Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why You're Never Too Old

"Mom, can you help me? I don't know how a do this," he says, tiny hands holding two halves of a blue plastic game board. Imploring eyes and a sweet round face melt me instantly.

"I'd love to!" I smile, getting down on his level. I kiss his soft face, and slide together the blue plastic frame of an ice cube game.

They grow up so fast, these kids, huh?

This week, I waited in an echoey church hall after a graduation meeting for my senior. The class of 2013 voted on announcement styles, ceremony emcees, and slide show music. I texted my son for his votes, as he sat through a work meeting half an hour away.

In five months he'll walk a stage, flip silver tassels, and receive a rolled-up diploma.

Over coffee and a cheese danish this week, I discovered parenting advice from two thousand years ago that resonated with me.

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously and without finding fault, and it will be given to you." 

Like my four year old, humbly holding out two plastic game pieces; to my eldest filling out college and job forms; to me, holding out humble hands to my Abba/Daddy.

Abba, please give me wisdom today, this week, this month, as I raise my kids, love my man, and strive to be a woman after your heart.

You? Anything on your heart? Need wisdom or a flash of light? 

And our Papa? He melts to hear you ask that, scooping down to cup your face, kiss your soft cheeks, and slide those pieces together.

Linking with Imperfect Prose.

Photo credit.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Slip into Some Quiet

Thumb-sized snowflakes besiege us, flying from left to right across my windows, beauty on display. The wind changes, and they fall straight down in eerie silence. "In sequent toil, all forwards do contend," Shakespeare would intone from Sonnet 60.

"Put on some nature music, will you, Mom?" she asks, the gangly willowy daughter who has now surpassed me in height. Pink sequin earrings bob near a glistening Hershey-colored ponytail. She slides hair behind ear unconsciously, and hunches over her drawings.

Quiet music throbs, and I can feel my body slowing. Snow falls ceaselessly, hypnotically; the flakes tumbling past my windows. Pencil artist pauses to watch. Four year old Daniel stops his Lego play to stare at the sky. "Why is it snowing, Mom?"

"Because it's January," I smile back softly. "It's pretty, huh?"

Guitars strum, snow falls, and silence slips in.

The silent snow is so good for us, so needed. It falls heavy on my yard and on me. We soak in this quiet, and it blankets us in, deep and still. 

Pause with me this afternoon. Grab a hot drink, stare out your window for a few minutes, and watch the snow fall, the clouds slide, or the trees sway in the silent wind.


What does a quiet Sunday afternoon look like for you?

Monday, January 21, 2013

What Every Man Craves

I watched him pound away on the drums at church yesterday, his shoulders rising rhythmically in a red striped dress shirt. Between measures, his left leg kept silent time. I prayed for strength and energy for him, knowing firsthand how influenza had stripped us of energy this week.

Over the Sunday School hour, I sipped coffee and watched him teach, standing poised before other adults, opening up God's word, confidently, authoritatively.

After church, he conversed, made phone calls, assembled other youth leaders, and coordinated last minute changes to a youth event. Deftly wielding a stick shift, he drove us home, exhausted and weary from a week's worth of influenza-sapped-strength, picking up take-out on the way home for an easy lunch.

I whispered it in his ear in the pew after the drums. I smiled it at him from behind my coffee in Sunday School.

"I am so proud of you, my handsome man."

Over the gear shaft in a chilled car, I kissed him, pulling him close.

"Thank you. I see it. The way you serve your family, taking care of us when we're sick. I see the way you drum hard during practice and during worship, asking God for energy to do so. I see how you arrange the details of this youth event, on a day when you're exhausted, calling and recruiting last minute items. I see it, and I'm so proud of you."

This choosing to stop and see --counting not only my Creator's gifts, but also focusing on and seeing the good in my man-- is so revolutionary and yet so basic. I so easily forget to pause, see, and note.

Author Shaunti Feldham in her book, "For Women Only," noted, "...Affirmation is everything. When a man is affirmed, he can conquer the world. When he's not, he is sapped of his confidence and even his feelings of manhood." (67).

Feldham continued, "Home is the most important place for a man to be affirmed. If a man knows that his wife believes in him, he is empowered to do better in every area of his life. A man tends to think of life as a competition and a battle, and he can energetically go duke it out if he can come home to someone who supports him unconditionally, who will... tell him he can do it... A husband can slay dragons, climb mountains, and win great victories if he believes that his wife believes that he can" (67, 68).

What is it your man craves? To know you are proud of him, that you respect him.

Want to rock his world tonight? Wonder what your man is craving this week? Watch him, look for the good things in him, ask God to show you them anew each day, them whisper them into your man's ears. Often. And tell others, aloud.

To start, in the comments below, tell me two things you love about your man today. (Then go tell him too!) Those reading in an email can click here to join the conversations. I love hearing from you, and doing life with you, friends.

Linking with Ann.

Photo credits to Microsoft. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What All Women Desperately Need

Coffee gurgles invitingly from the kitchen on my left, while jade plants hang low to the right of me, heavy with new growth. 

She came this week, on a night of icy rain. Glass image shards of her face flickered from corners of my glass-cut front door.

"It's hard to make friends sometimes," she murmured over hot citrus tea.We spoke of middle school and family moves, finding commonality in frequent goodbyes from our past. She and I laughed over husky cold voices and nagging coughs, grabbing runny-nose tissues.

"It's worth it -- this hurt of another goodbye. Friendships are," I said softly, a truth harvested from my own life. She agreed and swirled her tea. We talked more, laughing and getting to know each other.
- - - - - -
Another day this week, I raced out the door, juggling a platter of hummus and veggies, a crystal bowl of chocolates, and map directions to a friend's new house. Arriving breathless and late, I shrugged off my jacket, and grabbed them for tight hugs. "I've missed you!" I exclaimed into sweet-smelling hair.

Four young women idled in a pumpkin-hued kitchen and dining room, stirring creamy mac and cheese, assembling elegant cheeses on a plate, and dipping decadent truffles.

"We used to have a book club, but no one really read the book. Well, just two of us did. So then we changed it to a Pinterest party, so our husbands feel like we're being productive," she joked, "but really we just get together to eat food and talk." She went on to speak of a few projects that emerged from their times together, but you could see the deep camaraderie and history these women shared. Babies were passed and updated on with cheerful intimacy. Hugs and jokes were frequent and warm. At one point of the conversation, tears broke out among the four of us with relaxed naturalness, followed by laughter.

I nibbled on salty slices of romano cheese, and slid into creamy bites of brie. Over orange pepper slices and hummus, we spoke of lives, marriages, in-laws, and family. Having watched most of these women grow up over the years, I was proud of them, saw them as equals, and was humbled to be invited to join them. "We should invite So-and-So to join us," they mused among themselves, already seeing ways to spill out into others' lives. I grabbed some more blue brie before heading home to relieve my babysitting-daughter.

- - - - - -
Tonight I join two old-time friends of mine. Over fabulous salads and sandwiches in a two-storied glass restaurant, we will watch the cars and pedestrians pass by in the dark streets below. A red and green fluorescent dragon will arch his back against the building across the street, and we will unfold our lives together.

These friendships between women... we all need them. We can all start them, or continue them, or spill them out to others around us. Ask God to give you his eyes to see the people around you, then grab your calendar and your phone. "It's worth it"-- the time, the risk of pain, the investments. It's worth it.

Have you seen these two older posts on friendships? "Of Fires and Friendships: And How Do You Be a Good Friend?" and "Of Friendships and Peanut Butter."

Photos from Microsoft clip art.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How a Singing Surgeon Shapes my Marriage

Guitar chords squeak slightly as musician Chris Tomlin sings. Sips of creamy hot coffee slide smoothly down, warming a Minnesota January.

We have been craving worship these days, my man and I. Clicking through praise songs on Youtube like addicts in rehab, desperate, hungry.

Worship seems to be both the mirror and the balm. Words that speak of God's greatness mirror my own junk back to me, flashing light into my dark corners where I need the Healer to step in with scalpel and precision. After painstaking cuts, balm is needed... and applied.

Seven weeks of intense focus on our marriage, seven weeks of choosing to invest anew and to build an even more vibrant marriage. Seven weeks of taking introspective looks at the areas God needs to fix and build in us. Seven weeks of cuddling on the couch, frequent texts, whispered midnight talks in the dark, intentional dates of sushi and read-aloud books, and fierce hugs.

Dr. Willard Harley, well-known counselor and author, recommends couples spend fifteen hours a week in undivided attention with each other, and even simplifies the requirement with at least one hour of undivided attention a day, preferably more.

Wanting to continually strengthen our marriage, Mark and I are striving for this in 2013, carving time out of work, family, ministry, and homeschooling. Our teens roll their eyes or smile softly when they see us smooching in the kitchen, or hiding away from the world more often now, but we grin, text more, and see the results.

Join us this 2013? Take the one-hour-a-day challenge with us.

Start first with standing honestly before your God (and then your spouse), asking the Surgeon to perform surgery in your life, your heart, your mind. Then confess, apologize, and move forward  in gentle humility. It won't be easy or fun, but it is worth it.

Don't forget frequent doses of worship, as mirror and balm.

Sorry for my delay in posting this week, friends. My words have been fewer this season, but I am glad to have you here. God is a gentle, healing Surgeon. 

Linking with Emily. 

Photo credits

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Forty Days Later (For You and for Me)

 Forty days, a little over a month, of newborn snuggles and breastfeeding closeness...

Forty days of blissful "Look how sweet he is!" interspersed with exhaustion and sleep-deprivation.

Forty days of diapers, stolen naps, and fuzzy newborn kisses.

And somehow in there, the couple probably checked out of their hotel stable, stood in long lines at government offices, signed papers for the Roman census, and rued the way that donkey rides bounced painfully against still-tender regions. (And somewhere in there --since our ceramic nativity sets are wrong-- Mary and Joseph looked for a new place to live in town, and Joseph probably sought out and bid on some carpentry contracts, since the family was in a home when the wise men arrived sometime in the next twenty-four months.)

Just when life was falling into a routine, forty days had passed.

Fulfilling tradition and their Jewish upbringings, Mary and Joseph took one-month old Jesus from the hotel stable, or from their new home, to the fabulously-architected Jewish temple in big-city Jerusalem nearby. Just when the memories of angel visits and awestruck herdsmen may have been fading from the sleep-deprived parents' eyes, God Almighty issued a reminder.

This was no ordinary baby.

In a ceremony from millenia previous, the young couple brought the cheapest sacrifice allowed, scraping from their rent money the necessary amount to consecrate this baby back to God, thanking him for their son. Holding two birds they had bought from outside the temple, they lifted their baby high, waiting for the religious leaders to pray and bless the boy.

Suddenly tradition and ceremony halted. Breaking from the expected script, an older man stepped forward and cried out loudly, "Highest King of All, oh God. Just like you promised, I can now die a fulfilled man. I have seen with my own eyes what you talked about. Your plan from the beginning to rescue the world-- all people, all nations-- I have seen it now with my own eyes. This baby... this is no ordinary baby! He is your rescue plan from this darkness."

The old man spoke again, adding deeper, personal notes to the stunned mom and dad.

To add to the eerie temple scene, an eighty-four-year old woman, a familiar presence in the temple as a woman of prayer and worship, hobbled up, exclaiming exuberantly of similar promises and thanking God loudly.

Forty days may have passed since you last saw God move in huge ways. Life may be moving along along at a normal pace for you, for me. Life can easily fall into a routine, far from angel choruses and blinding lights.

But--when you want to hear from God anew, when you want to be reminded that this is no ordinary life, that you are indeed on a cosmic adventure with God--simply step back into the awareness of God's presence. Walk in, with hands held open. Into your church, or simply at your kitchen table with his Word spread wide, walk into his presence, and wait to hear the reminders of promises, of inexplicable joy, of a Story unfolding from the beginning of time.