Bean Boozled and our words

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Noisy holidays are my favorite. When houses are full of people chatting, laughing – that’s the best. While ours wasn’t, we invaded one that was this weekend. Our friends had relatives in town, and invited us to come over for dinner and we joined them. Then we came back later. And again after that. And I think there was one more time. They couldn’t get rid of us. Food, conversation, game-playing. So much fun! Pie Face was happening, but I couldn’t bring myself to participate. I had just washed my hair, and while it probably would have been safe, I wimped out. The next game was Jelly Belly Bean Boozled.

I thought, “How bad can it be?” You give the spinner a spin, and then find out what color of a bean you have to eat. The tricky part is that each visually-similar bean is one of two flavors. For example –

Is it the flavor of pear, or the flavor of boogers? The flavor of buttered popcorn or a rotten egg? You don’t know until you bite into it.

However, my sister Monica affectionately says I am a rainbow-farter and that only good things happen to me, so I thought my chances were probably pretty good.

I was wrong.

I spun the spinner, and the arrow pointed to what might be a chocolate pudding jelly bean. Or…

A jelly bean the flavor of canned dog food.

I stuck that thing in my mouth, and the first hint of a taste appeared. I was hoping I was just imagining it. But no such luck. It was dog food alright.

And it got stuck in one of my teeth, lingering all over my taste buds much, much longer than I had hoped.

And lucky for my friends, the scent was wafting around the room, like a stinky, dark cloud.

After all the chewing and swallowing of that one bean, then picking it out of my teeth and more swallowing, a friend rushed over with a cup of water. The only problem is, water doesn’t really mask a taste, but just shoves it down for a minute. But that dog food taste was a fighter, and kept wafting its way back up. After two glasses of water, and two peppermints, a cinnamon roll and two cups of Pepsi, I thought the taste might be gone. No luck there either.

It settled enough to play a few rounds of Uno, then, against my better judgment, we sat down for a Tim Hawkins video. As it got started, the taste was valiantly making it’s way back up my throat, like a warrior unwilling to surrender.

A fog of flavor was coming back up in bursts, and the dog food wasn’t diminished. As I was recognizing it, my stomach was turning. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a northern or southern battle, but I was certain it going to happen. I tried to remain calm through Tim’s bit about Christian Cuss Words, and through his Athiest Church Songs, and then the rumbling of my digestion continued during his ballad of “Muffintop.”

I wasn’t sure I would make it home. We held out until after the DVD was finished, but I rushed home immediately afterward, got a cup of orange juice and curled up in my bed, hoping I could sleep it off. After just a few times of waking during the night with the turning stomach, I woke up Sunday morning feeling a billion times better. But even now, the thought of it turns my stomach (Similar to the effect mentioning “White Castle” has on me…*cue stomach rumblings*)

But it did teach me a lesson. A couple of them really.

#1 – Don’t eat things that could be grody.

#2 – Something seemingly small can have a much bigger impact than you know.

I had no idea that a tiny jelly bean could fill the room with it’s stinkiness, nor that it could leave me feeling sick for hours. But it did. It got me to thinking about how other seemingly small things can have huge impacts.

Our words.

I have had people say things to me that I am sure were not meant to be a big thing, but the words stung and stayed with me far longer than I could have expected. Eating at me, and adding to my insecurities. And, on the flip side, I have probably said things that I didn’t think twice about, but probably caused some pain to the listener. Words that, had I known their impact, I never would have said. Neither is okay.

Our words matter.

Not everything that goes through my mind needs to be said, and that is something I sure need to remember and work on.

Our words have power. I think those monks have it right with their times of silence, every now and then anyway. I’m pretty sure I could benefit from this.

In the same way though, our words can have power for good. We have the power to brighten someone’s day, and to give them hope. I have sweet friends who are great at encouragement, and their words mean more to me than they will ever know.

If we learned something from a sermon preached, a lesson taught, or a song sung, we should let the person know. If we appreciate some help that might otherwise go unnoticed, we should let the person know we are grateful. If a meal was enjoyable, thank the cook. Thank your husband for filling up the car with gas so you didn’t have to get out in the cold early in the morning. Thank your wife for making the dessert you like. Thank your kid for helping unload the groceries. There are a million ways to speak good words. Look for those opportunities. I will join you. You have no idea the blessing you might be to someone today.

“The tongue has the power of life and death…” Proverbs 18:21a

Remaining Hopeful in the Waiting

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“If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”
II Timothy 2:13

This has been a weird year. Last year about this time, Shawn made a New Year resolution to play more basketball. He loves it and it gives him some exercise in the process, so it’s a win-win. But the first game he played in January resulted in knee surgery, a new-used ACL and a meniscus repair, followed by 3 months of physical therapy. (His resolution the year before was not to wear pants… Neither lasted very long).

The year trudged on, with me going back to work some, difficult times at church that have brought me to a time of what feels like grieving, and a writer’s block that would leave me sitting at my computer with no words to spill out on my screen.

I’ve stared at the blank page far too many times to count. There was nothing to say that could benefit anyone who might read it. I prayed for words, but felt nothing.

I am not a patient person, and it’s hard for me not to get answers right away (and, by the way, they need to be the answers I want). And while it hasn’t been a terrible year at all (many good things have happened – Noah likes high school, I like my job, our family got away for a weekend trip to Tennessee, and God has faithfully provided), it has felt like a year of chipping.

A bit of chipping away at our self-sufficiency, when so many friends and family have given and blessed us in ways we never would have asked. A bit of chipping away at my selfishness of my time, time I was wasting and didn’t realize it until I had to fill those hours up with working. Some chipping away at my comfort, seeing that new or different isn’t always worse, even if it hurts a little.

And I’m learning some patience. If God has words for me to write, first I must spend more time with Him to hear what that is. If He wants me to wait on His words, and not just fill up a screen because I need another blog that week, that’s okay too.

But the waiting is hard.

I was reading in Luke this week, and in chapter one, Zechariah gets big news. He is old, and so is his wife. While we don’t know exactly how old, “well along in years” doesn’t sound like something you would say to a 40-year-old. But Zechariah gets a visit from Gabriel, telling him, “Your prayer has been heard.” He and Elizabeth are gonna have a baby! And not only that, but a baby who will do great things for God’s people, and who will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from birth. Now that’s an answer to prayer.

But it made me wonder, how long did Zechariah pray for this? How long did he go month after month, waiting to see God bless them with a child, only to find out that again, it hasn’t happened? Did his prayers lose their punch, as months and then years start to add up, without seeing any result?

Did daily prayers to God turn into weekly, then monthly, then an occasional, “Please God,” when he saw another new baby in the neighborhood? Until at some point, he just resolved that it was too late.

In verse 18, he questions Gabriel, saying, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” That didn’t sound like a guy who had just faithfully prayed that morning for a bouncing baby boy. And Gabriel responded with a bit of a punishment – he will be silent for the remainder of the pregnancy, “because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

God’s proper time is rarely what we want and hope for it to be. We are really like toddlers, wanting it now, sometimes throwing in a tantrum to show we mean it (just me?). But God is a good Father, and He knows far better than we do what we need, and when we need it. He knew Zechariah’s baby was going to be special. John would bring many people of Israel back to their God. He paved the path for the ministry of Jesus, then was blessed to baptize Him himself. God knew when this needed to happen. He knows best. He always does.

Don’t lose hope. Our prayers aren’t always answered in the way that we want, nor in the time frame we want, and sometimes it seems like they haven’t been answered at all. But we can trust our Father.

Remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in the past, and His faithfulness to others around you. He is a good Father.

Don’t lose hope in the waiting. There is always hope.

 

 

 

Counting the cost, with Dave and Jesus

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Counting the cost, with Dave and Jesus

daveI am not the money person/bill payer in our family. We figured out that Shawn is the more “responsible” one in our marriage. I have said many times, “Just because it says ‘due date,’ it doesn’t really mean it has to be paid by then.” Clearly I had to step back and let Shawn take over, and all the utility companies are thankful that I did.

And while he does a great job, we still thought we had some stuff to learn regarding savings, so when Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace class was offered at our church on a night when we didn’t have other obligations, we said, “Why not?”

Dave is all for people having control over their dollars. One of his quotes is, “You’ve got to tell your money what to do, or it will leave.” He thinks every dollar that comes in needs to be assigned a place to go. It’s not something I have completely wrapped my brain around, but it sounds wise. If you have a savings or a stash of money that isn’t designated for bills, it is tempting to splurge and buy a Christmas necklace you don’t need because it feels like free cash. But if that stash has already been marked for a savings plan for the new washing machgallery_hero_555d1340-ad0e-4208-becb-cd370da7eea9ine you know you are going to need soon, you would have to think a little harder about whether or not you should spend the money.

*But if you decide to buy the Christmas necklace, you can find a super cute one here

Without thinking and planning in advance, it is easy not to pay attention to what something will really cost you.

In our neighborhood Bible study, we just finished up the study of Daniel, through Beth Moore’s series. We learned as early as Daniel chapter 1 that Daniel had resolved to live his life in a way that pleased God. He and his three friends made the decision early on to make choices that lined up with what God wanted for their lives. And when faced with a flaming furnace or a lion’s den, it was already determined that what those unbelievably tough scenarios would cost them, including their lives, couldn’t compare with what losing their devotion to God would cost them.

They counted the costs early on, and resolved to remain faithful to their God.

Jesus told his crowds of people following him the importance of counting the cost in the last ten verses of Luke chapter 14. Until recently, when I read this, I thought how silly it seems to first count the cost of following Jesus. Why count it? Shouldn’t we just say, “I’ll follow Christ no matter what”? But until that’s thought out, those are really just empty words.

If I’m committed to follow Christ while things are easy, saying I’ll follow Christ isn’t a tough one. But when things are harder and it starts costing me more, deciding moment-by-moment whether it is worth it can leave me teeter-tottering, not fully committed.

Is it worth it if God asks me to give up more of my time to serve someone else?
Is it worth it if God asks me to give up money to people whether or not I think they deserve it?
Is it worth it if people think I’m “too religious?”
Is it worth it if God asks me to move to somewhere without a Wal-Mart to tell others about Him?
Is it worth it if someday I have to go against a law to worship God?
Is it worth it if someday it could cost me my life?

Deciding early on that I am committed to God, resolving that in my heart, I can face a situation, even a scary one, with boldness and courage because I already know it will be worth it. No “easy way out” of a pit of lions could compare with losing out on an eternity with God.

Sometimes people (my past-self included) think that God really just wants us to be happy, whatever that takes. That this is what life is about. But that’s not why we are here. Our lives really aren’t about us. And our lives aren’t always going to be easy.

Jesus himself said we are to carry our crosses and follow him. That in no way implies easy. So is it worth it?

Take a few minutes and picture the scenarios that you fear most. Things that might make you question, “Would it be worth it?” And then compare that with the first time you get to see Jesus face-to-face. When you will spend days that never end with no more sickness, no pain, no tears. No more death. When He says to you, “Well done. Come on in!”

Count the cost and see if it’s worth it, and then let’s resolve like Daniel to stand firm no matter what.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

Your God has not deserted you…

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I was one of those dorky kids who loved school, especially in my elementary years. But I think field trip days were by far the best. I can remember touring Heiner’s Bakery in Huntington when I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 years old, and the warm piece of fresh bread with melted butter, along with a Donald Duck pencil as a souvenir.

Another time I remember going to Carter Caves for the day, touring caves and nature-walking. If I think hard enough, I can still smell the whiff of cedar from the jewelry box I purchased as a memento.

And other trips to the Pumpkin Festival, Safety Town, and Camden Park. The best!

But not every day can be a field trip day. There are some things that simply have to be learned through reading or repetitious writing. There are things we must go over a hundred times, paragraphs that have to be memorized, and quizzes that need to be taken.

Those days seem pretty blah at best, and nearly painful at other times.

But sometimes it takes crummy and difficult stuff to learn the hard lessons.

I have been there – both in learning from my textbook and in learning to trust in my God.

Our lives are always going to be a mixed bag of the best and the worst and lots of in-between. We get the great days – the weddings, the births of bouncing babies, the promotions and pay raises. But we also get the bad times – the sicknesses, the layoffs, the misunderstandings.

But our God never changes. God is good, all the time. Period. And he never leaves us – it‘s true. Our circumstances are not indicators of whether or not God is with us. Sometimes He chooses not to keep us out of the scary parts, but to simply hold our hands through them.

In the Bible, Ezra reminds us that God doesn’t leave. The Israelites had been kicked out of their promised land, after turning from God, and many were relocated to Babylon for 70 years – a land of people who didn‘t worship or even know their God. A new guy takes over, and he permits a group of them to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Just a few short months back home, and the Israelite men began marrying women who worshiped other gods.

Ezra heard about it and was devastated. He prayed, repenting for his people. He prayed and confessed and wept – and thanked God for not giving up on them already. In Ezra chapter 9, verse 9, he said this:

“Though we are slaves, our God has not deserted us in our bondage.”burlap

Ezra knew that even though their circumstances were not great (definitely not a field-trip day) – He knew God was with them.

If you are facing a situation that seems less than ideal, please know your God has not deserted you. He will bring good from whatever it is you are going through. There are lessons to be learned. Even if it is something you caused yourself, you can be sure that God can redeem it. He is so good at that.

So don’t give up. We are not promised easy paths, but we are promised that we won’t walk them alone.

Let me know how I can pray with you ❤

Doggie Doors and Gentle Nudges

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  image1   In an effort to allow him the freedom to go in and out as he chooses during the day, we put up a doggie-door that we had from our brief stint with Buddy the Shih Tzu. We showed Meatball how it worked, doing everything short of trying to squeeze through there ourselves. He would have none of it, unless we held it open for him, giving him ample time to decide if it was worth the effort.
     He has made progress, but still needs us to give him a nudge to make it out the door. As he stands near the rubbery flap, he refuses to go until we have gently pushed him forward and through it.
     While it seems so silly, we play along, and continue hoping that eventually he will see how easily he can do this on his own. But until then, we will keep on nudging.
     Turns out, I’m a lot like Meatball…. Click here to read the rest of the post 🙂

Dear 8th grade girls…

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Dear 8th grade girls,

I’m sorry it is so confusing. Messages are being sent from all directions – some screaming, some in whispers – and they are so very different.

People you love and trust are telling you to be yourself, that you can do anything you set your mind to. We tell you how valuable you are.

We tell you these things with our words, but our actions speak a different story.

When someone you admire and respect – your teacher, your principal, your parent – entertains you as a reward with music that screams an entirely different message, there must be part of you that feels the poster-worthy encouragement start to cheapen and lose it’s meaning.

You deserve respect, we say.

When a guy you like has a girlfriend, tell him you will give him your body for the evening if his girlfriend is getting naggy, we let Missy Elliott say to you at your 8th grade dance.

Sex is a beautiful gift you and your husband can one day share, we say.

Your body is simply for the pleasure of men, and you are lucky to have someone like me want you for a few minutes in a bathroom stall, we let “Sage the Gemini” blare to you at a school reward party.

The right man will love you like Christ loves the church, we preach to them.

Your body should be given to a man who wants to bring you pain for his own pleasure- after all, he is good-looking and powerful, we let you hear as your mom gushes over 50 Shades of Grey and plans a girls-night-out to see the movie.

You are beautiful just the way you are, we say.

Mostly-naked, Photoshopped women holding their bikinis is really what is beautiful, your dad is saying as he keeps the latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

I’m sorry. Our messages are conflicting, inconsistent. And most are lies.

The truth is – you do deserve respect. You are beautiful, and my prayer is that one day you will find a Psalm-139-13-14-web-300x221man who will try so hard to love you like Christ loves the church, and who can physically respect your body and respect the gift of sex like God intended it. My prayer is that my son will be that kind of man.

I want you to know that so many other things matter more than your physical appearance. Your character, your compassion, your kindness, your humor, your ability to find joy. Those are things that carry so much more weight than “being hot.”

Don’t settle. Please don’t change who you are because you hear that it’s what a guy wants. And please forgive me if you have heard it from me.

Sincerely,

The adults who want to do better

Come out from hiding

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“And the Lord said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’”
I Samuel 10:22b

I had an assignment I wasn’t prepared for. Maybe, just maybe, I thought, if I stay as still and quiet as can be behind the tall kid in front of me, and don’t say a peep when my name is called, she won’t notice I’m here.
The bell rang signaling the start of my literature class and roll was being called. I decided to carry out my plan. Jennifer Eastham… Jennifer Eastham… *crickets*…

It worked. She moved on to the next name and I stayed slunk down in my chair, trying my best not to make eye contact with anyone.

How in the world I got away with that, I will never know. I have three thoughts though – maybe I was that overlooked and unnoticed that this teacher seriously didn’t know who I was (complete possibility), or God just had complete mercy on this unprepared senior, or maybe Ms. Riffe had some compassion, realizing that if I was willing to do something so silly as to skip class while actually being there, there must be a good reason.

The answer will remain a mystery.

Sometimes hiding seems like an attractive plan, but it is just a temporary non-solution that delays the very thing we need to face.
In Scripture, Saul, the first king of Israel, had a similar experience, only he didn’t quite get away with it.

Saul sometimes gets a bad rap, because we know how badly things ended for him. But remember that in the beginning of his story, he was chosen. And not just chosen, chosen by God. The Israelites wanted a king like all the other nations, and God gave them what they asked for.

God told the prophet Samuel that Saul from the tribe of Benjamin was the one he had chosen and gave Samuel specific instructions for Saul.

Saul’s father had sent him on a mission to look for some lost donkeys, and all in God’s timing, he went to see Samuel for help in finding them.

While Samuel was visited by Saul, he anointed Saul’s head, and then told him that he will be the leader of God’s people. He gave him some specific instructions, and told him things God was going to do for and through him.

Then it was announced to all of Israel that God was choosing a king for his people. The people gathered together to find out who would lead them. As it was narrowed down to a particular tribe, then to a particular clan, and finally a particular person, that guy was nowhere to be found.

They asked the Lord where he was, and God pointed him out.

“And the Lord said, ‘Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’” I Samuel 10:22b

Saul was hiding.

But unlike Ms. Riffe, God pointed out where Saul was. He had called him to a position and expected him to get the job done. This wasn’t the time to cower behind some luggage.

Was Saul feeling inadequate for the task? Did he feel too much pressure? Was the job too big?

I don’t know what was going through his head, but I know those are the sorts of thoughts I have when faced with a job I don’t feel equipped to get started. And it is tempting to hide behind some metaphorical luggage – avoiding that phone call, dodging that person, ‘forgetting’ to make that appointment.

Know that if God is calling you to do a job, he will give you what you need to get it done.

No matter how big the assignment, or how small you feel, God is big and God is faithful. He can get it done, we just have to get on board.

If there is something you know God is calling you to do – an assignment with your name written all over it – go to Him. Pray for courage and pray for wisdom. Offer a prayer of thanks for Him trusting you with such an awesome responsibility, allowing you to be part of His work.

If you would like to leave a comment letting me know what I can pray about, please do. I would love to lift you up in prayer.

Father, thank You for trusting us with the assignments You have given us. Forgive us for the times we question and doubt. We know that You can work through us to complete your purpose. Give us the courage we need. Amen.
“…for it is God who works in you and to act according to his good purpose.”

Philippians 2:13