Late and Lost: Lousy Words for Today

My husband Jon woke up late this morning. He needed to leave the house by 6 am to get to work on time, but for some reason it was 5:50 am before either of us woke up. Waking up late is never a good way to start the day.

Maddie works on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a local church’s Mother’s Day Out program. She doesn’t have to leave for work until 7:30 am, but in order for her to get ready in time she has to be woken at 6 am. I felt thankful that I wasn’t late for waking up Maddie … but I might as well have been.

You see, Maddie quickly realized that she lost her work shirt. She searched high and low. Jon, who I mentioned earlier was already running late, stepped in to help Maddie search for the missing garment. It was all to no avail. The work shirt was very much lost. Losing something as important as a work shirt is also not a good way to start the day.

As I poured myself a cup of coffee, I realized it was raining outside … again. It’s been raining since last Friday. Another day of no sunshine. Another day of being stuck inside the house.

“What a lousy day this is turning out to be!” I thought. 

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Some days are just lousy, even if you aren’t running late or losing important items.  We’ve all been there. Everyone has experienced a day (or two …  or three) when from the start it all goes wrong.

In the past, whenever I have fretted about one thing or another not going quite right, my mother would remind me, “Paige, one thing you can count on is that in this world you will have trouble. But think of it this way …  it is the problems and troubles we face that cause us to long for the perfection of heaven.”

She’s right. Today there might be trouble (thankfully just in the form of running late and losing important items and more rain that I’d like), but there is coming a day when I will leave behind this world full of lousy days. Then I will live forever in the presence of holy perfection, which is found only in Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  ~John 16:33

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BaptistGirlConfession

This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.

 

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Heading Home for the Holidays

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I’ll be home for Christmas … you can count on me.

Tonight, once Jon gets off work and we’ve eaten a quick supper, I’ll be heading home for Christmas. And I have to admit that it doesn’t feel quite right now that Dad won’t be there with us.

I had already purchased a gift for my dad prior to his death. I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to give it to him for his November birthday or wrap it up for Christmas. Instead, I used it in our church’s gift exchange last weekend.

Actually, I had completely forgotten about the gift, stashed away in the back of my closet, until I went in to look through my collection of already purchased presents after Thanksgiving. It wasn’t an extremely personal or sentimental sort of a gift, just an outside LED light, the kind that looks like a lantern and has a hook for hanging.  This was also came with a bug zapper (which is needed practically year-round in Louisiana). It’s the very sort of thing my dad would have loved. He was forever giving flashlights to people. In fact, my boys have already bemoaned the fact that they won’t be receiving their annual flashlight from Poppa this year for Christmas.

Yes, my father loved flashlights. The man had a vast collection of emergency lighting, everything from dollar store flashlights to kerosene lamps to expensive LED lighting. Oddly enough, most of his great stash of emergency lighting never worked.

In light of my last post (which you can read here), this dichotomy cracks me up. My little foster son and his love for lights sort of reminds me in a weird way of my dad. I think he would have gotten a lot of pleasure out of showing off his flashlight collection to Lil’ Man.  Quite often I feel sad that he never got to meet and know my two foster babies. As much as my dad loved children, he would have adored these two little ones.

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Going home … back to the ‘Burg and the house on the hill.

This grief I’m experiencing is the strangest thing to my 42 year old mind. My dad died and I find that I just want to be with my Mama, as if I am some child who has woken in the middle of the night needing to be reassured of her presence in the dark. Some days, most days, if I could choose where to go and what to do, I would want to go home just to be there with my mother. And yet, nothing makes me sadder than going home.

Sadder because there, in the places my dad lived out his life,  I miss him more than ever. His figure seems to be waiting right around the corner of every door. His shadow sitting in every chair. His laughter echoing through the rooms. His cup of coffee just waiting to be poured.

Sadder because my mother, due in part to her own grief and perhaps also because of her reserved and introverted personality, is not truly able to be my comforter. It was not ever really her role in my life even while my dad lived, and so it cannot suddenly become that way in his death … no matter how much I might want it or wish for it.  To have other expectations is unfair to her and only serves to increase my own disappointment and grief.

Going home … will it ever feel the same again?

Deep inside my heart is a longing to go home.

I can go back to the town where I grew up, see the familiar faces and drive the roads I know like that back of my own hand. I can return to the house where my parents lived. The furniture inside is still the same. The meals my mother puts on the table are the old favorites we’ve always eaten. Technically, I am home.

Yet, its not quite right. There’s a hole, larger than I’ve ever known before, and because my dad’s not there sitting next to my mom beaming his wonderful smile it doesn’t feel exactly like the same home I’ve always known and loved.

This is the first Christmas without my dad. I’m told that future ones will be easier, that this grief will eventually begin to subside. “You’ll never stop missing your dad,” friends have said. “But the pain will not hurt quit so much.”

I’m sure they are right. One day I won’t feel the deep ache in my heart and the lump in my throat will go away. But I’m not there yet …

Yet, you know … my dad is there. He is in that perfect place of peace and rest, in the arms of the Heavenly Father. No pain. No sorrow. No fear. No worries. Just worshipping the Savior and basking in the glow of the One who is Light … a light that never runs out of batteries or needs recharging or has a burned out bulb.

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I can’t go home  … for this world is not my home. 

My mother has said it to me many times when I would complain about my life’s circumstances:

Paige, don’t expect life to be perfect. If it was, what reason would you have to long for heaven? Remember, this world is not your home.

Her words were truer than true, almost as if the woman read her Bible on a regular basis.  (She does! She is a wise one, that mother of mine.)

In fact, she is in good company, for the writer of Hebrews (who many say was the Apostle Paul) said very nearly the same thing:

For this world is not our home; we are looking forward to our city in heaven, which is yet to come. ~Hebrews 13:14 ESV

And Peter wrote about it as well.  (Though I do not make The Message my main study Bible, I happen to love the wording for this verse in that translation.)

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.  ~1 Peter 2:11 MSG

I can’t really “go home” as long as I live on this earth. But some day I will go to my eternal home. And because my dad has already gone on before, I long for it just a little more than ever before.

Yes, I’m going home for Christmas. I’ll be there with presents and hugs. I’ll join in the laughter and make memories with the ones I love most on this earth.

And though I’ll miss my dad, I’ll cherish the memories of Christmases we had together  … and look forward to the day when I get to go home and join him around the Throne of Grace.

42 years today

Forty-two years ago today, I was born with a head full of black hair that stuck straight up and a head that, at least according to my father, was shaped exactly like a football (thanks to the forceps used to pull me into this world).

Every birthday, my dad jokingly reminded me of my oddly-shaped newborn head. He recounted how as he gazed at me he prayed and told the Lord that he would always love me, even if my head was shaped like a football.

For forty-two years exactly, he did just that.

My father left this world this morning. I wasn’t prepared for him to go.  It happened unexpectedly. But even though my heart is heavy and this is the worst birthday I can imagine,  I’m grateful that I spoke to him last night and told him again I loved him … just like I always did whenever we talked on the phone, which was usually three or four times a week.

I can’t think of much else to write in this moment of the man I loved first. He was a wonderful man who loved the Lord first, my mother second, and his children and grandchildren third. (If he were here right now, he would be correcting me and stating his grandchildren and then his children! I never knew a more devoted grandfather.) 

I wish my daddy didn’t have to die, and I wished he didn’t have to die today … but there is peace knowing that he is worshipping Jesus face-to-face.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. ~Psalms 116:15

Finished! (Never mind … I’ve Not Even Begun)

Yesterday afternoon about 1:30 the phone call finally came.

Our paperwork is complete. Jon and I are officially logged into the foster care system and available to take a child into our home.

Whew! For a while, I wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen.  Those first few weeks, everything flew into place. I couldn’t seem to get it to all slow down.

And then everything came to a sudden halt.

Not only did things not move forward. It even seemed we were taking steps back. I found myself questioning our motives and wondering if we were up to the challenge. A minor family crisis involving one of our five children almost made us decide to close the door on this ministry.

But we decided to wait on God and let Him either close or open the door.

We waited and watched … and very slowly the last few steps were accomplished in an orderly manner.

And with that one phone call, I sat back and breathed a big sigh, “It’s finished!”

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I only thought it was finished yesterday.  What was finished was nothing more than the beginning.

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Today the phone rang again. Almost at the same exact time.

Again, it was our foster care worker with news … two kids on their way to our home.

And suddenly, just as quickly, all the relief of yesterday vanished. My heart is turning in a million directions. I’m overwhelmed with nerves and heartache, while at the same time eager to do what God has asked me and my family to do.

Any time a child is placed into foster care, there has been a tragedy. An awful thing has happened. And yet to have the chance to love on these two precious babies is an opportunity I  want to embrace.

I’ve got just an hour to get ready. I’ve got just a few minutes to get things together. There are a million things to do, or so it seems. Put the crib together. Straighten in the nursery and make sure there is nothing a toddler shouldn’t have laid about. Baby proof the living room. Start supper because I imagine cooking once they arrive will be hard to accomplish. And yet I sit here writing …

Because my heart is breaking… Two babies ripped out of their home … so even though they are coming to me where I will keep them safe and fed and hopefully happy, these two precious ones have already been through something terrible to bring them to my door.

Because my heart is anxious… Will I have enough energy for this? Can my family take the stress and strain of caring for two small children? Are we going to regret this decision or will it be the best thing we’ve ever done?

Because my heart is filled with excitement… God has asked me and my family to dare to love and we’ve said yes. It’s always thrilling to see how God will use us and there is a part of me expecting great and wonderful things.

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Yesterday, when I thought those words, “it is finished,” I recalled how those were the final words Jesus uttered on the cross. We call that day Good Friday, not because His suffering was good but because through it all humanity gained salvation.

Today is a good Friday in my home and in my life. Not that it begins to compare to the Good Friday of Easter, but rather because it signifies that we are following God in faith, dependent upon Him to meet our every need in this endeavor.

It’s good because God will meet us where we are and will give us all we need. This much I know to be true.

Still … if you think of the two babies heading to my home and of my family as we welcome them with love, I would love knowing you are praying with us and for us.

Because we’ve not finished anything. We’ve only just begun.

The Great Birthday Date (Part 2 … because Part 1 comes tomorrow)

Today is my step-daughter’s (Maddie) Sweet 16 birthday. She’s a wonderful young lady … beautiful (inside and out, which is the very best kind of beautiful), talented (acts, sings, draws, writes), witty (will keep you laughing), clever (that girl has got a mind of her own), and the gentlest soul you will ever know (but she once stood up to a gang of bullies who were taunting a special needs child at her school). I love celebrating her today!

Because it’s a birthday morning, I had to get up early to go buy the traditional birthday donuts from Meche’s Donut King.  (Y’all, if you are ever in Lafayette, Louisiana, this is the place to go for donuts and King cake … and they are literally right around the corner from my house so the temptation to go get a donut for breakfast once or twice a week is practically overwhelming.  So overwhelming I had to make a rule that we can only have donuts for birthdays. Thank goodness there are seven of us!)

Anyway, getting back on track … like I said, I was up early to go buy donuts for the birthday breakfast, which had me obviously thinking about birthdays. And because I was up early, I also thought it would be nice to blog since I didn’t get around to that yesterday. And since I am having a blog contest on great dates, I thought perhaps I could share about one of my personal great dates.

And that’s when the idea popped into my head: I could share about The Great Birthday Date.  Actually, I need to tell this story in two parts because “The Great Birthday Date” actually took place over two birthdays, back-to-back years. But I need to tell part two before I can tell part one … or at least that’s the order I want to tell it to you.

So here it is … The Great Birthday Date, Part Two. (Tomorrow, you can read part one … promise!)

Photo Credit: Baker Publishing Group
Photo Credit: Baker Publishing Group

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 Jon and I had been dating nearly a year when my 38th birthday rolled around.

Now for those of you who don’t know, Jon and I met online (yes, we are one of “those” couples) and had a long-distance dating relationship prior to getting married. We lived a little over two hours apart. So for my birthday, I was going to drive down to Lafayette for the weekend.

Initially, everything worked out perfectly. Our five kids were all going to be off visiting with their other parents. I took that Friday off work so that I could go get a pedicure and relax at home before heading off for a weekend of celebrating in the early afternoon.

But then, all of my great plans began to fall apart. First of all, a sweet friend called me, in the midst of a personal crisis. I knew that God would rather me spend time with her instead of having my feet pampered. So, instead of soaking my feet in a soothing bath, I found myself sitting in her kitchen, listening as she wept. Before I knew what I was doing, I gave her my time slot at the salon for the pedicure appointment. I even went to sit with her while she got her feet soaked and massaged and pampered.

Right about the time my friend’s pedicure was wrapping up, my cell phone rang. It was the school, calling to inform me that one of my children fell down in the mud on the playground and needed a fresh change of clothes. I dashed home to grab a clean school uniform, and then raced back to the school before returning back home to put the muddy clothes on to wash.

By this time, my day was getting away from me. So much for relaxing at home after a nice pedicure! I had to pack bags and get things ready to leave so that I could head out of town just as soon as I picked up the children from school. Of course, this was the moment that my ex-husband texted me to say he couldn’t get the kids at the appointed time and would be about an hour and a half late.

Eventually, the kids were picked up by their dad and I finally embarked … only to hit traffic at every turn.  I had hoped to have time to rest and slowly dress for dinner once I got to my hotel, but now I was going to be much later than I planned.  Tired and frustrated, I was a big ball of emotions as I drove away for what I had hoped would be an enjoyable weekend of birthday celebrations.

Photo Credit: www.listverse.com
Photo Credit: http://www.listverse.com

I hadn’t yet gotten to Lafayette when my cell phone rang. It was Jon, calling to check in and see if I was ready.

“I’m not even in town yet, much less at my hotel,” I grumbled.

“Oh, that’s okay. Just come by the house first and you can check in later tonight.”

“No,” I sighed.  “I really don’t want to do that. I want to change clothes and freshen up at the hotel first.”

“Okay, I understand.”  Jon really did seem sympathetic but I could tell he also wanted to get to the restaurant before it got too crowded.  “Why don’t you go check in and change quickly? If you give me your ETA, I will add about 15 minutes to that time. I can swing by and you can just run out to the car and hop in.”

“Jon! I don’t want to be standing outside some hotel waiting for you… That’s the last thing I want!”

There was a moment of silence. Then Jon asked, “Well, what do you want?”

“All I  know is that I don’t want to be made to stand outside waiting for you to drive up as if I am just any old friend you might be getting before going out for a Friday night. Could you just park the car and come to the door for me? I’d like to feel like I am worth at least that much effort.”

“Oh, Paige … I wasn’t trying to make you feel like you aren’t worth the effort. I just figured it’s late, we are hungry and we could save time. But I can tell that was a bad idea.  Tell you what. After you check in, text me your room number at the hotel and I will come to your door and pick you up. What time should I arrive?”

We agreed that Jon would give me half an hour from the time I texted him with my room number.

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Now so far, this doesn’t seem like a very great date … and it wasn’t! But truthfully, the date hadn’t even started yet. The good news is that once the dated finally got started, everything went better. Much better. In fact, it turned out to be quite enjoyable and very memorable … definitely one of my favorites. 

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When I got to the hotel to check-in, the room I had originally reserved wasn’t available. Somehow my reservations had gotten screwed up, but thankfully the hotel manager fixed the problem.  Instead of getting a standard hotel room, I was upgraded to a King Suite, at no extra charge.

As I opened the door to my suite, I was welcomed by this beautiful room, filled with flowers and a scent so wonderful I thought I must have walked into heaven. (To this day I have never been a place that smelled quite so lovely! I realize that seems like a strange thing to say, but to me the scent seemed almost God-given … like a sweet reminder that “every good and perfect gift comes from above.”  James 1:17)  There was chocolate on the bed and a big jacuzzi tub in the over-sized bathroom. As I stood and looked around me, I suddenly felt pampered and spoiled in a way no pedicure had ever made me feel before.

Half an hour later, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find my handsome beau waiting there, flowers in hand.  Jon took me to eat at a nice restaurant, where we dined on shrimp étouffée and had pecan pie for dessert.  Afterwards, we enjoyed strolling hand-in-hand and chatting before Jon dropped me back off at my hotel.

The next morning, Jon took me to eat breakfast. As we were finishing up, he said, “I thought maybe wandering through antique stores together would be a nice way to spend your birthday … and while we are out, I want to buy you a special teacup. So when you see a teacup that you love, just let me know and it is yours.”  (I have a collection of several dozen teacups, most of which aren’t worth much of anything except something of sentimental value.)

In the very first shop, I spotted an emerald green teacup with gold trim. It’s unique shape gave it something of a look of a flower with long petals unfurling. I was attracted to the bright, beautiful colors and gently scalloped edges. But when I picked it up, I noticed the beautiful cup had a chip. I hardly thought it was worth spending $15 on a chipped teacup.

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Look carefully on the left side of the rim and you can see the chipped place.

I must have looked at another hundred or so teacups that morning. Jon and I wandered through seven or eight little antique shops, each of which had many teacups lining the shelves. Nothing compared in color or style to that little green teacup with the chip.

I paused to pick up a fancy teacup, feeling tired of looking for something as beautiful as the teacup I had seen earlier in the morning, yet didn’t have a chip or a crack.

“I liked that emerald green teacup a lot, too.”  Jon’s words echoed my thoughts.

“I know … but it was chipped. I just hate to spend the money on a cup that’s probably not worth it, even if I do like it.” I sighed, as I fingered the handle on the delicate white teacup before me, a perfect piece without a single blemish, yet not nearly as enchanting as the chipped cup back at the first antique shop.

Jon cleared his throat. “Sometimes, it is the imperfect things of this world that are worth the most. Besides, last night you told me you wanted to feel like you were worth the extra effort … and you are, Paige. You are worth it, and I know it with all my heart. I’d like to buy you the chipped cup to remind you of that.”

So we went back to the store where we started, and Jon paid $15 for a stunning emerald teacup with gold trim and a chipped place on the rim. To this day, that teacup has a place of honor in my collection, always on display because it reminds me that despite all my flaws Christ esteemed me worthy enough to die on the cross that I might gain everlasting life with Him.

As promised, tomorrow I will share Part One of The Great Birthday Date.

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This is “Judge’s Contribution” to my Great Dates Contest/Give-Away. It will not be included among the entries, but will hopefully inspire my blog readers to continue submitting their own great dates stories as well as provide me with more blogging material. Besides, who doesn’t love to hear a great date story?!

Want to enter the contest? Just leave me a comment about one of your great dates … or better yet, post a great date story on your blog (be sure to ping back to me!).  It’s all you have to do! Just be sure to enter before the end of August.

Lost and Found

This is part of the Writing 101 Series.  I am combing two days of assignments: Day 4 assignment which is to write about something lost but never found, and Day 13 assignment which is to write about something found. Enjoy.

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Normally I love having five children.

Not so during Christmas shopping season. If there is one thing our family sacrifices by having a large number of children and only one working parent it is a typical American materialistic Christmas.

Fortunately, I am not a materialistic person in general, or else I might truly struggle with this far more than just during the holidays. I suppose the vast majority of lower middle class families must shop on a budget, but our regular budget is stretched even thinner during Christmas. And while in my heart I know there is far, far more to Christmas than presents under the tree, a part of me still struggles with not being able to give my children the same sorts of gifts their friends are receiving.

Jon and I were both relatively frugal prior to our marriage, including the way we approached Christmas and birthday gifts for our children. My children were used to the 3-present rule … if three gifts were enough for the Baby Jesus, then three presents are more then enough for you. Additionally, I’m a bargain shopper, on the hunt year-round, stockpiling gifts to go under our tree. Our kids have never gone without gifts, even if they aren’t expensive iPhones or iPads or other fancy high-end gadgets.

Still, imagine my delight last fall when Jon and I realized we had accrued enough points through our bank to receive two Amazon gift cards worth $100 each. My mind raced with happy delight over all I could purchase my children. Divide $200 by five and it was still only $40 per kid, but still it was $40 more than I would normally have spent. And when added to the rest of the money I had saved it nearly doubled my tiny Christmas budget.

For a couple of weeks, I carried those cards protectively in my purse. Late at night, when all the kids were in bed, I worked diligently to fill my Amazon cart with the perfect gifts, bargain shopping online. By early November, I was nearly ready to make the final purchase.

That’s when I realized the cards were gone.

Carefully, I looked through my purse a second time. No cards.

I dumped the entire thing out on my bed. Still no cards.

I sorted through papers on my desk and around my bedside table. Nothing.

I ripped open bags of trash, picking my way through dirty napkins, banana peels and empty milk cartons. The only thing of interest that I found was incomplete piece of homework a sneaky child decided to throw away. Definitely no gift cards accidentally tossed out with the garbage.

I asked the kids if they had seen my Amazon gift cards. They gave me long blank stares, slowly blinking their eyes at me as if I were speaking a foreign language. No one claimed to know anything about my lost cards. Using my mothering powers of detecting deceitful children, I concluded no one was lying. These children were without a doubt innocent, at least of the crime of stealing or misplacing my Amazon gift cards.

After a harrowing 48 hours, I came to the disappointing realization that a significant portion of my Christmas budget was completely missing. Gone. Vanished into thin air.

With trepidation, I approached Jon to confess that I had lost our Amazon gift cards. Jon is easy-going, as gentle as any man I’ve ever known, but to tell him how I had lost those cards felt like admitting to a federal crime. True to his nature, Jon listened, gave me a hug and offered to help look again for the cards. I felt intense relief that he wasn’t frustrated or angry over my careless mistake. I felt sure that together we would find the hidden cards.

But even with Jon’s help, the gift cards didn’t magically surface. A week’s worth of deep searching left us still empty-handed.

As a measure of last resort, I took a chance and called my bank to see if unspent, lost cards could be replaced. The unfortunate answer was no.

It was then I realized those Amazon gift cards were not going to be found or replaced, at least not in time for Christmas shopping to be done. They were gone … and with it $200 worth of Christmas surprises for my children.

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I’ve lost a lot of things in my nearly 42 years on this planet. While some of my lost treasures are gone for eternity, I’m glad that most of them are eventually found again.

During my high school years, I lost close to $500 I had collected for a school fundraiser. Thankfully I found every last penny of that money, hidden in an manila envelope which was stashed inside a shoebox at the top of my closet. I had obviously taken precautions to keep the money safe.  But the trauma of the desperate search was too much, and is the reason that to this day you will never ever find me volunteering to be the treasurer for any organization.

Another time I lost an important piece of jewelry.  I searched high and low, emptied trash cans, moved furniture, cried and prayed. The beautiful ring was lost for nearly 6 months before it surfaced again, well-hidden between a large desk and a wall.

Sometimes I even lose things and I’m not aware of it. When these lost treasures surface, it always brings a delighted smile to my face.

For example, I recall the long overdue library book found years later stuffed back in a box of old purses and shoes. How it got there I will never know. Furthermore, why I never realized I lost it still remains a mystery. But I was glad to have found it, and still recall how thrilling it was to be able to return it to the small library I frequented as a child. (To add to my delight, all the years of accrued fines were forgiven! Certainly, this was a win-win situation all around!)

Another time I found a $5 bill stuck between the pages of a college textbook I was about to resell at the end of the semester. I couldn’t even recall where the money had come from or when I had placed it there. But to this day I remember being excited enough to grab a friend to celebrate my discovery with me. As I recall, we relished chocolate ice cream cones as we lounged in the warm spring sun and talked about the special sort of happiness that comes with an unexpected surprise such as finding money you never knew had been misplaced.

No matter what I’ve lost, once it has been found there is reason to celebrate. Sometimes with a high five or a fist bump or a jubilant shout for joy . Other times with a chocolate ice cream cone or an excited phone call to share the news with someone who will listen to my lost and found tale.

Almost always, finding what was lost ends with a prayer of thanks to the Lord.

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Perhaps you are familiar with the parable Jesus told about the woman who lost a coin. It’s found in Luke chapter 15, verses 8-10.

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?  And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

As a child, I always imagined the woman to have lost a penny or nickel or a dime. These coins weren’t worth much to me, and so I couldn’t understand why this lady was so distraught over a little lost coin. Later on, I learned the coins were worth an entire day’s wages. Suddenly I understood why finding the coin was a really big deal. No wonder she wanted to celebrate with her friends!

What is the most valuable thing in the world? Is it money? Health? Family?

None of those. The most valuable thing each of us has is our life, the very fact that we exist.

It’s often said that there are only two certainties on this earth … taxes and death. I may not be able to do anything about having to pay taxes, but I don’t have to fear death. I don’t just have to hope there is something good on the other side, or pray I’ve done enough good during my time on earth to assure me a place in heaven.

Because of the love of Jesus Christ and the sacrifice of His perfect life in payment for all my sins, I have a deep, unshakable hope and a very real assurance of heaven, knowing that when I close my eyes in death I will open them in the glory of God’s presence.  And the day I submitted to the authority of Christ over me and sought a relationship with the Creator of the world, the angels celebrated around the Throne of God … because what was lost had been found.

I may never find those lost Amazon gift cards. But if I do, rest assured there will be much celebrating in my home.

But even that will not compare to the celebration in heaven over a single lost life found again through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Have the angels in heaven celebrated over you?

A Room With a View (Writing 101, Day 2)

I’ve never had a room with a view. 

Photo by Sarah McKellen of McKellen-Messiniaki Properties
Photo by Sarah McKellen of McKellen-Messiniaki Properties

My childhood bedroom looked out over our front yard, which faced the main highway running through the rural town where my family lived.  I recall there used to be a large pine tree close to the road, but at some point it was cut down. My brother and sister and I loved playing around the pieces of wood for several weeks afterward.

Across the highway were the houses of our neighbors. Occasionally we would get permission to walk across the road to pay a visit, but generally my parents expected us to keep to our side of the highway.

I don’t think my parents cared whether or not my bedroom had a lovely view. My parents were far more concerned with teaching me right from wrong, who God was, and how to live a life pleasing to Him.

My childhood wasn’t about having a room with a view. It was about getting a God-view.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. ~Proverbs 3: 5-6

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College dorms do not generally offer much of a view either.

Once, I lived in a dorm in which my room came with a balcony. It looked over a large parking lot. In the end, the balcony was rather pointless. I could have used the extra space inside my room instead of on the outside.

I suppose college was never about the scenery anyway. After all, most college towns are fairly typical with their clusters of fast food restaurants and coffee shops, campus book stores, large brick classroom buildings, and of course dormitories.

The eye-opening experience for me was not the physical view of my world, but rather beginning to understand exactly how many different world views (or mindsets) there are in the world. Growing up in a tiny village (population 600) in the Bible Belt had certainly given me a strong understanding of my own worldview, which was then (and still is) decidedly Christian. When I left for college, for the first time I was interacting with people on a regular basis who did not look at the world through the same lens as me.

Looking back on those days, I can see how my own Biblical worldview was challenged, which forced me for the first time in my life to dig down into the beliefs my parents had passed on to me and decide for myself whether or not I wasn’t to continue to accept them as truths.

College wasn’t at all about having a room with a view. It was more deciding on my personal life-view.

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. ~Psalm 119: 114

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I’ve lived in so many homes as an adult, I’ve lost count of where they all were and how long I lived in each place.  Most of those were nondescript brick homes in little subdivisions, but I’ve also spent my fair share of time living in apartments, duplexes and even for a short while in a tiny rental mobile home in a trailer park.

Once I lived in a home far out in the country, with fifteen large pine trees in the front yard. Other than the pine trees, there wasn’t much to see except for the occasional squirrel.

Another time I lived in a very old duplex on an army base in Seaside, California (close to Monterey). If it wasn’t too foggy, which most of the time it was, I could catch a small glimpse of the Monterey Bay out of the corner of my living room window. But mostly, I could just see all of the other drab military houses farther down the hill from where my home was located.

Even the home I live in now isn’t one in a particularly beautiful place. Not to say I dislike where I live. Quite the opposite. I have great neighbors.  And the location of my home couldn’t be better. It’s within a five or ten minute drive of nearly every place I go on a regular basis. It’s not perfect … but then, is any home?

I’ve decided I like living here.  Some days I have to decide it more than others.

 

After moving some 17 times in 20 years and calling five different states home, I’ve learned the location of my home has very little to do with my personal happiness.

In adulthood I have learned to be content with where God has placed me  … even if I don’t particularly like the view.

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. ~Philippians 4:11

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But one day I will have a room with a view … a fabulous, marvelous, completely unimaginable view. It will be my forever view.

Already, I anticipate that day. God says the streets will be of gold, the waters like crystal, and the city gates made of pearl. Jesus has gone there to prepare my home.  Once my time on earth is done, I will live for eternity in the presence of God.

What a view that shall be!

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”  ~1 Corinthians 2:9

Of Swimsuits and Swimming (Writing 101, Day 1 Challenge)

Maddie and Megan are going swimsuit shopping today with their mother.

I have to admit that a part of me is worried about what what sort of swimsuit they might bring back home.It’s not that I don’t trust them to pick out a nice swimsuit. It’s just that … well, standards are different between our two homes.

Jon and I prefer the girls to wear more modest suits. A one piece. A tankini where both pieces touch.  Plenty of coverage over certain areas of the body.

I realize not every family, even among Christendom, feels the same way.  But Jon and I both feel rather strongly about modesty, for both genders.

It’s hard when our children’s other parents do not agree and share the same values. And since their mother is purchasing the swimsuits, Jon and I have to simply trust our girls to make wise choices.

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I probably haven’t been swimming in ten years.

Actually, that’s not exactly true … more like six or seven. Still, it’s been a long time. In the past twenty years, or all of my adult life, I’ve probably gotten into a swimsuit less than a dozen times total.

I actually love the water and enjoy swimming. But I don’t do it very often. The reason?

I am insecure and uncomfortable with the appearance of my own body.

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I don’t for a moment believe I am the only woman in the world with a bad body image.

Yet, if you were to place me on a scale of one to ten (where one represents a great body image and ten is for a terrible body image), I’d probably fall off the chart with a score of 13. 5 or something awful like that.

It’s not just swimsuits either.

I avoid mirrors if at all possible. There is nothing worse than a full-length mirror in a bathroom. A couple of years ago, Jon and I were house hunting. We came along a really nice home well within our price range. I recall being very pleased with the kitchen, living area and spacious backyard. But when I walked into a master bedroom that had an entire wall as a mirror … well, let’s just say I was no longer an interested buyer.

I really dislike having my photo taken. If it’s a group shot, I always try to arrange myself on the back row.  While most people I know love random photos, to me there is nothing worse than having your picture taken when you least suspect it.  Well, the only thing worse than having your picture taken randomly is actually looking at the said photos. Especially if the photo is more than just a headshot. Especially if the photo is of me at any age older than twelve or thirteen.

I’d never judge another woman’s worth based on her size or on any sort of physical feature she might consider to be a flaw.

So why am I so hard on myself?

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Shortly after my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with PCOS, but I began having the symptoms very early in puberty. There was the unexplained weight gain, the inability to lose weight, the anxiety attacks, the unwanted hair growth, and the severe acne among many other things. About the time I began to desire to look beautiful, everything about my outside appearance began to go wrong. As a 13 year old girl, it was extremely emotional.  I didn’t know the cause. The best I could figure, I was just destined to be unattractive. By the time I was finally diagnosed, I had been experiencing the symptoms for more than seven years.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects approximately 1 in 10 women of child-bearing age.  In addition to all the health risks and yucky symptoms, PCOS is perhaps just as much an emotionally devastating syndrome for the women who suffer from it as the symptoms actually strip away at the very essence of femininity.

Originally, my doctors indicated it would just be hard for me to conceive children, as most women with PCOS experience infertility to a certain degree. That much was certainly true. But I was also blessed. After three years of infertility, God gifted me with three beautiful children in less than three and a half years.

And yet PCOS has been far more than simply experiencing infertility. It continues to affect me every day, from my physical health to my emotions to even the kinds of foods I am able to eat.  PCOS has even affected my relationship with God.

You see, I am guilty of feeling angry with God giving me PCOS. Were I to count the vast numbers of prayers I have offered which  were nothing but raging over this syndrome, questioning “Why me?,” and begging God to take away this burden I never wanted to bear, the sum would be far larger than any number to which I have ever counted.

I hate to admit it, but deep inside, a part of me felt like God didn’t care about me or this problem. I felt abandoned to an illness no doctor could cure. I felt unworthy of a healing. At times, I even wondered if I were being punished. Even more, I blamed God for giving me the PCOS in the first place.

While I worked through many of these emotions during my adult years and came to a place of acceptance of the way things would be in my life, I still didn’t exactly make peace with the skin God put me in.

Moreover, I felt righteously justified in having my bad body image.

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There are a lot of Bible verses that immediately pop into my mind whenever I think about trying to change my bad body image.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. ~Proverbs 31:30

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Your beauty should not come from outer adornment … instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. ~1 Peter 3:3-4

While I am challenged by those scriptures I shared above, the one that convicts me the most is Psalms 139, the very prayer I used to pray when I was pregnant with my babies and over them as sweet newborns.  I still use this scripture today when one of my five kiddos has a moment of feeling physically unattractive. It goes like this:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~Psalm 139:14

Recently, I read these same words from The Message Bible, a paraphrased edition of the Bible (as opposed to a word-by-word translation) which tends to be more conversational in style.

Body and soul, I am marvelously made!  I worship in adoration—what a creation!  ~Psalm 139: 14

Wow. I never thought about my body being marvelously made. Nor had I ever once praised God for my body.

Perhaps I’m not perfect by MY standards, but I can see and hear and use my limbs. I’m relatively healthy. I don’t have a debilitating illness. And I was created by a loving God, who gave me life. What reason have I to complain? Why am I so against myself instead of loving me for who I am … a creation made in the image of God?

Perhaps even more wonderful is I discovered the solution to correcting my bad body image …

praising its Creator in worship.

psalm139_14

I certainly don’t think I’m completely over my bad body image.  After all, I still have no desire to put on a swimsuit or gaze at myself in a full-length mirror. I suppose after more than 25 years of believing a lie, it’s going to take some time for me to heal those parts of my soul.

And yet, just as there is hope for my husband to restore his relationship with his step-son, there is hope for me to grow to love the person God created me to be  … outside and inside!

I am definitely looking forward to that.

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Do you have a bad body image?

Have you ever had to come to terms with a “thorn in the side?”

No sandals, no flip-flops … no business!

The conversation that follows was one overheard yesterday while running afternoon errands:

Joel (age 14):  Sometimes you see stores with signs that say “No shirt, no shoes, no service.”  I’ve never really seen people walking around without their shirts on, but a lot of people don’t wear appropriate shoes. If I ever own a business, I am not serving people who don’t wear shoes, and that includes flip-flops. If you come to my business and want me to serve you, you’ve got to wear footwear that covers your complete foot, toes and all.” 

Nathan (age 12): What about sandals? A lot of people like to wear sandals.

Joel:  Sandals don’t count because the foot practically hangs out. Sandals and flip-flops are essentially the same thing as going barefoot. 

Nathan:  So I guess you aren’t going to run a Christian business. That’s sad, Joel.

Joel:  I didn’t say that. Of course, my business will be Christian. I’m just not going to serve people who don’t wear real shoes. 

Nathan:  Well, you said you weren’t serving people who wore sandals. Jesus wore sandals. So based on what you’ve said, if Jesus came to your business you would turn Him away. 

Joel:  Jesus was different. Besides, Nathan, I seriously doubt Jesus is going to come walking in my business … and if He were to do so, I’d definitely serve Him. But He’s the only exception to the rule.

Nathan:  That’s hypocritical! You’ll serve Jesus, but not those who imitate Him?  The Bible says we are to imitate Christ.  I think you need to rethink your business plan.

Joel: I am not hypocritical. I just don’t like sandals and flip-flops. I don’t think they are real shoes. Put some real shoes on your feet if you want to do business with me. Trust me, most people who wear sandals are not imitating Jesus!

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One of my favorite parts of parenting is the crazy conversations my children have on a near daily basis. I love hearing their “half-baked” thoughts and ideas, their interpretations of the world around them, and getting a peek into how God is developing their personalities.  Yesterday was no different.

Well … mostly no different.  I have to admit that yesterday’s conversation left my feelings got a bit bruised because I’m a flip-flop lover. Actually, a more accurate statement would be, I’m a foot lover.  But not just anyone’s feet. My feet.  I’m all about pedicures and pretty painted toenails, and cute shoes to show off my lovely toes.

sandals

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I don’t know about you, but I tend spend my life rather caught up in myself. My activities. My hobbies. My time. My interests. I don’t spend my time focused on intentionally living for Christ.  After all, in my self-focused world, I’m wearing sandals because I love them, not because I’m seeking to imitate Jesus!

Jesus wasn’t focused on His own feet.  Instead, Scripture depicts Him washing the feet of others.  His feet never rested, for He walked miles over desert roads in ministry to others. Those who recognized who He was, worshipped at His feet, breaking vessels of expensive perfumes over His perfect feet, which would be pierced for my transgressions against a Holy God.

jesus_woman_washes_feet

 

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m not writing this to begin a movement which would push sandals as the “go-to shoe” for Christians because Jesus wore them as He traveled the dusty Israeli roads 2000 years ago.

However, all because of one crazy conversation between my boys, this morning as I put on my favorite pair of comfy sandals, I was reminded to spend my day truly focused on being an imitator of Jesus.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. ~Ephesians 5:1-2

A Prayer for America

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As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer. As an American, I believe my nation is founded on the greatest principles, and though we have strayed so far from what our founding fathers envisioned, America still offers freedoms which I cherish. Today is the National Day of Prayer, and I’m joining thousands of other Christians in prayer for my country.

Today I am praying the following:

~forgiveness for Christians who are unwilling to stand up for what is right in the eyes of God, who are quick to compromise, and who are blissfully unaware of how our American culture is drifting ever farther from God’s truths

~forgiveness for our national greed, our skyrocketing debt, and our attitude of materialism

~a revival among Christians, with hearts returning to God with a love for His word and His truth

~guidance for our national and state leaders

~and mostly importantly, heal our nation … may God build His kingdom here, beginning in my heart and in my home, on my street, in my city, in my state and my nation.

I am praying. I hope you will pray for America today, too.

 

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ~2 Chronicles 7:14