Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Authentic You

We had a beautiful snowy Christmas. I think my first one ever. Oregon's Willamette Valley isn't known for white winters.

I gazed out the window at the hushed landscape, every brush, shrub and tree covered with the fluffy stuff and smiled. Oregonians tend to get a wee bit tired of the gloomy days where a peek out the window shows tired foliage slumping with the wetness that drips onto the sodden ground.

But as the temperature warmed up, the snow melted and all that was underneath began to show through. Slushy, dirty snow replaced the pristine crispness of the day before.

It reminded me of how easily we try to pretty up our junk and put on a smiling face to show everyone that all is well in our world. But the fa├žade cracks and our hurts and scars start to show through.

God didn't design us to hide who we are. He didn't create a world of perfection for us to try to mold ourselves into.

If we buy into the world's lie that we must look a certain way, or that our spouses or children must perform to a certain standard of excellence, we will hide behind a persona.

We will fear being authentic in case we don't measure up.

The fear of rejection causes us to isolate. Oh, not in the sense that we shun being around people or don't have close friends.

I mean in the sense that we don't bring all of us into those relationships. Do we love the core of who we are enough to trust others to accept us too?

I reached a cross road a couple years back where I was faced with that question. And the answer was a sad no. I didn't trust others with the real me, because I didn't like her either.

I had a rigid standard of excellence that I held myself to and rarely measured up. So I pushed those parts away and tried to be someone I thought others would accept. But it's difficult to live in fractured pieces—hiding the parts that you don't like or don't think others will accept.

It's not until you bring those parts into relationship with God and others (safe, trustworthy others) that you can be whole.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Bridges or Regrets

I went to tuck my ten-year-old daughter in at bedtime and saw a mass of orange peels balanced precariously on the top of her headboard. My hackles lifted (we've had a few carpet issues from her forgotten fruit remnants).

What I had intended as a sweet mom / daughter huggy end to our day, became a frustrated diatribe about how annoyed I get when she continues to eat in her room when we've asked her not to.

Head lowered in shame and monosyllabic answers didn't get me any closer to understanding why this sweet child won't comply with a basic rule.

I stalked out of her room after an obligatory hug and a muttered, "Goodnight. I love you."

Several hours later as I headed for my own bed, I thought about our interaction. Remorse welled up inside. I wished I had built a bridge to her rather than berated her for doing it wrong . . . again.

I repented to the Lord. I told him how sorry I was for talking to her the way I did. And I heard the echo of my own words to her held gently in the Lord's hands. "Then why did you?"

In a nano-second God's mirror reflected my own attitude back to me. "If you knew it was wrong, then why did you talk to her that way?"

I answered Him with the only thought that came into my brain. "My flesh."

My flesh chooses sinfulness. Not because it wants to hurt someone or be disobedient but because it's my nature. I sensed His gentle nod and smile as the revelation hit.

Where I was taking my daughter's sinful choice as a personal affront, there had been nothing personal intended.

She has a flesh like me. Like you. We're fallen creatures in need of a Father's forgiveness and love.

And He's waiting with arms open wide.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Grace and Brussels Sprout

My youngest son threw his dinner in the sink on the sly after we'd left the room. It was a huge bummer as we'd been planning on playing games as a family and he was now headed for an early bedtime.

When we explained his consequence to him, he was very upset and said, "But I forgot," adding with a hint of accusation, "I'm only seven."

How often we do that. Want to grow up and have more freedom, but diss the responsibility. Adam did it in the garden. When God asked him why he ate the fruit, his first words were, "It was the woman you gave me . . . "

We've been shrugging off responsibility since the beginning.

My blame comes out when I'm late or I lose my temper with the little people. The three-year-old in me stomps a foot and casts an eye upward. "If those kids you gave me would mind a little better . . . "

God probably shakes his head and says, "I know. I have the same problem with my kids."

Without grace and forgiveness we'd be sunk. We'd live in our funks and pity parties.

Sometimes God gives us a little squeeze and dusts off our knees while our lip hangs low (my seven-year-old has the pout perfected). Other times he'll give us some room to get a revelation about our me-focus.

The cool thing is, He always loves us. (I can't say I adore my children in the midst of a tantrum—if one of them threatened to run away, I might toss an empty suitcase their way).

When I'm living through a rough day, I cling to the verse, "His mercies are new every morning." I know that once my head hits the pillow, the day's ickiness gets erased and we get to start fresh.

My youngest found another way to grace. We thought he was headed for his toothbrush as we set the cards out for a fast and furious game of Nerts. But he wandered back into the room with a big smile, his cheeks stuffed with the brussels sprout he'd fished from the sink.

I know what you're thinking. I was thinking it too—I wanted to bleach his mouth out. But I figured he survived the time he chewed on the end of the toilet plunger as a toddler, so a few germs from the sink wouldn't kill him.

And we had a fabulous evening playing cards. Grace works wonders on the big people and the little ones.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cruising and Testings

TDH took me on a cruise to Mexico to celebrate my 40th birthday. I was half the age of half the folks on that ship. Made me feel pretty young.

In fact, today my youngest son said, "Mom, how do you make yourself look 30?" I told my husband that if he'd said, "29", I'd have changed my will to make him the sole heir.

Truly, turning 40 was a piece of cake.

Now the trip down to the cruise ship was a whole 'nuther story.

You know how when you read in the Bible about God testing one of his kids, you want to smack the fellow and say, "Wake up! This is God we're talking about. He's on your side. Have a little trust, why don't you?"

Yeah, well, it's pretty easy to say that since we already know the end of the story.

When you nearly miss your once-in-a-lifetime-already-been-paid-for trip, trust can be a little more challenging to come by. That would be TDH speaking. Me? I thrive on traveling stress. Though this trip was a wee bit more stressful than I cared for.

We were fogged in from our departure city, but made it to our connecting flight. Then we waited, and waited, and waited on the tarmac. Finally, TDH snagged the stewardess who'd been up and down the aisle about fifteen times and with only a slight edge to his voice said, "Are we going to be taking off soon?"

You see, our flight was supposed to land in San Diego at 2:15. Last boarding of the ship was 2:30. Fortunately, the cruise terminal is only a mile from the airport, but we were cutting things a bit close.

The stewardess gave him a big smile and said, "Our pilot had a family emergency and had to get off the plane."

My traveling nerves of steel started to sag a little at that point. My poor husband, nearly had a nervous breakdown. But she reassured him, "We should have one here in the next five or ten minutes."

How do people lie with a smile, I want to know.

An hour and a half later we took off. We landed in San Diego at 3:40. We'd been in touch with the cruise line who told us they didn't know if the ship would let us on at that point.

We debarked the plane and ran people over to get to the baggage area. I considered leaving our bags on the carousel and hoofing it to the cruise ship, but TDH over rode that nonsense. We needed our clothes, after all.

I didn't start hyperventilating until we realized that our plane was not unloading its bags. Due to weather delays across the nation, there were planes ahead of ours off-loading their baggage.

Another frantic call to the cruise ship informed us that the gang plank would be pulled at 4:00pm with or without stragglers.

Finally, FINALLY, the bags from our plane started churning out. TDH and I exchanged nervous glances and willed our bags off first.

An announcement broke over the loud speaker. I don't pay much attention to those things. After all, I was about to leave the airport.

Unfortunately, that would be without my bags.

I noticed a flurry of people scattering toward the exits. I shot a look to TDH who was glowering at everyone. He told me through gritted teeth that there was an emergency and everyone had to evacuate the airport.

Evacuate the airport. WITHOUT OUR BAGS.

Security shooed everyone out. I looked at my watch. 3:48pm. I glanced back through the glass doors as the carousel continued to spit luggage from our plane onto the conveyor. Across the highway was the outline of the ship that was about to sail without us.

I'm one of those people who has decided that rules were made for people who can't think well for themselves. I apologize if that offends someone who loves to live by rules, but that's how I'm wired.

So I dashed back into the airport toward the unmoving security guard. I explained our predicament and asked if we could please just grab our bags and go. He said no, but then so kindly relented and helped us grab our bags and make it to the escalator that took us over to the taxis.

We threw money at the taxi driver and made it on the ship at 3:55pm. We collapsed in our room and didn't surface for two days. The stress wiped us out.

But, I learned something about myself. Even in the midst of the craziness and the certainty that we wouldn't make it, I was okay. I knew if we weren't going to make the cruise, God had Plan B for us, even if it was wandering around San Diego for 5 days.

But I was so grateful he winked at the security guard and got us on that ship.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Faith and Fat

Faith can be a challenging walk. It can also be a bit of a paradox at times—don't believe what your eyes see, instead focus (and trust) on the unknown and unseen (despite the fact that a mountain side is about to fall on you).

Faith is also a bit like getting in shape (stay with me here).

For the last four months I've been go to the gym. I find that I'm getting firmer. . . and gaining weight. It'd be a lot nicer (and easier on my psyche) if fat weighed more than muscle. So my body feels different, but my eyes focus on the scale and the way it's slowly inching higher.

Of course, now I find myself obsessively stepping on the scale every time I pass through the bathroom, a piece of foot furniture that had been gaining dust in the months prior to my weight training.

The left side of my brain tries to educate the right side about the differences between body fat and muscle and how gaining weight isn't a bad thing . . .

The right side ain't buyin' it. So I try to ignore the scale.

And along with the fat / muscle conundrum, I'm feeling a little self-conscious about how pasty white I am. I finally have some muscles protruding in all the right places, but you can hardly see them through the spider veins—though I do wear them proudly along with the stretch marks the short people tattooed onto my body in the nine months they redecorated the place.

But I don't mind opting to cover them up. Especially since TDH (tall, dark & handsome) is taking my on a cruise to celebrate my 40th birthday.

I'm not a sun worshipper—I'm actually a bit of a sunscreen freak, so I went with the bottled tan. Of course with the demands of managing all the short people in the house, I didn't find time to shellac myself until nigh unto midnight.

So there I am, trying to air dry and hoping no one pops out of their bedroom for a midnight snack. . . but I digress.

Though it's not easy, faith is continuing to go to the gym even when there are no immediate discernable results. Faith is loving a child through the ups and downs of attitudes and hormones and knowing you'll get on the other side of it—and they'll like you again.

Faith is putting our trust in God, certain that he has sifted his plans for our life through his loving and gentle fingers. Faith is knowing that mourning lasts for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Faith is believing that He never leaves us nor forsakes us, even when our emotions scream otherwise.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Skimmers and Refrigerators

I almost threw the letter away, but the envelope had "recall notice" typed across it.

I had a Mustang once that I received a recall notice on. I put off taking it in and eventually forgot about the issue . . . until about a year after I sold it. I still have lingering guilt and hope the ignition never caught on fire as it was being driven down the freeway.

Today's recall notice was about our refrigerator. I'm a skimmer when it comes to official legalese. I wish those things came with Cliff Notes—just give me the bottom line in two concise sentences so I can get on with it.

And I was in a hurry. A dangerous combination when it comes to matters of import.

I checked the serial numbers in the letter against the ones on the metal plate inside my refrigerator. No match. I was about to toss the letter, but decided that TDH should probably have a looksee just in case I'd bobbled it.

He came in when I was in the midst of a whirlwind—trying to get dinner on the table and get out the door for a meeting and the clock was ticking against me.

First, I pointed out my lovely tortellini soup and the crostini I was toasting in the oven (don't hate me, it was only the second time I've attempted to broil bread) to go with the roasted garlic (another second).

To which TDH turned with an excited smile and said, "Where's the cheese?" referring to an appetizer at our favorite Italian restaurant.

My smile grew thin as I again pointed out the lovely crostini and roasted garlic to go with the soup.

He waited patiently.

Why is it that when they ask a simple question, we feel as if we're under attack and our voices take on a helicopter whine? "I've been gone all day, I just threw what I had together. There is no cheese!" I explained with a tight smile.

His eyebrows rose slightly, but he wisely didn't say a word.

I motioned toward the letter on the counter and told him I wanted him to read the recall notice for our fridge. He picked it up and asked what it was for. I hit my rewind button and told him it was a recall notice for the fridge and I wanted him to look it over.

He wanted more details. I gave the tortellini a vigorous stir and told him in a rising voice that all the details were in the letter (did I mention I was in a hurry?).

More raised eyebrows, but he finally bent his head over the letter.

He was about two-thirds through the letter when those handsome eyebrows drew together in a frown and he quoted, "and in specific circumstances, may result in a vehicular fire."

He gave me the oddest look and said in a voice strangled with laughter, "This is for the refrigerator in our trailer."

Oh.

Good thing I listened to those killer instincts and didn't recycle the letter. And good thing I have such a forgiving husband who only gave me a mild ribbing for my attitude.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Clicker Torture

Is there a treatment program for clicker addiction?

We just got back from a vacation and my poor daughter is shell-shocked. Yes, she's only ten, but apparently some revelations hit early.

We go away each year the week before Thanksgiving (TDH and I reward ourselves for making it through another round of soccer without strangling coaches, children or each other).

We eat tons of junk food, relax in the hot tub and even go to the movies. So for the kids, it's kind of like we left their mother at home (the one who limits TV, sweets, and monitors bedtime—in our rental house, there was a TV in every bedroom.)

Around our second day I heard my daughter protesting quite loudly (apparently you do bring some things on vacation you'd have rather left at home) from the bedroom. I went to investigate—it is the mother's job to keep everyone on harmonious vacation bliss.

It appears that her brother had the remote control (yes, another male joins the ranks). While I calmly explained to her that it is an incurable madness, this frenzied clicking between programs with a bored look on one's face, we were fortunate that it is not contagious, nor an affliction that our gender will ever have to suffer through. At which time she reminded me that she was suffering.

Ah, yes, the torture of sitting beside a male with a clicker.

It wasn't but a night or two later that she and I happened to catch about a third of a program (between other commercials) regarding a man with a perplexing array of ailments, none of which the doctors had been able to diagnose. As the story seemed to be getting closer to its gripping conclusion, we did finally send the children to bed.

After herding them through brushing their teeth and the "I'll die if I don't get a glass of water" vocalizations, I hurried back to the living room. Of course, there was another program on the TV. I asked TDH what happened to the man. What did the doctors find out?

TDH replied, eyes never leaving the TV, his voice telling me he was in the clicker zone, "I don't know. When I turned back, it was over."

Breathe deeply, I tell myself. This man is the father of your children. And then I slumped down on the couch as the realization hit. The father of three males. Males who, undoubtedly, would grow up with a remote growing between their fingers.

Not one minute later, Brielle hollered from her bedroom, "What happened with that man?"

I trudged toward her room trying to find the words that wouldn't dent her daddy's armor too much. An evil wayward thought crossed my mind. I could tell her about credit cards and the beauty of clicker revenge.

Lower your eyebrows! Of course I dismissed that delicious thought. We are all about fiscal (and marital) responsibility. Though it was fun to think about parading our purchases while he's in the zone. . .

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Selfishness

It happened again tonight. I was tired and a bit grumbly. Started thinking about my own comfort, my own wants. How much work it takes to do the things God's called me to (like parenting!).

I want to retire. I even told God that. I want my own island and a stack of books. Good books. The kind you get lost in.

My own little self-absorbed paradise (with a cook and a maid) would suite me just fine.

Then God reminded me that when I'm thinking about my comfort and myself and what my needs are, I'll implode. Maybe not literally, but certainly spiritually.

God is outward, while selfishness is inward. Selfishness is opposite His kingdom and slowly kills us.

Walking His path, giving out of the gifts He's equipped us with, actually fills us. Paradoxically so.

Because we're not really giving out of our own resources. We're giving out of His. His living waters flow out of us, and yet fill us.

So while a tropical island filled with my favorite foods and books sounds delightful (heavenly, in fact) there is far more joy and fulfillment in traveling the path God's designed for me.

And I'm sure there's a few tropical R&R stops along the way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Library Etiquette

I was at the library the other day perusing the new release rack when my cell phone rang. Focused on an interesting title, I answered it without thinking and proceeded to carry on a conversation.

A harsh, "Shhhhhh!" broke into my bubble and I turned to see a lady, who'd also been perusing the books, frowning at me. She said in a stern voice, "You're not supposed to be talking on a cell phone in the library!"

I'd like to say that I immediately apologized and hung up. Maybe it's part of my independent, first-born nature, but I don't like to be told what to do. So I continued my phone call, while thinking a few ungodly things about that woman.

I spoke to my friend for another minute before I heard God firmly clear his throat, "If the library rules are . . . " I grumbled back at Him, "All right, all right," and got off the phone.

I had a wave of God's nature sweep across me at that moment, as if he'd sprinkled some Holy Spirit love over me, because I had a sudden urge to apologize to the woman.

I went up to her and with genuine warmth (see how I know it was God) and apologized for talking on the phone. I explained that I hadn't known about the library's rule, gave her a kind smile and walked away.

About five minutes later, the woman came up and softly said, "I'm sorry I spoke to you so angrily." She went on to explain her frustration with the teenagers who frequent the library and are constantly on their phones.

I stood there with my mouth on the floor.

I know a gentle answer turns away wrath, but that's just a proverb. I didn't know it actually worked (okay, I'm being a bit facetious here). Isn't that the coolest? I got to be Jesus to her—and the amazing thing is Jesus let me even after my grumbling, rebellious attitude.

See, God can use anyone. Even an independent, first-born!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Listening to My Wiser Self

I had a mom moment last night. The ah ha kind when a piece of truth clicks in place empowering you in love and authority.

My older boys wanted to sleep together. It was a school night, but life hasn't been normal the last two months and phantom fears come out to plague my one son when bed time approaches.

For the first month after his grandpa passed away, my son was convinced he was dying and bed time became an agonizing time of self-diagnosis that ranged from appendicitis to cancer.

So, yes, I let him sleep with his brother after admonishing the boys that they had five minutes to settle down or they'd have to sleep in their own beds.

One hour later, I made my pre-bedtime rounds. The boys' door was closed (to keep the dog in) and the light was on and they were visiting away.

I told the oldest he'd need to return to his room. Shock and indignation filled the air between the boys and I as the trial got underway. Councilor number one explained that they thought the five minutes I'd given them was to settle down and talk quietly. Councilor number two told me that they'd turn out the light and go straight to sleep.

I stared into the blue eyes and then the brown, looking closely for a hint of manipulation. Sincerity shone.

I felt myself begin to waver. They sensed the weakness and went for the kill like wolves after their prey, begging for another chance with loud promises of going straight to sleep.

I opened my mouth to give in, but had a moment of self-awareness. I tend to be weak when it comes to allowing my kids to feel the pain of their choices.

I knew what my original intent was, so I needed to discipline according to my intent. Not according to their interpretation.

If I receive a traffic ticket, the judge isn't going to say, "Oooooh, you thought a yellow light meant speed up, Mrs. Sand. Well, of course we'll wave that fine."

It's my job to lead my kids and teach them to follow, rather than try to keep up and contort myself into the image that meets their desires.

And not try to wiggle my way out of traffic fines . . .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Refuge

My seven-year-old told me he thinks he has a cavity in his ear because it hurts when he pushes on it.

I think I have a cavity in my heart. It still hurts. The ache doesn't go away, though sometimes it goes missing for a few hours.

Today I furiously worked at getting the house back in order after a long weekend with hubby and children home.

After several hours of vacuuming and sorting loads of laundry, the dull ache became a loud roar and I realized that trying to create order around me was my method of coping . . . and avoiding.

There is no getting around grief. It must be gone through. Sometimes I putter around, and try to ignore it.

The result is, with no outlet, the pressure inside builds.

I see this operating in my children. They go to school, come home and do homework and play . . . and fight. And the fighting is more intense, less reasonable (if you can consider fighting over the PlayStation reasonable).

I think we all struggle with areas of pain that we either face head on or spend immense amounts of energy avoiding.

Kind of like that tooth that we worry and fuss over, but refuse to see the dentist about. The day-to-day dull ache seems less painful than an intense one hour visit.

So we limp along, not fully functioning, but not completely incapacitated. Not who we were designed to be.

The best way to face something we dread is with a friend. Reaching out when we are down puts us in a vulnerable position, but healing comes more quickly through the kindness of a friend.

Sometimes we don't know anyone who can be that safe for us. There is one Friend whose arms are always safe and loving, and who aches to wipe our tears.

I've found much comfort leaning into the refuge that is Jesus.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Mountain Climbing

My husband called me from a business trip this morning to see how things were going. I told him it was all I could do not to drive straight to the airport and buy a one way ticket to Hawaii. There was a slight pause and he asked in a rather tentative voice, "Can I come?"

I told him that he was welcome, but that children with attitude could only come for short visits.

One of my children is struggling heavily with grief this week and it comes out as button-pushing anger. That would be his anger and my buttons.

I had a less than stellar parenting moment in the midst of the fracas and was sharing the situation with a friend. I marveled at how I could shrug the whole episode off with an, "Oh, well. It just wasn't a great day."

In years past, I would have bludgeoned myself with regret, guilt and shame. Feeling something like the slime left behind a slug. It would have eaten me up for days.

And it's not that my behavior would have been off-the-charts-bad, it's that I felt I had to be a perfect parent.

When I fell short of that perfection, I believed I was the root of all the fleshliness in their little lives. If only I had parented better they wouldn't lie (or fight or be sullen . . .). If only I had read to him more as a toddler, he'd be doing better in school. If only I had played with them instead of doing housework . . . and the guilt list went on ad nauseum.

Yesterday, as I thanked the Lord for this change—this freedom from guilt and shame, I saw a picture in my mind of a mountain. There were many people around this huge mountain. Some marching in endless circles around the base for the entirety of their lives.

Others struggling to climb up the mountain side. Toiling with great effort and a few bloody scrapes to reach a plateau. That plateau is the place in their lives where they emerge from a painful situation with new insight. A place where a piece of God's puzzle falls into place. Illumination comes.

Then a new situation arises that nudges them out of the comfort of that safe place. They start climbing again with great effort until they reach another plateau of understanding and peace. Maybe some healing of past hurts. Forgiveness for wrongs made. They rest in that place for a while.

But as we grow and climb, the plateaus come more easily. Insight more quickly and the vistas become more wide-sweeping.

Some remain on the same plateau all their lives, some just circle the mountain.

But I want to climb as close as I can to the summit before I hear those sweet words from the mouth of Jesus. "You have fought the good fight. You've won the race. You've kept the faith." Welcome home.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Boundaries

Have you ever noticed that some people don't know where they end and others begin?

They feel the need to take charge of your life and try to live it for you, or at the very least urge you to live it the way they would.

In-laws often get the bad rap for this, but I think many struggle with not knowing when to stay quiet, when to tone down the body language, when to let go.

As parents especially, we can struggle with over-protective love.

We see the train wreck coming if our children stay right in the middle of the tracks. We tell ourselves that it's really in their best interest that we speak up.

But isn't it really about us?

About our need for their lives to reflect our values, our desperate need to keep them from the pain of their choices.

But is it their pain or our own pain that we wrestle with?

If we don't see others or our children as their own, self-contained entities we'll continually cross out of the space that is ours and into the space that is theirs.

One parenting class I took referred to it as our "space bubble."

When we cross into their space bubble, in a sense we are tying their hands and keeping them from priceless treasure—learning from the error of their ways.

Lessons learned are like gold nuggets we accumulate across a lifetime.

When we save our kids from themselves, we steal their gold. And sadly, keep them on the very path we are trying to save them from.

Each day they get older the price gets higher.

Much better to release them into the hands of the One who yearns to deposit much gold into their (and our) lives.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Winning

Can you win and yet still lose? Or lose and still win?

This morning I was reading about the Pharisees and how they saw the Jews being drawn like moths to an eternal flame in the man of Jesus.

For the Pharisees and teachers of the law, it wasn't about finding the truth—whether Jesus was the Messiah. It was about keeping their power.

Being the ones the people looked to, envied, submitted to. They liked the adulation rather than being seekers and teachers of the truth, which is really what their position was about.

They were the ones who studied the Old Testament scriptures and were known for their superb knowledge. Yet rather than share this knowledge, they held it over the people and made it a noose around their necks.

So when people were drawn to Jesus like starving men to a buffet table, the Pharisees stared at the backs of the people as they walked away, rather than looking over their heads to see what they were moving toward.

John 12:19 states: Then the Pharissees said to each other, "We've lost. Look, the whole world has gone after him!"

How often do we worry more about what we are giving up in power and control, rather than what is best for us and those around us?

We focus outward rather than inward and upward. Blame rather than take responsibility. Allow life to happen and then resent the outcome rather than making choices and accepting the results.

It's easy to walk in fear and regret rather than to risk and accept.

I notice how often I put things off out of a fear that I won't do them "right." So rather than allowing those things to pile up, I'm taking chances, making choices. I now have a willingness to accept the outcome, whether it turns out well or not.

There is peace in that kind of acceptance, because I will be gentle with myself and applaud my willingness to choose, rather than berate myself for choosing wrongly.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Lessons and Grumblings

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean, most things do when you plan them months in advance.

But last night I was hitting myself on the forehead and whining, "Why did I schedule my son's orthodontic consultation at 7 am?"

I'm barely awake by eight. And it's on the other side of town, so we'd have to leave at six-thirty o'dark.

I was concerned that in my bathrobe and yesterday's make up, they wouldn't even let us in the door. And the doctor would surely frown on my curling up with a blanket in a spare exam chair and finishing my sleep.

We arrived (in the dark) at a lovely new office building with office people bustling around inside. I shuffled to the front door, with my eager and chattering son right beside me—starting the day in the dark apparently not a hindrance for him—and attempted to enter.

Attempted.

The doors were locked. Baffled faces peered out at us. I prayed we were at the wrong building, but the doctor's name was plastered across the door. No luck.

They let us in and then politely explained that our appointment was scheduled for the next day. I nearly started pulling hair (my own). But I didn't. I breathed deeply and as the receptionist left to see what she could do, I whipped out my cell phone and texted my woes to a friend.

Blame started to flow from my fingers—their fault. I knew I'd written the appointment down correctly.

But as my thumb hovered over the send button, I paused. Grumbling is what led the Israelites to go around and around that mountain in the desert for forty years.

So I erased the blame and just stuck to the woe part.

Moments later she was back. Miracle upon miracle, a technician had arrived early. And then the orthodontist showed up ahead of schedule. They plopped my son in a chair and went to work. (They were wonderfully kind.)

I wrapped my bathrobe tighter (actually wore my running gear so I'd look like I was used to getting out of bed with a bang) and sat there in awe. They probably would have showed up early even if I hadn't grumbled, maybe even worked us in.

But then again. . . maybe not. Maybe they would have stopped at Starbucks as I grumbled my way home.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Casting Our Cares

My cares have gained weight this week. Pulling me down and draining me.

In previous weeks, the pain ebbed and flowed, but this week it washed in and continued a slow rise like a river cresting its banks during a flood.

At times I felt like I was barely treading water with concrete blocks strapped to my feet. Where was the ship that had kept me afloat this past month? That ship of faith.

I'd pushed it away, instead focusing on activity, busyness—the doing part of life that kept my mind occupied and my body moving.

But like a flood, grief won't be contained. It doesn't have anywhere to go if we dam it up. It just keeps rising until we can't hold it back.

The dam breaks and out it comes in a rushing torrent, sweeping you along, drowning you with pain.

But the torrent doesn't last once the pressure subsides. Grief spends itself and leaves you hollowed out.

Today I reached for God's hand, desperate for His comfort. Allowing Him to fill the hollow places and renew my bruised soul.

Joy comes in glimpses, flashes of sunlight on a winter day that wink between the yellow leaves and hide behind the dark clouds.

God weaves the joy with the sorrow, the memories with the missing. He blends the colors of our life into a rich tapestry that holds as many tears as laughter.

Our sorrow becomes a blanket of comfort and understanding that He can drape around another's weary shoulders. We can be His arms, His shoulder, His cradling lap to those that need His touch but are too burdened to find Him.

None of our pain is wasted. Every tear is collected, every burden sifted through His fingers.

With Him there is comfort.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Coming Back

Today was my first full day back to writing. I've attempted to write these past couple weeks, but the words weren't there. The creativity well was empty.

Grief seems to zap the energy from a person's body as well as hinder the ability to think clearly. My husband lost his cell phone the other day and had to back track to find it. He'd thrown it out with the recycling.

I think what I've learned over these past six weeks, is that there is no normal. There is no proper way to be. Each person's process is unique to them. And it's important to just be. To be how you are. To let yourself feel what you feel.

I've had good days and bad days and a few wonderful, joy-filled days. And I knew those days were a gift. A reprieve the Lord gave me, lifting me above the circumstances and letting me fly.

How thankful I am to Him for his incredible mercy and compassion.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Real and Limited

Went to a Women of Faith conference last weekend. Had the privilege of being the guest of one of the speakers.

I was amazed by the transparency of the speakers. Success and fame does not exempt a person from struggles. And these women didn't try to hide their hurts and failures. They were clearly vessels who wanted to be used to bring glory to God.

And that's the kind of vessel he can use.

It's so easy to think that we have to promote God. That if we exhibit anything less than Christian perfection, we're letting God down.

We forget that we weren't designed to be perfect. God bypassed that button and went straight for "limited."

Limited in power. Limited in our ability to do it right. Limited in love.

Just plain limited.

When we get that concept, freedom is right around the corner. Because when limited leans in and taps into the Unlimited God, He can do all things through us.

Love, hope, accept, accomplish, realize dreams, create the unimaginable.

God wants to accomplish his purposes through us—his limited, imperfect people.

It's through our humility and brokenness that God can do amazing works.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Value of Self

Learned something about myself today. I want people to like me.

Okay, I know you're scrunching up your forehead with a, "Huh? Doesn't everyone?"

And you're right. Probably 99.9% of the population does want to be liked. The other 0.1% pretends they don't.

But I realized that I've curtailed my actions, kept silent at times, and laughed at stupid comments, all in an effort to please people into liking me.

Sometimes it was out of fear that I'd be wrong. That I'd say something that others didn't agree with.

I didn't want to be on one side of the fence with everyone on the other staring at me in stupefaction.

Because the message I grew up believing, was that there is always a right and a wrong way of believing / thinking / acting and you better figure it out quick.

And piggybacking that notion was the certainty that being wrong would diminish your value.

So I'd strive not to be wrong at all costs. This translated into a lifetime of trying to become what I thought others wanted me to be.

The sad result was that others didn't get to know the real me, just the me I thought they'd like. My smoke and mirrors act didn't give them the opportunity to embrace the real me.

The me that God designed me to be.

Fortunately, God has placed us on a journey where He can take those mixed-up moments and half-baked fears and infuse them with his truth to transform our thinking.

He wants to expose the weakness and flaws and lead us onto his path of peace, where mistakes are not to be feared and hidden, but exposed and learned from. Not a source of shame, but a stepping stone to move us closer to him.

I don't know about you, but His is the hand I want to hold as I jump from stone to stone.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Comfort

I checked on the kids before heading for bed and found my strapping twelve-year-old nestled under the covers with his younger brother.

Both of them sawing logs.

He'd told me earlier that he was scared (forty-five minutes into what I'd thought was the tenth ploy to stay up a little later). I hugged him and offered a brief prayer of comfort, but my heart wasn't into it.

My heart was already lusting for the warm bubble bath and pint of Ben and Jerry's that was waiting.

We moms get so weary by the end of the day that it's easy to miss a sincere need in the mine field of wants we navigate daily.

But my son had a need and he figured out a way to get it taken care of. All he needed was a warm body mere inches away to feel safe. Didn't matter that it was the brother he'd threatened to knock the eye teeth out of the day before.

When we have a need, do we go to the One who knows us so well? The One who hears our intimate thoughts?

He is comfort without measure, a mere breath away.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Real and Limited

Went to a <A HREF="http://www.womenoffaith.com">Women of Faith</A> conference last weekend. Had the privilege of being the guest of one of the speakers.

I was amazed by the transparency of the speakers. Success and fame does not exempt a person from struggles. And these women didn't try to hide their hurts and failures. They were clearly vessels who wanted to be used to bring glory to God.

And that's the kind of vessel he can use.

It's so easy to think that we have to promote God. That if we exhibit anything less than Christian perfection, we're letting God down.

We forget that we weren't designed to be perfect. God bypassed that button and went straight for "limited."

Limited in power. Limited in our ability to do it right. Limited in love.

Just plain limited.

When we get that concept, freedom is right around the corner. Because when limited leans in and taps into the Unlimited God, He can do all things through us.

Love, hope, accept, accomplish, realize dreams, create the unimaginable.

God wants to accomplish his purposes through us—his limited, imperfect people.

It's through our humility and brokenness that God can do amazing works.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Acceptance

My women's group is reading a great book called Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey, Ph.D. In it she describes a principle called, The Power of Acceptance—this moment is what it is.

That seems like a simple enough concept. I mean, you could translate it to say, "Live in reality, babe."

But, it also means letting go of the shoulds. And for a recovering perfectionist, that eliminates about half of my vocabulary on any given day.

I should have gotten up earlier. I should have ordered the salad instead of the pasta drenched in Alfredo sauce. I should have remembered to pick up the kids from my mother's…

Is it possible to truly live in the moment that is? Can I? I'd like the freedom of not wishing away what is or longing for what I think should be. I'd have a lot more mental energy.

Dr. Bailey explains (rough paraphrase) that when we accept how things are, peace follows, and we then have the ability to decide how we want life to flow from that point on.

The peace part is what I really like. Okay, so I didn't get my "to do" list completed, the kids didn't take out the trash, and the kitchen's a mess. . .

Deep breath . . . or two.

That is the reality of my moment. What do I want to do in my next moment?

I can clean or I can choose a bubble bath.

My old self would have worked long past bedtime to get things in order so the "should" sisters wouldn't follow me to bed with their incessant harping.

The new me, the one living in this now moment? I'll choose the bubble bath.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Husbands and Non-issues

Apparently this is the week of revelations.

I am smidgen task-oriented. My hubby would likely describe it in stronger, more glaring terms, but since it's my blog, I'm free to downplay it all I please.

But I admit that I am a go-getter. I need problems solved . . . NOW.

And I want to be first in line with the solution. I'm quick to point everyone's attention to myself, "If you'll just follow my lead, everything will be just fine."

This is primarily directed to the short people in our family, small dogs and the occasional husband.

Mat got up at 4:30 am the other morning to run with some neighbors, on a mere four hours sleep. By evening it was like sitting on the couch next to a loaf of bread.

Of course my mind jumps ahead to weeks and weeks of sitting next to this loaf of bread and trying to have intimate conversations to deepen our marriage relationship as he nods off to the next commercial. I wasn't seeing it.

The next morning, in the subtle way I have (please, no snarky laughter here), I asked if he was planning on any more of these middle of the night runs.

He nodded and told me what a great jump start it was to working out again. I bluntly stated that it wasn't working out for me.

He acquired that wise look in his eye and stated gently, "Not everything has to be an issue."

I deciphered the code hidden behind the words. "I've only run with them one day; please climb off my back, dear."

Once again, he was absolutely right. Everything that isn't running smoothly or on track according to the experts (ahem, that would be moi and moi), doesn't necessarily need to be discussed, addressed, dissected, deciphered, scrutinized or resolved.

Especially not in the next half hour.

I find that I want immediate results and immediate action. I want my issues to become critical to the whole family. But that isn't loving and it's not serving, except in the sense that it's self-serving, which is not pretty.

Afterall, it's not just about me. Right?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hamster Wheels

Had a revelation of sorts today. Actually more like a throwing in of the towel.

But, oh, what sweet relief. What freedom!

For the last few weeks, I've been laying in bed staring at the ceiling, trying to figure out a workable schedule. A plan of action for the new school year.

There's so much that goes into running my life—quiet time with the Lord, exercise, writing, marketing, volunteering at school, Bible studies, house work, meal planning, grocery shopping, time with kids, time with hubby, homework, sports, time with friends . . .

Without the perfect schedule I was sunk.

Couple of roadblocks in my way. 1) I'd need to get up at 4:30 in the morning to get it all in, 2) I don't function at 4:30 in the morning.

So my compromise was to make myself go to bed at 9:30 pm and get up by 6:00 am. The problem was I'm rarely in bed before 11 o'clock.

So I was constantly faced with my failure and the perfectionistic whipping of my less than stellar self.

Start Over Tomorrow and Try Harder became the mantras.

I was always behind and trying to catch up. Do you know the kind of energy it takes to feed the "should haves" or "should be doing's?"

I was a hamster running on a wheel that spun faster and faster until it flung me off. And what would I do? I'd pick myself back up and race over to that wheel that hadn't slowed one iota. Little paws lifted, black nose moving in fast little circles as I followed the whirling wheel, trying to gauge the perfect moment to jump back on.

Over and over I jumped on and got thrown right back off.

Until it finally hit me. FORGET THE DARN WHEEL!

Stop trying for perfection. Stop trying to create a perfect, well-ordered world.

That's not reality.

Reality is that life is messy. Kids get sick. Laundry backs up. Kitchens don't stay clean.

Relax and enjoy the process. Get done what you can and laugh off the rest.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Checking it Off

Too often, I've seen my quiet time as something to be gotten through.

Something to check off my list (I'm an avid list maker). And this morning I was kicking myself for not having gotten up earlier and had my quiet time so it'd be out of the way.

When I heard that phrase bounce through my mind, I stopped. Out of the way?

Is God something to cross off my list? I realized that I view my quiet time too often as a chore and not as relational time with my God.

I want my quiet time to be first thing in the morning, not so I can feel better that it's one less thing I'll have to get to later, but because I don't want to spend one moment of my day without Him.

And that's one thing I've learned over the last week or so, is that I can't survive without Him.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Goodbyes and The Missing . . .

The funeral was awful and wonderful.

Wonderful because my dear father-in-law is home with his beloved Lord. Awful because I hate goodbyes. I hate change. I hate things that disrupt the norm.

When I was gathering information to write Art's obituary, no one could remember exactly when he moved here from Montana. I reached for the phone, of course he would know.

I've heard people mention those moments of reaching out to call, to connect and then that icy flash of realization when the loss hits all over again.

It hurts. I called his office today just to listen to his voice. It was comforting, like a warm hug. I want to keep that message, so I can call when the missing becomes too much.

I've started feeling more like myself again. Not so lost in the flat fog of grief. I've actually had a few moments of elation for him. I know his joy is complete at this very moment and the next and the next.

I long for the time when life feels normal again, but realize the path of normal will be far different than the one before.

No more pancake lunches at our favorite restaurant. I don't know if I can even eat there anymore.

But life will go on, and the old norm will wane as new routines and structure color over the fading lines.

Hope will gradually fill in the cracks that the grief left in our hearts. Joy and excitement will once again sparkle in our lives with no diminishing shadows.

The joy of the Lord will be our strength. Thankfully His joy surrounds and carries us.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Coping

A funeral is an event. Didn't realize how much went into organizing one. Pictures, slide shows, food.

So much preparation for a passing when your mind can't seem to even find first gear.

I drove past the store when I went to pick up milk for breakfast. I got into the wrong lane on a road I travel every day and headed downtown when I was trying to go home.

We're all trying to cope. My husband and I need quiet and the kids need to play. At top speed and full volume.

Last night around ten when the house was still, my middle son came down. I held him while he cried. He said, "I keep seeing Papa holding his arms out to me."

Isn't that like the picture of God? Always holding his arms out to love, to comfort, to show His immense affection for us.

I haven't done much talking to Him lately, though I feel His presence.

I haven't felt like talking at all. Except sometimes. Sometimes a friend will call and I can't stop talking. Other times I can't even answer the phone, or email.

I bought our clothes for the funeral yesterday. I wanted new clothes for our Papa. And I wanted black, everything to be solid black.

I set the pile down and the kindly man behind the counter gave us a cheerful smile and asked, "What's the occasion?"

I wanted to say it was for pictures or a concert.

But they are for a celebration of sorts. A celebration for a man who loved the Lord. Who lived a hard life and won the race.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Grief

My father-in-law passed from this life a few days ago.

He was bigger than life and left a hole larger than life. A self-made, independent man who struck out from the wilds of Montana when he was fifteen.

A man who left an imprint that was like no other.

Over the years, I've had friends who've lost loved ones and I've hated that I couldn't do anything to make their pain go away.

I've wanted to hurry things up—to help get their lives back to normal, back to what was comfortable and predictable.

When a moment of levity would lighten those tough moments or life regained normal footing for an hour or so, I'd be relieved, glad that they were moving on and grief wasn't swallowing them.

But what I've discovered is that despite being able to laugh at a memory or load the dishwasher without crying, the grief never goes away. It is a constant shadow that bleeds the color out of life, absorbing the joy and leaving flat gray in its place.

I feel snared in a place of unreality. My mind knows that everything has changed, yet is caught between that truth and the way I still yearn for things to be. The truth is a black hole I don't want to fall into.

I find myself struggling with anger toward God. It hasn't shaken my trust in Him and I see glimpses of His perfect plan, but I still feel lonesome for this man who was like a father to me.

Yet through all the pain, the anger, the grief, confusion and sadness, God's presence is close and it comforts me.

God is faithful even when we are faithless, for He can't deny Himself.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Running With the Girls

I went for a run at 5:30 in the morning the other day. Suffice it to say that this was not my idea. My brain doesn't even turn on until 8:30, and even then it remains on idle until about 10 o'clock.

I have rather evil friends who talked me into it. Okay, not totally evil, just rather sadistic.

We started our run on a dark path on a forested hillside. I was sent to the front of the pack to lead the way up toward the park at the top.

Why, you ask? That would b e because I'm the tallest and the best equipped to clear out the cobwebs that spun between bushes across the trail.

Did I know this was my mission? No, my three friends informed me between evil snorts of laughter as I spluttered and blindly tried to wipe off the sticky web and keep from falling off the trail.

I recovered and continued along the dim path when a short, hairy beast leapt out in front of me and started bounding up the gravel trail. I screamed and managed a few wild arm movements while insanely continuing to run.

As my heart resumed its less humming bird like beating, the beast transformed from a frightening creature into a raccoon which took a right turn into the brush.

That's when the hills came alive . . .and NOT with the sound of music. Every rustle and snap of twig became a predator planning his attack. Amazingly enough, we made it to the top.

Lesson learned. Things aren't always as they seem. Too often we jump to conclusions. Think the worst of someone's motives. Don't stop to ask questions.

Just don't stop. Don't give ourselves that moment to regroup. Think things through.

One thing I do know . . . tomorrow I'm sleeping in.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In God's Care

God is amazing. There are always challenges on this journey—childrearing issues, marital hiccups and the mudslides and avalanches that life always seems to send careening toward us.

But God is there, immovable, available, always wanting to help.

And I’ve been wading through a couple of those mud slides, but making a choice to be intentional about spending time with God through out it. In all honesty, it’s probably those things that drove me to the foot of the cross.

As I told God how much I appreciate him—the joy he gives me despite the glare I’m receiving from a sullen child (that is a miracle, don’t ya think?), and the stress of “re-entry” after a business trip with my husband (okay, it was Naples, FL so I can’t complain too much)—I got a picture in my mind.

It was a picture of dad resting his hand on the top of his young daughter’s head. At first, I thought, “Oh, that’s a lovely picture of God always being with me.” But the picture remained, so I moved in closer.

The purpose of the picture wasn’t so I’d see that God’s presence always with me, but rather to feel what was in the girl’s heart.

She felt completely protected and relaxed because Someone with all the authority in the world was in control and would guide her every step.

He’s a God who answers our dreams, meets our desires and provides beyond our needs.

He is a God of plenty.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wow Moments

Last fall I was working on my publisher's macro edits for my novel Leave it to Chance. It was pretty overwhelming. There I sat at my desk with a stack of red marked pages and a list of things to overhaul.

Too big a job, too little time.

Then I reached a particularly tough section. I had no idea what to do. It was after midnight with my deadline looming, so I emailed an SOS to my prayer group and went to bed. Woke up early, completely exhausted after eight grueling weeks of these edits. I had difficulty formulating even a simple thought, but the novel was due the next day.

Sat down at the computer with my bowl of oatmeal and had a niggling idea. Started to work it in, and to my amazement it fit like a piece of a puzzle that had gone missing. In several spots the dialogue I had in place worked far better with this addition.

And in my fogged brain state of the night before I had added one line to a scene, not even sure why I was typing it in as it didn't really fit. But with the new plot dynamic, that line was the PERFECT finish to the scene.

I truly saw God going before me and setting things in place.

But sadly, just an hour later, I was back to fretting and worrying that I wouldn't be able to finish the edit well. I glanced out the window and saw a humming bird. Into my mind popped the verse about how God provides for the birds of the air.

It was one of those moments where God deposits an entire insight into your brain in a nanosecond. He showed me how often I had judged the Israelites for not trusting God in the wilderness when he so obviously provided for them. (Too many times I've wanted to rap them upside the head for thinking they were going to die of thirst in the desert when just the page before God had showered them with miracle after miracle to deliver them from slavery.)

And yet, just after he so obviously paved the way in my editing, I was right back to stewing and worrying about it. AND my issues were way smaller than survival (the Israelites lives were on the line).

God can do exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we can imagine. He's been showing me that he's faithful even when I'm not. He loves me when I'm unlovable.

He's always reaching for my hand. I'm determined to hold onto his.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pain & Healing

I recently started going to a physical therapist for a hamstring issue that turned out to be a back issue. He helped me get everything operational again and then wanted to look at my running form.

He said my stride wasn't too bad and had me make a few minor adjustments. Minor sounds simple enough, right? Not like major or complete overhaul.

Just a few adjustments that had me leaning forward, bending my elbows more and pushing off with each step. But it was awkward. Didn't feel normal—though it did feel more effortless at first.

But who wants to think about their form with each and every step of a three or four mile run?

After a week or so it became more comfortable, felt like I was gliding. My speed even increased. But as soon as I started getting tired, old habits rushed in to tempt me.

So badly did I want to straighten up, to go back to my familiar running posture.

Isn't that the way it goes when we try to walk away from habits or people that aren't the best for us? In moments of clarity, we make a resolution to break free—to get healthier. But as soon as it gets tough—and it always does when we plow new ground—we want to go running back to the old and familiar.

We minimize the damage those habits or people cause to our lives. Egypt was a place of bondage to the Israelites until they thought they would die of thirst in the desert, and then begged Moses to take them back.

To make a significant change we need to focus on the goal and the benefits it'll bring. Because when we hit the pain of change, our resolution becomes foggy and distorted. But if we remember the goal and have someone who can help keep us accountable, we CAN get free.

As I was out for a run today, a thought smacked me out of the blue. I realized that without my original hamstring injury, I never would have sought help and discovered some of the damaging habits I had in my daily living and in my running.

As much as I had prayed for my leg to get better, I'm so glad it didn't. It put me on a path toward a physical health I didn't realize I was lacking.

So sometimes, those difficult things in our lives are used to bring the greatest blessing. Never give up!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time Outs and Attitudes

Each moment of every day we're either walking toward God or walking farther away. Sometimes it's not so much that we're not praying unceasingly as the Bible calls us to do, it's more the infinitesimal steps away from him and toward self.

This crops up in attitudes and the words we use with others, which leads me to the short people in our family.

Sometimes I find myself becoming an armchair parent. Refereeing from the sidelines. Directing children like I'm directing traffic. Issuing time outs like speeding tickets.

It didn't occur to me until God had tapped me on the shoulder a few times that consequences don't change hearts. Time outs don't change attitudes.

It may create external compliance, but it doesn't touch their character.

I need to get down to their eye level, speak to their hearts about connection with others. Teach them how words can build up or tear down. In essence love them closer to Jesus.

But those days when I've let go of God's hand and am forging ahead on my own, where am I leading my kids? I'm leaning on my own understanding, trying to make my own straight path (not good for this directionally challenged mother).

Empty reservoirs lead to short-circuited moms. You know how it is. The kid just stepped on your very last nerve and you stand there screeching at him looking like something out of a horror movie.

To be the kind of moms our kids need, we have to be filled up.

For me, this starts in the bedroom. Specifically in my closet. My own quiet place where I can sit and talk to God uninterrupted (except for the occasional banging on the closet door when the short people need something).

If I'm not sharing all of me with my King—the good, bad and ugly—the ick stays inside and inevitably effects how I interact with my kids.

Even if it's only a few minutes that I have to sneak into my closet and close the door, I'll take it because it's only in his presence that I become complete.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wild Animals . . . er, Pets...

Okay, you may be thinking I'm referring to my children, and while on some days that may be true (such as this very moment where my son has knocked into me about five times in the last ten seconds). But I am actually referring to creatures of the animal kingdom.

There are a few messies in our family (AKA the short people) which can drive a neat, orderly person nearly batty at times.

But as I passed by my daughter's room a few days ago it dawned on me that she has kept her room IMMACULATE for MONTHS! Nearly on the miraculous scale for this ten-year-old girl.

Then this morning she said, "Mom, remember you said I could get a pet if I kept my room clean?"

Horror swept over me. Had I really said that? Obviously I had, and more obvious was the fact that I thought there wouldn't be a snowball's chance in summer of that happening.

But I swallowed and attempted a smile and we piled in the car for a trek to the pet store with me praying the whole way. Please let her fall in love with a frog.

Frogs seemed more do-able than say a rabbit, which is what she really wanted. To my thinking, anything with fur and a small cage adds up to smelly.

Fortunately, when I explained what rabbit plus Milo (our small, hyper dog) would mean to the pet population in our home (fine dining for the dog), she quickly acquiesced to the thought of a more reptilian type pet.

So she is spending untold hours on the internet researching turtles and other creepy crawlies.

So be careful what you promise, it may come slithering back to bite you.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spring Fever

It happens every spring. I bask in the delight of everything greening up and . . . suddenly want to move to the country.

My hubby and I each grew up in rural communities. I have so many memories of walking unpaved roads near my house looking for pretty rocks, lazing on the back of my Shetland pony while reading a book, or taking turns being pulled through the grass on skiis behind a thirty-year-old motorbike.

We had room to do those things without being laughed at by the neighbors.

My best friend lived ten minutes away if we were really flying on the three-wheeler, fifteen minutes if my mom was following us.

There's nothing like the freedom of quiet, open spaces . . . until you start actually looking for country property.

Can we just add a little more stress to life?

Sitting in front of the computer searching through page after page of picturesque acreage on the real estate listings is pretty darn exciting for a goal-driven gal like myself.

And the excitement just amps up when, with printout in hand, you get to eagerly follow the real estate agent to each listing.

But disillusionment quickly sets in. No matter how you turn the page you can't quite figure how they got that beautiful view situated at the top of the printout from the land you're parked on.

But that's kinda like life. Buyer beware and all that.

Nothing is as it seems . . . or is it?

The properties I looked at didn't suddenly transform into ugly ducklings when I drove up, even though they only vaguely resembled the beautiful pictures I held.

It's all in the perception or the deception.

How often do we talk up something we want or focus solely on the negative traits of someone we're displeased with? It doesn't alter the reality that there's good and bad in most things.

It's just that the slice we choose to illuminate can skew perception.

It's the same with God. He IS all good. But the enemy of our souls is a master manipulator and skilled in the art of deception.

What slice has he shown you? Can you see through the lie to the truth of God's goodness?

I hope that you can. You'll never regret opening the door to relationship with Him.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Slipping of Time

Time seems to be slipping through my grasp.

The toddler that used to give me adorable grins with sparkling eyes now has a hint of adolescence in the tilt of his chin as he kids with me.

The chubby arms that used to wrap around my knees, sticky with bits of mashed Cheerios and popsicles rivulets staining the soft skin, now nearly drape across my shoulder.

The scent of baby lotion on velvety skin has been replaced by sweat and dirt and big grins after an afternoon of riding quads.

The little girl who used to play dress up with her dolls now wants to dress up for real.

No, I can't stop the sand from slipping between my fingers, no matter how tightly I hold on to it.

But what I can do is cherish each moment without looking over my shoulder at the mistakes. Without wishing away the moments I'd growled instead of holding my tongue, the times I listened with half an ear while I planned dinner in my head, or how often I drove with jabbering away on the cell phone rather than conversing with those precious souls in the back seat.

We grow and we learn. Cherish the now you have with your kids.

Time marches and soon we'll only hear the echo of them in our homes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Polishing the Burl

We just got home from a two week vacation. Family reunion in Canada, a lovely sojourn to Wallowa Lake and then visiting friends and a book signing in eastern Oregon.

There was very little grousing from the short people in the backseat as we wound our way up over mountains and down through canyons. That gave us much to be thankful for (we cleaned out the public library the day before we left).

It was perfectly delightful in most ways.

But TDH (tall, dark and handsome) wasn’t his normal cheerful, fun-loving self. This was due to the fact that bouncing and dragging behind the trailer the entire 2000 miles of our travels were the stresses and worries from several things back home.

It reminded me of that commercial, “Don’t leave home without it.” Well, trust me, I was wishing it’d been cut loose.

He was really great, mostly. Just a teensy Jekyll and Hyde-ish at times. Nothing we couldn’t live with, until the afternoon he got irritated at something I’d done.

All the defenses locked into place and I went into my glacial mode. Ice queen reigneth.

Warm connection was replaced by short, clipped conversations with minimal eye contact. I withdrew into my cave, and felt completely justified in pulling back.

Afterall, I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Oh, how the smug get humbled.

I was stewing in the trailer when the Lord gently cleared his throat. He reminded me that TDH wasn’t being prickly on purpose. The more prickly, the more he needed loving. Loving words and loving touch.

Rather than complaining about him being a bump on a log, I needed to polish the burl. (For those of you that don’t know, a burl is a growth on a tree that has an unusual grain and is beautiful when polished).

After the Lord patiently let me stutter through a litany of buts (“But, he…”) I headed back outside.

Do you know how hard it is to be nice when you feel wronged? When you’ve already decided that he needs to make the first move toward reconciliation?

I felt like a rusty old pump. Loving words jammed and crowded in my throat, coming out in spurts and muttered sputters. But I kept that pump handle moving.

The more I walked in faith, knowing I was doing the right thing, the more my feelings started to follow. Pretty soon, I wanted to love on him. Wanted to encourage and help him smooth those pricklies down.

And then we were laughing.

When I let go of my rights—my right to be mad and my right to wallow in my hurt—God’s grace can get to work.

Then freedom comes.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Missing in Action Part III

and finally . . .

• Be Quick to Forgive – When your child comes to you, head hung low and apologizes for his mistakes, simply offer him forgiveness (and do it with a hug or a touch). Do not rehash the situation or demean him for his behavior. Let it go. A child needs to have the freedom to make mistakes and be valued enough not to have his prior failures continually brought back up. There will be occasions when it is appropriate to have continued dialogue about what happened, but set a time for that. “Hey son, would after dinner be a good time to talk about happened?” You want him to be quick to repent, but if he fears a lecture or criticism when he does, he’ll stop coming to you.

• Express Anger in a Respectful Way – It is vital that we teach our kids how to express anger in a way that maintains the connection with others. This will come primarily through our example. People stop listening when they feel defensive. Using “I” statements to express frustration (rather than “you”), speaking in a controlled tone, and not throwing blame will help the other person really listen. If your child starts interrupting, raises his voices, or gets agitated, re-evaluate the way you express your anger and see if one of these elements needs to be adjusted.

• Be Affectionate – Touch your children frequently. Snuggle and cuddle when they are little. Maybe your older kids don’t want to snuggle while you watch a movie with them. Then find ways to express your affection at other times: a touch on the shoulder as you pass in the kitchen, a quick rub on the back as they are doing their homework, a quick tousle of the hair as a youngster rushes past. Loving touch expresses acceptance and caring. Find ways to convey your affection for them.

• Let Go – Your child is an individual—created in God’s image—not ours. Children are not meant to be mommy or daddy clones. Your kids will think and operate in ways unique to them. Celebrate and encourage those differences. God has a plan for your child. We don’t want to divert them onto the plan of our own design, but rather help them be all God created them to be.

Hug them tight!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Missing in Action Part II

. . . and more on that subject . . .


• Play With Your Kids – Let them experience your joy in being with them. Give them full and direct eye contact, smiles and warm touches. Let this time be about them. Shut off the phone and let the answering machine take any calls. Demonstrate that there is nothing more important than them in those moments. If you are stuck on how to play with them, get out some old fashioned board games. Let your child be the center of your world for a portion of each day. It takes less time than we think to deposit into their “love tanks.”

• Listen to Your Kids – Stop what you are doing and give your child your full attention when he speaks with you. Let your body language convey that you are fully attentive to them. Don’t try to fix their problems. Ask questions and be supportive. Show that you believe they are capable of finding their own solutions. If we want our kids to open up, we need to do all we can to ensure they walk away from their interactions with us feeling built up, rather than micro-managed or criticized.

• Maintain the Love Connection with Your Child At All Times – People grow and develop the most within the context of loving, supportive relationships. God designed you to be that supportive person in your children’s lives. Your love, your acceptance, and your belief in your children will have the greatest influence in their lives. But as you know, there are the countless times when their attitudes or choices may drive you toward volcano-sized eruptions. When that occurs, walk away until you can discuss the situation calmly. Show them through your example that anger does not replace love. Anger will occur situationally, but love remains a constant. A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Prov. 15:1) It’s one thing to love your child; it’s another for the child to know he’s loved no matter what mistakes he makes.

• Be Quick to Repent – Know that you’re going to blow it over and over. We all do. If you find that you’ve reacted harshly or responded in anger to your children, go to them and apologize. Take responsibility for your actions—don’t blame your response on their behavior—and ask their forgiveness. They need to see repentance modeled to them.

more to follow . . .

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Missing in Action

Don't send a boy to do a man's . . . er, a woman's job.

Don't expect the short people in your family to have the same attention to detail that you do.

We're traveling to Canada to a family reunion (my paternal grandfather was the youngest of thirteen children and the only one to move down to the States, so there are hundreds of my people across the border) and I have been a rather frantic version of my lovely self trying to get everything ready to go.

The children would prefer to watch TV or lounge on the couch with a book rather than help tidy up or fold a few clothes to get things moving along.

It doesn't help that I give a directive and then leave the room. I expect that if their eyes are on me that their ears are listening.

I also expect that if I give them an objective, like say, clean off the kitchen counter, that they'll actually do it.

Unrealistic expectations are death to a relationship. So I've notched down my expectations and am learning to help them along, to work with them rather than expect them to treat my objectives with the same fervor I have.

I'm going to run a three part series on Ten Ways to Love Your Child at Any Age. Here are the first two ways you can love your child:

• Lower Your Expectations – Unmet expectations lead to anger. Most parents find that the fast lane to frustration is finding that the kids didn’t clean their rooms, mow the yard, or get their homework done like they were asked to do. Unfortunately, children are hardwired toward foolishness (Prov. 22:15). But if you can expect the foolishness, you’ll bypass the frustration. You’ll find yourself instead in a wonderful position to teach, guide and lovingly correct your child.

• Hold Your Kids Accountable – But pick your battles wisely. Rather than correcting each mistake your child makes, focus on one or two areas that need improving. Strategize ways to teach and hold him accountable to the rules of your home. For example, if you want him to become more responsible in finishing his after-school chores, let him know he’ll be welcome to have dinner once his chores are completed. Your follow through on sticking with the consequences will help him the most.

More to follow . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Just Like Me

I went away a couple weekends ago to work on a proposal for a new book series. It was pure bliss to have a silent house to work in without interruption.

I'm one of those people who could never study with the TV on. Background noise was an irritant. You'll recognize me in Starbucks. I'm the one with the book, the frappuccino and the earplugs.

You can see my dilemma in trying to work in a house with four munchkins. Three of them very loud boys.

At the end of the weekend, having exceeded my expectations in productivity, I headed home. Walked in the door, greeted my family with hugs and kisses and carted my bag to the closet . . . where half my clothes were missing.

I didn't notice this at first. The puzzling circumstance came to my attention when I did the laundry and found all those clothes stuffed in the hamper.

I'm sure my lips peeled back and my eyes narrowed to tiny slits. I knew the culprit. She lived in my house and had also gotten into my fingernail polish and make up.

Fortunately, the Lord lassoed me and gave me a quick talking to before I marched into the other room to do my own talking.

He showed me that she wants to be like me. She loves me, admires me, and wants to be close to me. Wearing my clothes and make up, and all my shoes I found scattered around the house was her way of becoming like her mom.

That completely changed my perspective. Where I had been thoroughly annoyed, I became humbled and awed and a little flattered. Seeing it through His eyes warmed my heart (and helped me grit my teeth and smile when the button on my silk sweater fell off from exuberant wear).

How often do we study our heavenly Dad and adopt his characteristics? Gentleness, kindness, truth tempered by love, humor in the presence of chaos.

I want to be more like my Dad. How about you?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Full Indian?

I had a book signing today. During a lull (there were many lulls), a boy of about eleven sauntered up. Blue eyes looked at me from a freckled face surrounded by a mop of sun bleached hair.

He studied one of the books on my table a moment and asked, "You make that?" I told him I had written it and someone else made the cover. He nodded and asked a few more questions.

Somehow we worked our conversation around to ourselves. He said, "I'm part Indian."

I said, "Wow! I always wanted to be an Indian." His expression turned superior as the one standing there with the Indian blood. He strolled a couple steps away and perused a display of necklaces.

He was especially taken by one that had a huge cross on it and said proudly, "I'm a Christian." I told him how great that was.

Then he turned and pulled himself up to his full height and stated. "I'm full Christian and a little bit Indian."

I loved it. Christianity wasn't something he adopted, it was who he was as much as his physical heritage.

I'm full Christian with a little bit German, Irish and Welsh. What are you?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Unshrink Your World

Took the kids to the swimming pool today. It was a mad house. As we were lathering up the sunscreen, Logan looked at me with woeful eyes and said, "I forgot my goggles."

Fifteen minutes later, seven-year-old Kaden came up to me, "Mom, can you get me any goggles?" I told him I couldn't. He said, "I need some . . . like I NEED."

Isn't it funny how our world can shrink down to our point of discomfort? If something doesn't feel good or stretches us a little too much, it becomes our point of need.

We aren't good at enduring things beyond a certain comfort level. What does that say about us, about our characters?

It's easy to be self-centered. Who doesn't want to be served and fawned over? But is that where we're supposed to live? It certainly inhibits growth.

I was listening to James Dobson interview Archibald Hart about his book Thrilled to Death: How the Endless Pursuit of Pleasure Is Leaving Us Numb.

He said our need to be constantly stimulated can actually create a condition called anhedonia which is the inability to experience pleasure and can lead to depression.

Dr. Hart states that one of the best things we can do for our kids is to let them become bored.

I perked up when I heard that. My kids would say I'm excelling in that department this summer.

It's easy to focus on what excites and stimulates us and want some more heaping portions of it. (Okay, I admit I visited Cold Stone two days in a row and it was so good I ordered the bigger size the second day.) But where are we when it comes to humbly serving those around us?

It takes sacrifice and strength to put others needs and desires ahead of our own. Who doesn't want the biggest slice of cake? I know I'm not the only one raising my hand here.

We don't need to sign up for every committee or join a non-profit, we just need to adjust our mindset a degree or two (or a hundred) and be watchful. Look up from our own point of discomfort and think of those around us.

That might even be the under ten crowd that drives us crazy before noon and needs their goggles to go swimming.

You'll be amazed at the blessings that come back to you.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Resting in the Seconds

I was flipping through my journal—the place where I can unload on God, reflect on what's going on in my life, or jot down a new book idea. And I came across this prayer I wrote a few months ago when I needed to make some decisions about a big project and in the process did some pondering about myself:

"I'm scared. I'm scared of the unknown and of being in trouble with "them." I don't want to be in pleaser mode and I also don't want to run over people. So teach me how to be myself and to be gracious.

I don't want to be rough on the outside so if I brush up against someone it's abrasive. I also don't want to be so weak that I'm malleable and porous—letting things ooze out or saturate in. I want to be immovable and able to withstand life's tornados. Jesus, I need you."

I've noticed something about myself. There's this "them" out there that I fear letting down. Fear that I'm going to be judged harshly and found lacking. Sometimes those "thems" are actual people, but much of the time they are nameless and faceless, hovering on the periphery, a product of my performance driven imagination.

They fuel the lie that there is something more I should be doing, something I should be trying harder at: parenting, time with God, writing . . . those things that are so important to me, but have difficulty resting in.

Though it is getting easier.

I'm starting to get that perfection is not the goal. That God did not design me to go it alone or aim for the stars and get there in my own rocket ship.

When I become intentional about resting in Him, all those "thems" disappear. I'm living and breathing for an audience of One. The desire for excellence doesn't disappear—His standards are high. The difference is He does the equipping.

Too often I hear the call and then scramble and stress trying to do it all on my own, and then cringe at the thought of being judged for my efforts.

It's not supposed to be that way.

When He sets us on a path, He'll provide all we need and the companionship we crave.

I want to walk that path with him second by second.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Misinformation Highway

Everyone's an expert. Or at least has a convincing viewpoint, even if in their own mind.

We're traveling to Canada in a few weeks for a family reunion. And we've been dealing with the big question--passport or no passport. Mat and I are covered as we have passports. But it's the kids we're concerned about. Would hate to have to leave them at the border (most days, anyway).

So I checked the Homeland Security Web site. Reassured that the kids didn't need passports, I shelved the worry and got back to the business of trying to enjoy my summer with bored children (they've been out of school a week).

But then someone in the checkout line of the grocery store convinced me that the Homeland Security site wasn't up to speed as I most certainly did need a passport. And did I know how backlogged the passport agency was? No one could get a passport in under a month's time.

As we're supposed to leave in two weeks, sheer panic set in. So I called my local post office where the gal assured me that no I did not need passports for the children, but I did need birth certificates and photo ID for them. Heart rate fell back to normal as I hung up the phone. But even then, I worried a fingernail. What if she was mistaken? What if we got to the border and were turned away, trailer loaded with camping essentials and pickup packed with grumpy kids.

I could not take that chance.

So I called a post office in a neighboring town. That gentleman told me that absolutely the children needed passports. He didn't know anything about what the Homeland Security site stated, but knew he was correct as his office received frequent regulation updates.

I warp sped back to panic. Did some digging and got a hold of the number for the federal passport agency. The woman I finally spoke with after listening to multitudes of . . . "please press 1 if you need to speak with . . ." was amazing. She was calm and she had knowledge. And the golden reassurance was that she was the passport agency. What she said was truth (and of course, matched the Homeland Security Web site—went full circle on that one).

Lesson learned? Go to the source. Go to the maker of truth.

Everyone will give you their version of the truth. But much of it is misinformation or has gotten warped and twisted along the way. Kind of like that telephone game we played as kids. The first person says something in the second person's ear, and by the time it's gone around the circle and the last person shares what they heard, it's nothing like the original statement.

You know what I think often happens with God's truth? We Christians think we know God, but in actuality live under rules of performance that we think God puts on us, and then we push them onto others.

So God's truth gets twisted through us. And it grieves him. It pushes away the very people he wants to wrap his arms around.

We're his spokespersons and we're getting it wrong because we really don't understand his truths. We don't really understand or know Him. Just like the people in all those passport offices that I spoke with. They thought they knew truth, and they spoke as if it were the truth.

But it doesn't have to be bad news. Ask God to reveal who he truly is to you. If you are afraid of God, or afraid of what he thinks when he looks at you, you don't have to be. That is not what the Bible teaches. If you've confessed your sinfulness to Him, and asked Jesus to be your savior, you don't have to live in fear any more.

There is only one truth. God's truth. And it's good news.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Boiling Point

Have you ever reached that point in parenting where you stand bewildered with heart aching and wonder, “What the heck am I supposed to do now? Where is the darn manual that will show me how to get these kids to mind?"

Or at least tone down the attitude.

I seem to get to that place in cycles. Things will go smoothly. Kids obey more than just sporadically. They actually seem to care about my feelings and seem to want to please. They don’t buck the house rules too hard.

I get lulled into thinking we’re past the hard stuff. The kids tested the limits and now we’ve all settled in and things will run smoothly until they graduate and move on to college.

WAAAHHH! WAAAHH!! (that’s the thinking error alarm screeching in my ear)

Kids are soooooo unpredictable. Especially with all those pre-pubescent hormones swirling through their veins and turning them into short little Jekyll and Hydes.

And it can hit out of nowhere. One minute life is sailing along fine and dandy and the next I’m running for my closet. Sounds odd, I know, but I do spend an inordinate amount of time in there.

It’s where I go to vent, to cry and to ask God for help (after I get done complaining about the little critters).

He’s patient. He’s doesn’t condemn when I get a little loose in my word choices. (My little cherubs know just the buttons to push to drive me into my flesh in a nanosecond.)

But I’m learning something. We are spirit and flesh. My spirit desires to please God, but it’s severely hampered by the flesh I drag around every day. That flesh craves sin. (For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. Galatians 5:17)

The sad thing is we can’t overcome our flesh. As Paul states in Romans 7, we don’t do the things we know we should (righteous living) and we do the things we know we shouldn’t (sinful living).

That’s why I RUN to my closet. I don’t want to stay in my flesh one second longer than I have to. And if I go to my dad (God) and ask for help, he’ll do just that.

He’ll correct my mind where my thinking is off base (usually selfish) and heal my heart where it’s been wounded by careless words and the fleshly thinking of young kids, AND he’ll show me what to do next.

Closet time gets me reconnected to God. When we disconnect, and we will many times a day, we fall into sin. That’s not a place I want to live.

Do you have a space you go to vent and reconnect? I would love to hear about a time when you felt that frustration and tension starting to grow fangs. What did you do to get out of that place? Leave a comment or send me an email.

Let’s grow together!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kids and Pets and Moms With No Memory


I called my youngest son “Milo” again. What kind of mother calls her son by the dog’s name?

Sometimes I don’t even notice. The other kids admonish me with censure in their tones. “Mommm, you called him Milo again.” Though they seem to be more bothered than their little brother.

He doesn’t seem to mind. Milo is a significant part of our family. Maybe when you’re seven, an adorable and playful Jack Russell seems more like a younger brother than a dog. He keeps Kaden from being the tail to our litter.

We are a little pathetic when it comes to our puppy. Some of you may cringe at the thought of dog fur on your sheets, but my husband fights the kids to be the one who gets to sleep with Milo.

I think I may have driven TDH (tall, dark and handsome) to those furry little paws. You see, I’m one of those who can not drift off to dreamland wrapped in my husband’s arms.

As newlyweds we tried and tried to snuggle to sleep. I’d think, surely I’ll get tired enough to fall asleep. An hour or so later, I’d ease over to my side of the bed.

I can’t even abide a toe touching my leg. TDH has grown accustomed to gentle little nudges to get back across that middle line. He even obeys in his sleep.

So despite the fact that I can’t keep kids and pets straight, my family still loves me. And really, is it any wonder that Milo slips off my tongue so easily? He comes when I call!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Being Authentic

The Two Second Delay Syndrome. Do you have it? I lived it for most of my life. Those of us people pleasers (though I consider myself in recovery) know it well.

If someone made a statement, I’d wait a heartbeat or so, get a feel for which way the wind was blowing. Didn’t want to stick my neck out there and be left hanging by myself. While I was full of opinions, I’d rarely voice them if they were different than the consensus.

What if I was wrong? What if people thought I was uninformed or even odd? That, of course, could lead to rejection.

Rejection terrified me on some base level that I rarely examined. Just sort of avoided thinking about. Just as I avoided being authentic and real.

Took me years to gain confidence in being . . . well, me. The me, apart from being right. The me, independent of success or wealth. The plain me, no toppings or additions.

The me God loves.

It took a hard time in my life, where the worst happened. Ultimate, annihilating rejection. There was nowhere to turn except God. I clung to him with all I had within me.

I used to hear people make that statement and roll my eyes. But when you’ve been in that pit, you know how true it is. What a life line of hope He holds.

He taught me about love. True, accepting love. The kind that looks beyond your mistakes and revels in who you are. It’s mind boggling and humbling to see how little you have to offer and yet be given the gift of life and freedom. Wholeness and healing. Acceptance and uncontainable joy.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Get to know the His truth.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Charlie

What makes a hero?

I think most of us wouldn’t bat an eye to help someone in need. We’d walk that extra mile to lend a hand.

So what separates us from truly heroic people?

Last August we had our company picnic at a lake near town. It was our typical picnic except that due to a dry winter the reservoir was very low. A handful of us walked with our kids across the sand, and then further out across the hardening mud down to the water’s edge.

A few of the kids got in and played. The smaller ones had to wear life jackets as about a foot out, the bottom dropped off and the water was deep.

As I kept an eye on my children, I noticed another group of people walking along the water’s edge a little way from us.

Then a young voice yelled, “He’s drowning!”

All the adults turned and . . . froze. Near where the other group had passed, about four feet from shore bobbed a baseball cap. My mind tried to comprehend that a child was beneath that hat.

Submerged.

Charlie was a blur as he ran past us all toward the edge and jumped. Like I wished I had.

Up they both came. One small panicked boy held tightly against Charlie’s side.

Where we all stood dumb-stricken, Charlie acted. And saved that little boy’s life.

Is it training? Is it instinct? I don’t know.

I just know I want to be more like Charlie.