All I want for Christmas is a grateful child.

We are about to launch into that season where parents and grandparents (that’s right, I’m going there) are about to spend copious amounts of money in hopes of making children happy. “Slow down,” we plead as they rip through present after present with barely slowing down to enjoy the gift purchased with blood, debt, and tears. Or worse, if they stop to enjoy one present, they are encouraged to, “Keep going” and “play with that later, we have a lot of presents to get through!” Finally, after the ripped up Christmas/Hanukkah paper has settled, we expect to see one particular yet elusive emotion evoked from said little ones.
Gratefulness.
Yet more often than not, only moments after this grand display of affection, we find ourselves saying the same thing.
“You should be grateful!”
Similarly, this same fruitless technique for producing gratefulness is utilized at popular theme parks. Thousands of dollars are shelled out for a week of extreme delight, yet this sacrifice is quite often met with temper tantrums, melt downs, and requests for more! A visit to see Mickey isn’t enough. We want a special Mickey ice cream too. A picture with Elsa isn’t enough. Next comes the request for the Elsa doll. All is given in pursuit of the much sought after grateful child. Yet no matter how much is doled out,  we find ourselves saying,
“You should be grateful!”
Here’s the reality. We have it all wrong.

 

Material possessions will not satisfy.
You may feel thankful, in that moment, yes. But it doesn’t last. I have attended many churches that told us that healing and prosperity would lead people to Christ. If I was healed, people would see that, marvel, and be saved. While this absolutely can happen, it is actually not the norm. Take this example from the Bible in Luke 17. Against all odds, these 10 lepers received the one thing they all craved with every fiber of their being. Healing. All ten! Healed. However, what was the result?
15 Then ONE of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not TEN cleansed? Where are the NINE? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Getting doesn’t garner gratefulness.
Like almost never.
True heartfelt gratefulness decidedly comes from want,not plenty.
This concept clearly resonated with me a few years ago while listening to Pastor Doug Sauder in a parenting class. “If you want to make someone grateful for hot water, take them on a missions trip where they will get one cold shower for the whole week. When they get home they will feel more grateful for that hot water than ever before.”
Prosperity without perspective can never produce gratefulness.
I do not think that I am unique in my desire to make my children happy. I want them to open their presents and discover that present they were dreaming about. I want them to have that moment of sheer bliss when their dreams are fulfilled but at what cost? Because more than wanting them to be happy, I want them to be grateful. I want them to find joy rather than pursue happiness. Godliness with contentment is great gain. This is what I want for my children. This is what I want for me. I want to be content. I want to be grateful. I need to remember that I am indebted. I am an indentured servant. I deserve nothing but have been given everything.
However,  it is uncommonly easy to forget these goals and trade them in for a momentary feeling. Case and point: I sat at a friends house watching my 4 year old son launching hot wheels into the air on a loop-da-loop contraption yelling “AWESOME!” and thought….”I need that. He needs that. Look how happy that would make him. I know I said that we had enough toys, but that should be an exception. Clearly.”
 But then I remembered. We have no room. We don’t need it. He doesn’t need it. This moment is a moment, and he can experience it whenever he is at someone’s house that has this toy, and it will be special.
I want him to be grateful. I want him to be content. This goal is more important than that momentary, and I do mean momentary, happiness that will come from opening the “perfect” gift.
This point was reiterated to me on Facebook with a map showing the unique things for which people were thankful. People that had experienced drought were thankful for rain. People that had experienced power outages were thankful for electricity.
Here is the point.
Take a deep breath. Step away from the internet. Put down the credit card. And pray. Ask the Lord to show you how to cultivate gratefulness in your own heart and your children’s hearts. If you can’t afford those sought after toys of the season put down that mom-guilt right now. God has a plan and a purpose for this season of your life, and it is not for you to acquire debt or ignore other financial responsibilities (like saving for a rainy day) simply to chase the ghost of false joy. You can take confidence in the truth that if your children have less, you are likely closer to the ultimate goal of gratefulness. On the other hand however, if you can afford whatever your heart desires, pray even harder to keep from indulgence which is the enemy of a grateful heart.
This is not another post about Thanksgiving. It’s not even necessarily about Christmas. It’s bigger than that. Grasping gratefulness and cultivating contentment is a year round adventure. Living in the world we do, this is no humble task. Every commercial, every friend, every Facebook status tells you ….you need this!!! Fight it. Do not accept it. The only thing you need more of is Jesus. And he will supply all of your needs according to his riches in glory.
If you are a Christian, you have prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in your life. If you are a parent you have prayed for God’s will to be fulfilled in your child’s life. That is why this lesson is so important!
I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us in no uncertain terms what His will is!!
Gratefulness!
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
But how?
Read this powerful point in Job 20:20:
Because he knows no quietness in his heart,
He will not save anything he desires.
If you are not satisfied in Christ, you will grasp at everything!
The apostle Paul was able to be content in everything. Why? Because of his great prosperity? His easy life? No. Because he was satisfied in his appetite, in the quietness of his heart with Christ. That is how we produce gratefulness. When our hearts are filled day by day, moment by moment, with God’s word, when our mouths and hearts are filled with praise, there we will find gratefulness. The best gift you can give your children and/or yourself is a thirst for Christ and His Word, at every age and stage. Amen!

Sweet November-From Bratitude to Gratitude! *


November 2000 I met a boy. Cute laugh. Piercing green eyes. Just so handsome. He made me laugh. He made me feel special. He made me hope. And he loved Jesus. Four months after meeting and already falling for him, he dropped a bomb. He had forgotten to mention that days before we met, he made a vow to the Lord that he would not date anyone for a year. Having just gotten out of a long and “unhealthy” relationship, (because this is what wives say about all prior relationships)  he was encouraged by a mentor to get His relationship with the Lord right, and take a year to do that. And he was just telling me now, four months into this friendship. So in March the countdown began- to November. I remember flipping through my CD collection (so archaic) when I found the soundtrack to a movie called Sweet November. On that CD was this song by Enya, and I thought of it today.
“Only Time”
Who can say where the road goes
Where the day flows, only time
And who can say if your love grows
As your heart chose, only time

It was so true. God knew, but only time would tell. It was the perfect song. I couldn’t believe it. On a Sweet November CD of all things! Only time would tell. Well, long story short, and 5 kids later, November is still a very sweet month to me. If I close my eyes, I can still remember the day he told me it was me that he wanted. I can remember the feeling in my heart as I held his hand for the first time. I can remember so many sweet moments- moments that I dreamed of, all coming true.
But when I open my eyes, there is a full trash can, a crashing computer, an unfinished bathroom, and a toilet roll hung the wrong way. Their are obstacles, difficulties and failures. My heart forgets that I am living a dream. My heart forgets how I begged God for this man. We are imperfect people needing grace. Over and over again. Seventy times seven times.
I know I am not alone because I have heard your stories, the amazing God stories that need to be written down and published. My mother who saw a spray painted letter from God on the subway wall “Choose Bill.” My friend that pointed to a football players face on an FSU flyer and told her mom she was going to marry him and years later did just that. These beautiful stories that make the creations of Nicholas Sparks look woefully small, can so easily be forgotten amidst the monotony and difficulties of everyday life. And discontentment grows.
The eye never has enough. The ear can never hear enough. There is nothing new under the sun.
No matter how many dreams God fulfills, we always want more.
It is so popular to “vent” to let out your frustrations. But maybe instead of a venting partner you need a gratefulness partner. Never are we told to confess other peoples sins, only our own. Of course we need to share each others burdens, but when the majority of our conversation is a burden, we have a problem.
Be grateful. You cannot be grateful and discontent at the same time. You have to choose.

Colossians 3:15-17
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Do you want peace? Be thankful. Do you want to be thankful? Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs! And whatever you do- do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus!! AMEN!!
November is a month that we all focus on gratitude. I pray that you would do more than make a list, but that you would close your eyes and remember. Remember the prayer that you prayed ,remember the dream in your heart that the Lord fulfilled and walk in gratitude. Remember the love that you felt and don’t let the enemy steal that from you. Remember the person you dreamed of and how they are standing in your kitchen, perfectly imperfect. And be grateful. Remember the child you prayed for, acting like a sinful human, and be grateful. Remember the job you fought for and be grateful. Remember the parents that raised you, the siblings that played with you, the friends that loved you, and when they inevitably do something to annoy you, be grateful. In everything, give thanks!

* Title credits go to the one and only Jewel Keefe 

A Critical Critique of Criticism- I Samuel 31

So the craziest thing happened this week. I was being critical of my husband.
I wish I could say that was the unusual part, but sadly it was not. I’ll get to the crazy part in a minute.
But first, confession time.
More often than not, my problem solving, black and white, over analyzing brain comes in handy. However, on the “not” side I struggle with being critical. The strange thing is I am more critical of my own self than I am of anyone else. God is freeing me, little by little.
Being critical is obviously wrong. Except when it’s not so obvious. For instance, often times we may have good motives. Take my beloved, late, great-aunt. Truly, her motives were good. She legitimately wanted to help. But her methods could appear critical. Here’s an example. Just today my mom and I were remembering how I finally got braces. My teeth weren’t awful. They were mostly straight, but I had this one tooth that did not quite fit. One tooth. Of course that was enough for which the boys to tease me.
Sabe. Short for sabor, as in the tiger, with the teeth.
Nice nickname huh? I like to believe the teasing I received during those years taught me grace and compassion. But as a middle-schooler, it just really stunk. Anyway, my sweet, well intentioned aunt would ask me weekly if that tooth had settled in. After the 36th time, during my senior year, I finally smiled and said, “I think this is as good as it gets. But if you would like to sponsor some braces, I will gladly make an appointment.”
“Make the appointment.”she declared without hesitation. “ I’ll take care of it.” And that was it. I got braces.
Was she critical? Yes, but her motives were true, and she was willing to help.
So I guess I come by it honestly. Critiquing. It’s human nature. Monday morning quarter backs. Blogs criticizing any and everything. Editorials. It’s what we do. But it can kill any marriage, any relationship, or any church, and on the grand scale, make this bride of Christ look less than bridely.
And I was doing it.
Again.
“Lord,” I thought. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Knowing my strength comes from God’s word,  I decided  to grab my Bible.
What are the chances that in I Samuel 31, my next chapter, God would have a lesson for me? I remembered reading about being an armor bearer  earlier this year and wondered, would that concept be revisited.
A little discouraged, but mostly determined, I picked up my Bible and read. Tears in my eyes, and an overwhelming feeling of being loved in my heart, I could not believe what I was reading. How, over and over, does this keep happening? God’s word. My daily bread. Just what I need.
This is what I read. This is the crazy part.
 The Philistines fought against Israel, and Israel’s men fled from them. Many were killed on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons and killed his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua. 3 When the battle intensified against Saul, the archers caught up with him and severely wounded him.[a] 4 Then Saul said to his ARMOUR_BEARER. “Draw your sword and run me through with it, or these uncircumcised men will come and run me through and torture me.” But his armor-bearer WOULD NOT DO IT ….
Saul had an armor-bearer. He was trained to do whatever Saul commanded. And in his moment of utter despair Saul asked his armor-bearer to take his life. But he couldn’t. In this moment,when it came to choosing between following orders, or preserving his master’s life, Saul’s armor-bearer chose the latter.
He would not and could not take part in destroying the man to whom he had committed to serve.
Even if it made sense. Even if his motives would have been right.
And this is the power of God’s Word. I started writing this a week ago and have been meditating on it ever since. If you only knew the number of times it has come to mind, how many times God reminded me of what I had read, and how many times these words stopped me in my tracks, well, it would be embarrassing.
But the point is not my weak nature, the point is the power of His Word to change.
It’s easy to say, “Don’t be critical.” But there is no power in my words. Thankfully, however, you don’t have to depend on my words. You have better than that. You have God’s word. And it does not return void.
The next time you are tempted to be critical of anyone, yourself included, take it to God first. What is the point of your criticism? To make yourself feel better? Going to God will solve that! Is it to “help” a person or situation? Going to God will solve that too!! Of course there is a time and a place to step into someones life and lovingly address an area that in so doing would bring them closer to God. But that never looks like harsh or angry criticism.
I want to be a true armor-bearer.
For my husband, my children, my friends and family. I pray that we would go to our knees when our reaction is critical. I pray that we would take our concerns, our burdens, our plans to Him first. And that we would go to God’s word which is active and living and sharper than any two edged sword. Always. And watch the light of the Lord dispel the darkness of sin every time.

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.