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

The Heart Cloud

The habit of holding on prevents our stumble down the stairs,  but falling is not failing.
“Mmmmmmmmoooooommmmmmmm,” Brianne wailed, through broken breaths of crying…”Oooooowwwwwwweeeeee.”

Happens at least once a week. One of them falls down the stairs, and I’m greeted by Brianne’s cry of shock, or Lo running to me out of breath and holding her butt. I’m used to the routine of hurried footsteps followed by awkward clunking…

Despite my best efforts to educate and warn, my little Lo will come flying around the corner high-kneed and stomach punched often enough to warrant her own hashtag. Her crash down the staircase is often prefaced by a symphony of Ty eye-ball plinks as they reach the first floor first.

I caught an interesting directive falling out of my mouth as I held a sobbing Brianne after her latest tumble down the stairs.

“Hold on to the railing,” I begged her, “You’re too precious to fall.”

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How many times do we want to bolt up a railing for kids to hold on to …thinking they’ll surely recognize, appreciate, and grip it tight, preventing a nasty fall. But they don’t. Three reasons why:

1. They don’t recognize it when they need it because they weren’t paying attention to something they didn’t need at the time.

2. They don’t appreciate the love and care bolted into the wall of protective measures we surround them with, because they don’t understand why it’s necessary.

3. They don’t grip it in swallowed pride when they are about to fall down the stairs, because they don’t think our protections are as necessary for them as they are for us.

Down the stairs they tumble …and we’re helpless as our precious babes fall.

“I told you so.”

“Why didn’t you hold onto the railing?”

“We talked about this.”

I used to frustrate my face into a fury over their lack of listening skills, until I tumbled down the stairs with the vacuum cleaner one day.

“Well, that was stupid,” I said to myself out loud in an empty house.

God revealed a few things through the railing:

1. Falling isn’t failing.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh…”    2Corinthians 12:7

The apostle Paul was clever to point out that our imperfections and insults to injury are what keep us in check with reality. And reality is, God knows we all need something to hold on to. Just because we let go doesn’t mean we give up.

2. The railing is Jesus.

“For through Him we now have access to the Father by one Spirit.”-Ephesians 2:18

God has bolted His Son to our hearts, that we may access Him through prayer, The Word, and the Holy Spirit. The access is there for the acceptance. I’m no better than my daughters at holding on to the railing, but

God doesn’t punish me every time I fall down the stairs. Don’t you punish yourself, either.

 He is not waiting at the bottom with an “I told you so,” or a “well, that was stupid.” No, He’s waiting at the bottom, already knowing how much it hurt. Because of Jesus, God says,

“It’s not too late, grab the railing and pull yourself up.”

3. Jesus knows that life is difficult…that’s why He put the railing there in the first place. He died for us… He’s not going to give up, even when we let go.

“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses…” Hebrews 4:15

Jesus felt what we feel, “yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) He was tempted, but never failed. The railing is there, but He knows we’re not God. We’re to have faith, not be perfect.

4. He watches out for us.

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” -2Chronicles 16:9

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Often when I’m out walking in the morning, I can’t help but feel God’s warmth in the beginning of a new day. The sky is so much prettier in the morning, after it pierces through the darkness of night. I look for God in that sky, and He meets me there. Day after day, railing still securely bolted to the wall of the staircase.

“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart.”   Psalm 108:1

Through Jesus we can come to the Father and receive grace.  A God who cares for us, watches out for us, and forgives us. “Hold on to the railing…you’re too precious to fall.”  But when you do, I hope you know, He’s with you.

Hold on tight, but don’t forget to look up.

Happy Stair-climbing…

Megs

The Hat

A joyful mascot can refresh the screen of chaos, and offer comfort in a state of limbo.

image“Tico Taco, ya ya ya-Tico Taco, ya ya ya!” The brief jaunt to school each dawn is consumed in chaos.  Especially the day Tico Taco (our trusty plastic parrot car mascot) had just been ceremonially crowned with appropriate attire for the Christmas season. The countdown to Christmas Vacation had begun, and I couldn’t help but turn the volume up.

Christmas is my favorite.

“BWEE!!!!!!!” My youngest screened, her feet pressed into the back of my seat only to endanger the steaming coffee I balanced in one hand as I juggled a spelling word list and the steering wheel in the other.  “I WANT TO HUG MOM FIRST!!!!” Her older sister retorted, as she stiff-armed her little sister whilst her face mangled into a crazed bout of competition.

I took a deep breath of concentration as I rounded the drop off curve, and then let my guard down just enough to let an “uh-oh” escape my mouth at maximum volume.  Looking shocked as if someone had stolen their mommy and put another weirdo in the driver’s seat, my little Lo said…

“Mommy, it is NOT NICE to say shut-up.”  Opportunistic little munchkin, isn’t she?

I apologized to my girls and let the guilt of dropping them off to school on such a sour note, after having them home for two weeks, eat at me until the tears were about to roll out of my eyelids. I return home to straighten their beds, tidy their rooms, and put Christmas away.

I miss my kids when they go.  I love every chaotic minute of destruction and laziness that we craft together when they are home.  Paper scraps cover the floor, markers lose thier caps, mountains of stuffed animals hog the couch, laundry bins are filled with Jammie’s…

Christmas is my favorite. And when it’s all over, I’m left feeling wind blown and little sad.

Lingering in the stark silence of limbo, another season in life tucked into the past, my eyes scanned a strategically straightened desk to fall upon the neatly written list of New Year’s resolutions I had carefully crafted. I felt a stark sting of irony over the recent work-space relocation from the top of the stairs to the bottom.

imageI determined  not to be defeated by fear of the undone, and recalled that morning’s walk while swiping through the images I snapped.  I strolled through my morning journal full of fluorescent yellow text meant to encourage my heart.   I can do this, because I don’t have to do all of this,” I told myself.  And I don’t.  God has never led me into a season in life that He hasn’t prepared me for, and I know He’ll be there to sustain my resolve to further His agenda.

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” -2Chronicles 16:9

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I was not the first one to park in the pick up line that day, but I aimed to be.  My sweet little angels barreled into the backseat much in the way they fought their way out of it eight hours earlier.

“How was your day-I missed you!!!!!” I screeched in delight!

“BWEE!!!!!” the little one hollered…“LLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!” the other whinnied.

Oh, how sweet the sound.

imageDid you know that God feels the same way about you?

Even though we get in and out of the car kicking and screaming, He can’t wait until we come back …and He’s loving us …and thinking about us… The entire time we’re gone. Though the strong presence of the Christmas season has passed, His gaze for you has not faded at all.

“But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

As we move on from the sparkle of the Christmas season and into the stark dead of winter here in the Midwest, I hope you know that God wants ALL of your days to be merry ….and bright.

Happy Holiday Packing Away…

Megs

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