Tap Tap Tap

This kid Derrick sat behind me during an assembly in the 4th grade. From the beginning of time, our Elementary school had long lines of desks, arranged in pairs, which we’d sit in for lunch and also programs. Derrick wanted my attention, so he just started tapping me. Over and over and over. I wasn’t one to chit chat during undesignated times, so I ignored him. But he just kept tapping and tapping and tapping. So I started giving him nasty looks, and whispered “stop its.” But he never stopped tapping. I don’t remember what he wanted or how the assembly wrapped up or what they said. But I just remember that constant tap, tap, tap from Derrick.

But Derrick hasn’t been the only tap tap tap  in my life…

And often the tap tap taps come from the Holy Spirit…

Tap…there’s something you need to change….

Tap…listen…

Tap…there is more to life…there is a better way…

For a month or so, with heightened pregnancy hormones/craziness raging through my blood, the tap tap tap has been grace.

And when it’s time to learn something, the opportunities seem to be everywhere.

I’m mulling through the book of Romans right, now. And, I’ll be honest with you…it’s hard. Hard to get through, sometimes hard to understand, sometimes just straight boring. Now, I know a lot of guys who like this book in the Bible, but for me…it’s rough. BUT, necessary.

A few weeks ago in the second chapter, Paul says this:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearanceand patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

I stopped in my tracks. Passing judgment. Who am I to pass judgment? And isn’t it true that in my own passing of judgment, maybe, just MAYBE, I am doing the same thing that I am judging? YES!

The human condition is not complicated. We are all guilty of all the things that make us mad, that cause us to judge, that hurt our feelings…

This week I got upset about the following things:

  • not being treated the way I wanted to be treated
  • being yelled at (granted by a 4 year old)
  • being given unsolicited advice
  • being judged

Yet, which one of those things have I not done, myself, and this very week? Who am I to judge? Who am I NOT TO DISH OUT LOADS AND LOADS OF GRACE?

This morning, I read of a woman dying a grace-filled death from cancer, a woman who is fighting to the end and calling her battle beautiful. And I wept. I wept at my own ridiculous immaturity. I wept that I get upset about such small things. I wept because I sweat the small stuff. I worry about things that are insignificant. And I don’t love frivolously those who’s paths I cross. I wept because I cannot seem to learn the lessons that God is tap tap tapping on my back.

Tap…forgive…

Tap…forbear…

Tap…pray…

Tap…assume the best of people…

Tap…look at the whole picture…

Tap…there is a better way to live…a freer way…

Tap…let me show you the light…

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And I thanked God for the deep words of Paul in Romans, who reminds me…as I WAGE WAR with ruthless abandon against the carnal and immature and fleshly…

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

 

 

 

When You Choose Grace…

I got my feelings hurt.

It was something small and unintentional by the offending party. However, past grievances mixed with a new one created a nasty battle in my heart.  The offender went about their day unmoved and unaware while I festered…

Then I saw something at my church. From across the room, a man had his arms around his father in an embrace. I don’t know the whole story, but judging by the part of the story that I do know, the father does not deserve to be embraced by his son. And the scene moved me. The son ended the embrace with a man pat, and moved away. And immediately, I thought one word, “grace.”

If this man can have grace for a father who doesn’t deserve it, what is my problem? Why am I wasting my time in resentment and frustration toward someone who doesn’t even know they’ve hurt me?

Here’s the deal with grace…it’s not deserved. It’s often unmerited. It doesn’t make sense. And it requires some work…and by some work, I mean a lot of work. And by a lot of work, I mean prayer. A boat load of it.

This morning, I begged God,

Make me a grace-filled person. Fill me with compassion for those who hurt, who don’t know they are hurting. Give me peace to forbear the little things.  Don’t allow bitterness, even below the surface to envelop my heart and fill it with weeds. Let me see people the way you do, not as creatures who should tip toe around me and my fragile feelings. Oh God, fill me with grace.

Here’s the thing…

When we choose the path contrary to grace, the first casualty is US. Bitterness eats away at our hearts like a cancer.  And in a flash, we are different, haggard by pain we refused to let go of or deal with, and eventually passing that hurt along to those we love. It’s a nasty cycle, and one that is not easy to be free of.

So I asked myself, and I ask you…are you an extender or an expecter?

Are we extending love and grace to those who don’t quite treat us the way we want to be treated (as if there is one universal way to be treated)?

or…

Do we expect the world to cater to our every demand, feeling, or whim?

Are we extending forgiveness to those who hurt us with an ever present knowledge that we are being forgiven ourselves, for untold grievances toward others?

or…

Do we expect that we are the only ones who get hurt? 

Are we extending understanding as we realize that everyone we know and meet is on their own journey, different from our’s, with unique strengths and weaknesses?

Or 

Do we expect everyone to be at the same place we are? In other words, do we expect perfection from others?

Feelings are a tough thing. On the one hand, feelings are legitimate. On the other hand, we can be destroyed by our feelings.

Yes, what we feel is real and cannot be undone, HOWEVER, it’s what I choose to do with my feelings that makes the difference.

Grace is realizing, that we don’t always see the whole picture…

DSC_0179And realizing that the person who hurt us, maybe didn’t know our whole story…

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But grace takes the time…to look at the person behind the offense, to see a friend, a spouse, a child, a parent, and see the whole story. Grace puts pieces back together in forgiveness…because.

It’s worth it.

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It just is.

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Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. 

Ephesians 4:31-32

To the Twins, 13 Years Later

There are days sketched on my parents’ and grandparents’ minds forever. Pearl Harbor, crowded around the family radio, hearing the unimaginable. The day JFK was shot, my mom’s lunch lady was crying as she went through the line. The day that Martin Luther King was shot and there were curfews and chaos and sadness in their city.

In my mind…it’s this day. 22 years old and fresh to Texas, the second week in grad school, I was walking down the curved marble stairs after my 8 o’clock class. At the bottom, stood a mixture of students and professors, huddled in disbelief, eyes glued to the TV in the foyer. And the Trade Towers were on fire. And the world has never ever been the same; our innocence was lost in a moment.

That next summer, the youth group I was interning for took a trip to New York. There we were, over 100 of us, fumbling with subway cards, walking miles and miles in matching tee shirts (not exactly the way I wanted to experience NYC for the first time), and searching for bathrooms that weren’t to be found. I was feeling embarrassed. Ugh, why are we here? We look like tourists! Until we arrived at Ground Zero. Suddenly, there was reverence. Even among the 7th grade boys.

There’s something about standing on ground where people have fought for life and lost, that sends chills through your bones.

In the summer of 2002, there was a huge makeshift memorial at Ground Zero. A wall, with words from loved ones and total strangers scribbled all over it, US flags, balloons, pictures. There was too much to look at. I read a few messages and then took in the scene in its entirety.

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But then something caught my eye that has stayed with me clearly for 13 years: a snap shot of 2 babies in matching high chairs, with the words, “look how big we are now, daddy” written on the picture. And there I stood, and cried for those twins who didn’t have a daddy and their mama who didn’t have a husband anymore. And now, 13 years later, I think of them. They are much bigger now. Maybe they started 7th or 8th grade last week. Maybe they’ve moved to the Midwest, maybe they are still in Manhattan. Maybe they have an adopted dad, who loves them as if they were his all along. I don’t know. But every year I think of them and pray for them. While my false sense of American invincibility was forever rattled about this time on September 11, 2001, they were losing their dad. And now that I have twins growing strong within me, I think of their mother, who lost her best friend, her help, and likely her joy. And I remember. I can’t remember everyone who lost their lives that day. But I can remember the twins and their mama and one daddy who walked into work on a normal September day and never came home.

Sunday Morning Prayer

I often experience early morning insomnia. When it happens as early as 2am, I count the hours until morning, rueing my impending exhaustion. But when the day comes early for me at 4 or 5, I call it a night and brew some coffee, grateful for a chance to enjoy the quiet and the Beagle.

This morning as I was praying, I was thinking about my eldest and the fact that often, I’m just at a loss. Cut exactly from my mold, I somehow have no idea how to relate to the 4 year old version of me. Her emotions swing and flare and spike. Yet in the next moment, she is tender and kind and funny. I scribbled the words in my prayer journal, “I need you desperately.”  Then I crossed them out, “I need you every hour.”

And because I’m a product of the South, the words of that old hymn flooded my mind, I need thee, oh I need thee, every hour I need thee.

But because I am not proficient in the lyric arena (as all my friends know), I had to look up the rest. And what I found brought me to tears. The writer of this song was a wife and mother about my age, in the 1800s.

This is what she said:

“One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular household tasks during a bright June morning, in 1872. Suddenly, I became filled with the sense of nearness to the Master, and I began to wonder how anyone could ever live without Him, either in joy or in pain. Then the words were ushered into my mind and these thoughts took full possession of me–”I need Thee every hour . . .”

The human condition has always been the same. I need my Savior every day, every hour, every moment. This morning I’m grateful for a mother just like me, who penned these words almost 150 years ago and a Savior who is always present in my joy and pain and need.

On Mother’s Day…

I’m sitting next to my early riser who is literally licking her plate clean after consuming a monkey bun from my sister’s bakery. My big girl and I get up and sit on the couch while everyone else is sleeping. She watches early morning PBS and I journal, read my Bible, and read my favorite blogs. She drinks milk, I drink coffee. Really without this part of my day, I’m a monster.  At first, I’d sneak out of my room, jumping from board to board in our little bungalow, avoiding creeks. Now, her circadian is set to mine. And she meets me in the hall. What was a frustration at first, her interrupting my “me time,” is now “our time.” And it’s the time she sees me loving Jesus, reading from his word, learning from him, praying. It reminds me of my mom…

DD, Mom, KT, Me

I love my mom daily, but Mother’s Day does lend itself to think, pause, and appreciate all the ways my mom gave and gives.

I can’t even look around my living room in my home, without seeing her influence:

Piles of books on the shelf. It was mom who taught me to love reading. It was mom who made me read the classics and wouldn’t allow me to amass a huge library of Babysitter’s Club, but instead Little House and Anne of Green Gables. It was mom who had us reading every day during the summer. Mom who bought us children’s books even as adults. Books I read to my own children. It was mom who nurtured my own love of story telling. She wrote down my narrations even as a 4-year-old, when I couldn’t write.

The Cityscapes and Photography hung on the wall. The way I hang pictures, influenced by mom. ‘Hang them at eye level, not too high, not too low.’ Her quiet sense of style and her way of making a home HOMEY and lived in, yet cute, (hopefully) transferred to us. Playing with color, playing with design, playing with room lay out. I’m never quite satisfied with a piece of furniture from a store. It must have a story. It must be a deal. That’s from my mom.

I can’t go through a day, without attributing much of it to mom:

Keeping life simple and fun. My mom didn’t force us to do sports or music or dance.  My youngest sister and I took piano. My middle sister took art. We all played softball briefly and lost every game (save one forfeit). And we took free tennis lessons one summer. But we weren’t a family going from here to there chasing college scholarships. We did what we liked. We were happy. We weren’t dictated by schedule or culture. We had people over for dinner and sat around the table for hours, laughing and eating. Life was simple. Life was fun.

Ordinary life was special.  In the summers we had popsicles every day at 3pm on the porch. On the first day of every season, we got little presents to celebrate the new Season, pjs’ on Christmas eve, travel presents for long car rides, tea parties, homemade cherry limeades, the list goes on and on.  Mom made life special.

Tea Party (mom and CB)

When the world criticized, mom esteemed. My mom (and dad) swear to this day that I was cute in 7th grade, even when I show them proof that I was NOT. But back then, I thought I was beautiful…because of them.

She loved dad and God first. My mom let me in on a secret over a cup of coffee, when I was about 17, “I always put dad first.” WHAT? Over us? I was offended…until my selfish little teenage soul understood. My mom and dad’s relationship gave us stability and confidence. It was good and healthy for us to see THEM love one another. It took me into my late 20s to find my own one and only. I think often, it’s because mom and dad set the bar so high in their love, that I could not settle. Now as a mom, I get it. She also loved God above all else, even dad. Every morning, mom and dad could and can be found, on the couch, coffee in hand, reading God’s word and praying. Perhaps that is the biggest gift they gave me.

The most important job in the world is shaping little souls, raising little people. Thank you mom, for how you raised us. I am endlessly grateful. I love you!

An Unsolicited Opinion about Frozen

Have you ever been a part of something and it felt like your heart was on the outside of your body? For me-it’s usually music or really good theatre.

The day to day swarms around me and my time is filled with goldfish, grilled cheese, and Daniel Tiger, so it’s been a while since I’ve been felt this way, until…

On Valentines Day, we took our big girl to her first movie in a theatre. And I felt it: the rush of awe and appreciation, the reminder that there are great story tellers and artists, and thoughtful and funny composers still out there-still making magic in our culture.

There are a lot of posts out there about this movie and I’ve not read any of them, because this post has been swirling in my head since February 14th.

Here are major themes and points that I took away from Frozen:

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1. Sometimes gifts can be our worst enemies. Elsa’s talent for snow making was innate within her.  BUT, gifts have to be used in the right context. They need to be humbly developed and nurtured by parents and loved ones. Just think about our personalities. We are who we are…but sometimes out of fear, we squash that, we hold it in, we pretend. Elsa had an amazing gift that she didn’t know how to use, and no one taught her what to do with it. Encouraged by her parents, she hid it. When she was true to herself and learned purpose in her gift…who she really was…only then was she beautiful and free (and sexy, for that matter-it’s true and it’s ok).

2. Anna and Elsa were products of parents who thought they were doing the right thing but were actually screwing up. As a mom-this is terrifying. But here’s the thing…Elsa and Anna could have blamed their parents for their predicament. They could have dwelled on it. We all could and can. But if we have loving parents, it’s a FACT that they did their best. They intended the best. So, the next time you feel tempted to blame your parents for something, remember that they love(d) you and were likely trying to do the right thing. And I am trying now, to parent the best I know how. I’m sure when my kids grow up, they will point to ways I’ve messed them up. Heaven help me as I try to be a good mom!

3. For a million reasons, Elsa was hurt, so to protect herself she built ice around her heart and refused to let anyone in-even those who loved her most. Are you doing this today? Am I? Pain often drives us away from intimacy. We were meant for community. Living outside of it IS the biggest tragedy.

4. Elsa was different and when people found out, they were scared.  Now you can be all PC and say “Differences don’t scare me!” But they probably do, and no one will know if you just admit it in your head. And different things scare different people. It is what it is. But at some point, we have to stop being afraid, and get to know people for who they are, different or not. That’s hard and it may take an entire lifetime.

5. For once, “true love” wasn’t the conventional boy meets girl and boy saves the day. First off, the GIRL saved the day. And secondly, the perfect love in this movie, was messy, gritty, enduring, painful, and beautiful-as only love in real life can be. Not only that, it was familial. And familial love rarely looks like it did on Full House or I love Lucy. It’s hard. It. Just. Is.

I’m so glad that this was also a story about sisters.  And if you have sisters…you know that there is no one on Earth who can be your best friend and soul mate like a sister, and almost no one you’ll fight for more than a sister.

6. Reconciliation is worth it…even if it’s hard and takes a long time. I believe that reconciliation wants to be the plot line of every story. Yours and mine.

7. The good guy won the girl. Maybe you’d say the underdog…but he was NOT the prince. He was not the guy she thought she wanted, but instead, the guy she needed and the guy who wasn’t too prideful to win her. He was also her friend, first. I loved this! I want that guy to date my daughters some day. That guy dated and married me. What a lucky girl I am.

My little girl is too little to see movies this way. All she wants to do is sing “do you wanna build a snowman?” over and over again. And my husband (because he’s a guy) prefers The Incredibles. But I’m grateful for what I consider to be the best Disney movie of all time for themes of redemption and strength and love in an age of cheaply made movies with weak and boring plots. When my girls are bigger…I hope we can chew on these themes whilst sipping coffee and eating dark chocolate!

 

Birthday Thoughts…

***I wrote this post on my birthday…but was too busy partying to post it.

Today is my birthday.

My wonderful husband has gone to great lengths planning out the most perfect day(s) for me. So far, he has succeeded. It even started yesterday.

Short recap:

After a morning workout and coffee playdate (code for mom date), we dropped the babies off with my in laws and took off for a day of shopping and coffee. I picked out a present. We headed to my favorite downtown on Earth, checked in to a hotel, enjoyed the view, ate steak at my favorite local joint, sipped coffee, licked a dessert plate clean from the ganache that spelled out Happy Birthday, walked among the city dwellers enjoying our town, and conversation (a novelty when you have littles).IMG_7961

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This morning, we strolled in the fog to get breakfast…me pretending amidst the sky scrapers that I lived in NYC (a weird Felicity-like daydream I always go back to), and now here I am, basking in my thoughts and coffee, awaiting a massage in one hour. My husband knows how to pamper me on my big day.

(UPDATE: I later returned home to the smells of my favorite comfort food and a carefully crafted surprise party…a la the best husband ever!)

I joked with a friend last week that although I love my birthday, that it’s had a history of leaving me wanting.

On the day before my 30th, in an attempt to not be driving on my birthday, we set off in a snow storm to see my parents in the Midwest. Somewhere in the hills of Northwestern Arkansas, after sitting on stalemated bridges for too long, we gave up and got a hotel room for the night. While grabbing dog food at a Walmart, my Beagle FREAKED out in the car. It went like this:

Us: Toby, come on. Shut up.

Toby: Pant pant, cry cry…

Us: Toby, you can’t ride in the front…get back. Toby…stop.

Toby: Pant pant freak out freak out….FARRRRRRRRTTTTTTTT. SQUIIIIIRRRRRRRTTTTTT.

And like that, hours before my 30th, there I was in the snow, wrangling two dogs, laughter to the point of breathlessness, while my Tall guy cleaned up Beagle diarrhea from the crevises of the car door. (I told Toby that entire pan of Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies he stole off my counter the day before would eventually bite him in the butt…).

On my 23rd birthday, I was new in town…and just my mama and dad and aunt even remembered my birthday. I watched Mystic Pizza alone in my apartment.

There have been good and bad birthdays…and people always will say, “It’s just a day.”

To that I say, NO!

Having labored for my babies now, it is never just a day. Ever.

I think so many of us have forgotten to celebrate. Life is a miracle and it is fleeting.

35 years ago, right in this very moment (as I’m looking at my clock) my mom birthed me into the world. And from that point on, she sacrificed all of her pre-kid freedom…for me. Because she loved me so.

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In our family, we do birthdays big. They are tailor made. Some of us like birthdays loud and raucous, with lots of family and even more food. Some like them quiet and simple, with coffee and chocolate, some family, and then some private contemplation. My little girl likes her birthday to be bouncy and full of pizza. Regardless-we CELEBRATE birth days.

Birthdays are the day we say THANK YOU…thanks to moms and dads for choosing to extend themselves in parenthood. Thanks to God for giving us a chance to make a mark on the world…hopefully a good one, hopefully one that makes others say, “I want to know God, too.” Thanks to friends and family for trudging through it with us…good and bad.

It’s a day to celebrate friendship, growth, another year, tears, triumphs, set backs, FOOD, all of it….

It’s a good day for a birthday.