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Archive for June, 2014

* this is a post from over three years ago, and although I would love to think my grammar skills have improved …20140630-112210-40930586.jpg

Recently, it happened AGAIN. And I hate it when it happens.

It makes me feel so … inferior, so …unknowledgeable, so … dumb 😦

Sigh, and the reality is … it will happen again, and again, and again … alot!

The funny thing is, it never happened to bother me, when I was a student.

It didn’t seem to have any effect on my self confidence, as a kid.

Or even on my school marks.

Heck, not even my college marks!

It really didn’t surface until, O, I think it was my first day working in a high school.

The ‘it’ I refer to is … good grammar …

I remember that day so well. I had gotten a job as a SEA (Special Education Assistant), and my role was to assist students with their learning. Not all students have the same learning capacity, nor the same learning style, nor speed. An SEA assists them in learning in a way, and with special materials, tools and curriculum that helps those students reach their potential. That was (is) my job.

What happens when the ‘assistant’ to a student is the equivalent to Shrek in the Kingdom of Grammar? That would be me (I think I might be more fairly compared to Donkey in that kingdom).

So, on my first day of high school, for the second time (I did graduate from high school, by the way), I went, along with my student, to English 9. And it was there that my lack of good grammar skills were giving me chills. I remember, as the teacher used words like:

NOUN and PRONOUN (aren’t they the same thing, just one being positive …’pronoun”?)
VERB and ADVERB (and aren’t they the same thing, just one being extra verbious … ‘adverb’?)
PREPOSITION
CONJUNCTION
INTERJECTION
PREPOSTION

My head started swirling, my palms were clammy, my knees were knocking … all because I feared the teacher was gonna call on me to answer the question that none of the students were answering. For that endless period of time, I was back in high school … all over again, and I really wasn’t appreciating the deja vu .

Being in that class, was so good for me! In that year I learned the meaning of noun, pronoun, verb, adverb and lots of other parts of speech. But, I am learning that there is still so much I don’t know … it’s amazing that I can communicate at all!

Recently I learned there are two ‘O’s’. One is ‘O’, and the other is ‘Oh’, and the two have different uses (who knew?).  ‘Oh’ is used as an exclamation of emotion. On the other hand, ‘O’ is used to address someone or something. The best way to differentiate them is “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”, and “O God, there’s a snake!” (so, ‘O God, Our Help in Ages Past’ would have a very different meaning … this will make you look at worship songs on your screen or monitor next weekend very differently).

I also recently learned that ‘alot’ is not a word (who knew?). The correct way to go is to use it as two words, ‘a lot’ … but them it doesn’t really make sense … ‘I love chocolate a lot’ (so I love chocolate … on a lot … in a lot … so confusing). The best thing to do is to switch ‘alot’ with ‘much’ … I love chocolate … much (hum, I still think alot sounds better, and anyone who knows me, knows I do love chocolate alot).

And then there is ‘ain’t’ … heck I cannot find evidence of it being a real, acceptable word, or not, it is just so confusing, some say it is and some say it isn’t (ain’t), all I have to say is that at my age, and the way I write (and talk), using the word ain’t, ain’t my problem … it’s run on sentences, and I ain’t gonna fix that one any time soon!

 

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That season that many of us fear, dread and deny it’s existence is upon us. The season, of course, is swim suit season.

The thought of baring, normally covered up, skin, stretch marks and cellulite to the unassuming public is enough to force a woman to lock herself in a closet with a good quality dark chocolate.

A number of years ago I felt I had to confront my fear of baring almost everything about myself. I had two daughters, of seven and three, and a toddler son. We lived across the street from a public pool, and they could not go swimming unless I accompanied them.

Would my self consciousness concerning my body image keep my kids from the cool of the pool on a hot summers day? Would my stretch marked naval gazing keep me from fun with my kids in those precious young memory-making years?

I decided I would not be ‘that mom’ who would let her body image detract from meaningful experiences with her kids. I would purchase the first suit that would cover her well, and I would (literally) dive into summer with joyful abandon.

I was thrilled to read a post at http://www.incourage.me, just last week, by Lisa-Jo Baker, called, “You Are More Than Your Swimsuit.” I hope you enjoy it, and her challenge, as well.

“My kids officially smell of summer. And to me summer smells like sunscreen.

From the moment the gates of our community pool crank back open again, our kids will swim, dive, splash, lather, laugh, lick ice cream and live at the pool.

And I know for many of us, that is the exact same amount of time we will spend trying to hide, cover up, conceal, suck in, and disguise the very bodies that gave birth to these kids.

These bodies that stretched to accommodate sets of feet, brilliant heads and minds, beating hearts, and flexing limbs. These bodies that are round where some say they should be flat; soft where some say they should be hard; and full where many others are running on empty.

These bodies that are winsome and wise with their wrinkles that wink back at the world and share more inside jokes and delicious life experience than could possibly squeeze into the tiny, polka dot bikinis of our youth.

These bodies that are in the service of the King who sculpted them out of sinew and His own Spirit.

These bodies that bend low and pick up socks and broken hearts, wipe crumbs and tears and walk the long, lonely hall ways of two a.m. – rocking babies or waiting up for teens.

These bodies that are the sanctuary for tired kids and continue to carry them and all their hopes and dreams deep here under our rib cage. The place that aches when they smile; the place that spills over with wonder at all this eternity walking around with skin on.

These bodies with wrinkled hands from years of serving meals or making art or sewing or digging gardens and planting bulbs.

These bodies that have born children through our words or blogs or hundreds of hours spent mentoring the next generation or bringing babies home from broken places – all the incredible, miraculous ways our bodies mature and our hearts explode the limitations of skin and muscle.

These bodies that tell the story of miracle and wonder and wink from wide hips and wrinkled steps at the tiny life guards who don’t know yet that living life unguarded in the wide open expanse of opening your life up to others is the best way to be beautiful. They will grow into it. They will earn their own scars.

And we will be there modeling what brave looks like for them. Every step of the way into the deep end of the pool with miniature daughters clinging to our necks. Or with other wrinkled sisters who still swim on fearless. With joy off the diving board and loud laughter trying to out race our sons.

“You should not spend your days trying to preserve your body in its eighteen-year-old form. Let it be used. By the time you die, you want to have a very dinged and dented body… Scars and stretch marks and muffin tops are all part of your kingdom work. One of the greatest testimonies Christian women can have in our world today is the testimony of giving your body to another.”

~Life-changing wisdom from Rachel Jankovic, author of Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches.

Let’s not hide this summer.

Let’s spend it all. Lavishly.

All this life we’ve been gifted with.

Let’s spend it down to the very last delicious drops of summer – because you are created for more. Much more than your swimsuit.”

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GRRR! I hate it when things go bump in the night … and linger on into your day!

I awoke one morning (Saturday, no less) at 6:18am, after a disturbing, realistic, haunting, big, bad dream. And I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was, quite literally, haunting me, shadowing my day, making me edgy … and I did’t like it!

I hate it when that happens (like you didn’t figure that out already). I’ve been awake for over five hours, and my heartbeat is still too fast. I’ve had the joy of going to a school fundraiser, meeting up with lots of people (who I probably communicated poorly with, maybe I was even unfriendly to), opportunities to eat yummy foods, and I am still on edge!

This dream, this nightmare is probably still haunting me, because it originates partly in reality, a reality I just wish would, I wish could be forgotten! But, until senility sets in (and, despite the belief of my kids, it hasn’t happened yet), my memories will simply always be there.

But, it is not just the dream that is driving me around the bend today. It is also me, and the way I think. My kids love to joke with me all the time about how I look for a deeper meaning to EVERYTHING! If you’ve ever seen that YouTube ‘Double Rainbow’ video that’s gone viral … well, my kids like to joke … with their hysterical laughter … “that’s just like you, Mom” (how many hours of labor, how many sleepless night, how many stretch marks  … for those … darlings?). But, I digress …

I did awake this morning, from my nightmare dream, disturbed, and wondering WHY did I dream this? WHY did that come to my unconscious thoughts? WHY did God allow those thoughts to invade my mind? I don’t have many answers (other than an afternoon nap, with the hopes that my thoughts will be redeemed), but, I do believe that God can make anything new …

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.

My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”

John 10:10

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Holy, Holy, Holy

I wrote this on a Sunday, three years ago!

It has been many weeks of ‘church visiting’. Hubby has been away from his ministry position, on sabbatical, since mid-February. And, my easily bored, need for the adrenaline rush of anything ‘new’, undiagnosed ADD personality has thrived with all of this change and variety!

I have been to amazing churches that have made us feel welcomed, transported my mind to heaven, and taught about spiritual things … kind of sounds like how  ‘Woodstock’ has always been described to me 😉 (there was not stripping at ANY of the churches I visited … just for the record, after my Woodstock comparison).

And today, like the rest, left me feeling well fed (ah, the story of my life). But, not just well-fed … if left me, us, feeling nurtured.

We originally chose the church we went to today, because our son has a friend who attends there, but, he and his family were not there today. We were greeted warmly by people we knew, and by people we did not. There was a line up to enter the church! (when does that happen?) The worship music was not spectacular, but it was good. The message was not spectacular, but it too was good. There was a ‘family feel’ in the place, but not a blood-relation-family-feel … (although, as Christians, it is a blood relation … from the events of Good Friday), so much as a we-chose-to-be-a-family-family-feel.

Maybe, for me, the morning was solidified as good, when we sang an old hymn from, well, forever-ago! I remember singing it EVERY Sunday as a prelude … my friends and I would mock it, because we were so familiar with it … singing it with our faces contorting as though we were singing opera. We HATED it! (I admit, I LOVE ‘classic’ hymns … not all though, some should be filed … permanently. And I love the new worship music … but if it is 10 years old … it is not longer ‘new’ for me)

But now, as an old church lady … (okay, so maybe I’m not quite a ‘lady’ yet), when I hear it, when I sing it … the tears flow as though it is my whole being … heart, mind, body and soul, singing to my creator what I was was created to sing … praises, and confessions, and, once again reminders that the God who reigns, always has been, and will forever be, praised by all that He has created. And that, is not dependent just on my will to sincerely praise Him, because I was created to praise Him, as all of His creation will praise Him.

I was good to go to the house of God, and to feel part of something bigger … just because I showed up … and He did the rest.

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Maybe it’s because I am guilty of saying the wrong things to my kids that made me decide to re-post this … and don’t take it personally, but this one is for me … not you!

When I read the following story, by singer/songwriter Jason Gray, I could relate to his first interaction with his son.

As a parent, I say the wrong things to my kids so often. I sometimes feel that if a caricature were drawn to represent me as a mom, one (either or both) of my feet would be sketched into the gaping hole on the middle of my face!

Please read Jason’s story of foot in mouth disease (thanks once again to Ann Voskamp for sharing this story, with such perfect photography, on a holy experience Caring For The Right Thing At The Right Time)

“The other night while we were washing dishes, my son Jacob said he’d seen a trailer for a movie he wanted to see.

“Oh yeah? Which one?” I asked.
“The new Red Dawn.”

“Ugh.” I said. “Why would you want to see that one? You know they’ve been sitting on it for a couple of years because they knew it was a stinker. I think they’re only releasing it now because it’s got Thor and Peeta in it and they’re hoping they can cash in on their popularity and at least get something back for their poor investment.”

Jacob continued, unfazed. “It’s also got an actor in it who I used to love when I was a kid—Josh from Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh. I’d really like to see what he’s doing now.”

Undeterred, I continued my diatribe. “Well, I loved the original when I was a kid in the ’80s, but this one got TERRIBLE reviews. It’s going to be bad. I’m just telling you because I don’t want you to waste your money.”

About the time these last words came out of my mouth, I began to realize how much of a self-righteous jerk I was being.

Unfortunately this is not uncommon for me—I can be oppressively opinionated and uppity. By God’s grace, however, I am learning to recognize it better and quicker.

I’m so grateful for growing conviction, the evidence that God is still at work in my life.

A part of my problem is that sometimes I care about the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Sometimes I care about fairness instead of generosity.

Sometimes I care about someone else’s theological accuracy when quiet listening would be better.

In this particular instance I was caring more about the quality of a film than I was caring about the quality of a conversation with my son. (In fact, I think he knew that I wouldn’t care for this movie but brought it up anyway, risking my scorn. Brave.)

Of course it’s good to care about things, and it’s good that I care about things like well-crafted films and good storytelling.

I care, too, about nuanced and cathartic acting performances that are as delicious to the soul as a fine meal is to the palette. I am grateful for my capacity to enjoy these and other forms of art-making: books, music, painting, and on down the list.

I care about these things because I’m convinced that beauty matters and is both a grace to be enjoyed and a calling to participate in.

But in that moment with Jacob, my care for a certain kind of beauty turned ugly because I was picking the wrong thing to care about.

Consequently I failed to recognize a more subtle and significant beauty that was being offered to me: the beauty of my son sharing his simple desire to see a movie—one that reminded him of fond memories of his childhood.

In that moment I had also been offered a chance to create something beautiful myself: a generous response with the power to foster a culture of kindness, grace, and intimacy in our home. What work of art—be it a song, a book, or a film—can compare to this?

By God’s grace I recognized what I’d done early enough to maybe do something about it.

“Ah Jacob. I’m sorry. What a jerk I am sometimes. Can we try this again, would you let me? Let’s start over. Tell me again what movie you want to see.”

He laughed, but played along. “Dad, there’s this movie I really want to see. It’s called Red Dawn.”

“Oh yeah? Man I loved that movie when I was kid. Tell me more about it, why do you want to see it?”

“Well, it’s got Peeta from The Hunger Games in it. It’s also got Josh from Drake and Josh” and just looks kind of cool to me.”

He was creating something beautiful of his own by graciously playing along with me, giving me a chance to make amends. This is the beauty of grace.

“Awesome! Well, let me know when it comes out and maybe we can watch it together.” I said, smiling.

“Okay, dad,” he said, smiling back. He had accepted my apology and offered me a way back into his world. He is a kind boy.

Later that night my youngest son Gus asked if I’d lay by him in his bed a little bit before he went to sleep.

After a little reading (from The Jesus Storybook Bible—so, so good, check it out if you haven’t already!), we lay there a bit in the dark.

Kipper and Jacob had come upstairs and were across the hall talking with their mom, laughing, being rambunctious and making some noise.

I sensed it was distracting Gus in the quiet of the moment we were sharing.

With every word and bark of laughter he heard from across the hall his body would tense. I could tell he was about to holler down the hall for them to be quiet because he was trying to sleep.

I was about to say, jokingly, “Man, your brothers are noisy!”

But remembering my earlier moment with Jacob, I wondered if there was something else I might say that would be better, something that might help foster kindness, grace, and intimacy in our home.

What was the right thing to care about?

“It’s nice to hear their voices, isn’t it?” I whispered to Gus in the dark.

“Yeah,” he said as his body noticeably relaxed.

He was quiet for a moment, and then said, “That’s just what I was going to say.”

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As the school year is coming to a rapid end, those of us who work in schools tend to become reflective about the year that has past. We wonder if we taught everything that the students needed to learn. We wonder if the students learned everything that they will need to succeed.

Earlier this past week I was speaking with a young man who is graduating from high school. I have never been assigned to work with him, I have never assisted him in a classroom setting, in no way have I ever been responsible for any part of his education. In spite of the fact that there is no direct connection to him, I have gotten to know him a bit by saying hi and connecting in the hallways.

This young man has not been successful in an academic sense. He was not a ‘good’ student. I would guess that he did not have the best handwriting in elementary school, the best understanding of algebra in middle school, or the best essay writing skills in high school.

From what I have learned, over the years, from talking to him, from watching him, and from hearing about him from others, I believe he will be immensely successful in life … and it has little to do with schooling.

This young man is kind … I have seen how he treats others.

This young man is hard working … I have seen his acts of service in the school.

This young man is responsible … when asked to do a task, he shows up, and does it.

This young man is humble … he does not do things for praise.

He is the young man who will grow up contributing to society.

He is the young man who will grow up caring for his parents.

He is the young man who will grow up supporting and loving his family.

He is the young man who you would want for a neighbor.

He is the young man who knows that he has nothing in this life without working hard, being responsible and being faithful to his commitments.

He is the successful result of parents who loved him and who modeled a life well lived. His success is the result of having the benefit of being able to participate in a program at school that allowed him to earn a portion of his credits by doing the manual labor he so loves (and is probably amazing at). He is the successful result of an inner strength of character that kept him going to school, just because it is a hoop we all need to do to be part of our society.

I wish I had had the opportunity to work with this model young man … I bet he could have taught me something!

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Summer is officially here!

The schedules of the school year, of sports and other recreational activities, of work and all that is part of the rest of the year have been put on hold for rest, relaxation and recreation.

One of the best parts of summer is looking at the calendar of July and August in comparison to the rest of the months … there are so many clean blocks, with no writing on many of the days of the week. The calendar in FULL of whitespace!

Whitespace is the part of paper that is not written on.

According to Bonnie Gray, who writes at incourage.me, and faith Barista,

“just as beautiful art needs whitespace,

our souls need spiritual whitespace.”

Enjoy this guest post from Bonnie Gray.

I didn’t want to get out.

But Daddy swung the car door open.

My parents had just divorced and Daddy took me and little sister to the toy store one Saturday morning.

He wanted to buy us something to “Remember Daddy loves you,” as he placed the plastic bag in my hand at checkout. But, all I could think about was Momma. What she told me that morning. That I better not take anything from him.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that visit was going to be the last time I ever saw him again. I was a little girl, seven years tall.

Daddy kept telling me, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” But I didn’t want to walk up to the porch. My legs drilled down into the ground like roots to a thicket of thorns at the bottom of concrete steps.

My Daddy put one hand on my back, pressing me forward, as he grabbed my little sister’s hand in the other. He rapped on the screen door while I blinked and sucked my breath in.

As I held myself there for a million years, the door flew open.

There she stood. Over me.

Even behind the screen, I could see Momma clearly. Her ragged jawline, her teeth clenched and face flushed. Her chest heaving. She took one look at me, at the plastic bag I was holding. I could see it in her eyes.

Anger.

And I broke apart in a thousand pieces right then and there. I knew I shouldn’t do what I did next, because it would make everything worse. But, I couldn’t help it.

I started shaking. Tears began to erupt and my mouth pulled down into a trembling sob. I couldn’t swallow them down. So I began to cry.

Things didn’t go well for me that day, as I stood there at the screen door out on the porch.

There was no space for me.

I was split between who to please and what to do.

I could not find rest.

Longing

Even though I’m all grown up now – mom to two adorable boys, married to a loving husband — deep inside, I’m still that little girl looking for rest.

Longing for space to breathe.

To feed my soul.

To feel and dream dreams.

To just be me.

I need rest.

But, stress seems to always be one step ahead of me.

I’ve wondered if I could ever really stop.

Then, God allowed my life to come to a big stop.

A Beautiful Discovery

Two years ago, at the cusp of a childhood dream coming true – writing my first book – I was launched into a debilitating season of panic attacks, insomnia and anxiety.

Writing triggered memories to come alive. I began reliving them.

I’ve done much harder things in my life, free of panic attacks. I grew up as the oldest child in a single parent family, put myself through college, and launched first-to-market technologies in the high-tech world. I’ve even traveled halfway around the world as an overseas missionary.

But, now overwhelmed by anxiety and stress, I was no longer able to cope the way I always have:

by problem solving,

taking care of others,

planning and doing.

God was allowing my exhausted, weary self to surface, so that I could go on a new beautiful discovery: the journey of rest.

A New Journey

When we come into contact with stress, our natural response is to push through.

We don’t want to be in need or fail to meet others’ expectations, especially our own. We beat ourselves up for not trusting God.

But, God offers us a different response.

Rest. Kindness. Comfort.

Instead of being harder on us, Jesus whispers –

“Come to me, all those who are weary and heavy-laden
and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

When Jesus was surrounded by pressing needs, Scripture tell us –

“Jesus would often slip away
to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16

Jesus took time to rest because nurturing his soul with his Father was more important than what He could do.

Putting our hearts firstletting Jesus love us—is a new journey of resting with Him.

As people of faith, our response to stress is not to avoid it.

What we need is rest.

What we need is spiritual whitespace.

Spiritual Whitespace

Whitespace. It’s the space left on a page left unmarked.

Whitespace is not blank. It breathes beauty.

Just as beautiful art needs whitespace, our souls need spiritual whitespace. We need rest.

We are not project plans for God. We are not God’s stock investments, where our value rises and falls with performance.

God after all is an artist. And we are His works of art.

“For we are God’s poeima (the Greek word for workmanship, from which we derive the word “poem”)…
which God prepared beforehand…”
Ephesians 2:10

I ended writing a different book than I started.  I wrote a memoir-driven guide about my search to find rest and the answers as I found them.

To find the things I somehow lost along the way –

Quiet.

Stillness.

Beauty.

Intimacy with God.

Rest is a journey we don’t have to take alone. We need each other.

Let’s live a better story. Move beyond surviving.

Take the journey to rest. Find your spiritual whitespace.  

Listen to Jesus’ gentle whispers –

You’re loved.

You’re cherished.

Just rest.”

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The words of the title of this entry bring anyone, old like me, back to 1984.

Start watching at about 0:54 …

Oh, Mr. Miyagi, the great martial arts teacher, and Daniel, the bullied young teen boy. When Daniel gets royally beaten up, and he is fading into ‘La La Land’, he sees Mr.Miyagi take on the whole gang of guys who beat the stuffing out of him, and win! Now, Mr. Miyagi is a pretty inconspicuous karate master, as his day job is that of a humble maintenance man / gardener. And, he’s old! We’re talking gray hair (well, what hair he has left is gray), and he’s short (but there is not a bit of a Napoleon complex here).

I think that Mr. Miyagi is one of my first role models in working with students who struggle in school. The lesson I learned from him is that learning does not have to be direct. For him (and yes, I do realize ‘it was just a movie’, but I like to gleen whatever good I can from as many sources as I can find in life) teaching karate did not necessarily mean teaching karate through ‘doing’ karate, but through life’s day to day ‘stuff’ (lets face it though, he did get his cars waxed, fence painted, etc.).

For me, to teach a lesson to the students I work with, does not necessarily mean sitting a student at a desk with paper and pencil. As a matter of fact, that would probably be the least successful way to teach them. The (high school) students I get to hang with know they are not going to be a Math or English whiz. But, frequently, what they do believe is that they are dumb, stupid, and sometimes even useless.

It is, I believe, my job to convince them that school is something ‘ya just gotta get through, so lets get it done, and move on’ (they hear that one almost daily from me), and that their failures in school classrooms DO NOT indicate what their future will be. Each of the students I get to work with have a gift, and we need to search until we find it, and figure out how to use it, when they get out of this small microcosm of life, called school.

So, I get to take my students out of school (I swear they hear the Hallelujah chorus in their heads as we are driving away), and place them in work experience jobs. They have worked in grocery stores, warehouses, plant nurseries and stores. Presently we are taking on, not jobs but service projects. And, in the coming weeks they will go to the home of an elderly lady to wash windows, mow lawns, and anything else that could make her life easier. And, at the same time, they will be doing work that has meaning, has real benefit … gives them purpose!

Along with training, and exposure to different fields of work, it is the sense of purpose, the sense of place in this world that I most strive for, for them.

Sometimes what is student learns is far more than what the teacher teaches … and, sometimes that was the hope of the teacher in the first place.

So, back to work guys … “look eye, always look eye … come back tomorrow!”

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Do You Love Me?

There are stories in the Bible I love and have read, and studied over and over. One is the interaction between Simon Peter and Jesus.

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time,“Do you love me?”

He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

John 21 15-19

For me Jesus question, “do you love me?” could equally be asked, “do you love me, MOST?”

There have been many times when I have been challenged to love Jesus more than anything, more than anyone, in my life. But, there was one night (a few years ago), when, I believe, the challenge came from God. And I believe I even heard His voice … maybe not with my ears, but certainly with my heart.

It was to be a great evening! I was taking my daughter and her friends to a concert, and I got to go to a movie, of MY choosing, all alone! Oh, the bliss! There would be no princess, no space creatures, no war story. No, I was going to go to a chick flick, eat far too much popcorn (with butter), and NOT have to take a single person to ‘pee’ just when the story was getting good.

I went to the theater, just down the street from the concert venue. I ate immense amounts of buttery popcorn. I laughed. I cried. And I sighed. I left feeling girlie-good! So I rolled into my van (feeling the effects of immense amounts of buttery popcorn), and steered away from the theater, towards the concert venue.

Hum, I wondered, should I go shopping? No, the stores were about to close. Maybe a coffee shop? No, there was no place in my body for any more ingesting. Maybe ‘hang out’ at the grocery store? Seriously, you know you are old and lead a boring life when you actually, seriously, consider spending your Friday night ‘hanging out’ at a grocery store. Can we say, LAME?! (And all of this self-questioning happened in mere moments).

As I approached the concert venue I was amazingly, inwardly compelled to drive into the venue parking lot, by ‘something’ that seemed to be communicating to me, ‘you need to be there’. And, so, I went.

Then I parked and thought, now what? I knew it would be over an hour until the concert would be over. Heck, I thought, the headlining group was probably just starting. Hum, thought my conniving mind, I bet I could just walk in to the concert, and enjoy the headlining group … for FREE (Scottish heritage … oh, ya, baby!). And once ‘free’ was part of this idea there would be no backing down.

So, I walked into the venue, the church, where the concert was happening. I was able to walk right up to where the concert was in full gear. The place was packed! I stood just inside the doorway, watching and listening. A modern hymn of praise was being sung, being shouted, to Hosanna in the highest.

I stood there, thanking God that people use their gifts from Him to honor the Giver of those gifts. And that God would use those people, those gifts to open up this generation’s eyes to the things unseen. It was a ‘solo in a crowd’ praise party for me.

Then the second song began. It was rockier, and the crowd in there were having a blast!

And then …

Something up front fell … ‘I hope it didn’t hit anyone (my daughter)’

The music stopped … ‘It must have hurt someone (my daughter?)’

Noises of chaos, and people moving, climbing, back over pews … ‘God, don’t let it be my daughter’

DO YOU LOVE ME … ?

‘Huh? Of course I love you. But where is my daughter?’

A fire alarm was sounding … ‘This isn’t good. Where is my daughter?’

People were exiting the building, from all exits … orderly, quietly … ‘What is going on? Where is my daughter?’

I started to move forward, into the sanctuary … it didn’t feel like sanctuary. I turned around, and walked out.

I noticed people, running down a stairway. I walked towards the stairs, and (so hesitantly) down the stairs, not knowing where they would lead me. I saw people rushing into a room, a hall. I saw people lying on the floor, and others attending to them. They were HURT! … ‘is my daughter in there?’

DO YOU LOVE ME … MORE?

‘What? You are asking that NOW? … Oh, what are you asking me? What are you asking of me? Please … please don’t take my daughter … But … yes … yes I do love you more …’

I started to move forward, into the room … there didn’t seem to be … room, for me. I turned around, and walked out.

I walked back up the stairs.

‘Please, please help me find my daughter. Wherever she is, please help me find her.’

YOUR CELL PHONE

(I do not remember that line from John’s gospel!) I pulled my cell phone from my bag, confused as to how it could lead me to my daughter. Then I remembered! My daughter had used my cell phone to call one of her friends who had not showed up, just before the others went into the church, for the concert. Maybe, that number would be on my phone, and, maybe if I called it, I could find my daughter.

I searched the recent calls … it was there! … ‘thank-you’

I dialed, and the call was answered by her friend … ‘thank-you’

Then, reality. What if the answers she had for me were not what I wanted? Could I hear that?

DO YOU LOVE ME … MOST?

Do I love you … most? Oh, but, you asked me that of my first child. And that child never took it’s first breath. But, you did hear my cry, and gave again. But, she is only 15, was she only ‘on loan’? Oh, right, they are all only on loan. They … she is your child before she is my daughter. YOU love HER most …

Yes, my Lord … I do love you … most … and, her life … I leave it in your hands …

I took a deep breath. There were three of the seven together just outside (I was still in the building, still just outside the sanctuary … so far from sanctuary). And, my daughter? No, she was not with them.

I rushed to those three, who I barely knew, and hugged them. And I felt the strength return to my wobbly legs, as I realized that, I could hold them, support them, and comfort them, as their moms would, if they were there.

Another girl arrived shortly after … hugs, tears, questions … answers? The floor … fell?

One of the girl’s sister had been there … where the floor … was.

And my daughter? The newest of the group saw her at the other side of the church … ‘thank-you, thank-you, thank-you’

I walked … right? I rushed, with the concerned sister, to where we were told my daughter was.

As we moved forward, with sounds of sirens, road closures, emergency personal absolutely everywhere, It felt surreal, like I was walking, living through, a dream. A very bad dream.

Then, right in front of me … ‘thank-you, thank-you, thank-you’

And I held my daughter … with an understanding of thanksgiving that I had not felt, since the day she was born.

‘thank-you’

Another girl was with her … hugs, tears, questions …

Soon after with found the missing sister.

I drove them all home.

Reunions … hugs, tears, questions …

But, that night, the questions  for me were  …

DO YOU LOVE ME?

DO YOU LOVE ME … MORE?

DO YOU LOVE ME … MOST?

And my ultimate answer?

Yes, I love you … the most, and I will follow you, to the corners of the earth.

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Oh, I so love to wonder! (like you didn’t know that by now)

But, once in a while, I come across a thing (like snakes ... well, most of the time), or a place (like the dentist’s office), or an event that really steals the wonder from my day.

One day, while walking in the beautiful sun, with my beast, Shiloh, I walked by two women. One woman was pushing an infant (I peeked, and ‘it’ was definitely an infant) in a stroller, and the other walking along side of them.

They looked to be mid-late twenties, attractive, and nicely dressed (I noticed all of this because I am a female, and WE notice EVERYTHING about people). But, they didn’t notice my beast (everyone notices my beast, she is a beauty. When we walk, she makes eye contact with everyone, looking for positive attention … she hears, “oh, pretty puppy” so often, I have had to push her into the van after the walk, due to the swelling of her head … but I digress). I do not think they noticed me either, but that is not uncommon, as I walk with a beast who gets all the attention.

Just as my beast and I were passing the trio, the lady (?) pushing the stroller, says to her friend, ” … and I said, that was F#@$ing rude …”

Ouch! My ears were hurting. Then I thought of the the infant in the stroller, and my heart was aching for him/her (no color definition in the child’s clothing to indicate the gender). I may be a purist, but a new little bundle should not start life hearing such cold language. Man, what will that child hear (at home) when the ‘newness’ of infant becomes the ‘awkwardness’ of adolescence, or the independence of teenage?

Sadly, I expect more of the same. And as I walked by, feeling the sense of wonder of nature, and of life ebb from my being, I also predict that the child, sleeping peacefully in his/her stroller, may grow up hearing such caustic-ness directed ‘towards’ him/her.

I felt deflated! I felt angry! I felt violated!

What I felt most was a desire to turn around, catch up with the classy-looking ‘ladies’ and give them a piece of my mind!

But, instead, shoulders hanging low, I prayed. I prayed that God would inject, as only He can, himself into the life of that child, and the lives of those two women. I prayed that the child would never hear such nastiness, at home, when he/she is old enough to mimic what is heard.

Then, I prayed for forgiveness. I may not use the same word I heard from that lady on the path (I tell my kids that only people who have no creativity of language use such words, so loosely, and that I know they are creative people, so I expect more from them). But, my kids have surely heard the same cold, hard, unrighteous anger from me.

That day on the path reminded me that if wonder is so important to me, then I need to be more conscious to not steal it from those around me with my words … and my attitude.

“Watch the way you talk.

Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth.

Say only what helps, each word a gift.

Don’t grieve God.

Don’t break his heart.

His Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you,

is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself.

Don’t take such a gift for granted.

Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk.

Be gentle with one another, sensitive.”

Ephesians 4:29-31 (Message)

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