Flat Tire

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I turned onto the small street next to my youngest son’s preschool and checked my rearview mirror to make sure no one was behind me.  Then I stopped, rolled down the front passenger window, and handed my phone to my older son (12).

“Take a picture of that taxi’s rear tire,” I said.

“The flat one?”

“Yep. Just the tire. For my blog.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s been like that for two weeks.”

He turned from the open window, his expression a mixture of surprise and judgment.

“Why don’t they fix it!??!” he asked.

“I don’t know. Just take the picture.”

My son’s reaction was exactly the one I expected. To be fair, it’s been mine, too. As the days have passed, I keep wondering why in the world someone doesn’t come out and change the tire, for goodness sake. How hard could it be? And it’s a taxi – of all things. This driver could be out there making money from the use of this vehicle if only he or she would change the tire.

But then again….maybe making this change is harder than I think…

Perhaps the person would need help with the jack and lug nuts, and doesn’t feel comfortable asking any of the neighbors. Worse yet, maybe no neighbors have come forward to offer assistance.

The taxi is not in pristine condition. It is dinged and battered. It’s traveled more than a few roads. The driver might have purchased it on a hope and a prayer, and doesn’t have a spare tire, or funds, to get a replacement. Perhaps this tire was the last straw on this vehicle, and the owner has fallen into despair.

Though spring is here, there is still sickness going around…remnants of flu and winter viruses that knock people out for weeks.  There are more serious diseases too, of course. The driver, or that person’s family, might be ill and need costly medical care.

The possible reasons for this unchanged flat tire are endless. And I will likely never know why the situation is as it is. However, it has made me think: Where is my ‘flat tire’?

What aspect of my life do other people see and say, “She should really fix that”? Is it the way I dress? Or do my hair? Something about my home? Or maybe something less superficial… A relationship? A character defect?  A career choice? A religious practice?

It bothers me to think about that, because I don’t want people scrutinizing my life and making judgments about it. My guess is, you don’t want others to do that to you, either. No one else has the inside scoop on what’s up with me, or you.

Besides, how do I know whether something in my life is a ‘flat tire’ that requires attention and care? That can be tough to see. And how long can it stay ‘flat’ before it’s holding me back from something more that I could be doing with my numbered days? Further, where do I go for guidance and help with changing that ‘tire’?

The answers to these questions are all one and the same. We are told, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.” (Luke 6:37) The emphasis in this teaching is not that we are to be concerned with whether other people will judge us, but instead to keep our focus on the Lord, trusting in His promise to “make all things new” – even us. (Revelation 21:5)

So when I’ve filled my head with so many ‘flat tires’ I believe everyone else sees when they look at me, there’s only one way to find real relief. I go into my room, close the door, get on my knees and listen for the “tiny whispering sound.” (1 Kings 20:12)

 

Awaken to Change

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I wonder how many people in my part of the world noticed the change in the atmosphere today. Despite the gauzy rain and cloudless sky, the land was brighter. A miracle happened last night. As far as my eye could see, every single forsythia plant bloomed sometime between dusk and dawn.

I drove around town marveling at the sight of it. Never mind that I can’t breathe (and it might just be because of this plant, or a brand-new cold, I’m not yet sure). My eyes are clear and wide-open, taking in this handiwork – which happened while you and I slept.

Millions of yellow flowers on thousands of plants opened themselves in unison to the world – bright beacons of hope to remind us that while today there is drizzle, tomorrow the sun is coming….Yellow and gold, warm, and refreshing, ushering in a light-filled season after a long period of cold, grayish days.

My heart and soul understand the forsythia’s message, awaken to the change, and respond….

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
announce his salvation day after day.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them.
Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice
before the Lord who comes,

who comes to govern the earth,
To govern the world with justice
and the peoples with faithfulness.

– Psalm 96: 1-2, 11-13

 

Beautiful Faces. Beautiful Song.

I don’t know why I feel compelled to post this.  I don’t have much to say.  Just…

I see beautiful faces everywhere, every single day. Each one is absolutely unique.

Photo Credit: Ken Wu, www.unsplash.com.
Photo Credit: Ken Wu, www.unsplash.com.

And every day, I am dazzled by some natural phenomena – weather, animals, plants.  Most still carry on in mysterious patterns, independent of human control.

My own heart has a pattern – a rhythm set before I gained consciousness, a rhythm not started by me.

I find these things awe-inspiring, and humbling, and my soul wants to celebrate the Only One who deserves the high praise that should be accorded the most Glorious Being who could create these things and set them in motion.

That’s how I feel every time I hear this song – my current favorite. My heart and soul leap with praise to God.  Maybe you’ll feel the same way.

 

Green Cake

The nurses asked me to hold his thin little arms down at his sides while he sat facing me on the examination table. “Hold tightly,” they said, “because there will be a pause.” Each nurse had two syringes, and I could see my son eyeing them with trepidation. My head flooded with thoughts.

Four vaccinations for my five-year old. How have I blocked the memories of doing this with my older two??

This child causes me angst…I know what’s to come, or… not, rather. At one-year old, the doctor stabbed him in the leg with a shot, and he didn’t flinch. When he was three, he cut his forehead open on a tree branch, and he stayed still as stone while the ER doc glued the 3/4 inch tear in his paper-thin skin back together. This is the child who doesn’t cry. At least not when I wish he would.

So I braced myself. And they jabbed him with needles. It felt like it was my heart being stabbed. He didn’t make a sound. I saw his body tense, and then his left arm start to bleed after the first jab on that side. The nurse wiped the blood down his arm in a long red streak and kept at her task. Another needle in, and my young man just flared his nostrils. He watched it all – the crimson cotton balls, the band-aids, the nurses’ murmured consolations, the collection of trash, and their hasty departure when it was all over.

I hadn’t moved from in front of his knees. His eyes were just spilling over when he looked at me squarely and said simply,

“It hurt-ed, Mommy.”

And all I could say before hugging him to stop my own tears was, “I know. I know.”

I am so, so blessed. My son is healthy. And in the local newspaper this week, there was an article about a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s. Wonderful, generous people shave their heads after collecting donations for children fighting cancer. Families engaged in this awful fight have seen their kids stuck with more needles than they could ever count.

I was thinking about that when I went to bed last night after watching my son be so brave about four little shots, and I woke up this morning, determined to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day thankfully – as the Feast Day that it is. Saint Patrick said:

 “Hence I cannot be silent, and indeed I ought not to be, 

about the many blessings and the great grace

which the Lord has deigned to bestow upon me.”

So, I put off my to-do list and made it a day about enjoying my son. He will start Kindergarten in the fall. This is my last St. Patrick’s Day with a preschooler in the house. How did we spend it?

He took a very loooooong and leisurely bath, with bubbles of course, and used almost an entire tube of red bathtub paint turning the water an atrocious shade of pink. This also enabled the plastic Spiderman band-aids to fall off – and neither of us was sad to see them go.

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We attempted a St. Patrick’s Day photo shoot with our “Irish” mutt, Seamus, and got one Facebook-worthy picture out of the experience, along with lots of giggles.  Our Seamus is so darn sweet.

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We baked a cake, made frosting, licked beaters, and even managed to get some green stuff on the cake. We also jazzed it up with dark green sprinkles, because they make everything better!

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And we played Cars 2 on the Wii. I lost every single race. You’re shocked, right? In his knowing way, with all the wisdom of his 5 blessed years, my son reassured me that I will get better. I couldn’t care less. Just to see his smile….

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Whether you are Irish or not, may you and yours be especially blessed this Saint Patrick’s Day. Slainte!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pocket Cross

A friend of mine told me that her parish priest once asked this question in a homily:

“If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Great question.  Ever since I heard it, I keep revisiting it, because really, if I’m a Christian, does my life demonstrate my love for Christ?

I thought about this question today when I opened up my wallet – not to give away money, though maybe I should be doing more of that.  No, I thought about it because the light bounced off my little stainless steel cross, and the minute I saw it I thought about my dad.

My dad is an intelligent man. An engineer and former military officer.  A man of principle.  A man of faith.  He can certainly explain his belief in Scripture, but for me, his quiet, reverent heart has always spoken most clearly to me about The Lord.  And if he were accused of being a Christian, his life would turn up lots of convicting material, but hidden on his person would also be one thing in particular…

When I picture my dad stepping up to pay for something at a cash register, I see his gentle hands cupping three things: coins, a silver pocket knife, and a stainless steel cross.

That cross.  It has always been there.  It serves as an outward sign of the personal relationship he’s been ready to share – freely, as it was given to him.  Over the years, he’s witnessed silently to countless clerks who saw that cross, one at a time, as he opened his hand to pay for groceries, meals, hardware, craft supplies, gifts, newspapers, sodas, and more.  It’s evidence of a Christian that just keeps turning up, and for my dad – a reminder to himself that his God is Emmanuel – always with him.

 

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Burst of Color

The household woke up disappointed, our hopes dashed when the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl last night in what seemed the worst possible way. The Hawks were within one yard of scoring a TD on the Patriots in the last minute of the game, only to have the ball intercepted by a nimble and perfectly-positioned Patriot defensive back. Because of family allegiances, we were really excited for the Hawks, and the stunned silence we fell into those last few seconds of the game persisted into today.

Sometimes when you wake up in a ‘blah’ mood, it can be hard to shake it. Especially when the morning is a gray and rainy one, like today was.  And when your daughter is fitted with orthodontia at 9 a.m., and decides this is going to be one of the worst things that’s ever happened to her, the day starts to roll downhill a bit faster.

These are caviar problems, for sure.  But still.  Don’t we all do this?  Be in a ‘yuck’ mood just because?

So, my funk is exacerbated by having felt a little far away from God the last few days.  That, and the headache I’ve started.  I rub my forehead while I sit in the car line, which has backed up onto the tiny street behind my kids’ school.

‘I should have left the house 5 minutes earlier and I wouldn’t be so far back on the street. Punctuality. I’m still failing there.’

It would be easy to continue berating myself, but instead, I offer up this thought.

‘I want to hear You. To see You.’

A moment or two later, I look to my left. Directly to my left. And I see this:

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Four purple flowering cabbages.  Brassica oleracea.  Someone took the time to plant this burst of color in a narrow strip of dirt between an old brick driveway and an even older adjacent Colonial-era home.  Who but the person who gets into that car ever sees them?  And yet, there they are on this cold, February day.

I sit and stare, because I have been driving this street every school day for 7 years, and I have never noticed this small piece of earth, that has always held the potential to grace my day.

 

“You will seek Me and find Me

when you search for Me with all your heart.” 

– Jeremiah 29:13 

What’s My Message?

I was making a left turn into the library, waiting for the long line of cars to pass, contentedly listening to the song on the radio, when my reverie was interrupted by something that caused my stomach to plummet into my abdomen. It was a vanity plate on a passing car.

“H8TNWRK”

Hating work. In a millisecond, my eyes shot up to the sulking man driving past. I pulled into the parking lot, just in time to watch a young mother joyfully kissing and smiling at her toddler as she snapped the child into her car seat. What opposites.

You might think I’m being overly sensitive here – that the man makes light of his life by putting it on a vanity plate, and hey – why shouldn’t he?  But I believe the mouth reveals what’s in our hearts, and I’m guessing this man’s discontent runs deep – that he’s very dissatisfied and probably doesn’t know why.  So I stopped right there in my car and thanked God for this man and the talents he’s been given, and asked that he be reminded that his gifts are meant to be avenues to joy. That somehow, he would see God in his life and through his work.

I went about my day but this man’s vanity plate has stayed with me. And I keep asking myself why it has. I think the answer is that like it or not, we all advertise something, and I’m concerned about my message.  I want it to be that I love God above all and am thankful to Him for all that I have. But I am flawed and I know it. I fail to remember my first love sometimes.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. 

– Psalm 19:15

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A Prayer and Song for Claudia’s Family

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Thank you to everyone who prayed for my stepsister, Claudia, earlier this year.  As you know, she went home to the Father, and will be rejoicing in Heaven this Christmas. But her family remains.  And oh, how they ache. If you would, please pray with me again – for them – this season.

And if YOU are mourning someone this Christmas, it would be my privilege to pray for you.  Please don’t hesitate to ask me.

Dear Lord, King of Kings,
You are Immanuel – God With Us.
Thank you for creating this Christmas season by sending your son, Jesus Christ – the Very Word of God, wrapped in human flesh.
In His life, he knew every possible kind of suffering – so that we would know,
We are never alone.
We thank you for His triumphant resurrection over death, and for His eternal grace.
Lord, you have promised to be with us always and everywhere, and your Word is Truth – for there is no impurity within you.
Please come and be with Claudia’s family.
Make your peace known to them.
Enfold them in your loving arms and touch their hearts with the expectation of joy to come.
Assure them of your never-ending faithfulness, and remind them of the ways you have already blessed them, so they can be renewed with hope for your goodness in the time ahead.
Strengthen their spirits and increase their faith.
Please hold them up and bind them together, so that they may find solace, and You, in the eyes of one another.
And Lord, bless Claudia’s children – Cata, Nick, and baby Matias – in a special way.
May their mother’s love be forever imprinted upon their hearts and souls.

In the name of our Saviour, Jesus, we pray,
Amen.

 

Worth the Extra Effort

Today I set out to mail two packages containing Christmas presents to family members across the U.S.  At the post office, I was quoted an absurdly large fee for each one – a base cost plus a surcharge, which was determined by the dimensions of each box. I was flabbergasted.  The base costs were expected – but the surcharges?  Highway robbery.

I felt the heat rise to my face – a combination of shock and embarrassment, knowing that I just couldn’t in good conscience pay that sum – at least, not without a fight. The clerk was obviously miffed when I politely told her I would take my packages back. But I did. And I turned on my heel and walked right past the long line of waiting customers, threw the boxes in the car, and drove 1/4 mile to the UPS store, where I mailed them for a whopping $33 less.

Later, I told my 11-year old son about this incident. I also happened to mention that I hadn’t written a blog post in several days. He told me to write about how I made an extra effort today – and that it was a good thing.  I told him my blog is mostly about faith, so I didn’t see a connection.  He said:

“Going to UPS was worth the effort, just like spending time with Christ is.”

I was so surprised, that I giggled and started to object – then realized he was absolutely right.

He smiled and said, “And you can give me credit for the idea.”

I told him I would.

Then, just to make sure I had heard him correctly, and to confirm that he really understood the meaning of what he’d said, I asked:

“When YOU make the effort to spend time with God, do you think it’s worth it?”

Without missing a beat or looking up from the Minecraft world he was building on his iPad, he said:

“Absolutely.”

Finding a few minutes to pray, read Scripture, and reflect on my blessings takes work and commitment, but even a kid knows that time spent focusing on God is always worth the effort.

 

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Day 27 – Beagle in My Lap

So, I’m approaching the end of my first 31 days of blogging, and I wasn’t sure what I’d write about today, but I really wanted to post something. I had a few ideas, but every time I started to write, I was sidetracked…by someone.

It was my youngest child, mostly.  He was hungry.  Then he needed a different show on TV.  Then he’d seen too much TV so we cleaned bathrooms together. Then we ate lunch and went to the store.  We came home and unpacked the groceries.  We picked his siblings up from school.  It was crazy warm for November today (71 degrees!) and the kids wanted to play outside.  I sat out there with them and tried to write.  The neighbor dropped by to say hello.

After the sun went down, I sent all the kids into the basement and plopped on the couch to try one more time. Our beagle climbed up next to me and laid her head on my chest. I kissed her and then she looked up at me with those big brown eyes of hers, and she crawled right on top of my iPad, into my lap. I let out a deep, deep sigh.

Yesterday, I wrote about the need to leave white space – margin – in the calendar. The main reason is because days like this happen to me all the time. I am blessed with a family who needs me, and while it is appropriate that I have time to myself to pursue my interests, the reality is that my life is not my own. It is a gift that has been entrusted to me, and I am just the steward, trying to do my best to take good care of the people, responsibilities, and things I’ve been blessed with.  I ask for His wisdom and guidance to prioritize my days, and to see what I need to see. From that point on, it’s better if I’m not trying to steer.

Today, each cry of “Mom!!!” was a divine appointment. And that’s what I needed to remember.

 

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