No Smoking in the Bathroom

If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.” Ephesians 6:3

Last week was Spring Break in Indiana and my oldest son Connor and I set off for the deep south on a road trip with my parents. Road trips have long been a part of my family. Growing up in Indiana, with my whole family still in Chicago, meant frequent trips back to the Windy City for visits. I am the oldest of three siblings. My brother and sister fought, so that meant that I had to sit in the middle, on the hump (you remember the hump, don’t you?), for three long hours back to Chicago every time we visited my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. My sister sat behind my dad who was at the wheel and would systematically kick under his seat until he “had enough” and would reach back to give her a pinch. She was agile and with cat-like reflexes would dart out-of-the-way and I would get the pinch. Ouch!

As we got older and the five-passenger car wasn’t big enough, we would rent minivans for trips that we would take. We called these “Happy Van trips.” As an avid reader, I always got to sit in the way back so I could have my nose in a book and no need to converse with anyone else in the car. I missed a lot of scenery including all of the Pacific Coast Highway, the Smoky Mountains and various other landmarks in America’s heartland.

I adore my parents and I missed out on growing up with grandparents in the same state (remember the trips to Chicago?) and I wished so desperately to have grandparents that were close to home. As an adult, I had a say in that with my own children. My neighborhood connects to my parents neighborhood so that my kids would be able to interact with them as part of their daily lives. I consider us extremely fortunate that proximity allows us to plan lunches, dinners, school plays, random coffee dates, and vacations together. Last week, with my husband working and my other two boys with their dad, my parents and I got Connor to ourselves for a week of fun-ish. I remember the first road trip my parents took with Connor and me when he was very young. Connor and my dad came out of a rest stop area and had decided that there were “rules” to road trips. Rule #1 was “No smoking in the bathrooms.” None of us smoke, I don’t know why this is Rule #1…but it is. Any of my children could tell you Rule #1. As we set off on our journey last week, my dad got in the car and asked Connor what the first rule of a road trip was…and sure enough, Connor told my dad “No smoking in the bathroom.” Despite a rocky trip (see Being Bratty post) there were several highlights and lots of laughing and memory making. As we all get older and time marches on, I’m so grateful for an opportunity for us to all get-together. I realize that it’s a precious gift and I am thankful.

Being Bratty

Cursed is anyone who dishonors their father or mother.”  Deuteronomy 27:16

“You’re on thin ice,” I heard this come out of my dad’s mouth and directed at me today!!! I don’t think I had heard these words since I was a teenager. I was horrified that at 43 years old my dad would even think to say that to me or raise his voice at me (yes, I was in trouble). I’m an adult and way past the age of admonishment.

We had been talking about spring break. Last week, my parents graciously took my oldest son, Connor, and I on a wonderful vacation to Memphis (to see Graceland and the National Civil Rights Museum), Mississippi (Historic Vicksburg and Natchez) and ended at Space Camp in Alabama. Well…it would have been wonderful but in full disclosure, Connor was a total brat. He sulked, he moped and was basically a wet blanket for the first half of this trip. He didn’t want to be on vacation. He didn’t want to leave his friends. How dare we take him to the deep south when we know he is against racism (for the record, we too, are against racism). I thought he was going to have a nervous breakdown when we stayed at a Plantation turned Bed and Breakfast in Vickburg, MS (the Plantation had been occupied by the Union during the Civil War and served as a hosptial for soldiers). We stayed in the Jefferson Davis room…this did NOT go over well depsite the Plantation being preserved due to the owner’s ties with General Sherman and the Northern states, Connor did not want to sleep in a room named for the President of the Confederacy. I could go on and on with the painstaking adventures of a grumpy teenage boy but frankly, I don’t want to recount it becuase it annoys me all over again.

Recalling the events of the “vacation” today and the money spent and bad attitudes created the perfect storm. I haven’t felt well today and have some big things on my mind and maybe I was ready to poke the bear and have a fight…I don’t know. I do know that I turned into the brat! Here I was complaining about my ungrateful son and all of a sudden I turned into that ungrateful daughter. Yuck!!! Maybe the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because I was definitely showing my ugly side and that was indicative of my week with Connor. I usually think about parenting from my tiny fishbowl perspective and what it’s like to parent my kids. I don’t often think of what it’s like for my parents to still parent me. Today, at 43 years old, I deserved to get checked! I was being ungrateful, moping, complaining and NO ONE likes to be the turd in the punch bowl but there I was, floating around ruining it for everybody else!

Today, this blog is my own admittance that I can have a bratty kid and I can be a bratty kid. I am not comfortable acknowledging my shortcomings but I hope that awareness of them and being genuinely sorry will help me grow as a mom, daughter, wife, friend and Christ follower.

Dad- I am so so sorry for how I acted today. I love you and mom more than anything and I am beyond grateful for everything you do for me and the boys. I couldn’t ask for better parents!

Connor- I wish that you had been kinder, gentler and more understanding and appreciative of the trip and our time together. It’s no longer years until you’re gone, it’s months…weeks…hours…minutes.  I love you so much and I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by and you’re almost an adult (Father Time, you are a cruel beast). I feel the pressure to create as many memories as possible for you so that you will want to come home, visit and still need me. My grandparents are gone and I would give anything for one more trip with them…one more day with them. I tried to give that to you. I know it’s not what you wanted but I hope someday you can look back and know that I tried.

 

The Grub Master

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

Dear Reader, I’m suffering from the dreaded mom-guilt. This is a common symptom is my parenting repertoire. Maybe it’s because I’m trying to make up for us living in a world with a giant “D” for Divorce on our chests. Maybe it’s because I had everything growing up and more and I want that for my children. Maybe this is just my own affliction to overcome. Here’s what my current case is…

My middle son, Carter, is going on a camp out this weekend with the Boy Scouts. I love that he’s a Boy Scout! I have mad respect for the scouts and can’t wait for the day when I can get a license plate that says I’m the proud mom of an Eagle Scout. I’m completely on board with their mission, high ideals and have made many Pine Wood Derby cars in my life. I’ve been the Den mom and put my time in but as the boys have gotten older, I’ve stepped aside and been grateful for the men that have come alongside our troop to help these boys learn and honor the motto “be prepared.”

The campout begins tonight. Carter was assigned the task of Grub Master. This is the scout that plans the meals for the weekend, sends his mom to the grocery store to get the items and packs said items. Then the task of cooking and cleaning is distributed among the boys for the weekend so they can work together and take turns doing the different jobs. Carter needs to do this for his Eagle requirement so as much as I hate when he is Grub Master (because it’s a pain for me) I do understand the necessity. Well…other plans have come up. Carter would like to attend a concert at the high school tonight and have me drive him up to Lafayette tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn (more than an hour from our home). This would entail packing up all the food, bringing it to the troop to load and unload tonight (now making it a responsibility for someone else) and a two-hour car trip for me tomorrow morning at 0 dark hundred hours. I had been stewing about this for days when two separate friends told me today, that I can say “no.” Carter committed to the campout. Carter committed to being Grub Master and I don’t have to give up my Saturday morning (I have a bible study on Saturday mornings that I love).

I’m not sure why saying “no” seemed like such a novel idea. Then it hit me…mom guilt. I want to bend over backward making life easy on my kids. AND guess what? Life isn’t easy. I have another friend that says “fare is what you pay to ride the bus” (I’ve got some really smart friends). So, I’m going to work through my mom guilt that my sweet little boy is going to miss an activity tonight to honor the activity that he has already committed too. I am also going to recognize that I am human and can’t do it all and don’t want to do it all.  I will encourage him to pack up all the food the Grub Master is responsible for and help Carter honor his commitment. I can’t have him part of an organization whose motto is “be prepared” and then get in his way when he needs to develop the skills to do just that. I’m sure he will be less than happy with me when he comes home from school and learns that he needs to be “Johnny on the spot” and get ready to go tonight but I feel that this is the best thing for him. Thinking about the long game of parenting can be a true challenge…brutal at times. But I’m raising someone’s future husband and father and that person needs to be someone who honor’s their commitment and knows how to see things through.

Be prepared…for life.

 

Bridge for Beginners

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

I grew up in a card playing family. One of my first memories of my Great-Grandma Fran is her teaching me to play Gin Rummy on a tiny table in their compact kitchen. She and my Great-Grandpa Stew had an apartment in the Chicago suburbs and when I was visiting my grandparents, my Grandma Nancy would always take me to visit her parents. For hours we would play. I learned the tricks of the trade and heard stories of my Great- Grandpa’s gambling days when he was a card shark and actually won someone’s car once!  Was I ever impressed with these escapades and I wanted nothing more than to be good enough at cards to play at the adult table someday. This is also where I learned to shuffle the deck with a killer waterfall. I believe this is an inherited trait as my Great-Grandmother and Grandma could both shuffle like no one’s business. I was in great company! In addition to Gin, I learned King’s Corners and solitaire. However, there was one game that did and continues to elude me. My great white whale…Bridge.

I come from generations of Bridge players. My parents were in Bridge groups growing up and it looked like so much fun! My beloved Playgroup was going to learn but somehow we got sidetracked raising kids and that past time fell by the wayside. I would like to learn with my husband so that we can go on the pro-circuit and be card sharks too, just like my Great-Grandpa Stew. There is only one problem…for the life of me, I can’t figure this card game out! The suits, the bidding, scoring, trump, no trump, slams…it’s all Greek to me. In an effort to once again try and figure this game out, I’ve been acquainting myself with was is allegedly the “best Bridge book for beginners of all time.” (quote from my mom) Charles H. Goren’s Contract Bridge for Beginners. Its copyright is from 1949 and opens with Preliminaries in Chapter 1 “For the purpose of this chapter, I am proceeding upon the assumption that the reader is totally unfamiliar with the deck of playing cards. If in your case I have made an incorrect assumption, please do not, out of a sense of courtesy, linger over these pages. Simply skip this chapter on Preliminaries.” In full disclosure, I am familiar with the deck of playing cards but I’m so impressed by the politeness and tone of this book, I will continue to read the Preliminaries!

This task of acquainting myself with Bridge made me start thinking about the Bible. Because I’m in ministry, I get asked all the time where I would recommend people start when trying to read the Bible. I forget that it can be a daunting task. I want to tell people that they too, can skip the Preliminaries. Some days, I start with a particular book of the Bible. Right now, I’m studying the book of Ruth so I’ve been hanging out there quite a bit. Other days, I close my eyes and open to a completely random area to see what God wants to say to me on a particular day. Usually, it is very relevant and something I need to hear. I don’t believe in coincidence so I know I better pay attention. If I feel like praising God, I go to the Psalms. Life of Jesus? I head to Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Present day church? Acts. History? First five books of the Bible. I guess my point here is that in order to know God, you have to start somewhere. And he wants you to know him. Don’t treat God like he’s your white whale. Start today, whether it’s with the Preliminaries or somewhere in the middle, he’s waiting for you.

“Written by the leading authority, the foremost teacher, and the most successful bridge player in the world, it will prove a boon to the novice and bridge player alike.”

 

 

 

 

I can do hard things

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:26-27

My friend Kate’s mantra is “I can do hard things.” I love this because it resonates with me. I too can do hard things. Now don’t get me wrong…I can count my blessings from here to the moon. I love my husband and have a happy marriage, I am the biggest cheerleader on the planet for my three wonderful sons. I have the absolute best friends that anyone could ever ask for. My parents live close by, are relatively healthy and we have a strong family bond in my nuclear family with my parents, brother, and sister. I love my job and am blessed by incredible co-workers that cheer me on, support me and get in the trenches of ministry with me…side by side. I have terrific volunteers, parents, and children in my ministry. Every day I get to think, plan and create opportunities to share the gospel…I am a truly blessed person!

Then there are the icky parts, the parts that keep me awake at night. The parts that keep me in constant prayer with my Heavenly Father. I have an autoimmune disease that rears its ugly head every so often and reminds me of my humanness. It’s tough for me to put down my cape and tiara and practice self-care in the form of rest. I have an extremely difficult relationship with my ex-husband. How this affects my children weighs so heavily on my heart. Divorce is hard. The ugliness of divorce is hard. The pain years later for my children is hard. Forgiving someone who has never apologized or asked for forgiveness is hard.

Parenting can be very difficult. I have said and done things that I could never imagine in my wildest dreams. We’ve been down some deeply challenging roads. I couldn’t be more grateful for the people who have stood in the gap to provide leadership, integrity, a strong moral compass and grace for my boys. Nothing has had me on my knees at the cross more than praying for my children. Someone once told me that when you become a mom, your heart lies outside your body. To that…I shout a resounding at the top of my lungs AMEN!

I’m reminded of the lyrics to the theme song of one of my favorite childhood shows. “You take the good. You take the bad. You take them both and there you have the facts of life.” I hope that I’m able to enjoy the good things in life because I’ve experienced the bad. It definitely makes the good taste sweeter, seem more special and creates in me a feeling of gratitude for the good and thanks to God for providing it. This doesn’t mean that I can forget or blow off the bad…I hate the bad. I really really hate the bad. I will listen to my body and rest when it needs rest. I will continue to pray for healing in broken relationships. I will continue on my knees in prayer for my beautiful children. God sent me the world’s greatest advocate in the Holy Spirit (sent in HIS name) to be on my side. And when my wings are down or I feel hopeless I pray for a loud reminder of this and God reminds me of his peace and to not be afraid. I think this is really important. God is NOT giving me the peace that is of this world. We live in a world of sin that’s full of the icky stuff….but God gives us something even better. HIS peace. The peace of God. This is how I know I can do hard things. God is my Heavenly Father, he has prepared a place for me and I can rest in his peace.

I can do hard things.

The Dirty “D” word

Where for forty days he (Jesus) was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Luke 4:2-4

I’m going to say it right off the bat…The Dirty “D” word is for DIET. I think I’ve tried almost every diet known to man. Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Atkins, Mediterranean, Whole 30…I’ve been in (and out) of The Zone. And guess what? I think they all work! If you are determined and have committed to making the long term changes affiliated with these dietary plans then I think anyone can be successful. Then why have I failed? Why do I have a trunk full of weight loss books waiting to be sold back at my nearest neighborhood Half Price Book Store? I’m pretty sure this is because I have FOMO (fear of missing out…on the next food driven celebratory soiree) or maybe I just get lazy. I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions but I did vow that I would look at how I approach areas of weakness in my life and how I could do a better job at being intentional in those areas to see growth and progress. I purchased the book Full, by Asheritah Ciuciu (I know. I know. Another book…I AM an author and will tell myself that this is for the great good of authors everywhere). The difference is that this isn’t a diet book. No quick fix, no easy meal plans for busy moms on the go and no diet. This book is about the connection to healthier relationships with food and a healthier relationship with Christ. Well, who wouldn’t want that?!? I read on….

I have a lot highlighted in this book so far but here are a few of the “big” ideas that have really resonated with me.

“No matter whether we’re eating healthfully or bingeing on comfort foods, we will not find the satisfaction we seek until we realize our cravings are meant to point us to God.”

“We don’t need another diet; we need the sanctification that comes by the power of the Spirit.”

“No comfort food can match the comfort I’ve found in Jesus.”

“Food cannot fix anything-God is the only one who can satisfy us because He created us to find our satisfaction in Him.”

There’s LOTS more in this book and it’s taking me a while to not only read but process what God is saying to me through this study.

I’ve decided to practice the discipline of self-control while I read this study. I’m doing it through IF (Intermittent Fasting). I fast for 16 hours and can eat during an 8-hour window. I take this one day at a time. I’m trying to really depend on Jesus for EVERYTHING and this includes finding satisfaction in Him. Living for Him does take sacrifice and it’s NOT easy. But His death for my sins wasn’t easy. Nowhere in the Bible does it say life will be easy. And I know that I can’t live on bread alone and word of God is the living word and I’ll serve that up on a platter any day of the week!

Galentine’s​ Day: 13 Quotes to Celebrate Friendship

 “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
Parks and Rec…what a great show that made me want to move to Pawnee, IN. Leslie Knope was famous for her quirky yet extremely sentimental “holidays.” and coined the term “Galentine’s Day” to be celebrated with her gal pal Ann on February 13.  Over a decade has passed since the first Galentine’s Day and the concept has only gained momentum.
My closest besties call ourselves “Bakers Dozen” so here are 13 of my favorite quotes and inspiring words for all the gals out there making a difference!
1.  Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
2.  Empowered women empower women.
3.  A strong women looks challenge dead in the eye and gives it a wink.
4.  You can tell who the strong women are, they’re the ones building each other up instead of tearing each other down.
5.  Some women fear the fire…some women simply become it. (r.h. sin)
6.  There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise. (W.E.B. Dubois)
7.  If you’re searching for that one person to change your life, look in the mirror.
8.  “You always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” (The Wizard of Oz)
9. “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” (Madeleine Albright)
10. “Uteruses before duderuses. Ovaries before brovaries.”  (Leslie Knope)
11.  Never make yourself small for anyone. Be your own person and try wearing a little lipstick. (Grey’s Anatomy)
12.  Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it.
13.  The world needs strong women. Women who will lift and build others, who will love and be loved. Women who live bravely, both tender and fierce. Women of indomitable will. (Amy Tenney)
To all the amazing women in my life (starting with my MOM)  I treasure you. You’re a gift and I honor you this Galentine’s Day!

 

Error Worm

Have you ever heard of an ear worm? It’s when part of a song, usually the chorus, gets stuck on repeat in your head. Over and over the lyrics play…twenty…thirty…forty times. It’s without fail that I fall victim to the dreaded ear worm when I’m sound asleep. I wake up in the middle of the night with songs running through my head with no end in sight! It can be maddening. I’ll try to sing another song to break the cycle. Anything but the seven hundredth time of whatever I was listening to that day. The older I get the more difficult it seems to ward off the ear worm. I have visions of recording artists laughing maniacally in the corner wringing their hands saying “we’ve got her now.”

There’s just one problem.  I am famously awful at knowing the words to a song. Until very recently I thought the Go-Go’s hit song “Our Lips are Sealed” was “Are you for Real?” It made complete sense to me and I’ve sang this song forever the wrong way. It drives my husband bananas. I now have a car where the title of the song shows up on my dashboard. Wow…it’s like a whole new world of music for me! It’s completely changed the way I listen to music. I still regularly create my own lyrics and for better or worse, I’m like Frank Sinatra singing it “My Way.”

Until…

I listen to mostly Christian radio and last week I was listening to a song I’ve heard for years by Big Daddy Weave called “The lion and the lamb.” There is a lyric in there that I thought went like this:

My God is alive…

Of course, my God is alive! I move on with my day (sing my song). But that night I could feel it coming on…the dreaded ear worm. Closer and closer it called me “my God is alive” Ugh! I couldn’t take it anymore. I just had to look up the lyrics so I could sing the song in its entirety and then hopefully break the cycle of the dreaded ear worm and get back to the business of sleep.  I grab my phone (painfully aware that the glow of the phone is NOT something that will lull me back into a dreamless sleep). I start searching for the song “My God is alive” and I’m getting zero, zip, zilch in search results. What DOES pull up is “My God is a Lion” Wait, what???  A lion? That doesn’t make any sense…My God is a lion??? I’m desperate enough at 3 am and click on the lyrics and sure enough, I’ve been singing this song wrong forever and the lyric is actually:

Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah

I want nothing more than to crush the earworm from my brain and now I’m realizing that God is a Lion and the Lion of Judah no less and, like Alice, down the rabbit trail I go.

As you may know, Judah is one of the twelve tribes of Jacob and is commonly used to describe Jesus in the Christian faith and used once in the book of Revelation. I look up characteristics of a lion and these words come up “strength” “royalty” “courage”. I start to think about Jesus and know these are characteristics that he also portrays through the Bible. The ear worm ‘My God is alive” slowly start to recede and the words “My God is a Lion, the Lion of Judah” wash over me. My ear worm turns to praise for a Heavenly Father that sent this baby…this savior to us. A Savior who can be both lion and a lamb. I’m filled with peace and humbled by gratitude for this lion who stays by my side and fights for me and has courage when I’m faltering and is strong when I’m weak. I eventually drift into a sleep befitting the daughter of a King.

I woke up and shared this experience with my husband. His comment was that I actually had an “error worm.” How true! I’m so thankful for this “error worm” because it gave me time to learn more about God and reflect on Him and a few of His attributes.

I know I’m going to continue to goof on my lyrics to songs. It was brought to my attention recently that Journey did not write a song called “’Endlessly.” However, I feel that in this circumstance, God was using this as an opportunity to draw me closer to Him. Maybe it wasn’t an error worm after all but an invitation to sit as the feet of Jesus and rest in Him.

“Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah

He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles

And every knee will bow before You.”

Dust to Dust

“for dust you are and to dust you shall return” Genesis 3:19

Last night was one of those crazy nights. We hastily rushed through dinner. My oldest son was working, my husband took my middle son to youth group and I was left with my youngest son, Cooper. I needed help returning some things to my parents house and had asked for help from Cooper. He REALLY did NOT want to help. After much protest from him, helping became less of a suggetion and more mandatory becasue I wasn’t dealing with an attitude and in this family we help one another. He was sulking and angry as we took the items to my parents house. After some TLC from grandma, he found himself in a better mood. We got home and it was the two of us cozied up on the couch watching a Pacer game while I did my bible study.

I started talking to Cooper about Ash Wednesday and that Lent was fast approaching. Despite me working for a church for eleven years AND raising my children up in the church and a Christian home…you know what’s coming right? Cooper asked “What’s Ash Wednesay?” (sorry reader, if you’re looking for tips on being the perfect parent you should definintely switch to someone else’s blog). Despite my inital internal despair that I had failed (yet again) to sear the traditions of the church on the hearts of my children, I gave the brief summary of Ash Wednedsay being the start of Lent and the 40 days leading up to Easter. That this was a time of rememberance of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. We talked about people giving things up for Lent…suggestions included Snap Chat, soda and candy. I told Cooper that I tried to look at this as 40 days to become a better Christian. How will I end this Lenten season being more like Jesus than when I began? Do I give up gossip? Foolish spending? Trusting in myself more than God?

Just as I am beginning to think that I’m losing Cooper on this topic, he surprises me. He announces that this year he is going to give up needless anger for Lent. This! Out of the mouth of my 13 year-old teenage son. His thougthfulness and understanding of the topic amazed me and I felt that he was understanding the concept of sacrifical giving during this time of Lent. I shared with him that was an excellent sacrfice during this next 40 days and told him I would pray for his success.

I sat in Ash Wednesday service today and received my ashes. I feel deeply contemplative today as I think about the next 40 days and what it means to have a savior in Jesus Christ. I’m so grateful for this hope. I know how the story ends. I know who is victorious. I know who conquers death. I know that his sacrifice means something. Thank you God, that you sent your son to die for me so that I can have eternal life with you.

Go get your ashes….and remember.