Out of the Rain

Kicking and screaming – that’s how I finally went off, this morning, to engage in the women’s ministry offerings at our “new” church. This being the official One Year mark since we first started attending regularly, you might be picking up on what a struggle it’s been for me to fully embrace this place.

I rushed into the building resentful, late, and dripping wet.

Resentful that I had to “start over”. Late because I found every possible last-minute “forgotten” chore to take care of before walking out the door. And dripping wet because, well… rain was pouring down.

To match my mood.

Scanning the room, I quickly sat down at the way way back, in the first free chair I laid eyes on.  As I scooted into the open chair, I determined to keep my heart closed.

But, I made a grave error… I breathed.

And a prayer escaped, unbidden.

Despite the feeling I’d had this past year that God forgot my need for flesh-and-blood fellowship, a fresh Hope blew in.

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Instantly, I realized that I was sitting with a small group of three women that clearly already knew each other. And, they didn’t seem to be very open, themselves.

But, because I’ve never met a stranger, thank-you-very-much, I started chatting this group up.  In my mind, I was drawing them out.

As usual, God had something altogether different, and altogether lovely, in mind.

From the moment the first one started speaking about the dark places she’s been, I realized she had a story that I wanted I needed to hear. Hers was so completely different from mine. And yet, the same in all of the important places. As the next woman spoke of past entanglements that I full understand, hers, too, became a story of redemption that my heart desperately needed to hear.

Redemption comes softly and not.  But, He always comes. And only Redemption, Himself, knows exactly when we will be ready to fall at His feet and welcome union with Him.

I’ve been giving this passage a lot of thought lately.

Exodus 13:17-18 says, “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led them in a round about way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.”

Recognizing their inability to face a challenge at this early stage in their freedom journey, God routed them differently than expected.

I am no different.

God knows how susceptible I am to a setback at the beginning stages of a new adventure.

Oh God, You knew! You knew that I desperately needed to sit next to a group of women who so recognize their need of you that I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own.

And You knew, too, that had I attempted to join in last Fall, it would have been a detour that my heart wasn’t ready for.

But. For. Grace.

Thank You for opening my ears to hear Your whisper, and my eyes to see your outstretched arm through these beautiful women this morning.

Maybe, even more, for loving me enough to pull me out of the rain and into Your Holy arms, once again.

I so needed that fresh Hope.

Don’t Pass the Peas, Please

Sweetman and I recently started plotting a way to get the kids to eat more veggies. Allow me to rephrase that, please.  Our children don’t eat cooked vegetables.

An intervention has become necessary.

We’ve tried a few popular methods for Operation Eat Your Vegetables, already. Sneaking shredded zucchini into their favorite pumpkin bread? Been there. Wouldn’t eat that!  Put shredded carrots into their spaghetti sauce or mashed potatoes? That would work great… if either one of them ate red sauce! Or mashed potatoes! Make vegetables look Super Fun and Exciting, a la Pinterest?  Sweetgirl asked if we could keep it on the counter for the week because it was “just too beautiful to eat, Mama!”

You can see why plotting is involved, right?

I fear that my children are going to end up going off to Harvard eating applesauce with their dinner every night. As long as I send them off with the twistable kind that they can open themselves, I guess we might be alright. (P.S. Regarding college: I’m totally kidding! We are actually praying that the Good Lord will see fit to motivate them to go anywhere for college!)

In all fairness, Sweetboy will eat raw baby carrots.  He really likes them, actually. Sweetgirl will even nibble on two or three, once in a while, as well.  Corn is another “vegetable” that we can get Sweetboy to eat – as long as it’s on the cob, freshly shucked, and from a local farm.  (I can thank Sweetman for passing on the Food Snob genetics!)

Beyond those few items, though, there is a strict Ain’t Gonna Eat It policy in place, here in this house.

And we didn’t enact it!

Last night, I attempted to re-introduce peas.  Both children ate them, joyfully, might I add, when they were under two. Sadly, they are considered enemy number one, at present.

We decided to go the Matter of Fact route, this time. “I’m giving you each a small amount of peas.  They are good for your body and you both need to eat more vegetables.  Also, if you don’t eat at least three bites AND swallow it down, no dessert for you.”

This conversation went over like a lead balloon, as you can imagine. Sweetboy, bless his heart, said, “Okay Mama.  They’re not my favorite, but I’ll deal with it.”

The other child?

There was a whole lot of weeping.

And gnashing of teeth!

And when I finished, she proceeded to do the same.  With some major foot stomping, chair rocking, and negotiating thrown in, for good measure.

I will say this, the child can pull The Pouty Face with the best of ‘em!

After I literally held her nose (she requested this) so that she could down one blessed pea at a time, and gag with every. single. one., we both felt like we’d run a triathlon! Not to mention that my own gag reflex was now fully engaged.

We were both so traumatized by the ordeal that I told her she didn’t ever have to eat peas again… until she was 12.

Or, maybe 6 and a half. (I thought I said that last bit under my breath.)

But, little ears are always listening to every wee word we utter.

And, I know this because, this afternoon, Sweetgirl popped off the bus and squarely faced me to say, “Mama, you said I don’t have to eat peas again until I’m 12.  Or 6 and a half.  I want it to be 12.”

Please, don’t pass the peas.

I think it’s safe to say, it’ll be a few years.

Oh, yes indeedy!

Lay it on me! What trickery have you used to get your littles to eat their vegetables?

 

Calling All Apples

The dreaded triathlon swim was last weekend.

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I survived. No, no, no – better than that! I did pretty darn well, considering I’ve a) Never competed in anything ending in -athlon before, b) become firmly entrenched in the 40+ age range, and c) been sporting a muffin-top to beat all muffin-tops for the better part of a decade.

And, it’s that last one that I feel the need to address.

Online.

For all the world to see.

But first… You know how you sometimes think you don’t look half bad? And perhaps you’ve even been working toward some fitness goal and are therefore convinced that you might even be looking pretty good?  And you live in your perfectly crafted delusional world for as long as it takes for someone to snap photographic evidence declaring quite the opposite?

Yeah.

Sigh…

An unfortunate side effect of All The Devil Dogs is, apparently, a spare tire.

Around one’s middle.

This picture below?  I’m putting it out there.  My friend Janet is grinning on my right.  She’s the toad friend who made me swim laps with her every day to prepare.

I’ll “spare” you the bottom half of the picture. Just know that I am now well aware of the effects of all of my Devil Doggery.

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Here’s the thing – I’m a textbook apple shape.  I’m talking, circle resting on toothpicks, People! I’ve always been that way. Even when I was at my leanest, I was a more slender kind of apple. Is there such a thing?

Well, I’m calling all my apple friends! If you don’t already know, we have the most dangerous body type, as it relates to obesity and heart disease.  Decreasing our weight as little as 5 pounds can provide amazing health benefits. Working off even 5% of our body fat can extend our life span significantly!

I know this.

And yet, I’ve still managed to run around town ignoring the ever-expanding inner tube around my waist.

No more!

Seeing that picture of my waist, even if it was while marching down to a quarter mile swim, scared me straight.

As in, rectangular.

Yup. I’m aiming to change my shape.

I’m setting some goals and giving myself plenty of time to slowly meet them. I’m going to make some dietary changes (no Devil Dogs will be harmed in this process). I’m going to add in some (some - let’s not get too crazy, now) consistent exercise each week.

And, God-willing, change will take place.

Yes indeedy. I’m going to work on becoming less circle-y and more oval-y. Any other shapes want to join me?

First order of business is to get a food plan going.  What works (or has worked) for you in the past?  Share in the comments.

To Laugh Another Day

Joan Rivers was an icon. And, while there was certainly plenty in her brand of humor that many found offensive, ultimately, she was a pioneer in her field of comedy.  She was also, from all accounts I’ve read so far, an incredibly kind-hearted woman.

And, an Includer.

In an era of Who’s The Biggest Star This Week, this is impressive to me. That Joan Rivers was willing to take unknowns under her wing, mentor those seeking to better their craft, and include the lonely in her circle, is a rare and beautiful thing.

While Joan certainly paved the way for so many comedians and women in her industry, she always seemed to find the funny and elevate it above her own sadness.

I’ve been so focused on my many have-to’s and need-to’s this month, that I’ve not taken near enough time to see the fun. The sad passing of this witty woman reminds me that I need to make the time.

Rest in peace, Joan.  Thank you for giving women comedians a much bigger platform. Thank you for reminding us to find the fun in life. To laugh another day.

And thank you for sharing your gifts with us.

The Worst Four Letter Word

Fear can instill some mighty heavy feelings in this heart of mine.  I keep kicking the can down the road, where some of this fear is concerned. But, dang it all if it doesn’t so one little thing to help soothe that erratic heartbeat of mine!

If I know anything, (and let’s just agree that I know next-to-nothing), it’s that when fear grips, faith grows.

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Faith in being an Overcomer.

Faith in The One who overcame all.

Faith that this grand story that I get to be a part of turns out Beautiful.

Next weekend, I will be swimming that quarter of a mile that I committed to swimming, a few careless weeks ago.

Sweetman asked me if he and the kids could come cheer me on.

I said no.

I’ll let that hang in the air a minute.  It’s okay.  I’m as ashamed to write it as I was to be feeling it.

Why in the world did I say no?

Fear.

I didn’t want them to see me fail.

I didn’t want them to see me struggle.

I didn’t want them to see me come in last.

Fear really is the worst four letter word, isn’t it?

How dare I say that My People can’t come see what all of these morning “work” swims have been all about.  Why shouldn’t they see me work hard and follow through on a commitment? Why shouldn’t they watch as I try?

Because, actually, to try is to win. I’m halfway there just by giving it a go!

And, you know what? I want them to see me give it a go!

Did you see what just happened there?

My faith… it just grew.  It out-gripped that fear and overshadowed it and made my heart beat a little more steadily.

God, you tell me that I can do all things through you. And, that it’s You who gives me the strength to scoop and cup that water and slice through it with enough power to see me through to the end.  Get me there, God. See me through, in Your power.  Let my family see that I can indeed do all things through You, who strengthens me.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!  (taken from Philippians 4:13)

Oh God, what you can do with some Words.

My no has become a yes.

Oh, yes indeedy!

How to Keep Reaching Your Mission Field

One of them sleeps in the soft violet bedroom down the hall. The other one hops around in the pale blue room next to hers. Together, they equal a vast mission field.

My mission field.

And that doesn’t even include the brilliant engineer who needs, too.

There is a lot of talk in the great Out There, right now, about how folks are feeling called to Go and Do.

The older I get, though, the more opportunities I see Here and Now.

We are an emotional bunch, us humans.  I don’t want to be All In when the rest of my community feels swept up in a tide of emotion over the latest greatest Giving Opportunity. Or serving opportunity. Or ice bucket challenge.

No.  I don’t.

I want, truly desperately want, to be swept up in the understanding that I am always, even right here in this living room, able to give.

A soft place to land for my Sweetman.

A safe place to just Be, free of judgement, for my Sweetboy.

A place to soothe the hurts of relational injustices for my Sweetgirl.

Do you know where your mission field is?

Because, truthfully?  I think I just figured out, after forty-some years of living, that mine really is just right down the hall.

And I’m thankful, once again, for the grace galore that is slathered over my rough places, smoothing them down.  It’s got to be so almighty trying to watch me chase some illusive “should” down a rabbit hole that was never meant to be traveled by me.

Thank you Jesus.  Thank you for shining light so I can get back out.  For loving me anyway. For the grace to keep traipsing down the hall in my fuzzy slippers toward the vast expanse of mission field within these four walls.

Please grant me another day to get up and attempt it all over again.

For Your glory.

And my refinement.

I’m asking for Your help here, God. Open my eyes to every opportunity You send my way, to keep reaching my mission field.  Make me able to meet the needs of as many as my heart will recognize.

Especially the least of these, at the other end of the hall.

Sometimes You Need a New Station

I love me some Pandora.  There are a handful of stations that I could about listen to right on into the ground.  My Jack Johnson station – uh-huh!  My All Sons & Daughters station. Yup! Hillsong Young & Free? Check! Andy Hunter because, trance! And, the Sade station? God Almighty said there’s a time for everything and let’s just leave it at that.

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And I like listening to my tried and true tunes. Oh, yes indeedy.

Don’t we all?

My heart has been observing some subtle shifts in the rhythms of my life, lately, though.  And it unsettles my soul a bit.

Because shifts indicate change. And change tends to send me one of two ways: if it’s an adventure that I’ve sought out, I grab a hold of it with arms and legs wrapped fully around.  However, if it’s change that I wasn’t prepared for, I can sort of work myself into a full-stop shutdown.

I don’t have any great insights into why these are my two default responses, other than to know that they just are. Knowing this about myself, I can usually see a shutdown coming and head it off at the pass.

Usually.

Once in a while, though, there’s a change that I couldn’t have seen coming if it landed on top of the nose on my face. Before I know it,I find myself tuning toward some station I wouldn’t have chosen if my life depended on it.

Then, I sit stupefied, realizing that I’m humming and bobbing my head to a song about being so fancy.

This leads me to believe that I just might need to seek out a new station or three and enjoy the ride of new rhythms and melodies. There is a season for everything, right?

Even azaleas.

Oh, there are songs we each take comfort in hearing.  And, they bring us back, bring us around, or bring us up. I think we can also probably agree that some music does more to lift our spirit right on up to the tippy top of Happy than any ice cream cone ever could.

But, as the song goes, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day…” and all that.  I think I’m ready to tap my toes to some new tunes.

What in the world do all of these words mean?  I’m not sure I can share just yet.  But know this – I will!

Until then, why don’t you try out a new song.  You’d never believe the places you can go with some fresh beats in your ears.

Because sometimes, change dictates that you just need a new station.