The Auto-Correct 

“I DIDN’T SAY THAT!!!!” One sister yelled.

“YESSSSSSS YOUUUUUUU DIIIIIIIID-AAAAAAAA,” the other retorted.

“WELL THEN YOU HEARD ME WRRRRROOOONNNGGGG-AAAAAA,” she snapped back.

“Ugh,” I sighed, listening to them pile frustrated syllables on top of simple words, “they’ve BOTH gotten that from me.”

Faces twisted into eccentric versions of craziness, both seethingly glared into the review mirror. Apparently, that was my cue to magically apply logic to what had “actually” been said. Ironic, how they burst into laughter at Siri’s mistakes …or Mom’s …that’s always hysterical. But they take sisterly “corrections” very seriously.

imageGrown-up or not, we all fall victim to our own stubbornness. Right or wrong, few people have the ability to apologize on the spot for the effect irrelevant to the cause. Except Siri, she’s pretty quick to tell you, “I’m sorry, I did not understand.”

If you join me in the struggle to handle hot-tempered moments of kids quarreling in the backseat, I can offer a couple of tips that have kept me on the road. But don’t judge me if you hear me screaming “SHUT UP!” as I drive around town with the windows down. #trying #inthefield

1. Load up and line up your corrections. 

When we rely on the seat of our pants to apply sage wisdom, we conjure a stink full of bad advice. image

“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” Leviticus 20:7-8 (NIV)

Tense moments flare tempers, and words seem to fail us. No matter how many, or at what volume, they spill into the car … mistranslated like a text message surrendered to auto-correct.

God seeks to steer us, and applauds efforts to guide our children through tedious moments. Seek His wisdom. Set aside some space to clear the clutter and read the Bible. Everyday has five free minutes. The time I spend in His Word allows me to relay the motherly messages He always intended for my daughters to hear. image

2. Embrace The Correction

Imagine God watching from Heaven while we blow right by misinterpretations and hit “send” anyway …EVEN WHEN He’s waving both hands in front of our face?!?! Instead of ridiculing us for missteps and side-trails, He sent His only Son to die for us. The love demonstrated in sacrifice forever forgives our failed efforts. Through Jesus, God replaces every “fallen short,” with “grace and love.” image

What missteps have lent us the opportunity to spread Christ’s love? The story of Jesus naming Peter yields immense hope.

“And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas (which, when translated, is Peter.)” John 1:42 (NIV)

Peter was a fisherman that doubted Jesus at the rooster’s crow. But he was also known for having solid faith in Jesus, and for his leadership in the early church. The NIV Study Bible further notes that, although his name is literally translated, “Rock,”

“Peter was anything but a rock; he was impulsive and unstable…Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God’s grace, he would become.”

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My daughters’ bickering in the backseat brings to light the natural struggle to be right …to be the best …the favorite … independent… No winner emerges from unjust conflict.  There’s no reason to put our individual mission on earth to death by comparison. Our kids need us to be who Jesus says we are.

“Peter was best know for his impetuous nature and fierce devotion to Christ.” -NIV Study Bible Text Note 

Impetuous means, “acting or done quickly and without thought or care.” (Google.com) It also can mean, “moving forcefully or rapidly.” (Google.com) 

Fierce means, “having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.”(Google.com) It can also mean, “(of a feeling, emotion, or action) showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.”(Google.com)

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So by one definition we can choose to see Peter as a flip-flopping doubter with a temper. Or, we can choose to look a little bit deeper into the heart Jesus identified long before Peter knew his name. The “Rock,” who spread the gospel with force and speed throughout the early church, and loved Jesus with heartfelt and powerfully intense faith.

Embrace the correction.

Parents are glaringly aware of faults and annoying attributes, but our love blows any negative ducks out of the water. We’ve embraced the imagecorrection before it’s corrected.

“Girls…” I warmed up, as I prayed that a nugget of Spirit-led wisdom would fall out of my mouth, “…it doesn’t matter who started it or who’s fault it is …you both need to apologize and hug it out.”

Insert insane amount of eye-rolling and last ditch efforts to pinch each other…

“Love you,” I added with a smile.

The correction is love.

imageWe don’t have to fight to be fierce. Most of us haven’t even grown into our true “names” yet. When we’re scrunched up and mangled into frustrated faces, Jesus sees our hearts and knows our names. His gift of death in exchange for grace grants us new life …for life …for forever.

Fight with the fierce and ferocious power of the love that conquered it all. And if you let a hot-tempered phrase slip, apologize. It works for Siri …my kids think she’s hilarious when she admits she’s at a complete loss…

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When I want to quit, prayer is there to pull me through. I hope you know He’s there for you, too.

Happy Corrections!

Megs

Stay encouraged!

The Friend Book

 

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The fog cast an erie lure of anxiety over a familiar place one February day as I swam down the pier through a cloud of fog, searching wide-eyed for the lighthouse I knew was there. I checked my footprints to make sure I was still on the pavement, not glazed over River, and gazed upwards and around for any shred of light peaking through. I trekked out to the lighthouse, still assuredly out there beyond the mist. To the right of mine, a wispy top-layer of snow revealed one single set of down and back footprints. All alone … I took full liberty of the backstage curtain of fog and released my dance moves to the new album I couldn’t stop listening to.

My quest to “be me” occasionally feels akin to walking down the pier in thick fog. I lose sight of what I know is there, and what I know isn’t there, I want to see. God always has a way of breaking through the thickness with a shard of light. Many times, that glint of hope comes in the form of a friend.

There has been a book about friendship spinning around in my head for many years. Perhaps it circulates because I have never quite found an author that has addressed my trademark quest to “be friends with everyone.” I believe when God wants you to write about something, He wants to show you something. Research and reading unravel answers, but sometimes God uses people to pull it all together. As for me and the topic of friendship, God brightened my perspective through Dawn Camp’s book called “The Gift of Friendship.”

From the very first line of the intro, I knew God set out to teach me through the pages of this book. Any doubt of that was squashed as the words “cross-country parent” ran off the next set of pages. I had been a high-school XC runner, a collegiate XC runner, and a XC coach. “XC parent” was the only title I hadn’t held in the sport. “Surely,” I remember thinking as I read Dawn’s words, “I can learn from her perspective.”

By page 86 and “when I yell at my kids,” I felt I’d made a friend already. It’s always comforting to know that other Christians lose their cool. Without giving away too much, here’s a peak into what I gleaned about friendship from this book.

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1. Start.

Making a new friend, or approaching a new season with an established one, takes a slow walk in humility. John 15:9 instructs us to “remain in His love,” and snap judgements and circles of gossip definitely lie outside of it. Walk in prayerful consideration to stop and think before saying or doing anything that could hurt another soul, especially one that is akin to your friendship; but without disregard for a sweet one you may be squashing before it’s given the opportunity to sprout buds and grow.

“Mom,” she said with great authority, “I’ve decided something about friends. They all have good stuff and bad stuff. Things you like and things that really annoy you. So, you just have to decide if you can handle their package deal.” Lysa TerKeurst, “The Gift of Friendship.”

2. Run.

imageThat foggy pier walk rekindled a revelation I’d had years back as a young runner. Comparing the trace of my tracks in the snow, one set revealed a wisp on the tail of my heal where I had drug my feet. The other set, after I noticed and corrected the problem, was nice and clean. Dragging feet cause runners overuse injuries from this mark of improper form. In my friendships, I’m challenged to peer into the past before I bite back.

“There is power in friendship. If it didn’t matter, threatening to end it wouldn’t be our knee-jerk reaction.” Anna Rendell, “The Gift of Friendship.”

Don’t fear forgiveness …the asking or the receiving of it. You may open the door of relief for someone who needs to unload the burden of imperfections that they carry. We all carry them. “We all fall short.” (Romans 3:23) So, have mercy.

“When someone smacks you, the instant and unavoidable response is to turn away from them. The’ve forced you to do so. But what you do after that moment changes everything.” Holly Gerth, “The Gift of Friendship”

3. Change.

I picked up a cross necklace a few years back when I needed a constant visual reminder that Jesus was with me no matter how tight the drama in my life was wound. The first time I put it on, I noticed there was inscription on the back. “Be the change.” As a new coach implementing lots of changes, I took it as a sign that I was running in pace with God’s plan. Really, it just meant to be me through the change. A me that was changing…the growing kind of change.

Kindness can mean everything to someone living in a moment in which everything is crumbling. When my kids come to me annoyed with a classmate, the sting of my own experience in nonacceptance flares back to the surface.

“There’s always something good you can find about a person,” I teach them, “Find it, and focus on that.”

Focus on the light beyond the fog.

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“How about we start taking time to get to know the hearts belonging to all those new faces? What if we extend grace? Everyone has bad days and no one is immune to letting emotions slip in hasty replies.” Melanie Porter, “The Gift of Friendship”

Friends defy definition. Church friends, Bible study friends, high school and college friends, teammates, family, bloggers, work peers, neighbors and far away friends, Facebook friends, and authors who write words that resonate so much with our hearts that they feel like friends…

“Treasure friendship in whatever form it takes.” Dawn Camp, “The Gift of Friendship

I believe friends populate our lives because we were never created to walk out life’s lesson alone. Jesus is the perfect definition of friendship. And because of Him we can go to our Great God in times of need (Hebrews 4:16). But we weren’t meant to be alone. Reach out to friends He’s placed in your life to allow their light alongside yours to pierce through the fog.

“We need someone to look us in the eye and say, “You’re my favorite.” Dawn Camp, “The Gift of Friendship”.

This is but a mere fraction of the inspiration I extracted from this book. Almost every page is littered with underlined text and friends names in margin notes. That’s how this book hit my heart. By faithfully seeing this book to fruition, Dawn Camp has bravely encouraged me to continue extracting the book on friendship that’s been spinning around in my head all of these years. Perhaps, I was just afraid to tell my story…worried that no one would be able to relate. Through the uniqueness of every contributing author, and the story they penned for “The Gift of Friendship”, God showed me that there is room for my story…and for the work He plans to do with the eyes that underline it’s text and write in it’s margins.

imageHere’s the Book Give-away!!!

Look back to see Jesus grab your hand or hug you tight through a friend. Be inspired and encouraged that in sharing your story you become a vessel for that hand and that hug to someone else. Share in the comments below or on my Facebook page about how God has reached out to you through a friendship, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of The Gift of Friendship that Baker Publishing Group sent me to give away on my blog! I’ll pick a winner from the comments on Wednesday, February 24th, 2016. (Must be a US resident over 18 to enter.)

Congratulations, Carolina, from Cisnernos Cafe! Thank you for sharing with us how your core two friends have extended the love of Jesus in your life. You are the winner of a copy of The Gift of Friendship! Enjoy, my friend! 

Happy Reading!!!

Megs

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Stay encouraged!

The Over-Answerer

Solutions are revealed through noise, and hidden in the slow silence of subtlety.

“Lo, you can’t cheer in flats.” I harped.

“UUUGGGHHHH!!!!” She exasperated as she stomped off to change her shoes.

“Mom…” My oldest began…and then I really can’t tell you what she said after that. It was too long and drawn out, and I didn’t have the capacity to digest it as I popped my coffee out of the microwave and corralled her little sister to the door.

“Brianne, honey,” I quipped,”get in the car.”

Poor thing, she’s just me.

I’m an excessive talker, over-answerer, and I’m missing that “stop talking no one is listening anymore” radar. God has encouraged me so much, it in turn just oozes out of me. Let the encouraged, encourage. However, I get so excited that I’m not always the best at slowing my thought train down to tune in to other voices.

Face freezing and my girls yelling, “C’MON MOM! YOU’RE TOO SLOW,” I checked them in at mini-cheer and then parked by the lake to walk the pier. Ear buds in to drown out the peace, I forced myself to walk at an uncomfortable pace against a brutal north wind.

Somehow the stillness of the sun sparkling off the ice, devoid of other living things out to brave the chill, breaks through the tingling of my itchy hat to uncover a secret space where I can hear God. I’m obedient in my rush to meet with Him everyday because I’m very aware of my need to stop talking. And even if your struggle to be silent isn’t as intense as mine, He waits in the stillness of the dawn to over-answer the day’s quandaries. Who doesn’t want a head start before the gun goes off?

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3 Revelations I’ve gained by letting God’s Word drown out mine in the secret space.

1. It’s not by chance. Do you ever feel like you’re being followed around by a reality TV crew? All of the sudden, you seem to be tuned into different people that are saying and writing and speaking and singing about the same things, at the same time in your life when you are looking for answers to that very notion. That collaborative coincidence is evidence of our very personal God. I don’t put YAX on my boots and trek out onto the ice because it’s boring out there…

Give Him the first part of your day, and you’ll see what I mean. Even if it’s only 5 minutes..and there’s an app for that, too.

 But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.“-Romans 3:26(MSG)

image2. Perfection is overrated and already reserved.  Since it can never be attained by anyone else, let it be the first thing you cross off your daily to-do list and start seeking attainable joy.

A struggle lies behind every smiling selfie and perfectly posed portrait. I don’t want my funky faces rolling through the facebook newsfeed any more than my kids want me circulating theirs to their Dad and the rest of the family and all of their friends’ parents.  I’m too aggravated to fumble with my phone in the heat of those moments, and the kids run away in a blur.

Every joyful moment is the product of a struggle. The answer to prayer…blessing from God. I cry out in angst beyond the lens, and He never fails to over-answer.

 “But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:21-24(MSG)

My life is not the only testimony to those verses. Flip through the album, but ask me for the story. My college degree looks awesome in my bookcase now, but it was absent the day of graduation. My family is amazing, but this isn’t my first marriage and my kids are not perfect. I gossip and envy and lose my cool with the people that love me, and way too often add Cabernet and dark chocolate to aid the indigestion.

The struggle with self-doubt is real…but my heart is His.

Maybe I should try posting pictures of blurred children running away from me so that we can all bond together. #blessedmess  

3. Look up and Look out.

I am living proof that God aggressively pursues those whom He has called.

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“Who is like you?” Moses stated in Exodus 15:11. Can’t you just picture the awe and hear the whisper of hope and faith in his voice? “Who is like you?” That’s how I feel about Jesus.
Every day a faithful friend, He pulls me out of my coffee coma and through my mess to the feet of His Father. God left a reminder to the Israelites of the Manna He faithfully fed to them every day for 40 years. (Exodus 16:32)

Jesus is ours.

“God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.“-Romans 3:25-26(MSG)

 He supply’s my whole portion in the first few minutes of the day, speaking through my child’s ramblings and the still of frozen water. Through an Elevation sermon in my ear buds or an eagle on the ice. But I won’t hear or see anything if I don’t tune in and look up. I am joyful because I seek to be.

Walking with the wind pushing me back, the snow wisping across the iced over River, I felt my pace quickening. I felt like I was walking pretty fast until the snow blasted by alongside me with a gusty blow. I heard God say to me clearly, “YOU’RE TOO SLOW.”

“OK, OK” I laughed.

imageWhen my daughters go through spurts of arguing about every thing all of the time, I’m quick to remind them that family comes first and sisters are forever friends.  They typically glare at each other, disgusted mid-argument that they are stuck together for life without choice. But, the seed inevitably always sprouts a root, and the moments bursting with sisterly love triumph over the squabbles.

Many mornings, I attempt rush by my Father at full speed with my own agenda in tow. Perhaps that’s why He reveals the wind. Or, leaves a rock balanced a-top the ice in one season and sunk to the bottom in the next. He certainly knows how yank me out of my whirring thoughts. Walking with the wind reminded me Who was at my side …right now  …and one day at a time. Family first.

  “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

He will aggressively pursue you…more than you ask.image

Happy First Five Morning Minutes…

Megs

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5

Stay encouraged!

The Eagle and The Ice

“How do I help my kid do a cartwheel?” These are the things that I Google while my butt conforms to the stiff waiting room chair at the dance studio. “The hardest part is overcoming the fear of falling in order to take that first leap forward,” said a sweet personal trainer via YouTube.

“I almost got it, today, Mom!” Brianne exclaimed, floating out on a cloud of accomplishment. “I just have to land on my feet, now!”

Isn’t that what makes a cartwheel a cartwheel? The landing? Lacking the heart to dampen her demeanor, I harbored that thought between my own ears as I flipped through my old motivational “coach” file for some sage inspiration. Visualization made the most sense, so I sequestered that subject through a surge of giggles at bedtime.

“Before you go to bed every night, close your eyes and picture yourself doing cartwheels…” I launched, “…picture yourself landing on your feet, and then picture your teacher being so proud, and the other girls cheering you on.”

“I can’t make myself picture myself…I don’t know how to do that,” she stated, “I can only see myself falling.”

It takes effort to intentionally direct our thoughts, but in order to achieve any task, it has to exist accomplished in our minds. To let the distance coach out for a moment, “To achieve, ya gotta believe.”

Take the time to quiet your mind so that God’s message doesn’t get lost in the static.

The devil would love for the “I can’t” reel to keep playing in your mind, and it’s hard to shut him down when we “haven’t” yet. God gives us the ability to imagine the uncharted to lend us a vision of His goal.

Easier said than done. There’s a lot of static…mixed signals…off days…

“WWWWAAAAAAA….Good Morning!” I managed to giggle out as I recovered from being scared half to death. A runner strode off down the pier, gliding along the  edge next to the freshly frozen layer a-top the river, and I was extremely jealous. Hillsong praising God in my ears, I determined to look onward and upward and walk on instead of letting my thoughts drift to my injured Achilles, and perpetually onto wallowing over the ninth month sans running from there.

And as I looked up and off in the distance toward the edge of the pier, I saw something swoop up and over the lighthouse…cruise the surface of the ice, and then careen back up into the air with one flap of an enormous wingspan. That’s why the normal flock of birds had cut their cackling coffee hour short. The grand bald eagle was out to hunt. I’d never seen him out there before.

Jaw dropped and smiling at the sight of his enormity, I fumbled as my frozen joints failed me in unzipping my pocket for my phone. “Have a nice day!” I waved as the runner passed by me on his way back to shore, and I wondered if he’d taken the time to notice the white feathers against the dim winter horizon. I de-gloved my hands to swipe open my camera app …but when I looked up, he was gone.

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I knew God had meant to encourage me in response to my request for a light to pierce through the fog of this season of doubt and fear. But wondered over the significance of the eagle’s sudden absence. A Word from my thoughts popped in over my ear buds.

“The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God.” Romans 14:22a

Some things are just meant to be between me and God. Anyone else might think I’m batty for making such a big deal over a bird. But me and God know why.

I craned my neck at the lighthouse a few times on my way back to shore, but the eagle still wasn’t there. I predictably pondered the significance of it over my typical inspiration drawn from the picturesque, lake-life setting. Irritated not to snap a digital reminder, I tried to associate God’s message to a memory. I flipped through thoughts of the sparkly gold eagle Christmas ornament I’d gotten in honor of my alumni status as an Ashland University Eagle, and onto memories of Tuffy our Eagle mascot.

My mind whirred to a stop as I pictured a picture. My favorite picture. With some of my imagefavorite people. That’s my Kate, on the right, whom God granted an instrumental part in Jesus winning my heart. It was there, on that campus, during that workout, at that field, that my life changed forever. I stopped running as abruptly as Elsa hit’s the ice at the end of Frozen when her sister Ana freezes solid. On my knees in rocky seas, I rescinded the helm to Jesus, who trimmed out hull so that I could take the waves on at the right angle. I’ve believed in Christ everyday of my life, but I knew that something significant was lit in that moment.

God brings the memory of light to life in face of impending death.

Like an eagle amidst the ice, dousing the doubt that threatened to put a dream to death. Don’t doubt the moment Jesus took the helm. And if you do, ask God to confirm it. He is faithful, and He will. But don’t miss it.

The Message version of Roman’s 14:22-23 puts it this way:
“Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe-some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them- then you know your out of line. If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.”

It’s in the moments of doubt and anticipated failure that we need to look inward to God in prayer, and watch outward for Him to answer. God unveils His encouragement through His creation.

The next time your doubt tries to debilitate your ability to visualize God’s affirmation of His call on your life, try these methods to calm your madness:

1. When in doubt, stop and think. Look up and out for God. Step out of your situation and into His creation. Exodus 13:21-22 tells of a pillar of cloud send to guide the Israelites out of Egypt. That pillar of cloud never left them. Read Chapter 13 sometime for the whole story, but the part that fascinates me, is that in the famous scene where Moses parted the Red Sea, the angel of the Lord and the pillar of cloud moved behind the people.(v.19) God reveals Himself through His creation. I look for God in the sky, and He meets me there.

2. Pray out your confusion, hurt, and frustration in authenticity to God; He WILL swoop down. Stay in His Word so your mind doesn’t get stagnant. He will find you there often with a Word of encouragement. You might find direction from a friend…maybe you have a Kate, too. Above all, when you are unsure, be sure to remain in His love. John 15:9

3. Line up all you see with all He is. As you seek Him, His voice will become audible to your heart.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”            Isaiah 43:1b

We are His creation, and God uses the five senses that He instilled in us to allow us to experience the majesty He created for us.

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Winter is cold, but it sure is cool.

In the stark void of warmth, the light that permeates is brighter than the summer sun when reflected off the sparkle of snow. Don’t let a seven degree morning hold you back from witnessing the encouragement God has folded into the day for you. And don’t let doubt debilitate your ability to visualize the landing. It’s the difference between life and death.

Happy Living,

Megs

Stay encouraged!

The Book of Happy Faces

To combat the darkness ever permeate in the atmosphere, I choose to unearth the joy of Jesus by following the happy faces.  Facebook…Twitter-verse…Instagram…Pinterest…my news feeds looks like a Christian motivational speaker threw up all over them and then added glitter.  Facebook can be a platform for the positive and encouraging, or it can be a festering blister of negativity that haunts my bright little screen.

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Matthew 12:34

It’s not reality, and there’s only 1,440 minutes in my day. The excessive amount of ranting that opportunely may drench my day cannot always be shut off. But in the realms of social media I can unfollow negative sloth, never to be bothered by it again. I even have the power to block it forever, if I deem it too invasive to my joy.  That’s brill. If only that sentiment could be applied to incoming text messages…

 A little bleep landed in my new text alerts one midnight… a photo from my oldest daughter a midst the first Bucher Sister Sleepover. I had been excitedly talking with a friend…down the stairs…in the same house…and missed her first couple of messages. (Side note, I think she’s taken note not to ninja-stealth-scare me anymore by creeping down the stairs and sneaking up behind my chair…good for the old ticker…)

I hastened up the stairs to confiscate her phone and tuck her in, scrolling through her sent messages as I slowly creaked her door shut.

I’m no better than my daughter at waiting for a reply when it’s something I need to know straight away.  And when I post a blog and no one comments, my heart does sink a pinch.  But on the flip side, the concern of inconsequential “dings” and missed ring-tones bead up and trickle to the floor.

“Beep. Boop. Bop,” my daughter’s “phone” busted into the afternoon stillness.

“Beep. Boop. Bop.”

The buzzing robot alert stirred my eyes over to the loft desk.  My daughter bypassed the “I just received a message and must answer right now” circuit board, and continued Barbie’s latest saga to save all of humanity by pairing up with Flynn Ryder… “Barbie’s” crush.

“Beep. Bop. Boop.”

My curiosity did not meander down the stairs alongside the cat.

“Brianne, aren’t you going to see who’s sending you messages?” I prodded… “Someone sent a picture…”

“No.” She quipped, aggravated to be interrupted mid- wedding in the dream house.  Far cry from the urgent response she needed on sleepover night.

“What’s that like?” I seethed, as I searched the dusty corridors of my brain for a pre-technologically controlled remnant.  I confess, I wait for the dings after a blog post like my cat waits for food when her bowl is only half full.  The whiplash of feedback on social media flaunts my convictions and exposes my addiction to encouragement.

It’s a ridiculous plight to develop discipline over, I realize. When to put the “ding” down and look up and out at the world happening in my family room…lest I forfeit my witness of  Barbie and Flynn’s vows.  I mean, Barbie may never marry again, and I will plausibly regret forevermore not showing up in any of the wedding photos.  Blast!

That December afternoon, I caught my five year old’s accused eye roll of amateur status… as I texted and checked one-handed whilst my play-doh cupcake turned into a hot mess. My family needed me to pay attention, not just be present. Inspired, I vowed not to let the fourteen days of Christmas break my daughters and I counted down for in angst unfold with me holed up in “busyness” at my desk, while the sounds of joy filtered up the stairs and underneath the crack of my closed door.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Introducing my daughter to texting and face-time is only the beginning …social media is right around the corner. I learn how to process faceless communication right alongside her, and have purposely built up a wall of “Jesus-joy” to guard my heart…and hers, until she’s old enough to take the wheel.  I don’t walk the pier everyday with intentions of getting pooped on by a bird …but it’s possible. (Especially lately… What is it, bird-ageddon over here?!) I’m not focused on the birds, I’m focused on the view. I don’t hear their crazed cackling in my ears, because I have different song streaming through my headphones. I choose my focus.

I don’t know what hard-knock is about to sound at my door.  Ailments are imageeverywhere.  But God doesn’t trip me up with obstacles to make me grumble through my day and life.  He’s the God of humorous silver linings.  The One who allows me to walk through an entire cloud of seagulls without getting pooped on; but then get blasted by the only one around in a ten mile radius.

He’s given us His only Son so that we can choose to unfollow the things that make us miserable.  He did not give us life to make us suffer.  He gave us life for joy!  Fight the good fight and roll with the punches…knowing each blow does have an eternal purpose… and your life has a specific one.

Stay encouraged.  Be happy.  “Follow” the light…Christ.

“Be joyful always.” 1Thes5:16

Happy Sharing,

Megs

Stay encouraged!

The Weird One

“Mom,” my seven-year-old began, “someone called me weird.”

The most precious pieces of my daughter’s heart fly gumptiously out of her mouth during our four weekly commutes to her dance studio. While the surge of adrenaline lingers alongside the remains of stale french fries and the screech of singing cats, she reveals the day’s truth.  This day was no different.  She flung her bag into the abyss of the backseat, and plopped down to catch her breath.

“Who called you weird?” I demanded.

“And Why- why did they call you that …what where you doing …when did this happen …what was your reaction…”

My mind raced alongside my blood pressure as only a mother’s does when

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…come to think of it…maybe we are a little “weird.”
the over-allotted amount of caffeine consumed that day collides with her baby enduring an injustice. In anticipation of my overprotective reaction, and predictable “turn the other cheek and be kind” lesson, she followed a quick eye-roll with profound summation beyond her years.

“I am a little weird,” she continued, “but I take it as a compliment.” I reached for the dial to turn down the “Jingle Cats.”

“What they actually mean to say is that I’m different,” she spat confidently. She lit a flattered smile and revealed, “They are actually complimenting me for being unique…and I like that.”

To think, how I might have ruined that beautiful piece of the Holy Spirit’s work with the volume of my two-sense and overprotective assault on her behalf.  I felt God’s grace quicken in my heart …

“See …you’re not doing nearly as bad as you think.”  Wink.

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Yep…we’re totally weird.
The ability to maneuver the insult maze with enough agility to cast a hateful one aside is not where my natural thought progression leads me. Instead of making light of a brooding sentiment, I park the dagger at the forefront of my thoughts.  Predictably, that fraction of negativity will seap into my brain via osmosis …become a truth I entertain, and argue with for the rest of the day. Jealous of my own daughter’s Christ-like attitude, God plucked me from my comparative seething and pulled up a memory from a week prior.

The memory’s light stirred my eyes back to the pages of my journal to a school day that ended in tear-stained cheeks over a recess battle of heart lost. Ah, second grade …when blurred lines so easily pull ugly pieces out of little girls’ hearts.

“It’s only going to get worse,” I explained in the best way I knew to

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Wait…weird is cool…and fun.
comfort her, “so you just have to figure out how not to let it affect you.”  (Confession …I often have these moments of brilliance when trying to instill wisdom upon my daughters …and then realize as the words leave my lips that I have yet to figure out how to apply them to my own life.)

My daughter and I share a gift to illuminate the love of Jesus in each others circumstances. It’s through my earnest search of God’s Word, to be the mother than leads her to Him and His truth, that I end up stumbling upon my own in our sweet bedtime conversations.

“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30

“I am with you in all that you do.  At home, at school, on the playground…my Presence is always with you.“Jesus Calling 365 Devotions for Kids, Sarah Young.

It’s not uncommon for us to look up at each other jaw-dropped after we read her devo for the day.  That night concluded with a peaceful dream etched on my heart. God’s Word tuned us back into alignment with His measure of our self-worth.

“It’s like God knows how many Legos I have …like He knows how many hairs are on my head,” And at that, we fell into a pile of giggles.

“Jesus and His message were rejected… In His own Hometown. Jesus was fully man and experienced human emotions. The people who had known Him since childhood rejected Him. Friend, it’s wonderful to have a Savior who knows exactly how we feel. There isn’t an emotion we experience He can’t understand.” Wendy Pope (First 5)

The babe born in a manger, grew up feeling the same aches and joys that inhabit our hearts.  It’s easier to hold Jesus’ hand in secret comfort, than to face an all knowing and omnipresent God with our grievances.  Christmas encompasses the great generosity of the gift of approach-ability through His Son…a love every parent can relate to …a sacrifice no one can.

The sweet smiling compassion that will sit on the level of my child’s bed and laugh with us.  That is what Christmas is all about; giving generously as He gave to us.  During Advent, we prepare our hearts so that there is room for the light, love, and encouragement He speaks to us in His Word.

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Jesus was “the” weird one.  He knew it.  He embraced it.  He knew what they did not… And perhaps not all that walked in His lifetime meant it as a compliment, but he wore it as one.  His recorded conversations in the Word reveal humorous quips alongside wise convictions.  He lived among us to save us, not so that we would spend every day drowning in self-deprecation.  Kermit the Frog sang, “It’s not easy being green,” but can you imagine him being any other color?

“I take being called weird as a compliment.”

A second grader’s vocabulary is still a little limited…maybe they just can’t imagefind the word to describe how awesome my daughter is.  Or, perhaps there isn’t one.  Maybe the only one that fits her perfectly is…Brianne.

There’s only One who knows who we really are …and His name is Jesus.  Emmanuel …”God with us.”

“Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Happy Christmas,

Megs

Stay encouraged!

The Mirrors

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The battle of reflection is won in Jesus.

My daughters are obsessed with the bathroom mirror, especially when the clock is racing at opposite ends of the day. Apparently, that appears to be the perfect time to substitute a toothbrush for a microphone, and a step-stool for a stage.

If you need a little bit of sunshine to belly laugh your way through the morning routine, try creeping up on your kid while they’re in the middle of a ballad. … Better yet, try catching a bit on film …

“MOM!!!” my daughter screamed as she fell off of the stool wide-eyed and landed in a panic half-way across the bathroom.

My legs buckled in laughter, and mind flooded with reflections of my own lip sync grandeur.

“Oh-my-goodness!” I replied. “Are you OK?”

“Mom,” she whinnied, red-faced, “erase that video right now.”

Their obsession with the mirror has resulted in a lot of early morning laps run around the yard (their punishment for breaking a house rule) from territorial struggles over air-time on the bathroom stage. It’s going to make them late for school one day …  I just hope it doesn’t distract them from pursuing their purpose.IMG_8953

Mirrors resemble bullets shot, and childhood wounds turned scars … collaborating in the dusty corners of my mind.

“Look at her elbows!”  Before I was laughed out of cheer-leading tryouts at my Catholic grade school, I didn’t even realize my elbows hyper-extended.

“You’re  fat.” Every woman faces it, mocked or not, and the age at which we risk becoming slave to it gets younger and younger…

“You’re flat!” And with that, this small-chested girl’s self-esteem took a defeating nose dive.  I was twelve.

Thankfully, Jesus grabbed my heart at an early age, and turned me into a product of prayer enabled to overcome the pain of reflection with laughter and silliness. Jesus gave me a crash course in His creative vision for my reflection.

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“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

The scars slowly became sentiments I learned to disregard, rather than lose precious minutes to a mirror haunted by comparison. Exercising a heart of encouragement, I stick motivational quotes, pictures, stickers,  and necklaces my daughters have made in the spaces that surround my reflection.  A recent discovery illuminated the humor within my inspirations to distract me from a self-destructing glance.

I believe with all of my heart that God gifted us sarcasm because He has mastered it, possessing a gut breaking sense of humor.

When my daughter gave me a pat on the belly (after I’d just been training for a marathon) and told me it looked like I had another baby in there, I purposefully pushed back the lump in my throat and responded by making my belly talk in a high pitched voice until we were all rolling on the ground laughing.

A powerful rendering I can gift my daughters is the vagueness of reflection. To have them grow up without purposefully picking a part their appearance would answer a ginormous prayer. I’m raising them to be active beings and healthy eaters … and to love dessert.

I try not to let my weight control my reflection, by leaving it out of conversation.  I don’t own a scale, but I’m aware of how my pants fit … that’s enough.  I’m a runner because it’s a passion God lent to me…but it’s not driven by the result of how it affects my physical appearance.

Why… and HOW?  No, I’m not superhuman.  But I know someone who is.

I give it up, and I lift it up everyday in prayer…and God is faithful.  

In down times when injury halts my strides, the challenge to embrace the obvious scoop of Ben and Jerry’s Late Night Dough that overflows from the top of my skinnies heightens exponentially.  But I remain faithful in prayer, and I repeat what I know to be true.  It takes this girl a conscious effort to embrace the reflection. To be able to balance taking care of the body God gave me less becoming so obsessed with the bullets whirring past the echoes of my mind’s ears. image

The hope I ascertain for my daughters is that the mirror won’t represent suffering and wasted minutes drowned in vanity …hours lost in worthless lament … days forgone in self-torture projected by another soul’s insecurities.  I pray they quarantine the precious minutes of life to achieve God’s purpose- and laugh…

“You need to be reminded of the power of imagination,” graced the words of Steven Furtick a midst my morning inbox devotions. “Your imagination is the incubation place for every great thing you’ll ever think,” he continued.

That same morning I flipped over to First 5, and Whitney Capps had written, “Can we accept Jesus’ authority even if it doesn’t look like we though it would?”

The cycle stops with me, in hopes that my daughters’ imaginations won’t be suffocated by perceived reflection; but rather, led by the dreams they harvest there.  It’s an impossible task that I am not built to achieve alone. I know that Jesus will grab my hand whether I’m running a marathon or buried in my books…and I in return will aim to honor Him and His sacrifice with every shred of my being, no matter which I’m blessed to be in midst of.

“Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”  Colossians 3:12

Happy Reflecting…

Megs

AND REMEMBER…  “Be joyful always.” 1Thes. 5:16

Stay encouraged!

The Reindeer.

IMG_8669Evil will riddle anxious sorrow unless smacked with deep, healing love.

My daughters woke up one Saturday morning ending my journal time and proudly proclaiming a pajama day.  Both in their Christmas footie jammies, they vowed to eat chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and begged to watch “White Christmas.”  A touch early by some standards, but hard to say “no” to adorable little girls in Christmas footie pajamas.

“Mom,” my oldest pleaded, “can you PLEASE get the Christmas stuffed animals out?”

“PLEASE-PLEASE-PLEASE-PLEASE-PPPPLLLLEEEEAAAASSSSEEEE?!?!?!?!?!?!?”

Yes, they have such an obscene number of stuffed animals that we pack a portion away in an attempt to make room for them to sleep on their own beds. The “Christmas” stuffed animals remain out of sight…and out of mind…for the most part.  However, the longer my darling Brianne spends a part from her coveted Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the more anxiety she has about needing it immediately.  Call me a Saturday morning pushover; because I made them their pancakes and headed down to the crawlspace to dig out the reindeer.

IMG_8665Sweating, and muscles cramping from being curled up to reach far away small spaces in search of Holiday craziness… I stopped mid-search to ponder the sad reality that Paris was waking up to that same Saturday morning.

The same agony felt by countless souls scattered around the globe blindsided by the same unfathomable realms of evil. It seems to overwhelm every place once treasured safe.

I needed Christmas cheer that Saturday morning.  I needed that reindeer.

“Here it is!” I proudly proclaimed as I carried a giant red tote up the basement stairs and let it land in front of my girls.

“They’re all here!” they screeched.  “Rudolph!” my Brianne sighed as she hugged her old friend.

“The Grinch!!!”  her little sister gasped, as she ran up to find an appropriate outfit for her furry green buddy.IMG_8664

The last request filled with “White Christmas” playing in the background, my daughters snuggled up and checked out into the winter wonderland of yesteryear.

The nostalgia of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney singing “Snow” on a train ride stirred up feelings of joy as I pictured my Grams singing in her kitchen at Christmastime.  The beginning of the movie is set in wartime, with a scene of soldiers overseas.

It’s a different kind of war we’re fighting today.

It’s hard to picture what kind of scene we’ll be looking back upon generations from now.  Each one worse than the next.  The more unthinkable the conflict we deem unimaginable, coming to pass nonetheless.

In a world where my seven year old fears a “lock down” more than her school catching on fire.

I need a “White Christmas.”

IMG_8666Yes, it’s old fashioned.  I’m the annoying one who could listen to Christmas carols all year long, and cannot wait to sing them at a very high volume dancing in the kitchen or on the way to school with my kids.  There’s a note of hope and kindness in those songs….an unashamed proclamation of the hope that Jesus brought when he was born.  Visions of Santa Claus landing on the rooftop, the Grinch stealing presents, and a boy being left home alone.  I love it all.  Nonsensical as some of the holiday rush can be, there is always a lesson of truth hidden within yet we dare to unwrap it.

“What if I couldn’t find my sissy,” my daughters asked me after lock down drill day, tears streaming down their faces.

I can’t find the words to describe that moment.

My oldest daughter gets “belly aches” just thinking about it.  Their teachers eyes fill up with tears at the thought.  It’s a gut-punch as a mother.  A hopeless sense of innocence lost too soon.

I feel it, too, that ache for Jesus.  For Him to come down and replace everything that evil has crushed and tried to stomp out.

I need Christmas.  Yes, it’s important to give thanks in honor of our founding fathers.  But maybe, in this rapidly deteriorating world, it’s most important to give thanks to the God who inspired their trip across the ocean in the first place.  The one who’s very namesake appears in the name of the holiday.

The good I glean from the over-commercialism of Christmas is celebrating the gift of Christ to the world a little IMG_8650sooner.

More time for cheer.

More time to think of others.

More time to pack a shoe box.

More time for more people to hear about His birth.

Pass me a red cup.

If children are no longer encouraged to believe in magic, how will they ever know what God means to “have faith like a child?” (Matthew 18:3, Luke 18:17)  What sorrow to think many still do not realize they can cling to Him…

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“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and dives his spoil.”
Luke 11:21-22

Jesus IS stronger.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Luke 11:23

I’m WITH Him.

Hearts will be harder,” stated Beth Moore in referring to the natural direction our hearts will lend to if we don’t specifically aim otherwise.

Especially after lock down drill day.

Especially after Paris.

IMG_8662Some days I just want to cling to my children over sending them off to school.  I realize that clinging to Christ is the only way I am able to drive away after they jump out of the car…“strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10

Clinging to Jesus as the aches and sobs well up as I drive away.

Clinging to the dream my daughter and I crafted when she was two….to share a trip to Paris someday.IMG_8663

We’ll keep dreaming that dream…yes, we will.  And though I ache for Him some days in sorrow and in fear, I have the hope that He left on the cross to cling to.

I choose to keep a death grip on love.  I’m positive on purpose.  I study His Word for encouragement.

“And you know the way to where I am going.” John 14:4

He is joy.

And it can’t be stolen.

Not by another…not by terror.

“We are wise never to overestimate or underestimate Satan’s power. But even though we are no match for him, he is no match for God….God is biding His time until His kingdom calendar has been accomplished and all who will receive His salvation are redeemed….Jesus Christ is going to take back what Satan has stolen from us!”
– Beth Moore, Portraits of Devotion, Day 166

Oh, Come, all ye faithful…

Happy Holidays…no wait…Merry Christmas.

Megs

“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10: 22-25

 

 

 

 

Stay encouraged!

The Iced Cube Tray and The Lemon Seed

IMG_6842When I fear there is no way and no room, God squeezes encouragement into the treasured places of my heart.

Boy do I love to shop in bulk.  Less trips to the store equals fewer times that I’m required to take two children with me that think they need everything that can be given a bar code and stocked on a shelf. I cherished the last stock-up so much that I couldn’t see over my cart.  At the sight of me drenched in sweat from hauling it to the front of the store, the cashier asked,

“You fit this all in one cart?”

“Yep, but I can push two out…it’s OK,” I replied, laughing.

“Oh, good,” she laughed, “I’m glad you’re not opposed to the idea.”

The sense of achievement I felt as I drifted through the aisles checking things off of my grocery list faded to black when I opened up my freezer to assess the situation.

“Blast,” I said to myself…”one more box of waffles.”

Can I just spray some pixie dust in there and toss the waffles in, and just trust it’ll all work out?  That’s what Lo would do.  But she’s five.  And I’m not a fairy.

My eyes drifted over to the ice cube bin.

“I’ll just have to use the ice maker until we eat all of these waffles….” I self-comprised.

Life is full to the brim with these significant badges of motherhood. I’ve always been encouraged by the fact that each mother is picked specifically for the children she is tasked to raise.  For this mom called to “stay home,” the struggle to remain content in God’s promise came under fire the day I dropped my last my baby girl off at all-day Kindergarten.  I became restless, and started to let the door of the comparison trap creak to a close.

My daughters witness every reaction.  They ask loads of questions and demand explanations. They increase in beauty and brilliance with every passing day,  and my overwhelming and impossible responsibility to lead them follows suit.

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“Will they value their ability to inflict change upon the world if they only see me affect these four walls we live within?”
In these moments I rush to fill my cart up to the brim in panic, and attempt to shove extra waffles in the freezer…when instead I should be reminding myself of God’s promise. The tendency to add things to my life and my schedule in absence of my focus becomes tantalizing and tempting…

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  (Matthew 19:14)

God is a God of encouragement, and He will interrupt my meddling to nudge my heart in subtle situations. Like when my daughter grabbed  a paint brush and wrote “love” on a rain barrel…

“Doesn’t that make you proud?” Came the encouragement delivered from a friend.  Messaged received.  I’m not failing.

Those God-sent seeds of encouragement run a variable risk of floating to the bottom of my IMG_0019Tervis full of ice water no mater how proficient I become at extracting them with my lemon juice squeezer thingy.  But all is not lost, I end up sucking up a lemon seed up through the straw at least once every day.  And as I spit it into the sink, I think,

“Why on earth don’t they make the lemon squeezy thing big enough to catch all the seeds?!”

It drives me nuts, and I’m pretty sure I’ve swallowed enough seeds to have a lemony fresh forest growing in my abdomen somewhere.  My daughters are constantly spitting lemon seeds at me, but theirs are the kind that crunch between my teeth before I notice them swishing around a midst my swig of water.

“How do babies get in your belly… Why do people move… Why does it take so long to get ready for school in the morning (OK, that’s my question)… I miss kitty …  Do we come back as angels after we die… It’s too hard … Mom, you know that you are the one who is in charge of losing your temper, right?”

The seeds I allow to grow into lemony freshness are determined by the truth I align them with.

Paul encouraged Timothy to ” …hold to the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced, known from whom you learned [them]” -2Timothy 3:14. Timothy learned his faith from observing his mother, Eunice…who in turn learned her faith from observing her mother, Lois. (2Timothy 1:5).  

I am  already doing a better job than I think.

In 2 Timothy 3:15, Paul reminds Timothy of his salvation in Jesus Christ, and the knowledge and treasures of the Word that have been stored in his heart since childhood.

God reverted my mind from spitting seeds to find room for the box of frozen waffles…in the ice cube bin.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (NIV),  So that the man of God may e complete an proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.” -2Timoty 3:16-17 (AMP)

It was there all along…I just didn’t see it.  Seeing the space doesn’t always eliminate the frustration of wanting to live up to something that requires more than I feel built to deliver…but it’s a comfort.  Life’s going to spit lemon seeds at me at a rapid rate until my time here expires. I can’t prevent that from happening to me or my children.  And through the tears that are simply a product of the journey, I keep moving.  I keep praying.  I keep looking for more space.  I look to God’s Word.  I pray for His help.

To grow. To learn. To love.

IMG_7117To be the best mom than I can humanly manage to be on this day, and trust in the journey He has set up to be mine alone.  Did you know that a monarch chrysalis has a shimmer of gold on it?  I didn’t either, until I took a hike with my kids in the woods.  What an amazing fight that butterfly has to go through just to become a butterfly…and one of the most beautiful at that, if you ask me.  Kids have a way of stopping us mid-battle to reflect back on a beautiful moment.

I wonder on lots of day if I’ve done it right…tried hard enough…been smart enough…set the right example…but I realize even if I reached the bar I’d then, in turn, reach for a higher rung.  Being content in the journey is anything but easy, but having faith in my Lord is.

It’s a joyful struggle.  It’s a worthy fight.  It’s a purpose I’ll fully understand one day beyond the stars.

Happy Cart-pushing…

Megs

“Point your kids in the right direction- when they’re old they won’t be lost.” -Proverbs 22:6 (MSG)

Stay encouraged!

The Lines

IMG_6710I cut the lawn the other day.

Not a huge event, I realize.  With both of my kids in school all day for the first time, I fully admit I’ve been on the edge of a full-scale meltdown since they skipped happily down the hallway together that first day. Knowing myself well and prepared for the meltdown to ensue, I made a list of things to occupy the first few months without them around all day.  IMG_6315

Even though it feels good to check things off of the list and get around to projects that I’ve pIMG_6114ut off, nothing will replace Lo Lo’s toddler giggle ringing out throughout the house.  Afternoons spent at Cedar Point eating lunch on what Brianne still calls “our bench” by the waterfall; trips to the park in the jog stroller where I met so many wonderful friends;  XC practice in the afternoons chasing the high schoolers around.  All are now replaced by the exhausted “Lo-nado”,big sister in tow,  bursting into the van in the car pick-up line each afternoon at 3:20.  Afternoon bike rides, jogs, and trips to the Pied Piper for ice cream are now occupied with homework, dance class, gymnastics, dinner, and bedtime.  The toddler years have drifted by, and from the attitude wafting off of my second grader, I know I have to embrace every last bit of innocence I can squeeze out of them each day.  Oh, their cute, aren’t they?  They are SO beautiful and SO cute…and that keeps them alive.  The elementary attitude has arrived, my babies are growing up, I don’t know how to handle it, and to keep from melting into a puddle of tears one afternoon, I decided to cut the lawn.IMG_6709

It’s not that I never had the time to cut the lawn, it’s just that my lines are never straight enough.  Our lawn looks like carpet, because my husband has been able to nurture it from the time it was planted shortly after we moved in.  He makes sure it’s fertilized, watered, mowed and edged…even though he’s at work no less than 60 hours a week.  Now, I personally do not care and cannot keep track of which way the lines are supposed to go each week.  Apparently it makes a huge difference in the overall health of the grass or something, but I learned from the old lawn that no matter how happily I sat on the front step like a puppy waiting for a treat for cutting the lawn, if the lines were crooked I was going to hear about it.

Needless to say, I haven’t cut the lawn in years…7 years.

Before I realized I couldn’t make straight lines with a lawn mower, I used to really enjoy it!  It’s good exercise, and an excuse to let my favorite music fill my ears at an obnoxiously loud volume without bothering anybody…unless dancing behind the lawn mower counts…then I apologize.  One of my favorite memories from my childhood is my Grams, who lived with us a while towards the end of her life, came out to interrupt me cutting the lawn one day.  “You’re crazy,” she said, with her trademark smile and giggle.  And I laughed.  I loved her so much, and have never had another person like her in my life since she passed.   I doubt my lines were perfect back then, with No Doubt, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana as my soundtrack.  IMG_6471

No matter how hard I concentrate, the lines have never been, and will never be perfect.  And I was struck by something while out there cutting the lawn with an Elevation sermon blasting in my headphones.  Why am I all of the sudden not OK with that?  What changed?

My daughter Brianne plays the ukulele.  As a first born, she has the joy of experiencing the overreaction to every new situation she lives through.  I was overjoyed that she wanted to play the uke, and dreams of her being on stage and a part of every praise band and musical opportunity rushed to the front of my mind right away.  Instrument in hand and a month full of lessons paid for, she was set up for success…until I got in her way.  Making her practice, nagging her…wincing when she hit a wrong chord… because of my overcritical approach she stopped wanting to practice.  Then, when I threatened to stop paying for lessons if she didn’t practice a little every day, she stopped playing all together.

It’s a tough pill to swallow as a parent.  A hard lesson for me to learn.  In wanting to force her to follow the lines I considered IMG_6705straight, I smothered her passion to play and opportunity to learn from her mistakes.  She listened to the wrong voice.  My voice.  I was just trying to be a good parent and teach her responsibility, but I clearly got the wires crossed somewhere.  I”m supposed to have the encouragement of the Lord in my voice as her mother.  Instead, she now thinks she’s terrible at something she once loved to do.  #fail.

A church member I look up to in faith shared that her mother has always been her teacher, as she introduced herself as the leader of our women’s Bible study recently. It inspired me to be that for my daughters.

I know all too well the sting of the “not good enough.”

In the spring, I planted Mexican Sunflowers in my backyard.  I watered them and waiting patiently for them to grow, and recently learned that they attract Monarch butterflies.  In order to attract pretty butterflies….I have to plant the right seeds.IMG_6687I spent way too long listening to the wrong voices.  “Send those thoughts back.  If they don’t come from God, Mark them return to sender and send them back,” preached Pastor Steven as I swerved around the volleyball net with the lawnmower.  #lightbulb. So how do empower my children to do that?  Apply that to my parenting?

I bought a uke, and the three of us sit around and play nonsensical stuff sometimes and joke and Brianne teaches us the chords.  So, she plays again.  And when she wanted to try out for the dance team with a dream in tow to be on pointe shoes some day, I jumped behind her in support and kept my critical opinion to myself. When she asked me to stretch with her, I did.  When she asked if I could still do the splits, I did…and then we both erupted in laughter as we heard a giant pop come from somewhere around my hip bones.  Clearly too old for that.IMG_6683

The time I spend following my 7 year old zombie daughter around while I nag her to brush her teeth in the morning tests every bit of patience I possess. Kindergarten homework, I now know, is really part Mom’s homework, part test of how long I can keep the lid on my temper.  So as I follow my daughter around in the morning, taking deep breaths, making sure she’s ready for school…what voice am I listening to?  What boundaries do I set with her and with myself?  When my Kindergartner forgets what “if” looks like after she just said it three times, how do I encourage her to recall what was there 30 seconds earlier but has now “left her brain” without having a “reaction” mysIMG_6460elf?  She’s clearly playing a game with me…what are the boundaries?  What should the discipline be?

I’m in a full stage meltdown not only due to the amount of time I have to fill now that my girls are at school all day, but because of the different set of boundaries that are encroaching on my system of raising and discipline my girls. How do I discipline them effectively without crushing their confidence?  When do I let them make mistakes and which decisions do I still need to be a part of?

I’ve nurtured them since they they were tiny specks in my belly…since their first little cries into this world.  I’ve followed the lines, made sure they were as straight as they could be.  But now, it’s shifting.  Now, they have a mind of their own.  They spend a lot of time off in the world without me right there to explain, protect, and catch.  And that’s hard.  I don’t want to let go of my precious babies.  I don’t want them to be exposed to things I don’t want them to be exposed to.  I want them to have manners and be disciplined for the lack thereof when necessary.

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#chapelorange

So I decided pray.  A lot.  And go to the Word.  And thankfully, through the power of bribery in the form of gumballs, we had a moment to discuss our faith as a family after church one Sunday.  Hopefully the first of many…

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 130:5

“Brianne, no one is perfect,” I spoke after another morning meltdown,  “Nor do I expect you to be.  I love you the same no matter what.”

And then I continued to talk…because no matter how “over their head” the topic may be…somewhere in the middle of “I”m going to ship you off to boarding school so that you can learn some manners!” and “you are really hurting my feelings right now with your behavior,” I hope a hope through the mindless chatter that I let come out of my mouth something will prove useful.

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”  John 13:15

“Grounding you doesn’t change your behavior, so I’m not going to do that anymore,” I explained.  “Taking things away from you doesn’t work.  Making you write 100 times you won’t do it again still doesn’t keep you from doing it again.  Now, I will come up with a punishment, and it will be severe.  But, if you are going to fix your behavior, you are going to have to pray about it.  You have to let God help you learn and grow, because none of us is equipped to do it on our own.  That’s why he left the Bible for us to read.”

“Let anyone who is thirsty, cIMG_6633ome to me and drink.” John 7:37

In trying not to yell I hope I didn’t church her to death.  But it’s the truth.  And as I think about the punishment I promised I would deliver to her after school in consequence for her behavior, I’m left truly stumped and humbled. I love my daughters so much, and think the absolute world of them.  They are beautiful, talented, and smart.  They make my day, every day.  I do not want the way in which I discipline them take anything away from the spectacular children of God that they are, chip away at their self-confidence that they, too “Can do all things through Christ who gives them strength,”(Phil 4:13) or the loving relationship we have formed as “best buds” and “best friends” over the years.

I don’t know how to do this.  My lines are never straight.

I need God’s help.

Which is exactly where He wants me to be.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.  Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of prayer.” Ephesians 4:23

Happy Disciplining,

Megs

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and Word.” 2 Thes. 2:16-17

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Stay encouraged!