I’ve never…..

I recently found out that this was a “drinking” game. Funnily enough, the first time I played it was at a women’s Bible study, except you earned toothpicks instead of chugging alcohol. Let’s say I start off the game with a statement “I’ve never broken a bone.” Anyone playing who HAS broken a bone before must give me a toothpick. Then the next person gives their “I’ve never _________.” statement and anyone who has ever _________ will give that person a toothpick and so on and so forth until one person holds all the toothpicks. Technically that person is the winner, but winning isn’t the point of the game. It’s about having a hilarious time getting to know all your friends’ dirty little secrets.

Recently I came up with a twist on the game. It doesn’t involve toothpicks, yet it is more scandalous than drinking. Instead of giving someone a toothpick, you give someone……dun dun dun duunnnnn…. MERCY!!! And instead of doing this when someone declares what they *haven’t*  done, you give it when there is something that they *have* done.

Let me explain.

Scenario #1

Someone cuts you off in traffic. Your blood starts to boil. You may even consider cutting them off. But wait….it’s time for a rousing game of “I’ve never!” Here’s what you do. Think carefully. Can you say….I have never cut someone off. Ever. Or made any driving infractions. No Mistakes. Never taken a wrong turn. Never Fallen victim to a blind spot. You have? Okay here’s how you play.  At that point, forget about drinking or toothpicks. Pull out a large helping of mercy and give it out.

Scenario #2
 You try calling your spouse/friend/cousin/daughter/sister/neighbor. And they don’t pick up the phone. In fact, they NEVER pick up the phone. UGH!!! Especially when you need them. Like NOW! Pick up. Pick up. Pick up. No. Nothing. So annoying!! Wait……right when you feel that temper tantrum kicking in (yes, that’s what I called it) it’s time to play “I’ve never_________”  “I have never been unreachable when someone tried to call me. Ever. Never left my phone home. Never left the house without the charger. Never been on a call and not clicked over. Never been in the bathroom when the phone beckoned. Never not once.” Nope. Not likely.  Okay, pull out some mercy. And give it up.

Scenario #3
You get an email. And immediately you “hear” the persons tone. They are so rude! How could they “talk” to you like that! So disrespectful. But wait. Before you get ready to blast them back an email, or share this one with all of your friends….it’s time to play….”I’ve never!” Have you never had someone misunderstand your written word? Or taken something you emailed the wrong way? Because that has definitely happened to me. You see, I am a pretty straightforward person. I have to really try to add a “Bless your heart” here or there in emails, because I have learned that my “Get to the point” nature can come across as rude in writing. So much so that I was once kicked out of a Freecycle group (I kid you not) because of my “tone” in an email. If you are not familiar with Freecycle, it is a group where you can give away items, and even ask for items. Their one basic rule is that you can’t “ask” for an item until you have given something away. After giving a ton of items away, I decided to test the waters and post a “wanted” ad.  The powers that be refused to post it because they said I had never given anything away. “That’s easy,” I thought, and I quickly emailed them all of the “evidence” I had of the items I had given away. They then accused me of “only giving away items so that I could get items.” Lord have mercy. These people are crazy. I tried to resolve it quickly though and just got to the point. I emailed quotes from their rules that showed I hadn’t broken protocol. Next thing I knew I was kicked out. When I asked why, they wrote that my “tone” was aggressive.  I read and reread these emails, even had my husband read them and we could not figure out what “aggressive tone” they were talking about. So yeah. I guarantee that your intentions for an email have been misunderstood. You just may not know about it.  Knowing this little tidbit from my life however, before you assign “tone” to an email, it’s time to give it up. Mercy.

Scenario #4
 You hear of how someone has been wronged. You hear all the sordid “details.” You are furious. How could that person do that to them? Don’t they know that such and such is wrong! Just plain wrong. That’s it. You are never talking to them again, and you are going to make sure everyone knows what a jerk they are for behaving so ungodly. But wait! This is the perfect time for “I’ve never!” It is amazing to me how popular the saying “There are two sides to every story” is, yet how quickly people are to dismiss this reality. And like wildfire rumors are spread. Assumptions are formed. Character maligned. All because we latch on to one side of the story. I used to be the first one in line to do this. Until, that is, God put me with a man who never did. I would tell him these atrocious stories that should have evoked the same outrage in him that I was feeling, and he would be slow to jump on board. He knew there was likely another side to the story. That attitude used to frustrate me to no end. Mercy. How could he extend mercy to someone so clearly in the wrong?  Until it was me to whom he was extending mercy. Then I got it. It took me too many years, but I finally got it.

What is my point? We live in a world, where people get incredibly bent out of shape over the smallest offenses. And not only are these infractions not worth the anger they provoke, but they are also sins that we commit ourselves, regularly. Thoughtlessness, selfishness, pride, carelessness, laziness, distractability, forgetfulness. No one is immune to this list. And when we are the offenders? We want Mercy. We expect Mercy.

Ok fine. Not you. You don’t do those things, or at least not as bad as that other person. But let us remember the enormous debt that we all have accrued, illustrated best in the story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35. We have all received an immeasurable amount of mercy. And to those who have been forgiven much, we must love much. This truth is emphasized beautifully in James 2:13

For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy.
 Mercy triumphs over judgment.
I dare you to play the game tomorrow. I guarantee you will have an opportunity! Comment here if you do! I would love to hear about it. I am sure I will have a chance also, and I pray that God would flood our minds and hearts with His mercy, and that we would faithfully extend it to others!

The top 15 reasons it’s tough to be a lefty.

 In honor of Left-Handers day I thought I would try to educate 90% of the world on what it’s like for a minority like me. If you’re a righty, I don’t expect you to understand. But if you are a lefty, I know you will be nodding your head and reliving tragic childhood memories with me. Seriously people. My grandfather had his hands smacked with a ruler for using his left hand. But the joke is on them!  I think his genes doubled down and produced a ton of lefties including both of his children and all three of his grandchildren! My poor right handed mother. The craftiest woman known to man had to teach two lefty daughters how to knit, crochet, and needlepoint backwards! One hundred percent of her children were lefty! Can you imagine? The social implications? In our house it was the opposite of the rest of the world. In our house 75% of the population was lefty! For my sister and I, it was a utopia of sorts. But I guess my mom could have used this this:

 

Yeah, there is a whole book dedicated to helping parents raise lefty children in this right handed world. So here ya go. I know that only 10% of my readers will be interested in this list, if that! But for once, there is something designed just for us, and not the other way around. So I dare you, my fellow lefty, share with pride! Let’s stand in solidarity! Go lefties!!!
  1. Erasable pens.Yes they are in our past, thank God, but what about my memory? That is permanent, and so are the ink stains on my hand.
     
  2. Teachers lamenting that my handwriting skills are doomed.
     
  3. 3 ring binders- These are like some kind of medieval torture device. Could you write neatly with your arm stuck in between 2 giant metal hoops?
  4. Spiral bound notebooks- ouch
  5. Desks- Where does my elbow go?
  6. Scissors- I always had to fight that other lefty for the rusty pair of left scissors. Or share. That works good. 
     
  7. Realizing your belt buckle is upside down. (I don’t expect Righties to get this at all.)
  8. Dealing with traders- people who write with their left and play sports with their right.
  9. Feeling used- “Oh you’re a lefty? You can hit to right field, right??”
  10. Never being associated with being correct.
    “You’re……. not right”
    Who wants to be “left” out?
  11. Always being associated with liberals. “Those lefties”
  12. Lame jokes to help us cope. “At least I am in my right mind”
  13. Nobody wants to sit next to you at meals. 
     
  14. Spending 90% of your life using doors, cup holders in cars, computer mouses, knives, pens, pencils, belts, pant zippers, can openers, playing cards, etc. that have been specifically designed to NOT work for you.

    15. Media Bias: Check out this Huffpost (of course) article that says lefties are angry, psychotic, alcoholics. But hey, we’re better at sports! 🙄https://www.google.com/amp/s/m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_55d39e97e4b0ab468d9ec794/amp
     

 

Two things that should scare you more than flesh-eating bacteria in the water and dry drowning!!

Whenever someone posts anything dramatic on face book, I am instantly skeptical and have to check about three websites before I will believe it or even think about sharing it!  Google people. It is your friend! Statistics bring amazing perspective.
Living in Florida, I have seen two headlines hitting my newsfeed over and over.
Flesh eating bacteria in the water
and
dry drowning.
 If I am going to be honest with you I have to admit that my first reactions were a typical knee-jerk response.
Like this:
FLESH EATING BACTERIA AT THE BEACH??? BUT I WAS SUPPOSED TO GO TO THE BEACH TOMORROW!!! NOW WHAT???
Then I remembered this one small fact. Please, if you take anything away from this blog, remember this. We live in the most sensational country ever. People actually NEED you to click on their article to make money. Therefore, (here comes your “takeaway”)
***The headline of an article is rarely 100% true.****
 In other words, it is likely 99% misleading.
The blog post that reads “10 reasons why I don’t homeschool,” is written by a homeschooling mom who is going to tell you a bunch of reasons that aren’t the reasons why she homeschools, and then she will tell you why she does.
 “Israel Violates Ceasefire” is the title of an article that will likely mention that Hamas had actually never even observed the ceasefire to begin with, so technically there was no ceasefire for Israel to violate.

“These boys start singing and Simon Cowell does the unthinkable!” Wow! What does he do?? I can’t even think of what he could do that is unthinkable!! Wait….. he puts them to through to the next round. Yeah, I could have thought of that.

 My points are these:
1. Never believe a headline.
2. Pay attention to the details.
Which leads me to the sensational (but 100% true) title of this blog post.
What is *more dangerous* than going in water where you could contract a flesh-eating bacteria at the beach?
Wait for it…….
 Driving to the beach.

Yes. Let’s look at the numbers that prompted the headline…

“Florida Officials: Watch out for flesh-eating bacteria” from Florida Today:

Wow, I have to watch out for it? Ok. It must be everywhere!
Of course I had to google to find out how many people had actually died from this ailment in Florida over the course of a year. The answer? 11.
Now, please understand this.  I believe that every one of those lives is important, and I am not diminishing their value. My question is merely this, do the headlines and fear mongering match the likelihood that it will actually happen to you.  And furthermore, are their suggestions for avoiding this disease practical?
Ok, so how do you avoid flesh eating bacteria?
Their solution is ridiculous. Don’t go into the water during the summer with a scrape or open wound or if you have a low immunity. Like, the whole summer? Any scrape? What if I don’t know I have one? Full body scans for all of my 5 children before letting them in the water??
 Because…11 people…in the whole state…. over the course of a year?
Let’s contrast that now with the number of fatalities that have occurred during that same year in Florida from driving accidents. Over 2,300.
So mathematically speaking, you are 209 times more likely to die on the way to the beach, then actually from a flesh eating bacteria at the beach.
What does that mean?
Go to the beach for the love of Pete.   But be careful on your drive there!! That’s what the headline should have read! Or maybe this:
Stay in the ocean this summer to avoid being killed in a car.”
But instead we get:
“Watch out for flesh eating bacteria.”
Oh boy.
Next, let’s cover dry drowning. Dry drowning occurs when a person inhales a small amount of water during a struggle. The results can be fatal. But you know what else is fatal? Real drowning. In fact, of all drowning cases, 99% of fatalities are typical drowning cases. But if you could see my face book feed you would think it was the opposite. Maybe one or two people mentioning that it is a good idea to get swim lessons, and everyone else is making sure I know about dry drowning.
 *Once again, the warning is not proportionate to the risk.* 
A better use of everyone’s newsfeed would be to encourage others to make sure their kids learn how to  swim, like really swim, not with floaties.  Here is a statistic that actually should scare every single person in Florida. Drowning, the real kind, is the number one killer of kids under 5. Number one. Not cancer, not vaccinations, not flesh-eating bacteria, not even car accidents. Drowning. You must have your kids vaccinated to get them into school to make sure they don’t spread polio. But polio isn’t what is killing our little children. Water is.
Here’s the thing. You are TERRIFYING people. These are the symptoms to watch for and go to the hospital if you see “ANY OF THEM”
-Coughing
-Gasping
-Chest pain
-Trouble breathing
-Feeling extremely tired
-Lips or skin turning blue
-Changes in behavior
-A high-pitched breathing sound called stridor
-Foam around the mouth – Anyone pulled from the water who is coughing or sputtering and has foam around their mouth needs emergency care immediately.
If a person who has been in water shows any of these symptoms, call 911 or get them to a hospital emergency room as soon as possible.
This list is so bizarre. Either they are normal reactions to swimming all day. (Coughing, changes in behavior,  or extremely tired) OR they are obvious reasons to call the Dr. (Trouble breathing and turning blue)
But everyone shares this article and moms everywhere freak out.
There are a lot of people clamoring for our attention. And trust me, as an information junkie, I think information is absolutely important. I just think it should be proportionate to how it affects us and the world at large, and what we can reasonably do about it.
This may surprise you, but I actually do believe that certain people should stay out of the water at the beach. But unlike Florida officials, my reasons aren’t because of flesh eating bacteria or dry drowning. The reason that people, kids especially, should stay out of the water is if they cannot swim!  Do not despair though, because “not being able to swim” is curable!! Simply find a good teacher. A good teacher can get your kid swimming in a week, not over the course of a million weeks. Do it now. Do it fast. Yes, it costs money, but seriously people. What is more important?
***Check out Miss Leigh’s Swim School on FB  We used her for all five of our children. Because obviously.

A time to mourn.- I Samuel 25:1

I Samuel 25:1

As I have been reading through I Samuel chronologically, there have been a few stops in Psalms. Those of you that are on this journey with me, know that I have been aching to get back into I Samuel. I feel like I left David hanging. He is hiding from Saul, and I need to get back there to get him to safety. 🙂 Nevertheless, God had many beautiful lessons and comforts for me in the Psalms, for which my heart is glad.
So finally, FINALLY, today is the day. I am back in I Samuel. And what is the first verse? The first three words I read?
Then Samuel died;

Wait, what? No, no no!! Samuel can’t die. Not now. David needs Samuel. He is the one who has mentored him, anointed him, prayed for him. Samuel. What will David do without Samuel? Oh the feelings that must have surged through David’s heart. Will the calling still be fulfilled? Who will take his place? What will happen to the people? What now?
and the Israelites gathered together and lamented for him

What happens now? The answer is simple, but it might surprise you.
What do they need to do first before anything else?
 Mourn.
 It has to be done. Nothing else can happen until it does. And this verse, this one, matter of fact verse, seemingly separate from the rest of the chapter, bears more relevance to me and a million other people in the world right now than most of us would care to think about.
What is mourning?  It is the outward expression of grief.
Who is mourning?Well, it might be easier to answer ……… who isn’t? 
 
Mourning happens as a result of loss. The death of a loved one is the most commonly spoken of reason for grief, but there are countless other losses that evoke this same type of feeling.
The loss of a dream. The loss of a home. The loss of a marriage. The loss of a job. In David’s case? The loss of a leader.
This great loss…..
The Bible specifically mentions those that mourned loss.
In Numbers 14:39,  The Israelites mourn the loss of entering the promise land. Dreams and expectations shattered.
In Psalm 119:136, the Psalmist mourns the sins of God’s people. He says, “Tears stream down from my eyes, because they do not keep Your law.
Hosea 4:3 tells us that the land mourns because of Israel’s sin and because of the consequences that have come upon the land as a result of that.

More often than not, feelings of grief are ignored and left unidentified causing decades of damage.

I have felt deep grief a handful of times. And those early days? When you are going about your day, and  all of a sudden remember that your life is never going to be the same again? Those moments that take your breath away and make you literally shake your head in disbelief? That is grief. Even if no one has died.
Disclaimer: I love my brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, I dare you to find a more ardent defender of the bride of Christ than I. But this needs to be said.  Allowing others to mourn, is not our specialty.  Grief makes us so uncomfortable. 
It usually takes about 3.4 seconds after hearing the news that someone’s loved one has died for them to hear the following exchange:
Was he a Christian?
Oh good.
Well, at least he’s in a better place. 
Or how about a women that cannot bear a child? How many times has she heard a flippant, “Well, you can always adopt right?” This is not compassion.
Look, I am as big a fan of Pollyanna’s glad game as anyone, I am just saying, it would be a good idea to apply scripture in these instances.

Bear each other’s burdens.

Mourn with those that mourn.

 Mourn.
Not without hope. No. We have hope. We have The Hope. But some rush so fast through the “We mourn” part of that verse and only express the “hope” part.
Recently I gave a mom permission to cry her eyes out after the death of her son. Her response?  Relief and surprise. It’s ok, I stressed to her.  I needed her to know that she wasn’t somehow less spiritual because of her deep sadness. The fact that she didn’t know this was a wake up call to me. How did she not know that it is within her absolute right as a mom, nay a Christian mom, to sob uncontrollably for what she has lost? What have we done when a mother feels guilty for appropriately mourning the loss of her son?

Why are we rushing people past their God given imperative to mourn, just to put on a happy face? Don’t do it. If you are mourning, take it to God. Let Him walk you through it. If you know someone who is mourning a loss, any loss, mourn with them.

Don’t rush me.  I won’t do it. I am allowed to mourn.  No matter how often you tell me God has a plan, I will just tell you that I know He has a plan, and mourning is part of it. Mourning doesn’t make you any less of a Christian. It doesn’t mean you don’t have joy. Or strength. Or faith. On the contrary. It takes faith to let yourself sob, heaving uncontrollable sobs, on someone’s shoulder. It takes strength to reach out to someone and let them know you need help, that you need a burden bearer. 

Grief isolates. Mourning brings people together. 
Mourning does not look the same for everyone. I am not an expert. I only know what it looks like for me.

Writing
. I have to write. I have to organize my thoughts. 
Talking. I need someone to know I am sad and be sad with me. I need to be understood and be able to express my thoughts.
Crying. It cleanses me. 
Praising. I have never reached my hands higher to God than I have in those lowest of low moments. Praise songs rise from my lips as tears fall to the floor. And I am healing.
Meditating on scripture. I need a go to verse.
Laughter I don’t want to brag, but I have some of the funniest friends on the planet. And with one word, they can make me laugh out loud, erasing the pain, if only for a moment.
There are a lot of wounded people walking around that have never allowed themselves to mourn, and some actually feel that this is the godly way. 
My dear friend is always saying “We need more burden bearers.” And I couldn’t agree more. You don’t need the perfect words to say. Just be there. Hug. Sit. Pour a glass of water.
Ecclesiastes 7
It is better to go to a house of mourning
than to go to a house of feasting,
since that is the end of all mankind,
and the living should take it to heart.
Grief is better than laughter,
for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad.
The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure.
In your moment of mourning. Take note. Learn. Oh there is so much to learn. Soak in the presence of God. Feel every feeling. Invite your family and friends to mourn with you. Turn to each other, not on each other. God promises to turn our mourning into laughter, our weeping into dancing. He says there is a time to cry. It will not last forever, but it. must. be.

If we do not mourn properly, grief turns to bitterness and despair.
 

I pray for those that are mourning, by name. I know so many of you. Too many. Join with me. Lift up your brothers and sisters in prayer. Call. Email. Text. Love. Bear burdens. We are the church. We.Are.The.Church. We are family. And they will know we are Christians by our love for one another.

I’m not missing you at all.

This week was the last meeting of the year for our Classical Conversations Home school group, and if I am going to be totally honest, there are a few moms there that I am just not going to miss during the break. But for the sake of time, I will just mention one.
Her name is Eunice. Eunice and I are total opposites in so many ways. She says things like “when we finished all our school work before noon,” or “when I was writing lesson plans” and “when I finished cleaning,” …..all things I have never said. She has three boys about the ages of my three girls. Her southern charm and blond hair stand in stark contrast to my fast talking brunette self.  Then something happened. I couldn’t tell you exactly why it started, but all of a sudden she became the go-to recipient of my weekly, “Hey, I am running late” text on Tuesday morning, to which she would reply with grace and and smiley face 🙂 She was the one who laughed at my silly comments at our Tutor meetings when I thought no one was paying attention. Yes, before I knew it, or could have predicted it, we were friends. I felt understood by her, and I began learning from her.  I decided I want to be more like her when I grew up. Parting for the summer can be sad with this type of friend, but on that last day, she tried to make me feel better by letting me know that she had a feeling…… she wouldn’t miss me. Did you read that? Yup, She said every word of it. Not the sweet southern charm to which I had become accustomed. “Wait, that came out wrong,” she said. “I mean, I have a feeling I am still going to see you, so I won’t miss you.” Oh, ok. Yes. That’s better. We fumbled through some get together ideas, until I finally invited myself, with children, over to her house to swim. Satisfied, we hugged and parted ways.
It was then that I determined that I was going to not miss some other ladies from my wonderful group of Tuesday Family Friends. Life is so busy with stuff. But this summer, I want it to be busy with friends. Old and new. Intentionally. Normally, I am the queen of the last minute invite. “Heading to the park, are you free?” is my modus operandi.  Even though it is hit or miss, at this stage of life, it is usually all I feel capable of coordinating while swimming upstream in a sea of laundry and dishes.
I have often just shook my head when hearing of other hyper planners that do things like….arrange things ahead of time! Planning is something my mother does. I mean, if I have to, I will plan things, but it is painful. Some people love to plan, like my first born daughter. Imagine that. But it is not in my nature, for a number of reasons, not the least being, I am the baby of the family. The end.
But not this summer. Look out. I am tired of saying “We should get together” and knowing almost instantly that it won’t happen. I am going to start hunting some of you down and penciling you in. You have been warned, especially if you have a pool. 🙂 And when we get together, I want to know more about you. I want to know how you found Jesus. And how you met your husband. And what was your major. Why did you chose that? What do you want to be doing when your kids are grown? I want to know more about all these beautiful faces that I see in the hallway, once a week. I want to know what we can learn from each other. I want know what you have learned about the character of God in your life.
Let’s go deeper this summer, building relationships, sharing life, sharing prayer requests, and making memories,   all the while allowing ourselves to see a person beyond preconceived ideas and superficial differences.
What are some ideas you have for getting together so you can not miss your friends when your school year is over? Share in the comments!

You’ll never guess what I am wearing!!

“Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.”
Mother Teresa

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. These are but trifles, to be sure; but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.”
Joseph Addison
Whenever I go to the store, I am constantly amazed at how many angry/depressed/empty faces there are around me. Especially when right in front of them are five of the cutest kids to ever walk the planet! I mean, lets just start with the littlest….have you seen this guy? How can you look at a three year old boy and scowl. He’s not screaming. He’s just chilling, looking ridiculously adorable. Yet the grumpiness is strong. Ok, but let’s leave the munchkins out of it. Let’s say it was just me. Plain old me. And you met eyes with me. What would you do? I will tell you what most people do. Nothing. They look at me like I was a sack of potatoes. Or paint on the wall. Or like I was totally invisible. People look right at my eyes and then look down as if I wasn’t there at all. Women, men, old, young, this condition knows no boundaries. No one smiles anymore in South Florida. But I do. I am on a smiling mission. Mostly because I am acutely aware that I have a million and one things to smile about. Even on a day like today, when nothing seemed to go the way it was supposed to, the list of things I have to be thankful for is endless, number one being I know Jesus, the One that holds my future. Why wouldn’t I smile? Now hear me on this, I know it is hard to smile in a Wal-mart, or Target, or even Aldi. 😉 Today I spent the first 20 minutes at Target in the restrooms, between three little children that apparently had too many raisins. Twenty minutes. But then, once I got past that adventure, I saw this sweet blond mommy at the checkout, with a three year old, one year old, and baby twins. Lord have mercy. And I smiled at her, and told her what a beautiful family she had. And she smiled back. Two mommies, having a conversation through a smile across a room. Ahhhhhhh. It’s a great feeling when people smile back. It’s a connection. You can feel it in your heart. Especially in south Florida. Because it’s a 50/50 shot (or less) that someone will actually smile back at you.
When it comes to shopping malls, or super stores, there are three levels of miserable people, as far as I am concerned.
There is level 1- just scowling and grimacing, or blank stares…they may glance at me or my children, but there is no change in expression, unless it is to scowl more.
Then level 2- Those that look right at my eyeballs, and then look away as if it never happened at which point I start contemplating the probability that I am actually invisible.
Then def-con level 3- Those that look right at my eyeballs long enough for me to eek out a smile and THEN they look away. Zero response. Who doesn’t smile at a smile?
Here is my disclaimer. There is a lot of pain and tragedy in the world. Horrible, unthinkable events are occurring as I type. My heart is grieved by this and I am not saying that all should walk around with a stupid grin on their face. But, man, the percentages of grumbly faces surely cannot reflect the percentages of people in the midst of personal tragedy. Most of these solemn sour pusses are just tired of life.

Proverbs 15:13

A joyful heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

We are entering a season that for most is a joyous time. But for some it is a very hard time. If you are a believer, and your heart is filled with joy, man, now is the time to let that light shine. Because although I mentioned three levels of miserable people, I left my favorite level till last.
Level 1/2- These people have the tell tale long face, but upon receiving your smile, their face lights up, like they didn’t know people still smiled. I am telling you. I see this one A LOT! And there is nothing like it. It’s authentic and inspiring, and it brings to life all the quotes I presented to you today. Take the smile challenge and see how many people you can smile at when you are out and about. Like a big “from your heart” smile. And if you can’t, if you are the weary one. Jesus has this invitation for you. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Take Him up on it. Every day.

Finding true value at Publix

We finished checking out at Publix the other day, me and my traveling party, and an older man decided to give me all his best one liners, and I have heard them all. First he did the standard count with the face of disbelief….”One, two, THREE, FOUR, FIVE???” Then the predictable “ARE THEY ALL YOURS?” with the bewildered head shake. But he ended with a snide sounding (to me) “Well, that must be expensive.” And for some reason that one bothered me. Not a lot of comments bother me. I know that most people are just curious, and have to say *something*. We are an anomaly, and I get it. I welcome it. I am proud of my family and grateful beyond words. But this one got under my skin. Maybe I was just tired, no, actually I am always tired. Maybe it’s hormonal. But maybe… just maybe it was because I know what they are worth. I mean, for Pete’s sake, did he say that to the woman in front of him, with $50,000 of plastic surgery? Or the woman behind him, with a bazillion dollar purse?? So immediately there I was, walking out the door, annoyed at myself for not thinking quicker on my feet with a smart response. So I pushed that basket, covered in children, out to the parking lot, trying to think of “comebacks” for the next time…I hate being unprepared 😉 I came up with this one…….”It is expensive, but we are really rich, so its fine” (fyi, this is untrue, as if you needed that disclaimer) But no, I hate to be that way. If I really am blessed beyond measure, then I am the one that should be extending grace to those that are frankly just clueless. And that’s when it happened..I got it!! I had the perfect retort, which pretty much insured no one would ever say it to me again! But ….as God would have it, just after I had the last child seat-belted into our vehicle, who should be strolling by us in the parking lot, but that man!!! So I sweetly got his attention and smiling from ear to ear I said “They are not ‘expensive’, they are *valuable* and not only that, but they produce a much greater return then what most people invest in.” Tadaaaa!!! Nice huh?? But yeah, this guy totally wasn’t even listening to me, ha! I think he was still counting! He looked right passed me and my sage-like comment, into the car. “They are SO CUTE!” he said and we struck up a friendly conversation. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that my brilliant one liner, I was so proud of, pretty much hit the pavement flat. And it wasn’t till today that I realized that the reminder….. of their worth….and how important our investment is….that reminder was for me.
8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Galatians 6:8-10

Are you ready for a fight?

  So much sadness in this world is brought on simply because we are not fighting.
I heard this verse at a Bible study the other night and I wanted to jump up and scream YES!!! AMEN!!! PREACH IT!!  but it wasn’t that type of study. I might have been hauled out of the room. Here is the verse:
Nehemiah 4:14
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “DON’T be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is GREAT and AWESOMEand FIGHT for your FAMILIES, your SONS and your DAUGHTERS, your WIVES and your HOMES.”
Think for a second about the things for which we fight. 
We fight through hoards of people on Black Friday for a deal. 
We fight through lines at Disney World to put temporary smiles on our children’s faces. 
We fight through a work day to earn money to get stuff. 
We fight with customer service people because our computer/phone/car needs to be fixed now. 
We fight with loved ones to get our way. 
We fight.
But sometimes, we forget what it is for which we should really be fighting until it is too late and we have lost everything that matters most without even realizing we were at war.
DISCLAIMER:
Some things make me feel old, like….well…people younger than me. But the reality is I am young. Very young. And my children are still little. So one might think it is easy for me to say the things I am going to say while I don’t yet have a teenager under my roof or a wayward son whom I raised to make better choices than he is making. Please know that I know this. But…. God’s word is true, no matter the age of the person proclaiming it. I mean, Jeremiah, was like 20. And we Christians sure love us some Jeremiah 29:11!
So here goes.
 It seems to me that very few people are fighting for their families anymore. And from what I have seen,there is one major, glaring reason why…..
They don’t know they are supposed to be fighting!
Naive newlyweds promise things that simply won’t happen spontaneously.
Misguided parents expect unspeakable joy without hair pulling hard times.
And even adult children (hand raised) expect parental approval with no judgement.
But none of these things are going to just….. happen. None.
A good marriage is hard work, and quite often one person works harder than the other.
Raising children is not for the faint at heart. Those kids are miniature copies of us, for better or worse, and often magnify the very things about ourselves with which we struggle.
So what is the solution? Well, this is not a self help book, but I do have 2 suggestions.
1. Don’t expect easy. Expectations can be our biggest enemy.
2. FIGHT!!! Starting now. The battle rages daily. Seen and unseen. If you wait for an apparent attack to start fighting, you have an uphill battle on your hands.
Ok, fine, I’ll fight, you concede,  But how?
While there are many great books on their on raising a godly family. The most important step is also the most ignored and underrated.
Prayer.
Example: My mother.
Some of you know her, and just nodded your head and thought, “yup. enough said.” But for those that don’t have the pleasure of her acquaintance, allow me to explain.
I hated going to bed as a child, and yes, I still do.
Nearly every night, at the regular time I would stumble out of my room, look down into the living room and see my mother, in her lavender robe ( satin in the summer, fleece in the winter) knitting and praying. This is what she does. Pray and knit. She has given out more “prayer blankets” to new babies than I could begin to count.
If they updated the Bible with pictures, hers would be next to James 5:18, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (woman) availeth much”
That woman has moved mountains. I have stories. I have seen it with my own eyes. She has always known there was a war raging. Always.
Pray with your husband, or trusted friends, or family. Pray by yourself. Just pray.

The full battle plan is found in Ephesians 6. Read it. I know, you have read it before, read it again. Print it out. Stick it on your fridge. Memorize it. Live it!! Remember the Lord, who is GREATand AWESOME and FIGHT for your FAMILIES!

10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

No offense but……

Love takes no offense…….

Wow, isn’t that the opposite of what actually happens? Love and offense seem to go hand and hand.  I mean no one can offend me like the people that I love the most. . Any passing comment has a history behind it.  Any small gesture can feel like a pointed criticism. Any thoughtless act seems like a premeditated act of terror. Sad but true. 

Love takes no offense.

Yet offenses happen all the time.  What is our reaction if someone were to bad mouth a loved one,  spouse, or family member? The gloves would come off and we would fight to defend them….but…. Those same gloves can be used to hurt the person we would fight to the death defending. Why?

The devil is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

My friend’s mom is a renown photographer and recently told me of her trip to Africa. They were hidden from sight when all of a sudden there was absolutely no movement across the plain. No sounds. Nothing. And she knew a lion was in their midst. No sooner had she uttered that thought then a lion burst onto the scene chasing a herd of zebras. Those poor zebras, she lamented. They can never let their guard down.  No, I thought, those smart zebras. Smarter than the average…Christian. 

Yes, we have a very real adversary, with very old tricks. Yet they are so effective because unlike those zebras, we forget. We relax. We let our guard down and think life is just happening to us.  

This past week Paul and I got into one of the biggest…..ahem…disagreements in years, and the frustration in the room was palpable. Over what? What could cause such marital discord? Dishes. Of course. And 11 years of “life” piggybacking onto one offhanded comment. Why this week? I wondered. And then I saw an email that Paul was scheduled to teach a class on Biblical servant hood. Oh yeah, and we had a meeting on Friday to pray with other couples in preparing for the upcoming marriage retreat with our church. Of course. I have heard teacher after teacher in sermons confirm that whatever they are about to teach on is almost guaranteed to be tested. Yet where was my readiness? I took offense. Instead of going on the offense spiritually against the real enemy. (read: not my husband)

Why does the devil want to divide us? Maybe it has something to do with Jesus prayer in John 17

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.


This is so powerful…..Our unity proclaims Christ’s Deity….

The devil is always out to prove God’s word is invalid and outdated. We need to remember that. Daily. And cling even more to His Word. Read it. Meditate on it. Talk about it.  There is no greater strategy.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Love takes no offense

What is the point?

We live in a such an outcome driven society, our schooling, our work, our entire lives center around the question, what is the point? The point of learning anything in school, sadly, has become to get a grade on a test. Few people really know why they are learning anything anymore other than to achieve a certain score or degree. This has not always been the case. For instance, I cannot for the life of me imagine a mathematics student taught by the brilliant Isaac Newton at Cambridge University, so many years ago asking the question “When am I going to use this?” Can you? No, how absurd. So if you are one of the myriads of people who have asked that question, about Math, let me answer that question once and for all. Are you ready? If you were studying math, than at that moment you were using it. And for that moment alone, it was worth the effort. Yes. The process of studying math is actually beneficial to your brain. It needs exercise. So the actual study of math is a benefit and will produce future benefit simply by working through each and every problem or theorem. Can you imagine someone working out in the gym, and looking at their trainer and saying, “But when am I going to use these push ups?”

All of us are struggling with something. And when that struggle finally ends, there will be another one waiting. What is the point? Why can’t it just be easy? Few people don’t struggle financially. Because the more money you have, the bigger your toys get. And if you don’t struggle with where to get the money, you can often struggle with where to PUT the money. Some are struggling with marriage. Some are struggling with singleness. Some are struggling too much work or too little work. But whatever the struggle is there will likely be a moment that it seems unbearable. Too much. I felt that today. And I heard these words in my spirit “For our light and momentary troubles….” Light and Momentary. I know this. I know this.

 Light. Seriously, the weight of my troubles do not even compare with those throughout history. And no matter how heavy ones troubles are, they are light in comparison to the burden Christ bore for us. For us. 

Momentary. Can someone please remind all of Christianity they we believe in eternity, with Jesus, and that this life is just a breath, a vapor? Because I think we have all forgotten, because life seems so hard and so long, until it doesn’t. And you look back and can’t believe that you are really the same age your mother was when she told you she couldn’t believe she was that age. Light and momentary. Light and Momentary troubles. So I looked up the verse and read the whole thing.


For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:17

Achieving. Troubles are achieving. It’s sea turtle season around here and there are signs all over the beach to remind us. When that sea turtle hatches, wouldn’t it be better if we all just gathered round and picked that turtle up? Poor sweet tired turtles. Wouldn’t it be better if we picked them up and placed them in the ocean? The journey to the ocean is long and exhausting. What is the point? If the point is just to get to the ocean, then I will just pick him up and put him in the ocean. But we know there is more to this turtles life then just getting to the ocean. He needs to struggle, because without the struggle, there will be no life in the ocean. To fully enjoy the ocean and all its grandeur, this turtle has to build the muscles in that sand to survive and thrive in the ocean.

Quite often we don’t see “reasons” for our struggles, but this one thing we can know. They are light and momentary, and they are achieving.

Romans 5:3-5 And not only that,but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.