Put Your Grace Face On

I’m are so happy and excited to be included with the ladies at Strong and Courageous Women Magazine as a contributing writer. Today I am sharing a post on how we can recognize opportunities to live out our faith in real every day ways.  Please visit and while you’re there make sure to follow Strong and Courageous Women on social media.  It’s a great resource for daily living.

Put Your Grace Face On

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Leaving My Little Boy Behind

I read this email on my phone, keys in hand, waiting for everyone to gather their book bags and lunch boxes .

 

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I’m grinning ear to ear.

My son is on the couch with his back to me, bent over tying his shoelaces. He’s been working hard to keep his grades up. He’s been choosing things like math club and chess club over video games and TV.  Maybe it’s because he understands he’s working towards something more than just good grades.  Something bigger.  A good life, perhaps?   I’m a proud mama, right there in the foyer and I want to celebrate.

“Wow Pup!   You got a message from your math teacher.”

A bored monotone “Mmm hmm” floats up from his crouched position.

“Did you see it?”

“Mmm hmm,” says my son’s back.

“You did?  You read it already?”

No answer.

I’m not sure if he is just playing it cool or what. It’s something he’s been doing lately.  It’s like he’s above having emotions.   I think he should be more excited to get a message like this.  I’m so excited I want to scoop him up and spin him around like I used to when he was a little boy.  Surely he’ll turn his head any second now and give me that huge gummy smile everyone says matches mine exactly.

I wait.

Finally he stands up and starts to walk away without as much as a glance in my direction.

I look at the time on the email. 8:07 am. Just a few minutes ago.

“When did you see it?”

He stops. His eyes roll.  A loud sigh. With the slightest of sneers, he responds, “What message?  I haven’t read any messages, okay?”

With that, he resumes his walk down the hallway into his bedroom.

My face falls in slow motion. My smile and my good mood dissolve like fresh bread in vinegar.

I want to yell at him.  I want to demand an apology and lecture him about his attitude but I can’t. I’ve been stabbed in the gut by a look of revulsion when he’d finally turned to me.  By the way he spit out the words as if my very presence had soured him to the core.

I can’t do anything but stand in the doorway and bleed.

Where is my son, I wonder?  The little towheaded toddler who used to run to me, arms outstretched. Barefoot, chubby toes, sweet potato stained bib, fresh diaper crackling with every step.

Where is the little boy with the crew cut, who would ride his bike next to me on Sunday morning jogs?  We’d tally up every duck, iguana, and butterfly we saw along the way.

Where is the sensitive little boy who’d write me notes on folded papers, declaring how great a mother I was and how much he loved me?  The one who, up until just a few months ago, would flash me that fantastic grin, when our eyes met over the after school crowds?

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I’ve heard other parents warn of how hard the teenage years are. I guess this is the beginning of it for me. For him.  He is thirteen now, morphing into something new.  Whatever it is, it’s starting to seep through, like cold water on thirsty soil.  He’s marinating in prepubescent hormones and he can’t help his extreme mood swings. Right?

 

But it feels like something is dying and I don’t know how to revive it.  

 

I understand he’s older now but so am I.  And being forty-something is hard. It’s not fun to worry about mortgages and auto repairs.  Homeowners insurance and hurricanes. Affordable vacations and mammograms. .  Unrealized dreams, time moving way too fast and days that outlast my energy supply.  It’s all hard enough without feeling like your kid hates you.

Without evidence that your favorite person no longer favors you.

I know he loves me. Even if he acts like he hates me.  Even if he makes me feel uncool and annoying.

I tell myself he’s only evolving. We’re all caught up in a furious spiritual and physical tornado of evolution.  Embryo to corpse and beyond.   Everyone is trying to navigate a way through the changes that come with loving and living.

In the bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

So, I guess it might be time to say goodbye to the little boy he was and move forward with the adolescent he is.   Just like I did when the creases on his chubby arms began to fade. And his plump thighs slimmed out and lengthened. Just like I did when he lost that scrumptious baby scent in the folds of his fat little neck.

I mourned for that then and I’m mourning for this now, in the doorway, waiting to drive him to middle school.

I also tell myself to toughen up.  Grow a thicker skin. Shut up and stop being a baby.

Even though I’m stunned by overwhelming emotions that beckon me to curl up like a fetus. Even though I want to choke on the sorrow of no longer having a little boy in my life, I can’t. I’m his parent. I have work to do.  I can’t give in to everything he wants or does because I’m afraid of the stony silence that will follow.  I’m supposed to guide him through this time in his life. Not turn into a weepy puddle of ‘times gone by’ every time he doesn’t smile at me.

It’s hard but the only way I can do it is by rationalizing on the facts. All day today, I’ll tell myself this and probably tomorrow and maybe for the next few years. But I’m also praying that when I get my son back, when his mind and body have leveled out, we can make up for lost time and be friends again.

 

Divorcing My Ego

I’m are so happy and excited to be included with the ladies at Strong and Courageous Women Magazine as a contributing writer. Today I am sharing a post on how our marriages can be strengthened by letting go of our pride.

Divorcing My Ego

Please visit and while you’re there make sure to follow Strong and Courageous Women on social media.  It’s a great resource for daily living.

 

 

My Fight Song

 

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I’m laying in bed this morning talking to God about this writers conference I’m headed to in Charlotte.

The conference where I’ve so brazenly scheduled an appointment with a publisher, as if…

I’m going over all the ways my book material is lacking. I’m totaling all the money spent on this trip so far. I’m agonizing over the timed fifteen minute meeting with said publisher.

What in the world am I going to say?

Can I google that? Is there a You Tube tutorial on how to act?

I imagine sitting across from Kim Bangs of Bethany House, smiling through the awkward silence as the seconds tick away.

But then God speaks.

Root for the Master, not the disaster. 
 

I know this came from God because I’m not that clever. I hear it again.

Root for the Master, not the disaster.
 

And then again.

It’s becomes a chant in my mind. An anthem. Louder and louder until it drowns out every other thought.
And then it starts to sink in.

This project, this Jeremiah 30:2 call to:
Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you
is bigger than me.

It doesn’t matter how raw or how polished the material is. It doesn’t matter if this whole thing is, in fact, a total disaster.

If God called it, it will come. Jesus said, with man this is impossible but with God; all things are possible with God.

I had dinner with some very dear Christian friends last night. They all tried to tell me this in so many tangible words. Funny how the message doesn’t quite sink in until its whispered directly into my soul from God.  I’m stubborn, I know.
So I decided.
I’m rooting for God on this one.
Not me.
Not the project.
I’m rooting for God to show up all over it.
I’m going to stop focusing on the strength of my book proposal.
I’m going to stop focusing on the strength of my anything and start focusing on the strength of my God.

 

Do you not know?

Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the creator of the ends of the earth.

He will not grow tired or weary,

And no one can fathom the depths of his understanding.

Isaiah 40:28

Are You In Panic Mode?

Sometimes life gets complicated. Most times we make it more complicated than it has to be.

When there’s so much piled on our shoulders, it’s really easy to get caught up in the chaos of it all. We lose focus and feel out of control.

Our spirits lose a little more of that precious peace we need so badly. If we stay in that kind of chaos, spinning aimlessly, we will inevitably spin right out of Gods will.
Not long ago I was feeling buried. I’d taken on too much. My mind was on a constant loop. With several projects going at once, I was consumed with keeping all these different plates spinning. 

I was tired. 

I was worried.

 I was distracted.

When I finally asked God for clarity, to simplify things for me, He led me to Deuteronomy 6.

Not the entire passage but the simple title above the chapter in my bible.

 

It leapt off the page with a life of its own.  It happens every time God speaks through the word. His  message comes with a profound gift of understanding. 

 It’s like God is shining a holy light into our personal situation. He is an unmoving lighthouse of truth in the darkness of an ever-changing storm.


Love The Lord Your God

That’s all.

Love. The. Lord. 

All we need to do is keep our eyes fixed on Him.

 Keep loving Him more than anything or anyone else.

Keep seeking Him for guidance and wisdom. 

Keep trusting Him to work out all things for my good.

We have just one plate to spin, not many.

 The rest is in His hands.

The burden is lifted.

We can find peace in this one truth,

God’s got this! 

Relax.

 

If Dogs Could Talk…

They told me she was found alone on the street. Abandoned. She was just a puppy.  Then the shelter lady closed the file, looked up and said, “That’s it.  That’s her story.”

If only dogs could talk.

What would Coco-Seven Sunday tell me?

Would she tell me the reason she’s afraid to go outside in our front yard? Or why she can barely stand on the sidewalk without bolting in blind panic when a car drives by?  Would she tell me why she bucks like a tiny wild horse, slipping out of the pink collar she’s yet to grow into, when I tug at the leash, urging her to come explore the neighborhood with me?

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I Don’t Like To Call It Good Friday

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Today, we remember the day, the way, and the reason Jesus died to save humanity from eternal death.

It wasn’t pretty.

It was horrible.

The guards blindfolded Jesus and took turns hitting Him, all while making fun of Him. Herod laughed at Jesus. The guards dressed Him in a scarlet robe and twisted together a crown of thorns, pushing it on his head so they could keep mocking Him.

Jesus, The King Of The Jews.

He was beaten, spit on, and struck on the head with a staff again and again. They whipped Him and then nailed Him to a cross.

That’s only the physical part.

They humiliated Him in front of His followers, His brothers, the world.   Judas, his friend, betrayed Him for a bag of money.    Hours earlier, Peter, a loyal disciple, who’d claimed he was ready to face prison, even death for Jesus, denied even knowing Him.  He watched His mother sobbing at the foot of the cross. And when Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was experiencing the dark consequences of the world’s sin. The total separation from the light and love of God.

He was totally abandoned.

It makes me want to turn away from the heaviness of what happened to Him but I won’t.

Not today.

Because He did it all willingly. He never veered from the original plan. He took it all with the quiet gentleness of a good sheep.   He did it because His love for humanity is so great. He became a cure for our damaged and scarred hearts. He became a deep well for our shallow souls.  He gave us a gift more valuable than anything we can find in this world.

He made a way for us to get close to God.

At daybreak the council of he elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 

“If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us. ” 

Jesus answered, ” If I tell you , you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer.  But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God. ”

They all asked, ” Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You are right in saying I am.”

Luke 22:66-70

How The Heck Do You Make Friends?

I hold her against my chest and stroke her hair while she cries. She says she has no friends.  She says every time she asks one of her classmates to “be her friend”, they say no so she runs away.

My heart breaks into a thousand pieces inside my chest and I can’t think of the right thing to say.

So instead I try to buy time by asking her questions like, “Who says no? Which kids?  What are their names?”  Like somehow this makes a difference.  Like somehow that’s going to help me zero in on some way to turn that no into a yes.

She takes a few minutes because she doesn’t want to tell me or maybe she’s just trying to formulate her thoughts into words, which is hard for her even with the four sessions of speech therapy a week.

Finally she mentions the name of a girl I know. I’ve noticed her while chaperoning field trips, or helping with classroom parties. She’s the popular one. The leader. The one all the other girls clamor around.    The one who, Annie says, tells her to “stop” whenever she tries to join in.  The social gatekeeper.

And I feel the anger simmering in my belly. I wish I could just grab this girl by the arm and make her be friends with Annie. But that’s not the way to make friends, so I say nothing.

Does this nonsense really start as early as first grade? Are these the same sweet little munchkins that circled around her last year, full of welcoming hugs and kisses, when two months into the school year, she was placed back into a kindergarten class for the second time around because she wasn’t keeping up with the first grade curriculum?  How did they grow fangs already?

So I squeeze her a little tighter, and say, “Forget those girls. There must be other girls in the class you could try to make friends with.”  Other girls looking in from the outside, like her.  Yes, that’s it. Outsiders unite!

“But I want to be friends with ________!”  and she breaks into breathless sobs again because another wave of humiliation and rejection crashes over her.

I’m at a total loss. As a mother, I don’t know what to do to make this better. I have not the slightest clue how to ease these emotions she’s processing. As a person in general, who’s lived and functioned in this society for nearly 41 years,  I’m baffled by my social skill set deficit.  How the heck do you make friends with the popular girl?

I’m desperate so I say, “Maybe if you bring her a present, she will be nicer to you.” As soon as it’s out of my mouth, I sense  there’s something really off about this approach.  It doesn’t sit right with me. It feels like bribery and it’s pathetic but it’s all I’ve got so I roll with it. “I just bought some really pretty lollipops for our treasure box.  You can bring her one of those tomorrow.”

She lifts her head and her eyes brighten a bit.

Uh-oh.  I can see I’ve given her some hope.

Oh God, please let this work. And God, if it doesn’t, please give me the words to get her through it.

 

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Look! Writing Opportunity.

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http://www.strongandcourageouswomen.com is calling for guest writers with articles on topics related the following aspects of Christian life; Life as a single woman, motherhood and marriage.  We especially love reading inspiring stories of women overcoming difficult situations and acting courageously in their faith. Articles should be no more than 1000 words.

Submissions accepted until March 10, 2016. Strong and Courageous Women cannot offer compensation at this time, however your work will be featured on the Strong and Courageous website beginning March 15, 2016, if accepted.

Send submissions to strongandcourageouswomen@gmail.com

Is there room for Jesus? Prove it.

What is your priority today?  What’s on your to-do list?  If you didn’t have all that pressing in on you, how would your list change?  What if you could order your list of priorities based on what you wanted to do most of all? What would it say about where your heart is?

In the Book of Jeremiah, God is grieved by the people of Israel because they have chosen to follow their stubborn hearts, worshiping what their hands have made. In that, they had forgotten the Lord.  I wonder what I am worshiping that my hands have made.  My career?  My finances?  My blog?  I love Jesus with all my heart but do my actions and the way I spend my time testify to that?

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My prayer today is that we commit to not letting God become an afterthought. He’s to be our forethought. That’s where He belongs, right there up front.  First place.  First thought.  First thing.   Everything else will always be there but any sense of accomplishment gained will fade with the rising of a new sun, when a whole new set of chores present themselves.

Spend a little time building something that is lasting. Make time for the Lord early in the morning, before the world inevitably shows up to turn your head or seduce your heart.  Do it with prayer and bible study, even if it’s only 10 minutes.  It doesn’t take much more than a sincere heart showing sincere effort to move Him. It has to be just as intentional and non- negotiable as your to-do list. Let Jesus be the foundation of your day.  He is the only one that can fuel your soul with the good stuff. Watch how much smoother your ride becomes.

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