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.

 

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.