Where are you?

IMG_0287

I sat in a too small chair at a desk this morning with three adults peering across at me.  The walls surrounding were like every single classroom I have ever been in.  A certain beige dullness covered up with calendars and posters of fractions and word problems written on the board.

This is the place my child spends hours upon hours each day.  It’s very sterile and orderly.  Kind of cold, even.  I suddenly understand more why home is designed to be cozy and warm.  Safe and comforting.  Because this room doesn’t put that forth, though the faces staring at me do.

I start to wish that classrooms had flowy curtains and throw pillows.  Maybe some ambient music and a bit dimmer lighting.  Something to make it feel just a tad bit less like a hospital, this place where our children are each day.  Yes, I’m sitting in parent/teacher interviews and in my mind I’m decorating the room.  I will not apologize for it.  (A fireplace in the corner, perhaps?  Just a thought…)

I admit I went in a bit upset.  I was less than thrilled with the particular report card I’d just received and I wanted clarity and answers as to why my never-had-these-kinds-of-grades-before child suddenly had THESE kinds of grades.

I expected, somehow in my warped thinking, that this was their fault.  It had to be.  My son had always done well until now and so it must be something this new set of teachers was doing wrong that had altered his life in a negative way.  That it had to be their lack of care that made his shining happy history into a big black X of a report card.

In my mind I had all the questions ready.  Why aren’t you teaching him so he understands?  Why aren’t you spending more time with him?  Why can’t he come and get extra help when it’s hard?  Why are there not more things he could be doing to improve?  Why do you not care?  Why aren’t you with him?  Don’t you love him?

Of course none of these questions even made it off of my lips because what met me across that small desk was a different tone, a different look in their eye.  What came out of their mouth was so different then what I had perceived would come.  They were warm and soft and phrases like, “We’re here to help,” and “We want to see him successful,” came from their hearts.  They talked of how lovely my boy is and how he always has a smile on his face and a heart full of kindness.  They talked of how helpful he is to his peers and teachers and what a pleasure he is to have around.  And then they got real and told it like it is.  “But,”  they said, “he has to want it.”

Hmm.  Right.

So, it turns out when you sit across a table and look them in the eye and get the real story it changes things a little.  This boy that’s struggling just now?  Well, it’s not because he’s got bad teachers, it’s because he doesn’t ask for help.  He doesn’t redo quizzes he’s done poorly on.  He doesn’t seek clarification when things have gone wrong.  He doesn’t spend the time to go slowly and do it right but rather rushes through to simply get the task done in a manner that appeases.

I say this not to belittle my son or his work ethic to all the land, we’ve decided to chalk this term up to a glitch in the system and move on.  I say it because it reminded me so clearly of our life before our heavenly Father and I was so thankful for the picture it created in my mind.

For years my son has skipped along through school and for years of my life I, too, have skipped along.  Maybe you have too.  But then a time comes, a season, a year, a decade where it’s all going wrong.  The report card isn’t reading like it ought.  Life isn’t going as it should.  This is not how it’s supposed to be and this is not what we signed up for.

In these times, it becomes easy to speak to God exactly how I was ready to speak to my boys teachers.  We ask all the questions about, “Where are you?” and “Why aren’t you helping me?”  We throw out accusations about why He doesn’t care and we question whether He really loves us.

But this is what I know, when you don’t simply turn your back and you actually sit across the desk from The Great Teacher and you look Him in the eye, His response is much more like my boys teachers were than what we expect.

He says, I’m here.

He says, I’ve always been here.

He says, why haven’t you come to me.

He says, I want to help.

He says, I want to refine.

He says, I’m right here and I always have been.

He turns the question back on us, where are you?

And the truth of it is, sometimes we rush through our homework and we fail to sit before God and really take in what He has for us.  We read through that feel-good God book that someone wrote and we’re encouraged but we aren’t taking the time to sit under THE book that He gave us as a window to who He is.

We, in all our controlling nature, begin to solve the problems with our minds or our abilities or our pocketbook instead of taking them to Him and asking for help.

We may think we know the answers and think we get it and so we feel we no longer need to go in for tutoring sessions or show up for class at all!

And then when things go wrong we turn and we make it His fault and we wonder where He could possibly be.

When all along, like my boys teachers, He’s sitting there saying,

“I’m here.  Where are you?”

“I want your good, do you?”

“I want to help, but in order to receive it you have to come.”

We have a God who loves and cares and desires our good.  Are we seeking Him?  Are we turning to Him?  Are we sitting under the authority He gives us on how we ought to live?

Or are we, like my boy, whipping through life, handling it on our own, squeaking by with the least amount of effort to appease?  Are we not asking for help and not going to the source of life,  and then, in all our arrogance, are shocked at what comes and shake our fists at the One who has been sitting there waiting all this time for us to just show up?

He’s there.  He’s waiting.  He wants to help.  He wants our good.  Go to Him.  You will be met with kind and loving eyes that say, “Welcome, i’m so glad you’re here.” 

 

 

 

People Aren’t Projects

I use to want to fix people now I just want to be with them.  ~Bob Goff

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 8.49.25 AM

At the risk of sounding too up on the things of culture and the rapid changes upon us just now (I’m not) I’d like to put forth a theory that goes something like this.

We are a project oriented society.

Maybe we always have been, I can’t really say as this is the only era I’ve lived in.  Maybe when the Wright’s were so busy coming up with ways to fly their grandma’s sat back and said things like, “They’re just so project oriented.”  I contend it could be true.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with projects.  I love a good session of candle making or closet cleaning or cookie baking.  Truth be told, I’ve always been a project oriented person.

As a young’un I didn’t grasp the ways of the Barbie.  I just didn’t understand what to do with her.  Hop-walk her over to her fancy car, sit her in it and then what?  Dress her and place her at a table with her friends?  Why?  For the love, why??  None of it made sense to me.

I tried to engage with my friends in their Barbie playing ways but truly I just wanted to get on my bike and go somewhere or put some tunes on and make up a dance routine or write a song or rearrange my bedroom.  Again.

I liked things that ended with an accomplishment.  A final product.  A, see what I just did with my last 3 hours, manifest.  With Barbie she was just there, nothing accomplished, nothing gained.

Now that I’m well into my adult years the world around me seems to have the same thoughts.  Rarely do you see a Pin that tells you to just sit and do nothing for awhile.  Rest your soul.  Engage with humans.  It’s all very do this and do that.  Bake that thing or compile those leaves into a mobile or make your own soap or cook this amazing dish or chop the sleeves off of that old sweater and make them into ear muffs!  (Okay, I’ve never actually seen that but I’m assuming it could be a thing?!)

At work I have goals for the day.  Certain tasks to accomplish or trajectories to meet.  At school my kids are told what pages of their math text book to complete and when the glass etching they’ve been working on needs to be in.  They’re taught to sew things and to play a tune on the piano and how to write a paper or speak another language.  It’s amazing the things they learn, really.  But they’re all projects.  They all have an end.  Something to show for all the time they put in.

The problem I’m seeing with this project-oriented thing (can we call it a thing?) and the very accomplishment seeking nature of myself is that if we view all of the things in life as something to do and something to work on and something to complete then it begins to taint how we think about people, too.

When our world view becomes finished product, mission accomplished, goal achieved, it’s very difficult to not let this spill over into how we view our relationships or treat the people around us.  It’s very easy to see that friend going through a trial as a project.  It becomes simple to view that new, perhaps needy, person in your life as your new mission.  The one you will convert, fix, change.  It becomes normal to view the people around us as something we need to take on, manage, finish, be able to say, “ta-da!  There they are,” about.

Like, if I just meet them for coffee a few more times and they hear the glorious things I have to say then they’ll get it and change and all will be well.

Or, perhaps if I just teach them the things I know about how to better manage their money then they’ll get it and their life will be better and their problems will go away and they’ll be fixed.

Or, if they would just listen to me I could help, but they don’t.  I talk and talk and talk and they don’t do any of the things I say so what more can I do?

We rub our hands together in delight of a new task, we clap them together when we accomplish said task or we brush them off when we feel like our task is unaccomplishable. (totally a word)

The problem I see with this sort of thinking is Jesus, plain and simple.

Because Jesus doesn’t treat us as projects.  We aren’t His hobby that He works on from time to time and then gets bored with.  We aren’t His painting that He finishes and then hangs on the wall and never gets close to again but just shows off for all to see.  We aren’t His finicky sauce that He tries over and over to make right and then gives up on after numerous failed attempts.

He doesn’t Pin us and then hope to get to us eventually but then sort of forgets or decides He, in fact, is eating grains now so doesn’t need us anymore.  He doesn’t post our lives all over social media as His pinterest fail.  He doesn’t spend hours on us and beam with excitement and a feeling of accomplishment which He documents on Instagram to show off His very adept skills when he’s done.

Why?  Because He’s never done. He isn’t finished with us when we fail.  He doesn’t give up on us.  He doesn’t forget about us.  He doesn’t change his mind on whether we’re worth His time.  He doesn’t use us as a means to feel important.  He doesn’t call us His mission so as to get a check on some religious score card.  He doesn’t invest in us only to the point of what’s easy and then bail when it takes a little more effort.  He doesn’t pass us over to someone else when He feels unskilled.  He doesn’t brush us off like the dust on His hands when we just. aren’t. getting it.

Jesus relationship with his disciples shows me that we aren’t just projects He’s hoping to finish up before the weather turns.  Instead, He taught them over and over and over the very same things.  They saw miraculous events and still didn’t understand and He continued to be patient.  Continued to call them to follow Him.  Continued to invest His time, His teaching and His very life into them. (see Matthew 14 for examples)

People aren’t projects to be completed.  Jesus showed us that.  Bob Goff, in his book Love Does, says,

“I learned that faith isn’t about knowing all of the right stuff or obeying a list of rules.  It’s something more, something more costly because it involves being present and making a sacrifice.  Perhaps that’s why Jesus is sometimes called Immanuel – “God with us.”  I think that’s what God had in mind, for Jesus to be present, to just be with us.  It’s also what He has in mind for us when it comes to other people…..the brand of love Jesus offers is that’s it’s more about presence than undertaking a project.”  

In our very project-minded society, our very accomplish oriented ways, it’s important to remember that people aren’t something to complete but rather, made in the very image of God, something to be close to, present with, live alongside and in relationship with.

You can pin that if you want.

When You Feel Unappreciated

It’s one of those mornings where I open up Ann Voskamps blog page just to have the soothing music accompanying her sight be the background to which my day’s tone is set.  Something about it realign’s my heart and soul.  Something about it makes me breathe deep and breathe God and exhale all the worries and cares of the day and remember that there is rest for a weary soul, a tired traveler, a mama who is getting all mixed up in the actions and forgetting for her own life the words she speaks to her children day after day.

We don’t live for the approval of those around us, children.  We seek only the approval of One.

We don’t strive as those looking to win attention or gain a certain standing before men, but rather we strive unto the glory of God.

We don’t perform so that eyes can look at us in awe, we don’t say words to attract an audience, we do all things as for the Lord alone.

These things I speak often.  These things I forget, oh so often.

It’s no wonder that we feel a bit defeated after a pouring out of ourselves if we’re seeking the approval of man.  Seeking his accolades.  His thankfulness for our very being.  It’s no wonder we wind up feeling unappreciated, unloved even.  Because this, this is not where our end results lie.

There was a moment of low at the end of our weekend.  It came mid-Sunday but I chin upped it in the presence of company and made jokes and smiled and laughed about ‘children’ because it was the band-aid covering up the reality of the wound.

The simple question came as we all gathered in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon like we often do.  Salad was being dressed and big yellow pots were pulled out of the oven as our guests arrived and it was an honest question directed to one of my children.  “What did you get for your birthday?”

His answer deflated me.  “I forget.”

You forget?  You forget?

So what you’re saying is that the time we spent searching online for just the right one and the little bit of extra money we put out this year in order to make it something really special for you was forgotten within a week?  The time spent running around from place to place picking up that box of sugar cereal you get just once a year and the book that you said you wanted so long ago and now you get to pour your nose into as you snuggle up by the fire, forgotten?  The paper that I picked to wrap it in, debating over what teenage boys really want more, simple stripes or something funny that might get a laugh, not even remembered.  The clues I made for you with paper and pencil crayon to up the suspense a little?  The twine I tied it all up with to make it look like scrolls?  The cheesecake that we all made just for you?  The words written in the card that I pondered and prayed over and really wanted to impact you?  Forgotten?

It shouldn’t have wounded me like it did because he’s a child and children forget and I know he didn’t mean to and when he took some time to just think it all came out but in that moment the words he spoke broke a piece of me.

How quickly human words can hurt us when it’s what we’re seeking.  How much a simple phrase can fragment us and send us into a spiral of self-pity and anger and why do I bothers, when we’re so badly wanting approval and accolades.

I awoke in the night still ticked.  Heart pounding and mind reeling at his thoughtlessness.  His lack of appreciation.  Have we not taught him better than this?

Ah, yes.

Conviction, when it comes deep in the dark of the night when you’re all alone wrestling with your own heart and thoughts and flesh comes like a dagger.  It’s quick and it’s painful and suddenly we see, as though illuminated in broad daylight, the truth of that dark place in our hearts.

You are just like him.

The words come and they startle me because, no I’m not.  I’m very thankful.  We even have a list of things we’re thankful for on the wall.

You are just like him.

The words cut because they’re truth and truth never feels comfortable when it’s battling lies.  Especially when we’ve so deceived ourselves with the lies.

You are just like him.

Somehow when we see our sin played out in our own children it humbles like nothing else.  So quick to point the finger at his ungratefulness I am that I can’t even see my own.

So  quick to lash out at him later in the evening at how I feel so unappreciated, how I hardly let him get a word in edgewise, and idle threats about next years birthday and what’s the points and my heart so full of self-righteousness that I can’t even hear the sin in my words coming out.

But it came under the safety of covers, thank the Lord, when the tears could sting my eyes and I could cry out for forgiveness to the one who I fail to appreciate a million times daily.  The one worthy of so much more of my thoughts and my attention and my gratefulness and gratitude.  The one who has given me so much more than a birthday gift wrapped up just so but the one who has given me life and yet I forget.

Like a child I march by wondering why life is so hard and when someone asks how my day was I might grumble about the rain or the work or the ungratefulness of a child, meanwhile I’m the ungrateful one, forgetting my Saviour and what He’s done for me daily.

Because my sons forgetfulness wouldn’t have hurt so much if I wasn’t so set on seeking his approval.  If I wasn’t so caught up in wanting him to see how much time and effort I’ve put in.  If I wasn’t so arrogant to think he’d be fawning all over us and gushing because of the extra we put out for him.

Can you imagine if Christ on the cross was crying out, “Look at me!  Look at me here!  This is real blood that is coming out of my wounds.  Get down on your knees right now and be grateful for it!  Tell me how wonderful I am for doing this for you! Acknowledge this.  This that I’ve done for you!”

But instead the one who gave his very life did it humbly.

I can’t even wrap a gift without wanting the glory.

We sang words earlier that morning, words that said every hour I need you.  I contend it’s every second.  Because every second I fall.  Every second I forget.  Every second I seek the praise of my children.  Every second I pick up pride instead of humility.  Every second I want the glory instead of the position of a servant.  Every second I want what I feel is owed me above laying aside my desires.

I need you, oh I need you.  Every hour, every second, of every day, I need you.

What Love Looks Like: Halloween Edition

photo 4

The call came in mid-morning as I expected it would.  The one that says something along the lines of the tummy hurting and the pause long enough after to imply that I should probably go and pick him up.

I pushed a little bit and asked if it was really the tummy or more a discomfort with the day.  He confirmed, probably with a nod on the other end that I couldn’t hear.  Yeah, that.

When I questioned further there was hesitancy in his voice and I could tell that the truth wasn’t going to come out in this phone call so I let him off the hook and happily announced that I’d be there in ten minutes.

photo 3

We’re not haters of Halloween around here.  I know it’s what might come across with our lack of trick or treating and the longing to go home mid-day on what should be a fun one at school.  I know that it may look like we’re making some religious stance on this celebration but we’re not.  We’re simply loving our people.  And our people don’t like it.

One of the things that’s important to me as a parent is that my boys feel loved and safe.  This doesn’t mean they’re wimpy.  It doesn’t mean they’re sheltered.  It means that they know I love them.  End of story.  Nothing they do can change that.  Nothing they share can hinder it.  Even when I might be upset or impatient or frustrated, still I love.

I always want them to know that they are safe here, in our home, with our tribe.  I want them to know that we will do our best to orchestrate their life in such a way that they do not have to feel harm might come their way.  They do not need to feel uncomfortable in their surroundings.  The do not need to fear their day to day.  Do we push them and challenge them and stretch their boundaries?  Absolutely!  This doesn’t mean never making them try something new or take on a challenge that might make them feel anything but brave.  But it does mean that when the fear adds nothing to their life in general, as far as courage or strength, then I won’t push them.

photo 2

So the gore, the blood, the fake stitches and the glowing red eyes?  They don’t add a certain quality to my littles life.  They just scare him.  The bones and the costume with guts oozing out and the white faces with black eyes and dribbles of blood coming out of the mouth?  Yeah, they don’t make him feel super safe.

We’re not haters or religiously opposed.  We’re just loving our tribe and standing behind our values of loved and safe.  Today at school, he didn’t feel either of those things.  But I pushed him to go.  To be brave.  To remember that he is strong and courageous.  We prayed that God would not give him a spirit of fear but of power.  We remembered that this is a day that the Lord has made, just like any other, and that we would rejoice and be glad in it, just like any other.

Except sometime mid-morning it got to his tummy and he just wanted home.  Love.  Safety.

And what parent would deny a little munchkin that?

photo 1

We spent our rainy day snuggling on the couch watching old home movies from when he was a baby.  We laughed and copied the little mispronounced words.  We looked at each other and we knew that this place was exactly where we should be!

So we won’t go out tonight but hopefully we’ll get to hand out candy to some cute little bunnies or skunks or pumpkins.  I’m sure we’ll eat our fill too!

Happy Halloween, homies!  May you and yours be safe tonight and love each other well, whatever that looks like for you!

You are enough by nothing you have accomplished.

I want you to hear something today.  Not just hear it with your ears, either.  I want you to really hear it.  In your head but even more importantly in your heart.  I want you to breathe it in so you can breathe it out to others around you.  Would you listen for just a sec?  It’ll only take a moment.  You can read further if you want but all I really need you to know is 3 words. The rest is just backing up my thesis.  Ready?

You are enough.

photo

Right now.  Right where you are.  In this moment in time and space.  With your current level of understanding.  Enough.

photo

Stop for a second and think.  You, in your yoga pants and messy bun.  You, in your power suit and heels and pearls.  You, in your torn jeans and flannel.  You, in your kind of always stinky work out gear.  You, in your second hand coat.  You, with your name brand bag.  You, with the piercings.  You, with the crooked teeth.  You, with the flawless makeup.  You, with the house with the leaky roof.  You, on your vacation across the world.

Do you ever feel like enough?  Like you’ll ever be enough?  Or have enough?  Or do enough?

Listen again.  Please?

You are enough.

photo

Something has been amiss with us since the beginning of time.  Something that tells us that power is important.  Something that makes us need to be something we’re not.  Something pushing and pulling at us to be and do and achieve and out run and be smarter than, or more beautiful than, or more right than.  Than what?  You fill in the blank.

What are you chasing?

Is it the beauty of youth, the need for control, the yearning to seem better than just one other person?  Is it the pride that comes with having better children, better boots, better skin?  Is it the power that comes with being more accomplished, having figured things out just a little deeper, knowing that your wisdom runs vast and wide.  Is it that your circumstances, though not awesome, are certainly not as bad as THAT persons.  Or at least you haven’t done THOSE things.  Or heaven forbid, you leave the house looking like THAT.

photo

We went on a mini road trip this past weekend and while we were driving the road took its course and lead us right beside a train.  We looked out at the cars and then saw right quickly that the engine was just a little ways ahead.  Excitement filled the car and we cheered and yelled out, “Let’s beat the train!  Catch it!  Go faster!  We’re almost winning!”

For a few quick seconds we got in first place.  Ahead of the train.  We were all smiles and high fives.  But we know it can’t last, right?  We know that the train always wins.  The tracks gain the right of way and miss all the stop lights and are headed on a direct path while we stop and start with the ebb and flow of traffic.

There will always be trains in life.  The ones who seem to win.  The ones who look better and earn more money and go on better vacations and have whiter teeth.  The ones who seem to walk with their head held a bit higher.  They’ll always be there, if you’re looking for them.  If you’re seeking things to compare yourself too.  If you’re looking for things to judge to make yourself seem a little better.  Sure, you can try to beat the train and you may be ahead for a little while.  You might cheer and fist pump for a few seconds feeling like you’re on top of the game, but I assure you, if your eyes are open to comparing, it will only be a matter of time before the next train comes along and breezes right past you.

photo

So, what are we doing?  Why are we looking to those around us to set the standard?  What is it that is in us that makes us want to keep up, or do what they’re doing, or look like we’re 23 again?

Hear me again, would you friend?  You are enough.

Enough.

Truly and most emphatically, enough.

We can even spiritualize it all and want more good things, not just bending to the things of popular culture.  We can want a ministry that is booming and books published and more hits on our blog posts, for the glory of God, naturally.  We can get caught up in trying to serve more, and give more and be generally more.  We can try and try and try until we lie in a heap exhausted from the work of it all.  The striving.  The desire to be and do and succeed and …. and …. and ….

We can work so hard that our identity becomes all the things.  I am adoptive mom.  I am missionary.  I am writer.  I am sunday school teacher.  I am feeder of the poor.  I am social justice champion.  I am head of the prayer warriors.  I am meal maker.  I am encourager.  I am bible study leader.  I am world changer.  I am.

Even when we’re doing good things it doesn’t make us who we ought to be.  What it makes us is glory robbers.  There is only one who owns the words I AM.  The rest of us?  We’re children of I AM.  Because it’s not what we are but what He is. It’s not all the things we do, but the one thing He has already done.

You are enough.

Would you inhale that today?  Would you know that it isn’t all the things you aren’t that are important.  It’s not even what you are that is important.  Freedom comes so deeply by knowing that our heavenly Father cannot love us any more than he possibly does right now.  If He is unchangeable then His love for us doesn’t change.  Which means he also can not love us any less than He does right now.  His love is perfect.  And He is for you, right now.

He won’t love you more when you try harder or do better.  His love won’t grow when you finally heed that call to travel across the ocean.  He won’t love you in a higher category when you change history or disciple all the people.

You are enough.  Right now.  While you’re still in last nights pajamas at almost noon, and the kids are going berserk, and you snapped at them again.  When your marriage feels rocky and your faith unstable and you want to hear His still small voice but you just can’t.  No amount of makeup, or clothing, or home decor, or exercise, or botox, or the perfect lawn, or the biggest jump in your career can make you feel right.  It will never be enough unless you know that you are enough because He is enough.

Breathe it in.  And then go breathe it into the soul of someone else.  Tell them that they are enough and watch the look in their eyes when you do.

How One who is good could take one who was good.

You could always pick him out of a crowd.  The salt and peppery hair on his head always stood a good 6 inches above everyone else.  He had a broad and sturdy frame and hands bigger than anyone I’ve met.  We joked that his wedding ring could be a bracelet for my scrawny little wrists.

His demeanor was quiet and sure.  Intimidating to most yet a softie to those who knew him well and to say his little girl had him wrapped around her finger?  Well, I most certainly did.

My dad was a picture of stability for me.  He had strength of character, he was the sole provider for our family, he knew what he knew and he knew it well.  Rarely was he argued with because his opponents knew better.  He was either right, or not backing down.  Did I mention there’s a stubborn streak that runs in the family?

Though he never finished high school he was the hardest worker I’ve ever met.  There would be days he would come in from some project and I’d proclaim, “Dad, you’re bleeding!”  He would look down and shrug.  This made him invincible in my eyes.

It had never been hard for me to relate to God as a Father, given the Dad that I had.  Of course God was strong, and unchanging and right in every way.  So was my Daddy.  Of course God was just and good and patient and kind.  It all seemed so natural, because my Dad was too.

There was a time though, that these two figures started to clash.  When the strength of one began to hinder the strength of another and life wasn’t making sense anymore and why, if my Daddy was good would my Father who is Good, take him away from me?

I remember the phone call like it was yesterday.  I answered with a perky, “Hi Dad,” and he responded back with his tried and true, “Hi, babygirl.”

At 32 I was still his babygirl.  I knew I would be until the end of time.  I had no idea the end of time was nearing though.

My dad had been through a series of doctor visits and overnight hospital stays.  He had his lungs drained and blood transfused.  He had been poked and prodded and no one was quite sure what the deal was but something wasn’t right.  In fact, something was very, very wrong.

I knew he had been to see the doctor on this beautiful crisp, yet sunny winter’s day and as I pulled into the parking stall at my boys school I took his call and we chatted.

I asked him what the doctor had to say today and he announced, like he was telling me the score of lasts nights hockey game, that he was given three to six months.

Three to six months.

Three to six months?!?!

To my surprise tears didn’t overwhelm my eyes but venom instead.  I riddled him with questions along the lines of how could this be’s and second opinions and maybe they’re wrongs and this isn’t fairs.

Over the next 5 months I watched as my Dad’s life was slowly taken from him.  First, his capacity to go and do at breakneck speeds.  Then his ability to even get out of bed for more than a few minutes.  Finally, the tubes and the needles and the hospital became his normal, his permanent residence.  I watched as day by day the little things would fade away.  His eyes would stay closed now.  His ears weren’t hearing all that we would say.  His responses were few and far between.  I watched as his heart could no longer pump strong and his extremities started to grow cold.   I sat for a few minutes with my fingers resting on his arm, only to see the divets they created that would now stay.  His life not even strong enough to push the skin back out.

I’d never wrestled with God before.  Never questioned his ways or his purposes.  But I did now.

Now, when my earthly ambassador of Jesus, my very human picture of the love of God was being taken from me did I question the love of my heavenly Father.  As I wrestled through the questions and the doubts, as I battled the hard places of why he wasn’t healed and why so young, I learned so much.

I learned that though my earthly Daddy was leaving me  my Heavenly Father was saying, I’m here.

I learned that even though my earthly Daddies strength was fleeting  my Heavenly Father was saying, I never change.

My heart was grieving as I watched my Dad’s life drain from out of him but my Heavenly Father was showing me that only He could heal my heart in a way  my Dad never could.

I’m so thankful for the legacy my Dad left.  The things he taught me and the love he shared.  But even greater, I’m thankful that God is always my Father and that His love is perfect and His ways are good.

A whole bunch of books and a salad dressing recipe. Because I like you.

photo copy

I’m sure I’m not alone (famous last words of someone who, in fact, is alone?!) when I say that the changing seasons makes me pour my nose more deeply into good, rich words.  When the crisp comes to the air and the cardigans embrace my shoulders I want nothing more than to curl up with a book.  This season has me in a number of them but I’ve been so thrilled with my reading selection as of late that I thought I should go back and share the last few in case you need some to add to your library reserve list.

This summer I finished two of Jeanette Walls books that I hadn’t gotten to yet.  I adored The Glass Castle when I was lent it some time ago (oh my word, I still have it!  I’m a bad returner.  Janet, I owe you a book and a coffee…or 4…)  I was drawn to the perfectly descriptive and quirky memoir, the tales too outrageous to be real, and yet, here they were as real and as heart warming as ever.  Her characters were instant faves in my mind and I just hadn’t gotten to her other two books yet.  Until the summer.  They were perfect summer reads.  Her writing is just lovely and draws you into the lives of these part beloved and part hooligan-esque creatures.  I started with Half-Broke Horses and moved on to The Silver Star.  I can’t decide which I like best so I’ll just tell you to read them all.  Also, Costco has them for under $10 so you really have no excuse.  Buy them for yourself for a stocking stuffer.  Or borrow them from Janet.  I mean, once I give it back to her.  Cause apparently she doesn’t get mad about you not returning stuff you borrow from her.

photo

I’ve been making my way slowly through Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine, only because I don’t want it to end.  Each chapter has the most beautiful words written about her life and about food and about sharing both around the table.  Plus there’s recipes!  It’s glorious.  If you have a desire to open your home up in hospitality and need a little nudge to do so, read this book.  Our home is already a revolving door and there’s no place everyones sits in our place but around the table and still her words breathe fresh life into my soul and new recipes into my repertoire!

Unknown-1

I’m pretty sure I’ve said this about other books before but with each new one I read my list of favourites gets longer.  Tattoos on the Heart is my favourite.  I want to tweet quotes on every second page.  I have highlighted and dog eared more pages than is good for anyone.  I’m 20 pages from finished and I already want to read it again.  There is beautiful insight mixed into the memories of living life alongside gang members on the streets of LA.  There is compassion beyond compare.  Thus, there is conviction beyond compare.  Gregory Boyle may lead a radical life but the intricate moments he shares make my heart swoon.  I’ll leave you with just one longish one because it’s the last one I highlighted, not because it’s the best.  Who can pick a best in a book like this?

Twenty years of this work has taught me that God has greater comfort with inverting categories than I do.  What is success and what is failure?  What is good and what is bad?  Setback or progress?  Great stock these days, especially in nonprofits, is placed in evidence-based outcomes.  People funders in particular, want to know if what you do, “works.”  Are you, in the end, successful?  Naturally, I find myself heartened by Mother Teresa’s take: “We are not called to be successful, but faithful.”  This distinction is helpful for me as I barricade myself against the daily dread of setback.  You need protection from the ebb and flow of three steps forward, five steps backward.  You trip over disappointment and recalcitrance every day, and it all becomes a muddle.  God intends it to be, I think.  For once you choose to hang out with folks who carry more burdens than they can bear, all bets seem off.  Salivating for success keeps you from being faithful, keeps you from truly seeing whoever’s sitting in front of you.  Embracing a strategy and an approach you can believe in is sometimes the best you can do on any given day.  If you surrender your need for results and outcomes, success becomes God’s business.  I find it hard enough to just be faithful.

Amen, brother.  Amen.

I was at a women’s thingie at our church a bit ago (I know!!!)  and a beautiful woman with children a bit older than mine recommended a book to our table.  She said, by way of encouragement, that we just need to take our children’s struggles and very lives to God in prayer.  How else can we do this parenting schtick?  None of us is smart enough, capable enough, with it enough, long-tempered enough to ensure that our kids will turn out just the way we want.  However, we do have a great God who is in control of all things and who listens to the prayers of His children.  I was convicted at my lack of prayer for my children.  I mean, yes, I pray with them and for them daily but the depth to which Stormie Omartian’s book The Power of a Praying Parent has taken my prayers is a game changer.  She prays things for her children I never in a thousand years would think to.  She offers scripture to pray over our children that would have never come to my mind.  Her insight is powerful and fantastic and has changed the entire way that I pray both with and for my kids.  I’m so thankful for this book even though I’m only halfway through.  It might be my new baby shower gift.  Is that lame and old, churchy lady like of me?  Probably.  And I don’t care.

With the munchkins over the summer we read The Magician’s Elephant which fast became their new favourite book.  (The apple doesn’t fall far…)  We loved Kate DiCamillo’s Tale of Desperaux (Read the book, people!  Don’t just see the movie!) and so when we saw this new book by her we instantly snatched it up.  The reviews on the front of, “stories to snuggle up with on evenings or at christmas time…” made me love it before I even opened it.  But the fantastical story made us all fall in love with Peter Duchene and all the other quirky characters that are nearly always called by their full names, like how we refer to our friends from elementary school.  Just me?

Unknown

And finally, after we finished that one the boys and I moved onto A Long Way Gone:  Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.  I chose this one specifically, not that it’s the most comforting nighttime read aloud story, but because my boys are at an age where shooting things seems fun.  They want video games that blow stuff up and in the woods they like to hide and pretend they’re at war.  As a girl, I struggle to understand their need for violence though the more scripture I read and the more battle ready language I breathe in there, the more I’m grasping their intrinsic need to wage war.  Perhaps not in the shoot ‘em up way, but in the dying to self sort of way.  Moving on from that tangent….I wanted them to see that guns and fighting and war is not glamourous.  It’s not something that only happens in movies, but that its something that is real and happening in our world right now.  To children.  It’s destroying lives of people they would be friends with should they live next door.  And so, enter this book about a 12 year old boy whose life was rocked by war in Sierra Leone.  It’s graphic and harsh but at my boys age they can take it and are being gripped by this boys life who is the same age as them.

What are you reading?  Have you grabbed anything off the shelf lately that’s rocked your world?

Oh, speaking of rocking your world, I’m going to leave you with this salad dressing recipe.  ‘Cause it will rock your world.  It rocked ours for our Thanksgiving dinner.  You’ll be so happy you tried it.  You’re welcome!!

Recipe found here.  I used goat cheese instead of bleu but that’s the only change I made.  Taste buds watering yet?