this whole thing?  No sleeping in for this guy.  First thing in the morning he had to go to the most most powerful, prideful guy he knew and…have breakfast?  No.  Brown-nose?  No.  Offer a gift?  No.  He had to challenge him.

Yes.  Challenge him.  Moses went first thing in the morning to give the big man on campus yet another ultimatum.

In today’s day and age God’s people often won’t even challenge false teaching in their own circle of friends and family from the comfort of their own home!  I guess it kind of shows us how far away from truth we’ve really come.  God’s people must not fear man over God.

So Moses does exactly what he is told.  Pharaoh begins to negotiate.  Rather than refusing, he offers Moses a “deal.”  He tells him that they can sacrifice to God but they cannot leave.  He tells them to do the sacrifice in Egypt rather than in the wilderness as God instructed.

Moses says no.  People of God cannot compromise when God has commanded them.  Moses knew the compromise was disobedience and that it would likely get God’s people killed in the process.  So Pharaoh offers another deal saying, “Go, but not too far.”  Moses agreed and prayed for God to remove the flies.

When Pharaoh felt relief, he reneged once again and did not keep his word.  He would not let God’s people go.

If we learn anything from these events it is that compromise is one of the Enemy’s favorite schemes against God’s people.  If he can just get us to agree a little bit, on his terms instead of God’s, he has won and he knows it.  As we see here, compromise leads to death.  Moses teaches us not to fall for it lest we die.

God is in control of all things.  Funny how when he commands flies they listen but when he commands men they don’t.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 238 other followers