Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter in the Time of Caronavirus

It's Easter.

We've been under an order by the state of Ohio to shelter in place for over a month now to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

We haven't sat in the church sanctuary in the same amount of time.

We watched Easter service from our couch.

No dresses, big lunch or tons of baked goods. 

Flour is too hard to find.

We have plans to order in for dinner since going to the grocery store requires a mask, gloves and waiting in long, measured out lines.

I miss my church family and my actual family, that we'd probably have driven out of state to see this Holy weekend.

But we made due, hiding the few plastic eggs we could find, 
not dying real eggs since we didn't want to waste any. 
We had to explain that some of the presents weren't shipped 
because they weren't deemed essential and were delayed.

This seems more authentic.

Talking about Mary seeing the resurrected Jesus first in our pajamas, the smell of bacon still in the air.

No rushing.

No fussing with new clothes.

No family pictures by the red bud tree 
because it's raining.

There's something in the air that feels like the Whos from Whoville just might start singing "Fah-who foris, dah-who doris" because, despite the Grinch, Easter came anyway, as it did all those years ago, without cellophane wrapped baskets and bows. It came without a big bunny bringing presents, tons of candy and food. It came without a special program at church and a packed sanctuary full of lillies. It came without gathering.



Easter came anyway.

Pared down, it feels bigger to me. More.

That in this time of sheltering in place and hunkering down, that we can see more clearly the honest truth of what it means that the tomb was empty.

It means what was thought of as defeat, wasn't.

It's actually victory.

It means that all who embrace the cross has new life.

It means change.

This is such a season for change.

Nothing is the same.

Some of us are handling that better than others.

Some of us are obeying the social distancing rules better than others.

Some of us are offering grace better than others.

Whole states are proving how important a governor is by the way they are being protected or not.

Churches as well.

It is so interesting to think how God is working in all of it.

Breaking down our love of schedules, 
busyness, 
achievement.

Eliminating our ability to ignore unhappiness, 
unhealthiness 
and denial.

It's been a test of what we think we have control of.

This melting away of comfort, 
influence, 
hustle 
and noise.

Importance, 
meetings, 
appearances 
and tradition.

What remains is so true and pure it hurts.

It is heroism, 
kindness, 
encouragement 
and love.

It's neighbors delivering food and support to one another.

It's long walks and phone calls.

It's FaceTime and Zoom.

It's gratitude for the helpers like teachers and first responders.

It's health.

It's an invitation to take a step towards who we were always intended to be.

It's an empty tomb.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Packing the Tambourine

Fear is a funny thing. It makes us do and not do the craziest things. Fear made someone buy cart loads of antibacterial hand sanitizer and fear struck in the heart of the person who saw them do it so they did the same. And so on and so on and so on and now NO ONE can buy hand sanitizer because people are literally hoarding it. Fear loves company. Works best in mobs.

Fear will keep you from living your life, hugging your neighbor, shaking a hand. Fear will put a barrier between you and anyone else and it will justify itself over and over and over again until you don't leave the house.

Some fear is important. We should fear lions and guns and spending more than we earn.

But if we sit around and think about the worst case scenarios every day, that isn't living. It's dooms day prepping--with or without the bunker full of beef jerky, hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

 I recently read Melanie Shankle's new book, "On the Bright Side" where she referenced a story in Exodus that changed how I look at fear and my community.

I am blessed to be surrounded by a community of God-loving women. I have more opportunities to be part of studies, groups and prayer than I have time for. I sometimes let that fact stress me out (I can  suffer from FOMO, fear of missing out, which might be the silliest of all fears).

In Exodus 15:19-20 Moses and his people, including his sister, Miriam, had just crossed the Red Sea safely thanks to God who kindly parted it. Their enemies who were chasing them did not, thanks again to God who promptly put the sea right back together again.

After Moses and his people were safely on the other side, Miriam and other women grabbed their tambourines and began playing music and dancing in celebration and praise of what had just
happened.



There are a few things I find fascinating about that:

1) THE WOMEN PACKED THEIR TAMBOURINES.
If you know this story in the bible, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for a long time and Moses pleaded for their release many times but the Pharaoh always said no, until now. They didn't have much time to pack, because it was likely Pharaoh would change his mind. IT WAS GO TIME. So the fact that Miriam and so many other women quickly assessed their belongings and decidedly included the tambourine is amazing. It was typical after a battle to celebrate victory with tambourines and dancing. So in the midst of a very scary exit with lots of unknowns, like food, water and shelter, these women planned on needing some music for a victory celebration in the future. They packed for it. They packed for joy. They packed for dancing. They packed for celebration. They packed for victory. THEY DID NOT PACK FOR FEAR.

2) THEY PROCESSED THEIR FEELINGS THROUGH MUSIC AND DANCING. I imagine after I ran across a dry ocean floor after being pursued by an enemy who got swallowed right up by the same ocean, I'd need a minute or a week to lie down and recover. But no, these women planned on the victory. So they unpacked their tambourines. "Miriam sang to them: Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea." Exodus 15:21 (NIV)
Talk about a worship time!

Right before that, Exodus 15:20 (NIV) says, "Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing."

This made me incredibly grateful for the faith-filled women in my life. The ones so excited about their bible studies, book clubs and prayer times that they think enough of me to invite me in. They are tambourine packers.

They are the ones who praise God not just after the storm but during it. And they encourage me to do the same.

3) THEIR TAMBOURINE PACKING WAS ENCOURAGEMENT. 
It occurred to me that when Miriam and her fellow tambourine packers, were running along that ocean floor with raging walls of water on either side of them, that they might have heard the muffled rattling jingles of their tambourines in their backpacks (or whatever time appropriate carry-ons they used). And it wasn't just one tambourine. The above verse said ALL THE WOMEN, so that means a lot of tambourines were rattling and jingling across the Red Sea. What a wonderful soundtrack of encouragement to keep going. Keep going even if you are scared. Keep moving towards victory. There will be a time for music. There will be a time for dancing. Keep moving towards joy. Anticipation. Celebration.

I am so thankful to be in a community of tambourine packers. Because it wasn't just that the women looked at Miriam and thought, hey, that looks fun, I think I'll join in. They had their own tambourines because they had packed them as well. They anticipated the goodness of God. They had faith. They had hope.

We need that. We need people around us who anticipate God's goodness. Who are packed with hope and faith and ready to unpack and celebrate at a moment's notice. It's the best kind of contagious. We can be that person for others but by golly, we need a village of dancers willing to whip out their tambourines to encourage us. God knew life would be more livable with hope. Victory much sweeter with music. So He gave us Miriam to show us that we too, can be tambourine packers.

So we find ourselves in the middle of a world trying to scare us to death.

Am I planning for joy? 
Dancing? 
Celebration? 
Victory? 
Am I anticipating the goodness of God? 

Have I packed my tambourine?

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Dear Young Mom Me

****[I got asked to write an article to younger moms on rest by the youth pastor at my church. I found as I wrote, that my tone was yelling because I was writing to me.
So I decided to structure it as a letter. A letter to myself.]

I so wish that I had someone in my mom life early on to tell me it was all going to be ok. Before you go feeling sorry for this younger version of myself, I had a supportive mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and aunt who was speaking encouragement and life to me. Not to mention countless friends. But they all lived far away.

When I was nine months pregnant, Monte got a fantastic job opportunity in Columbus, Ohio. We were living in Atlanta. The nursery was painted and ready. The onesies were already washed and folded in the dresser. This was not what we planned.

We moved to Columbus sight unseen just one month after I had given birth. One month. We didn't know a single soul. No one.

This letter is what I wished someone would've told me then.

Dear Young Mom Me,

YOU ARE DOING GREAT! 

Seriously. You are! No one knows how to do this right away. Motherhood is a process. You will learn as you go, what each cry means, poop color and reason they are sleeping so long at nap time. But hear this:  the meaning is rarely death. No matter what the makers of each new baby gadget says, YOUR BABY WILL NOT DIE if you don't use their gadget. The marketing of these companies prey on us poor insecure moms and they'd stop doing it if it wasn't effective. Don't fall for it!!

Do yourself a favor and stop beating yourself up for not doing whatever latest fad on the internet says about parenting. And don't judge others for not doing mothering the way you do. OFFER YOURSELF GRACE. It will be easier to extend to others once you do and you will be a whole lot more fun to be around.

FIND COMMUNITY. 

Instead of obsessing over your baby 24/7, look for people to do life with. It will be healing to be transparent in friendships with people that understand and not judge. Surround yourself not only with women in the same life stage as you, but also with women who are just a step or two ahead in parenting stages and some who are WAY ahead. They will make all the difference. They will know why you are overwhelmed by teething and can offer advice and bring you a lot of peace that no one actually dies during potty training. The not dying thing is big with you. CHILL OUT.

By the time you have your second child, your community will be firmly in place and you will be a completely different parent:  calmer, more grace-filled and way less lonely. [SPOILER:  you have another girl, so those instincts telling you it was going to be a boy were WAY OFF. But your girls become best of friends. It's going to be a blast to watch.]

Community will be your recharge after a sleepless night when the kids have the stomach flu. Or ALL the laundry everyday. [TIP:  Deem spaghetti night "Naked Spaghetti" because the laundry is not worth it afterward. And it's fun for them to come to the table wearing nothing but a pull-up and Cinderella undies. Trust me, those memories are precious.] 

God knew what He was doing when He gave us each other. Enjoy the gift of community.

BE INTENTIONAL

With sleep, boundaries and recharging. 

Rest, already!

You are not being lazy if you nap when the baby does. Do it! The dishes can wait. So can the shower. I know the temptation is to stay up late to talk with Monte at night and feel like not everything about your world has changed, but have a bedtime. YOU ARE NO GOOD WITHOUT SLEEP. [This never changes for you.]

And when the kids are older you will learn the magic of rest. Keep the house quiet when they are at school. It will calm your mind, body and soul. Read in a quiet house without the TV or radio on. Your kids are loud--they get it from you. You will be able to tolerate that fact so much better having had a moment of rest each day.

Boundaries.

Rest is also being intentional about having margin in your life. Boundaries. Don't fill every moment of your day with activity. I know you hate being bored, but let me say this clearly:  no kid wants to be in 3,000 activities. Neither should you. Seek God's wisdom in how you spend your time.

Learn to say no. 

You will struggle with this. You don't have to be the room mom at school, president of PTO or in charge of the bake sale. You don't have to watch your friend's kids or teach Sunday School if that sucks the joy right out of your soul. I know you love to do different things but know yourself. If something is life-giving, go for it, but don't let yourself be sucked in to something you don't really have the time, interest or energy for. You will be asked to do some neat things and be apart of fun groups. Pray hard for discernment and wait for a clear answer. 

Remember:  your children are your full-time ministry. No, that doesn't mean you start preaching 3-point sermons to them (save it for when they hit middle school) but just remember that you are doing life with them just like you are the people in your bible study and small group. Make time with them. Be present with them fully and not distracted by all the things you said yes to that you should've said no. Start to view decisions through the lens of how it will affect your ministry. It's a game changer.

Recharge

Yes, this is different than rest. It can be lunch with a friend or a date with yourself at a coffee shop to catch up on reading or writing or just people watching. It could be prayer or listening to worship songs while on a long walk. It could be a spinning class. Painting. Making a wreath. [You will make so many wreaths.] It could be going to see a movie all by yourself. It could be walking around Target all by yourself. [You will love this to no end.]

Laugh. Nothing restores you better than a good, hearty laugh. Be intentional about it. [Hearing you and Monte laughing after putting them to bed will become a fond memory of your girls.]

Call a girlfriend. Plan a weekend away with your husband. Then plan a weekend away with your girlfriends. I promise, both will restore you.

One last thing:   The Lord is in this with you. He loves you. He's rooting for you. He put those particular babies in your life for a reason. [SPOILER:  They grow up running after Jesus hard.] So rest in Him--not in your own abilities to do this mother thing. Him. He sees the whole entire picture in His hands.

It gets easier, I promise. [Until they become teenagers.]

One more spoiler:  [YOU WILL GO BLONDE!]



Much love and laughs,

Old(er) Mom Me

























Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Little Drummer Boy

A friend posted a clip of For King and Country playing "The Little Drummer Boy" on television.

Oh my goodness. 

What an amazing performance! A completely different version of the song and I loved every minute of it!





I've never wanted to play the drums more in my life.

Give me a shot at that big one.

That could be a great stress reliever.

All this reminded me of something I wrote several years ago about this song, so I thought I'd repost it.

Then He Smiled At Me

I was listening to the radio the other morning and the song “The Little Drummer Boy” came on.

I’ve heard it a million times.

I’ve sang it a million times.

I watched the claymation movie when I was younger.

SOURCE

But I’ve never really paid attention to the lyrics.

I mean REALLY paid attention.

Read them:

Little Drummer Boy: Lyrics
Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum 
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum 
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum 
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum, 
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum, 
When we come. 

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum 
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum 
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum 
That's fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum, 
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, 

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum, 
On my drum? 

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum 
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum 
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum 
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum, 
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, 

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum 
Me and my drum.



I had no idea that this song was about realizing our purpose.

Let me explain.


“I am a poor boy too”

Don’t you love that this line says, “too”?


That means that the drummer boy recognized that our King of Kings was right then, right there, “slumming it” in a manger.


He could have had all the material things of this world.

But he was lying in a manger.

The drummer boy could relate to that.

God is so good to meet us right where we are.

No matter who we are.


“I have no gift to bring,
That’s fit to give the King.”

Havent we all, at some point, felt "not good enough"?

But the pure humbleness of the little drummer boy’s “not good enough” revealed his ultimate need for a savior. That on his own, he was destined for death and that through this baby, death would be overcome.


I could see how the drummer boy would be overwhelmed 
with a gift big enough, 
appropriate enough, 
worthy enough, 
of such a sacrifice.

One day, in heaven, we will feel the same when we are presented with crowns bejeweled. We will be thoroughly aware our own unworthiness, so much so, that we will cast those crowns right at the feet of Jesus, the only one worthy.  (Revelation 4: 9-11.)


“Shall I play for you… on my drum?”


Of course, the only gift the drummer boy could offer is the very gift hed received from the one he desired to play for.


And I love that he asked permission.

Seeking the will of God.


And he waited to receive it.


“Mary nodded”

Speaking for her son and her savior, 


too young to speak on His own, 


using the Spirit to prompt her to nod, yes.

“The ox and lamb kept time”

Can you even imagine?

I envision them like a swaying gospel choir filling in behind the manger and the the little drummer boy.

…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2: 10-11


“I played my drum for Him.
I played my best for Him."

SOURCE


This isn’t about giving a gift.

It’s about using our gifts.

About honoring the King, Jesus, 
with the gifts He’s given us.

The part that struck me the most when really listening to the lyrics was:


“Then He smiled at me."

Isn’t that amazing?

He smiled! This tiny, new born baby, smiled in encouragement at the little drummer boy!

SOURCE


This baby,
 our King, 
made flesh, 
yet still God, 
recognized the gift offering of 
the little drummer drumming his drum.

Pa rum pum pum pum

“Then He smiled at me.”

While this very human baby was in need of all the care a newborn requires,


He was still God, who is love

and he couldn’t help but smile at the little drummer boy.

Not in a thumbs-up-I-am-the-Roman-emperor-and-I-am-pleased kind of way.

But in an encouraging-attaboy-yay kind of way.

How could He not?

This young boy, had it right.

He didn’t scramble to buy something he couldn’t afford 
in an attempt to impress the King.

He didn’t try to add up all his good deeds in a 
performance report for the King.

He didn’t run away assuming he could never 
be good enough for the King.

In fact, he didn’t think his gift was 
“not good enough” at all. 

He simply asked permission to offer it.

“Then He smiled at me.”

Not because it was the greatest drum solo ever.

But because it was the
Greatest. 
Moment. 
Ever.

Being in the presence of the Lord,

offering back what we’ve been given.
And we get that opportunity every day.

We just have to recognize it.


Monday, November 25, 2019

Who You Gonna Call??

Ghostbusters!

It was such a busy time after Halloween that I didn't get a chance to post our annual family Halloween pictures.



I ordered the work jumpsuits from Amazon on the cheap and found the iron on patches there as well. I did iron them on but I think I could peel them off if we need to use these jumpsuits for a future costume.

We snagged Monte's Slimer inflatable online and on sale this summer.


For our power packs, I spray painted squirt guns that I found on Amazon. They are still functional, but I'm a little worried they look like legit weapons now.


Our local high school is under construction so it made the perfect backdrop for some ghost busting. My neighbor Julie took the pictures.

True story:  the school was built on top of a graveyard and it is believed that not all of the buried were moved to another location back in the 1960s when the original school was built. Should make for some interesting digging…

Back to the Ghostbusters.

Ellie

McDaniel


Me


I just know Monte is smiling under that green hood.


This is my absolute favorite picture. It looks like Slimer is posing for his senior pictures with the fall foliage resting artfully on his green arm.

I'm 100% positive he's smiling here.



What is Slimer doing with his fingers?




At our street's annual Spooky Supper, the little kids kept asking why Monte was green and not an actual ghost if we were called Ghostbusters. 

Good point! 








That's a wrap for 2019 Halloween.

Stay tuned for 2020…
Monte has a GREAT idea!

Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Online Auction Site Couch

A dear sweet girl I got to know through my small group needed to use my car to pick up a couch she bought through an online auction site.

I am not familiar with online auction sites other than eBay.

These auctions are local and there is no shipping or frills of any kind.

At all.

But she got the couch for an incredible price.

I told her she could of course use my car but the mom in me wouldn't let her go alone.

Ellie got home from school just as Meghan was arriving so we roped her into coming along.

Ellie is really strong.

We learned that on day one of kickboxing class 
when the instructor, Dino, 
who was a former cage fighter, 
came out into the lobby of the gym to tell me 
he was excited to work with Ellie to see 
"where she could go" with her fighting potential 
because she was "super strong".

We didn't pursue it.

Anyhoo…

we drove to the middle of nowhere to a warehouse where we were told to pull around the back.

There was a line of cars fighting for a handful of parking spots.

We noticed right away that people were walking into the warehouse with their own dollies and carts for carrying out their auction purchases.

There were a lot of trucks and big cargo vans.

I got a little nervous about carrying a couch to the far away parking spot that my normal size Honda Pilot was parked.

We walked up a loading ramp into the warehouse. There was a long line for people to check in and pay for their items.

All around us were piles and piles of stuff.

Some in boxes, some not. 

Things like kitchen vanities, 
chairs, faucets, credenzas, toys 
and a large dented cage with a picture of a raccoon, opossum 
and some other animal I couldn't quite identify. 

It was a lot to take in.

Ellie and I announced we needed to go to the bathroom.

We looked around and quickly realized this was not the type of place that would provide a restroom for us while we waited.

The friendly lady in front of us with sassy purpley grayish hair, explained how everything worked. She said she'd been bidding on auction items for four months and got things like a crib for $4.

She was there to pick up a nightlight for $2. 

The line was LONG. 

She said we could get a dolly in a different line if we didn't bring our own but that line was long as well and for one of us to go ahead and get in it.

I volunteered.

I noticed that everyone in the dolly line in front of me had a piece of paper and their driver's license out.

Hmmm…

An older man missing an arm walked over and grabbed a dolly without waiting in line, showing a piece of paper or ID. He was quickly yelled at and made to return the dolly.

With his one and only arm he theatrically waved off the scolding as he walked away.

I went back to Ellie and Meghan in the other line to tell them that these warehouse people don't play.

Once Meghan paid and received the very important piece of paper, we were told to look for aisle 5 and for Sherman.

All the signs were hand drawn with a Sharpie on pieces of cardboard.

We had to step over a few things, 
but we found aisle 5.

We found a sign that said "Sherman's Stuff" or something equally as identifying, but no Sherman.

A woman in an official looking vest told us to wait behind a handwritten sign that was taped to an orange cone that said something like "Christy's people wait here".

Other people were in line and asked if we were looking for Sherman. When we said yes, one guy said Sherman wasn't there and Christy was taking over.

Ellie said, "Classic Sherman," under her breath and I almost peed my pants.

Everything after that became super funny 
and a threat to my bladder control.

Christy showed us where to find the ENORMOUS box that contained Meghan's couch and where we'd need to put it while we got a cart.

The box was standing on its end wedged tightly between other couch boxes.

Right next to the boxes was a pile of plastic rolls. The kind of plastic you'd put down before gravel for a walkway or something.

Meghan went after it and got the box on its side on the pile of plastic rolls quickly.

Getting the box turned around so we could carry it through the narrow area between all the other boxes standing on the plastic rolls was a true test to our strength, faith and my old bladder.

But we did it.

Ellie and I waited by the box while Meghan got a cart.

They kept her ID until we returned the cart. 

Like I said earlier, 
these warehouse people don't play.

All three of us got the couch box onto the cart and I pushed it.

When we approached the ramp down to the parking lot, I feared the whole thing would get away from me.

Of course, there was an elderly man using a walker climbing up the middle of the ramp.

I was already in motion and couldn't be stopped. 

I looked at Ellie and she said something like she "just couldn't" and looked away.

The elderly man did the math 
and moved out of the way
just in time.

Thank you, Lord.

Good thing because it was quite a swift ride down the ramp.

As we approached the car, it became apparent that box wasn't going to fit.

But we tried, 
with lots of advice and encouragement 
from those around.

We got the box in but the hatch wouldn't close. A sweet older gentleman asked if I had any ties.

I wasn't completely sure what he meant but I went ahead and assumed I didn't.

He disappeared and reappeared with a rope and instructions on how to tie my hatch down.

We had to drive home ON THE INTERSTATE, in rush hour traffic. 

I didn't like the idea that the only thing 
holding that big box in my car 
was a skinny yellow rope.

We decided to take the couch out of the box.

That involved lots of pulling and ripping and grunting and sliding 
and more instructions from all the parking lot people near us.

We got the couch back in the car 
and the hatch still wouldn't close. 

One of the parking lot people suggested moving up our seats in the front to allow more room.

It worked!!!

We all cheered.

As Meghan pushed the cart back to the warehouse to retrieve her ID, Ellie and I looked for a dumpster to get rid of the enormous couch box. None could be found so I scooted it out of the way and hoped someone would know what to do with it the next day.

Maybe Sherman, if he was back.

I'm not sure when it occurred to us that there were only two seats available for three people, but Ellie volunteered to hunker down in the "space" by the couch.



If it weren't for all the plastic and extremely tight quarters, she could've just laid right on the couch.



We took off on a mission to find a restroom before we hit the interstate.

Many tense minutes and a tricky turn later, we pulled into a gas station that had restrooms in a separate shed-like building behind the actual gas station.

It was the kind of place where I imagine murders happen.

I made sure everyone stayed close enough 
to hear my screams.

So happy none of us were murdered using the restroom.


Once we were back on the road, we started to unpack what had just happened.

We couldn't believe how cheap Meghan got her couch, 
that it actually fit into my car 
and how nice everyone was to us.

Ellie's voice was muffled as she chimed in because she was lying down crammed against a couch.

The whole thing was funny.

But God bless shipping and delivery.


Monday, October 21, 2019

The Hawk and the Vulture


The other day Monte and I were driving down our street and saw a hawk perched on top of a Ford Explorer.

We have many tall trees on our street and found it odd that a bird known for its eyesight would choose such a low spot for its perch.



A saying my mom pinned on my bulletin board growing up came to mind.

"If you want to soar with the eagles, don't run with the turkeys."

Minutes later, I saw two enormous vultures picking apart some road kill in the middle of the street.



They barely got out of my way so I could drive past them. 

I got the side eye from one.



These birds weren't far apart.

The hawk and the vultures.

Are they ever?

How many times do we settle for a much worse view because it's easier, less scary and won't upset someone in our life?

We know we are capable of soaring high enough to get a better view 
but we hang out on top of a Ford Explorer, telling ourselves it's fine. 

It's good enough. 

It's just a season.

Meanwhile, there are turkey vultures super close by ripping the guts out of what used to be a opossum. And they'll have no trouble picking you off your low perch next.

Why are we running when we could be flying?

Why are we compromising our entire view?

We may not know it but we were meant to soar.

Maybe we do know it 
but don't know what to do about it.

Stop. Running. With. The. Turkeys.

They don't want you to soar.

They are so afraid you might leave the comforts of that Ford Explorer 
that they make you think you could never leave. 

They create so much drama you don't feel like it's the right time to spread your wings. 

They are so busy trying to control your wings, they don't even think about flying themselves.

Meanwhile, 
the vultures are circling.

The fact is, we live in a world with hawks and vultures and turkeys.

Soar.

Don't lower your skills for anyone.

Soar.

Don't dim your light.

Soar.

Don't lessen an inch of your awesome.

Soar.


Friday, May 17, 2019

In the Basement of an Office Building

As we pulled into the office building parking lot, Ellie got the text. It said that a transgender gentleman would be joining the facial night.

We'd been invited by the woman Ellie babysits for to a facial night put on by one of those companies that sells cosmetics and skin care online through consultants.

We walked into the room wondering if we'd be able to pick out who the transgender gentleman was. In my own ignorance, I was thinking along the lines of a made up drag queen like RuPaul or Nathan Lane as Starina in The Bird Cage.

Right away we saw an older gentleman with slightly longish curly gray hair wearing a beret, hot pink fingernail polish, a full length shiny black leotard and heels two sizes too big.

He did not look like RuPaul.

He looked like someone's uncle Al.

His voice was low and mannish as he asked lots of questions about skin care and makeup during the facial.

The consultant leading the facial apologized for mixing the pronouns when talking to him.

"It's ok," he said, 
"I look like a man."

Throughout the night, as we tried on various eyeshadows, lip color and blushes, he was so encouraging.

He complimented each of us individually in the room.

I couldn't help but laugh when he asked what the deal was with lip plumpers.

I've always wondered the same thing.

He was probably in his late 60s, worried about keeping up, fighting aging, hanging on to youth.

I could relate.

When we all showed off our completed facials, in a little parade around the room, he, scooting along in his too-big-for-him heels said,

"I look like a woman!"

Now, this is when I could've lost it and fell into a puddle of laughter, but I found it just so touching.

Somehow, this man felt beautiful, maybe for the first time.

Don't we all want that?

I tried to think of someway I could encourage him before we all went our separate ways.

All that came out was,

"Thank you for your encouraging words."

The love and respect the consultants showed him was inspiring.

The grace he showed them back was humbling.

I don't have all this figured out, but I don't have to.

I am called to love

and I saw that on full display in the basement of an office building 
on a Thursday night last week.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Things You Can Learn From Spring Break

Nothing says home to Monte like high humidity, hot temperatures, sandy beaches and the weirdness that only true native Floridians can view as normal.

Like the sinking boat we watched from our ocean front condo the first night we arrived in Florida for Spring Break.

The people stayed with the boat until it was towed. It was completely dark
before the tow boat came. The people never left their ship--even when there was only
a tiny bit of it left to sit on.


Monte had us watch it like TV.

The drunk twenty-something dude named Chandler who stumbled onto the grassy area by our condo's pool, set his beer down and then stood, both arms straight out in front of him for a longish period of time. Several twenty-something dudes from a balcony near by started hollering,

"Chandler, no! No, Chandler! You will NOT have a place to sleep tonight if you do it! No, Chandler! You can't stay here if you do it!"

Monte, Ellie and I all looked at each other wondering 
if we were going to watch Chandler die 
or be horribly maimed.

We didn't dare move.

The boat was still sinking.

After a ridiculously long time, Chandler finally moved, grabbed his beer and slurred loudly to the balcony of guys something about crab grass.

Yeah, that crab grass, 
THAT'S what was going to hurt you, 
Chandler.

Monte even felt a hint of nostalgia when we saw an old man walking on the beach in a thong bathing suit.

We thought he was naked at first because of his ample belly.

Note to anyone contemplating a thong bathing suit:  
DON'T. 

"You won't have a place to sleep tonight if you do it!"

Other than the drunk Chandler issue the first night, we did NOT experience ANYTHING like the college madhouse of our Spring Break 2018.

Thank the good Lord!

Our condo was filled with older people and families.

Each floor of our building had a laundry room.

Monte walked by one day and noticed a pair of granny panties that had been dropped by the laundry room door.

His reaction was compassion for the poor woman who had to discover her drawers were being seen by everyone on the 2nd floor.

We both commented that if that discovery had been made last year in our hotel madhouse, it would've meant something ENTIRELY DIFFERENT and we would've reported it to the security guards.

What a lovely, fantastic, incredible 
difference a year and new location makes.

We thoroughly enjoyed the warm sunny weather, 
the beach and reading most of the day.

In the morning, Monte and I liked to sit on the balcony and watch the birds.

There was one noisy bird who sat on the globe of a light from the pool patio squawking to let the big black birds know that they were not welcome.

The noisy bird was much smaller than the black birds and his tail stood straight up, near his head, as if he was always in a salute/attention position.



We named him Sentinel.

After some research, 
we think he was a mockingbird.

He had no problem dive bombing and chasing out of his territory any black bird who dared to come near the pool area.

Their flying capabilities was Top Gun at its best.

Every day it was the same thing, 
the chasing, 
dive bombing, 
squawking, 
defending, 
always on guard.

It seemed as if the mockingbird won each day,
successful in keeping the black birds at bay 
yet not deterring them to try again as soon as the sun came up. 

It was fascinating 
and great entertainment for us.

What a great reminder that size doesn't matter 
when it comes to defending our territory.


While we were watching them one afternoon, we saw a flock of colorful birds fly overhead and we heard someone say they were wild parakeets.

What was this place where colorful parakeets flew free??

Monte was sitting on the balcony alone when he saw a seagull fly close by with an enormous muffin in its beak.

No less than the entire population of seagulls in Florida was hot on his trail behind him.


Not only did we get some much needed down time, but a week at the beach showed us:

to not jump ship, but to fully wait out the rescue, 

surround ourselves with friends who will talk us out of dumb decisions,

to never wear a thong bathing suit,

and to STAND OUR GROUND,
aware of what wants to steal, kill and destroy,
not so that we live in fear, but so we can live life to the fullest.

(John 10:10)

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Raunchy Grandmothers and Busty Fictional Women

Ellie is in an AP Language class.

She recently worked on a paper about a short story they had to read.

I read it too, because I like that kind of thing.

Ellie worked super hard on the paper.

I proofed early drafts of it but she turned it in without me seeing the final draft.

The other night, her and her friend were at the kitchen island, staring at the screen of Ellie's laptop, reading the teacher's responses to the assignment.

Ellie was curious about a certain comment the teacher made to a word she used to describe the woman in the story.

BUSTY.

No where in the story was there any reference to the woman's physical appearance other than she was tall and plain.

I think busty would've come up.

I asked Ellie if she knew what busty meant and she said,

"Husky."

No…

I told her that wasn't implied in the story either
and, FOR THE LOVE OF PETE
not a word usually used to describe women.

For me, husky meant a jeans size 
at Sears for bigger boys.

Which is terrible.

Her friend didn't know what busty meant either.

I explained and they dissolved into giggles.

Is it possible, busty is a dead adjective?

Not that I'm mad about it…

But how is it that in one generation a word just STOPS being used?

Now, I know, the world needs a good many words to stop being used, but how is it that BUSTY was chosen and not some of the others?

It made me think of McDaniel and how she used the word RAUNCHY because she thought it meant fancy in a tribute essay, for school, to describe my sweet, proper, Christian grandmother.

My grandmother never did anything EVER in a remotely raunchy way.

Including saying the word "cancer" 
or "the sugar" (diabetes) 
or "divorced" above a whisper.

What happened to using a dictionary?



I was just talking with girlfriends about how we took 
HUGE, heavy dictionaries to college with us.

Some were gifted them.

Now there's access to one on the phone.

There is literally NO EXCUSE for using words we don't know the meaning of or even slightly question.

Yet, here we are with raunchy grandmothers and busty fictional women IN MY HOUSE.

It paints a picture, doesn't it?

One my grandmother would be too horrified to look at.

Friday, March 01, 2019

P

McDaniel had an encounter with a guy in a restaurant in her college town.

She and her male Young Life co-leader were sitting at a table reading the bible.

A young man who resembled Bob Marley, walked right over to McDaniel in the restaurant, looked her in the eye and said,

"Hey, I know I'm not good with words and all 
but you are pretty as @#!*$."

He went on to say she was beautiful, amazing, and that he hoped she was as cool as she looked. 

She assured me that she had her hair up in a bun, 
no make up on 
and was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. 

She wondered if he was really talking to her.

He called himself P and thanked her and her friend for not calling him Pete.



P looked at her co-leader and informed him that he was in love with McDaniel and they were going to get married. 

"That's the love of your life! 
You are going to marry her!"


P was pretty excited about it.


No matter how they tried to tell him they were just friends, co-leaders in ministry, he insisted that history was happening tonight, they were in fact, in love, and going to get married.

P was so sure of it that he slapped a total stranger in the chest, pointed to McDaniel's table, and told the guy that he was watching history!

The guy didn't rise to P's level of interest or enthusiasm.

P went to the counter of the restaurant to order food and McDaniel and her co-leader tried to process what had just happened.

They laughed.

They freaked out a little.

They felt awkward.

They noticed P never blinked.

They caught P looking at them from across the restaurant and he whispered,

"That's your wife, man! 
THAT'S YOUR WIFE!"

They were amazed that they could hear him!

They wondered if he was some sort of 
dreadlocked prophet who never blinked.



He came back and asked what they were reading.

They explained it was the bible.

His response,

"You know the letter J?
The letter J is 500 years old! 
That's heavy, that's heavy!
If the letter J is 500 years old, how old is Jesus?
Think about that. THINK ABOUT THAT.
That's heavy!
We have to deal with this."




They answered that Jesus was older than 500.

McDaniel's friend asked what P believed.

"I believe that God knows I don't understand everything."

Whoa.


Then P turned to the two inebriated guys sitting near him and announced,

"These two are reading the bible! What are YOU doing?"

McDaniel feared a confrontation.

Then P focused on one of the guys and said,

"You are amazing! You are incredible!"

The guy looked like he was ready to fight him 
but didn't.

P mentioned how old the letter J was again (500 years old), how much he loved them, that his love was genuine and he loved their love for each other.

"Me and my mom were driving tonight and saw a UFO, 
that's heavy. She was in the military. Think about that."

P asked where McDaniel and her friend were from. They asked where he was from.

"Everywhere."

Then he left.

McDaniel and her friend were left with many questions.

Where was P really from?

What does P do?

Wait. A UFO?!?

P has a mom?!



After McDaniel finished telling me this story over the phone, she told me she had this feeling she's going to run into P 30 years from now, somewhere completely random, and he's going to look exactly the same and he's going to say the exact same things to her.

I was retelling this story to friends the other night and we all wondered about P.

Not if he'd been sniffing Sharpies or drinking some mushroom tea, but how was it that he was so free to speak in such an affirming way to people?

Strangers.

He looked at people like he really saw them (and not just because he didn't blink).

He spoke life to people, not just compliments.

It seems harder to receive 
yet impossible to forget.

What if that drunk guy who P called amazing and incredible, was hearing that for the first time?

What if, for a second, he believed it?

What if the goodness P exuded inspired someone that night to pay it forward?

What if someone overheard that God knows that we don't understand everything and it made all the difference?

What if Jesus has dreadlocks?

Oh, I am not claiming P is Jesus.

But he sure loved like Him in that restaurant.
Yes, I know he used explicit language, he didn't blink, and the letter J is way older than 500 years, 

but I know God uses flawed and broken people all the time to impact His kingdom.

God looks at us and really sees us as we truly are, not how we feel.

In Judges 6:12, an angel of God appeared to Gideon and called him a mighty warrior even though he was hiding, scared on the threshing floor.

God sent a messenger to remind Gideon who he truly was, not how he felt.

That's heavy.

In Hebrews 13:2 it reminds us to always entertain strangers because they might be angels.

Think about that. 
And in Mark 12 we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

THINK ABOUT THAT.

I don't know who P is or what his motivation was that night, but I won't soon forget him and I wasn't even there.

And he is WAY better with words than he thinks he is.






Easter in the Time of Caronavirus

It's Easter. We've been under an order by the state of Ohio to shelter in place for over a month now to prevent the spread of the ...