The Last Day

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The product of my rushed suburban childhood is arm-in-arm in that sandy crop of kids, traditionally appreciating the last day of school in their little lake town …where the busiest road has a 35 mph speed limit, and we can count the number of stop lights on one hand. “Rush” is absent from their vocabulary.

PERFECTTraditions can bloom dreams if we allow them to align our intentions with His design. The small lake town I live in has taught me to treasure tradition. In your town, on the farm, amidst a metropolis, or in your move; here are some benefits I’ve uncovered in establishing a little tradition.

#heartseeds

1.Stability

foundation- the basis or groundwork for anything…the natural or prepared ground on which some structure exists. (dictionary.com)

Learning to leave God in our dreams takes faith tough enough to trust that His view of them will undoubtably differ from our expectations a lot of the time. If we learn to look up before we dream out; the surrounding blessings, people, and places in life begin to reveal parts of His purpose. Tradition rooted in Christ yields a stable foundation to dream upon.

“You are being built on a solid foundation: the message of the prophets and the pieces of God’s chosen emissaries with Jesus, the Anointed Himself, the precious cornerstone.” Ephesians 2:20

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Paul reminded the church at Ephesus to embrace the foundation that Jesus laid at the foot of the cross.  We would be wise to do the same. When our dream is drifting with the Creator’s current, living it each day spreads the virtuous kindness and joy of Jesus.

2. Resilience 

“Take a close look at everything, test it, then cling to what is good.” 1 Thes. 5:21

I had all intentions of moving by the water to be out on the water, but God threw out the anchor… and beached my boat.  And as I peeled back the layers of blessing from the shoreline, I’m so glad he didn’t let me rush past it all. Changing the direction of our lives is never easy, but layered in the learning are blessings that follow an obedient heart. “Clinging” to those blessings, to who He is, shapes a resilient heart.

resilience the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape.- Google

The pre-school years flew by, and the “Last Day” tradition that started with four moms is still growing … each year new friendships form and new laughs are logged. We pray for each other, help each other, laugh, cry and load up on a bus to celebrate milestones together… stand arm-in-arm together.

#dontskipachapter

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3. Confidence

“So, brothers and sisters, all you need to do now is stand firm and hold tight to the line of teachings we have passed on to you, whether in person or in a letter.” 2 Thes 2:15

Paul wrote this letter to clarify some traditions that had been muddled in translation. Can you imagine passing things down accurately without the Internet?

I’ve been privy to witness, that the tradition of excellence my town, has more to do than just the happy disposition that often follows suit with living on the shoreline of one of the world’s Great Lakes. The tale of each home-town Tiger begins with tradition.

From the first day they high-five the elementary-school principal down hallways decked with yellow smiles, they are brought up to believe they can find their best and bring it out in others. The entire town cheers them on until they show up dressed in white to lookout from that shoreline together one last time …arm-in-arm. I’ve watched my daughters watch those beautiful graduates, confident they can conquer anything because they’ve been raised to believe that they will.

Confident, bright, and beautiful blooms are the result of roots. Spectacular moments of growth don’t last forever, but roots remain to break through the soil once again.

PERFECT copyChristians are confident in the joy Jesus. From the very first time we high-five Him as we’re dunked under the water, or whisper a prayer…His truth allows us to bloom beautifully along life’s bumpy road. Like the graduates confident they can conquer the world, He stands with us, arm-in-arm, in a victory that’s already been won.

4.Triumph

“I must say how pleased I am to hear that you remember me in everything and continue to hold on to the traditions I have passed on to you.” 1 Corinthians 11:2

Paul wrote this letter to the believers at Corinth as they were torn by spiritual immaturity in attempting to uphold tradition.

Triumph is synonymous for “coming back.”

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The “Last Day” tradition isn’t always a smoothly executed plan, but we all keep coming back. Tradition gives us a space to embrace our place on this earth.

Sometimes the frustration in having to be still is God whispering that you’re already here. Perhaps the purpose of my dream to live by the lake was simply to slow down and embrace tradition all along. That’s all God asks of us …keep coming back. Keep the tradition of meeting with Him everyday …of looking for Him in everything we experience. Those are strong roots, a stable foundation, a resilient reliance, and a triumphant destination.

Happy Summer!!!

Go Tigers!

Megs

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The Audience

“Sorry!” My oldest called out as she sent her Daddy’s peg flying off the game-board.

“What?!?” he retorted, “You just broke your own rule!”

imageMy little one lined up a teeny tiny animal audience as they argued. The table melted down into assigning blame, hurt feelings, and an unfinished game. It’s impossible to declare the winner of a game with no rules, and I was not going to take sides…

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Life’s a lot more complicated than the game of “Sorry.” It’s easy to forgive someone for knocking your game peg off the board, but not so easy to swim through the hurt of being bumped. There are times I feel unqualified to wipe away my daughters’ tears as I choke back my own. Praying for the right way to raise them, I discovered two words to help me piece together a plan.

Though they appear synonymous, “favor” and “favoritism” communicate opposite messages in fostering a healthy community. These three steps will help you land on the right side of the coin.

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1. Say something.

“Favoritism: the practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.” Google.com

Life can be a lot about choosing sides and shifting circles, causing hurt feelings to be hidden in fear of being cut out. But it’s important to put a voice to hurt in a non-accusatory or defensively dramatic fashion. I try to guide my daughters (and repeat to myself) to talk directly to the one who hurt them, not around them in circles. For example:

“When you said that, it hurt my feelings.”

When we align with the audience of favoritism, we fail to notice God’s favor; when true hurts of the heart are spoken out loud, we allow God’s favor to defend us.

“He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart…he who does these things will never be shaken.” Psalms 15:2,5

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How is one to know they’ve hurt me if they have no idea they’ve wounded me? God doesn’t care about the clamor to click and the clack to belong. Speaking up when my feelings are hurt without putting my foot in my mouth is an impossibly difficult task, but it’s more conducive to community than seething to attain sympathy out of thin air.

“We hide pain in the weirdest places…broken souls with smiling faces…Just look around and you see that people …are scared to say how they really feel …we all need …a little honesty.” ‘You are Loved,’ by Stars Go Dim.

#saysomething

2. Voluntarily forgive.

“Favor: an attitude of approval or liking…an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.” Google.com

Forgiveness is an important extension of the grace Jesus died to give us. It is something a human to human relationship is not 100% capable of without His presence. We consult our circle, but Christ didn’t have a clique. (Luke 4:19)

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Cliques offer protection, status, guaranteed friendship, trust, and acceptance. Though we look to each other for these things, only Christ is capable of fulfilling a lifetime of love and belonging. God wired our desire to seek His Son.

“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34-35image

Christ loves beyond faults, and gifts grace without regard to requirement. Extend grace.

#forgiveaboutit

3. Let it go.

The puzzling and powerless feeling of injustice is agonizing, but I survive by crying out to God. The ugly cry. The uncontrollable, shoulders shaking in sobs and nose running down my face …desperate to understand “why?” cry.

Sometimes, life hurts more than we can comprehend because we’re not built to lean on other people …we’re meant to lean on God. He will fight our battles for us if we will faithfully hand them over.

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Before I drop them off at school, in sibling mediation, at bedtime …I’m constantly trumping my daughters’ excuses with my favorite soapbox.

“and we are…” I’ll bait.
“Kind,” they comply. Life’s most important rule.

“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” James 2:1

It’s hard to be kind in the face of calamity when I have a ferociously strong feeling about what is fair. But I believe God. Speaking the truth of our hearts, and forgiving without requiring apology …that’s our part. The rest is His area of expertise.

“There were three options for citizens under Roman rule: sell out, get out, or fight back… Jesus introduced a fourth option: serve…” Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (James 2:1-26 commentary)

I pray to mimic Jesus’ justice and fake it till I make it all the way into His arms; letting Him fill the gap of what I cannot accomplish alone, and fight what I was never equipped to battle.

#letitgo

imageLife is too risky to run without rules, yelling “sorry!” over shoulders when feelings flip and hearts are hurt. Reactions CAN land on the right side of the coin by determining which audience is driving our decisions. The audience of favoritism caters to cliques; the audience of God’s favor fosters community.

Speak. Forgive. Let go.

We say, “Sorry!!” Jesus says, “Grace!!”
#Whoseyouraudience

Happy Card Drawing!
Megs

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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The Crack

Joy cracks conformity.

“Mom,” my seven-year old wept as she slunked against the cold window on the way home from school, “it happened again.”

A chill stemmed from my heart to the heated steering wheel as I swiped the volume down.

“Same person?” I pressed.

“One stopped, but there’s still one more.”

Kids are funny about what they share, aren’t’ they? Brianne unravels the truth as she needs mine to apply to it. Perfect, because I can’t handle the whole story at once emotionally, anymore than she can digest the entirety of my reaction/advice.

“I thought it was only one person doing it…” I said in a fake, I’m-not-angry-about-it-at-all tone.

“Well, there were more, but now there’s just one …and she keeps erasing my mascot.” The tears were now visible in the rear view mirror, and I could barely drive I wanted to hug her so bad.

“Your mascot?” My own tears blocked the road.

“Yes, Happy Heart…my mascot,” she explained.

“Well that’s-not very-nice and I’m-so sorry,” I blurted in a cracked tone.

“The thing I don’t get is that she’s my friend…”

Now she was full on crying, and so was I…and so was little sis Lo.

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Some friend. I had to pull back from the conversation and revert to comforting mode before I let my anger drive my mouth and call the kid’s parents. Later on, I yearned to define what a true friend was to my daughter…so I Googled it. Dictionary.com says a friend is:

  1. A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
  2. A person who gives assistance; patron; supporter
  3. A person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile
  4. A member of the same nation, party, etc.
  5. V. Make friends with, to enter into friendly relations with; become a friend to.”

No where in that list of definitions does it require one friend to conform to another, yet we have mixed reactions to differences in qualifying and ranking our friendships, don’t we? Let’s face it, sometimes Emo Joe is a ‘ way cooler’ mascot than Happy Heart. The challenge to define and find friendship requires a look inward at how to be a good friend.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though. Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fireman result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1Peter1:6-7

I think a little bit of Jesus Christ is revealed right in these two verses, shedding light on the definition of friendship in two ways:

A good friend is genuine, a trait revealed by trials.

Jesus is genuine. He was tested and put through trials, leaving no doubt of His faith, glory, and honor.  Strong’s imageConcordance says the word genuineness in Greek is adolos, meaning “free from fraud.” Jesus knew fraud. He experienced it. Upon His arrest, all twelve apostles fled. They failed that friend test. Imagine the betrayal Jesus felt, when just hours earlier they were all hanging out with Him, appalled at innuendos of betrayal within their circle. Jesus died for them anyway, forgiving them long before they knew to apologize. He did not let it affect who He was or what He was called to do. Aim to apply the forgiveness of failure to your friendships, and allow them to stick around long enough to travel through trials.

Erase the mistakes. Put the good back up.

Forgive and forget or forgo friendship. Jesus gets erased, but He doesn’t give up. He is repeatedly being removed by an increasingly secular society. Merium Webster’s definition of secular is: “of, relating to or controlled by the government rather than the church.” I personally don’t want to be ruled by either.

“The LORD is my strength…I WILL praise Him.”- Exodus 15:2 (emphasis added.)

“Draw the Happy Heart,” I told Brianne, “Keep putting it back up.”

It’s hard to rescind the urge to hide my child from hurt, but it’s important to pray through the appropriate times to let go and let them be lights.  Though the darker side of life will attempt to snuff them out, light cannot be erased.

“Be joyful always.” 1Thes 5:16

The joy eluded to in the verse above doesn’t just appear immediately in our hearts. We have to find it and fight for it.

“In 1Thes 5:16–18 Paul turns from instructions covering attitudes and actions toward fellow believers and other human beings to instructions dealing with attitudes toward God.” -NIV Application Commentary

What is our attitude toward God? Do we think of Him in fulfillment of those definitions of friendship above? It should be the first place our minds drift, because even secular socialites will admit the fault in humanity to execute those definitions to perfection. But Jesus did…and can…and does.

God tells us to “be joyful” not “be lemmings.” You’re stomach’s going to drop every time the heart is erased.

It’ll never feel right because we are not of this world.

You are a crack in the ice.

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Humans are human. Don’t get mad at “the eraser.” Don’t let the sound of footsteps scattering break your spirit. Don’t hold any one person accountable for one Savior’s job. Don’t be naive, but your friends off the hook of perfection.

“Did you put the Happy Heart back up?”  I asked one night over spaghetti and meatballs.

“Yep!” she smiled, blue eyes especially sparkling, “And he’s holding up a sign that says J.A.M.!!”

J.A.M. for Jesus And Me…She’s the proudest new member of the kids praise and worship team at church. Erase her mascot, but can’t get to her heart.

 “Love, companionship, devotion …these are all synonyms for friendship, and all descriptions of walking with Jesus. We’re all going to fail each other at some point, but He will never.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

At all times, and especially in adversity. The light will fight it’s way through…the ice will crack. You needn’t look any further for the best friend you’ll ever find. It’s Jesus’ joy that cracks conformity. It’s through Him alone that we tap into the light of His Father. Lean into Him when you’re being squeezed.

In a world freezing fast…seek Him…the crack in the ice.

Happy “Friend-ing,”

Megs