Tuesday, September 25, 2018

When "Tough Love" Works

I try to be a compassionate person, and a graceful listener.

I really do.

But sometimes I have to draw the line. *ahem*

What I mean is, sometimes - under specific circumstances - I won't listen.
Like yesterday, when one of my sons was bemoaning his work schedule and school schedule and how much stuff he has to get done.
The full story is this: His employer has been scheduling him to work more hours than he wants (and really more than he should be working with his class load) but as of Monday afternoon, he hadn't told the scheduler to lighten up. (Even though I told him in previous days he needed to speak up and let someone know that he didn't want to so many hours.)
He kept going to work, struggling to try to fit everything in.

So yesterday, our conversation went something like this:
Son: Lamenting a 30-hour work week, admitting that - no - he hasn't talked to the scheduler.
Me: You know - and I have this same deal with your dad - if there's something wrong, and you could do something to correct the situation - but you don't? I won't listen to complaining about it.
Son: Awwwww. Walks away (over)acting dejected.
Thirty minutes later...
Son: Passing quickly through the kitchen. Look at me! Going to work early to take care of my problem!!!
Me: Thankful he listened, even if it was behind a veiled threat. Yay, you!!!

Ah, yes. Sometimes my efforts to teach personal responsibility are successful. *happy sigh*


Monday, September 24, 2018

Friday, September 21, 2018

How Can We Get Out of this Mess?

OK. I am inviting you to think through something with me today.
Though my thoughts on it are plenty, I am not going to get political and begin a debate on the ups and downs of our current situation in the United States and the wider world. But my Bible study of Lamentations 4 has me pondering our present condition, and the Holy Spirit won't seem to let it rest - so I want to work through some questions here.
Because God often helps me see things more clearly when I write.
And maybe He has something for you, too.

My Precepts homework contained this question as I finished my study of Lamentations 4:

Now, what about you or your nation? Have you experienced the tragedy of sin? According to what you have learned today, how could such tragedy be avoided?
I mean, it didn't take long to answer those first questions. As I look around at the world in which I live I see evidence of the tragedy of sin everywhere.
Deception and lies.
Shootings and murders.
Oppression and slavery and despair and abuse and neglect.
Every day, with every news report, there's something more.
The thing is, I know this is not the world God intended. The life we're living is not what HE desires. And I find myself sympathetic to the writer of Lamentations as he bemoans the condition of his city - as he looks at what it has become, and mourns for what used to be.

Then there's that last question: How could such tragedy be avoided?
And the answer is not difficult to figure out. Because we see it over and over again in Jeremiah - before the destruction came of which the writer of Lamentations laments. God kept sending a message to the people: Repent or disaster is coming.
HE kept warning, and the people kept ignoring Him.
Then, behold, they were destroyed. But it wouldn't have happened if they had humbled themselves before the LORD and followed Him. It could have been avoided!
But that was Judah, thousands of years ago, right?
What has it to do with the world today???
Well, plenty - in my opinion.
I wrote in response to the Precepts question, We could avoid the tragedy if we would just humble ourselves and turn to God. Oh! That our hearts may become humble before Him!
Ah, but there is the part of me (the cynical part) which thinks, That'll never happen. I consider the path on which the United States is going, and I find no hope in the possibility of millions of people humbling their hearts and surrendering to God. (Much less the many who are in positions of power and seem to be leading the way in the mess.)
But then I wonder about Israel and Judah, and what things were like during the days of Jeremiah. I read of God's vow to devistate the land if the people did not listen and repent, and His promise to restore and give them new hearts. Hearts which would fear Him so they would never turn away again. And I think, If HE did it for them, maybe we are not a hopeless cause. Maybe the LORD will allow us to fall so far that we will have nothing left to do but humble ourselves and turn to Him.
Honestly, my heart breaks for the condition of our world - how we as a nation are behaving, how we are treating each other and ignoring God. And I think our trouble is about so much more than political parties and philosophical leanings. More than who's Right and who's Left.
As a woman who is passionate about God and about living for Him, I think the problem facing the United States today (And, yes, the rest of the world, too!) is our hard hearts and prideful attitudes. Our disdain for the ways of God, and our desire to do what feels right to us.
It may be too late for us to avoid the tragedy of sin, but perhaps we can be restored.
If we, as a people, humble ourselves and submit to God and His Word.
And so, I pray. Will you join me?


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dear Young Mother, It Won't Always be "This Way"

True story.

Yesterday I hit my snooze button twice before getting out of bed.
I didn't WANT to get up at that time, but I managed to overcome my desires and get myself out of bed.
I put on my work-out clothes, walked out to the family room and opened the blinds. At which moment I could see that all cars were gone. (Save for my husband's car. He was still in bed. Napping before going to work, because he gets up at 4:30 every morning to go work out. Really.)
Anyway, I stood there contemplating what the absence of cars meant: Two of my kids were at work, the third might have been at work - or, he might be fishing, and the fourth was gone to class. In other words, everyone was responsible for getting themselves up and where they needed to be while my husband and I were in bed.
My, how times have changed!


Monday, September 17, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018

Just Pray

So, I have a son.
Who shall remain nameless in this post.
And this son, had a little car trouble Wednesday evening. That is, his vehicle just stopped running while he was driving home (about an hour away) and he couldn't get it to start again. He called Dad for advice, and they surmised what the problem might be.
After a few mintes, this nameless child realized he had run out of gas. *ahem*
At which point, further advice was sought.
As in, How do I get gas now? The nearest exit is 15 miles away. The two of them debated the options of walking or hitch-hiking, and I suggested road-side assistance from our insurance carrier. But Son didn't want to wait for that, so he started walking.
A moment later I thought, Or, he could pray. He could ask God to send someone to help. Although I figured he would roll his eyes at the suggestion. (That mom of his - always thinking God is the answer and all we need to do is pray.*) But that IS what I think, so I texted him and said what I thought. I wrote, "Or you could pray that God will send someone your way to help. That's what I'm doing." (And I was.)
Not even a minute later I recieved this response.

Just got picked up by a cop. He's taking me to get gas.
And I immediately responded with this:
Awesome! Thank You, JESUS!!!

Yes. God is the answer, and all we need to do is pray.

*And I'm not exaggerating when I say that as soon as I finished typing "That mom of his - always thinking God is the answer and all we need to do is pray," - my phone rang.
It was a friend who had called me Thursday morning asking for prayer for her grandson, who attempted suicide the day before. My heart sank when I saw her name on my phone, as I feared bad news.
But there was no bad news.
She called with very good news. And as we hung up the phone and I got back to my post and read what I had just written, well, I looked to heaven with a smile on my face. I thanked God for confirming for me in that very moment, We just need to pray.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Speaking of Career Paths...

Yesterday I was looking for something in my blog archives.
I never did find it.
And I can't imagine what hapened to it because I KNOW it was here, once upon a time.
The good news is - in my seach for that, I came upon this.
And since I just posted about Phil beginning his new career, I thought it appropriate to anticipate Elizabeth's career. From my perspective 11+ years ago.

Ever since she could talk, Elizabeth has expressed kindness and compassion with her words. In a journal I'm keeping for her, I often note the sweet things she says and does. Like the time I was feeling low and when I went to bed there was a note on my pillow which she'd written. She told me she loved me, God loved me, and she hoped I was feeling better soon. Elizabeth is such a sweetheart!
When it comes to her brothers, however, she can take on a very different attitude. She doesn't like them to get into her stuff. I understand that desire, and support her in it. It has become her standard, though, that they aren't even allowed to set foot in her room uninvited. I understand that desire, too, and agree the boys shouldn't go into her room when she isn't in there. But sometimes she goes a little overboard. Even when she is in her room, Elizabeth will get totally bent out of shape if one of her brothers enters without her invitation. It is because of Elizabeth's rantings and ravings about her brothers' need to stay out of her room that I got a BIG laugh Saturday, and determined I know her future career.

We were getting ready for Elizabeth's birthday party. She had invited several girlfriends over for the afternoon and we were busy putting up decorations, cutting out pictures, blowing up balloons, and sorting out prizes. Elizabeth was sure she had some stuffed animals in her toybox in her bedroom that would add nicely to the decorations, but we were both quite engrossed in our current duties and were a bit pressed for time.
Previously, we had tried to solicit help from the boys, but since they weren't going to be participating in the party they weren't particularly interested in helping with preparations.
So as I was standing there cutting up pieces of paper, I almost lost a finger when I started laughing at the exchange that took place between my kids. Elizabeth put on her sweetest face. The look itself almost said, "You're the luckiest little boy in the world for what I'm about to offer you!" She then said, "Matthew, how would you like to go rummaging through my room?" He immediately stopped what he was doing (I don't remember what it was. He was probably getting ready to pop a balloon or something.) and looked at her. Just as quickly, Joshua popped out from around the corner and said, "I will!" With that, Elizabeth sent the boys up to her room on a hunt for the animals she was sure were hiding there somewhere.

I stood there marveling at Elizabeth's skill to get these boys to do what she wanted them to do - something they had previously made clear they did not want to do. She didn't ask them again to "help get ready for the party". She gave them permission to rummage through her room. By putting a slightly different spin on the activity, Elizabeth got the boys to help. Besides that, she made it fun for them!
Within minutes they had returned with the animals in question.

I'm telling you, that girl ought to be in sales. I didn't ask her how she thought about her approach, and I don't know how long she'd been working on it. But she came up with it, and it worked.
My only thought now?
Beware, Phil. Your bride-to-be has a way with words! *wink*


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

HE's Right on Time

I cannot count the times God has shown His faithfulness to me.
A number simply does not exist which describes how often God has come through, has demonstrated His goodness, has exhibited how trustworthy He Is - even when I felt like time was running out.

Somewhere in the midst of those moments I stopped asking for blueprints and neon signs - tangible things I would have liked to possess so I could see with my own eyes what I knew God could see with HIS - and I started to rely on faith.
Knowing HE sees what I cannot.
Trusting HE would work out the details in time.
Believing HE had a good plan.
Not realizing how valuable those moments would be years later - when I had to trust for someone else.
Especially when that "someone" was my baby girl.
Now HE's gone and done it again. And my heart is rejoicing!
I know I have shared in this space some of my struggle in watching Elizabeth and Phil trying to get prepared for life-on-their-own, as they seek jobs and wonder where they're going to live after they're married. (In 31 days!) I have seen them applying for jobs, going to interviews, getting the you-are-a-nice-person-but-we-chose-someone-else responses. I've seen them praying. And I've seen tears, too.
To be honest, there have been occasions when I have questioned their future. When I have wondered if they were going to be "ready" in time for their wedding. There have been days I have entertained concerns of What if? and How long?
Thankfully, God responded with assurances of Remember when? and Trust Me.
Well, I do remember, so I chose to trust. And I prayed for my kids - knowing this is not the last time they're going to need to wait on God's timing, His will, His plan. I asked Him to use the wait for their good, to grow their faith. Even as my heart was longing for an end to the delay, I prayed for the grace to trust. Grace for me, as well as for Elizabeth and Phil.

OK. That's enough back story.
Phil just got hired by a company in Lansing, and we are all doing a happy dance!
And somewhere in the background, amidst all the shouts of joy and exclamations of thanksgiving rising from my heart, I could swear I hear the voice of God saying, See, dear one? I may not move according to your time preferences, but I told you I could be trusted.

What are you waiting for today?


Monday, September 10, 2018

Friday, September 07, 2018

Sooooo, I Got a Job

OK. It goes like this:
A few months ago Elizabeth was applying to every job in sight, so she could start earning money to prepare for this life which is ahead of her. One of those applications was for a Resident Assistant position at a care facility about a mile away from our home. She would work there part-time helping with things like setting up for and serving dinner, individual resident needs, and passing out snacks at bedtime. Her main responsibility would be caring for and loving on the residents.
And I thought, Ahhhhh, sounnds wonderful!
(Did I mention the residents in this care facility are, on average, in their 80s and 90s?)
Her one hesitation in accepting the job was she felt bad knowing she didn't intend to stay there any longer than it took to find a job she really wants. But I said, "Hey, when you're ready to leave, I can take over for you!" I mean, I was half joking because I hadn't truly been considering going back to "work" outside home. But it sounded like a great job, I knew I could do it and would love it, and if I could get paid for loving on people? Hey, why not???
So as Elizabeth accepted the job, I began praying and asking God if this was a thing He would have me do.

Well, turns out - it is.
Elizabeth put in her notice-to-quit two weeks ago, and I am going in this morning to fill out my employment paperwork and get the process going for my physical and fingerprinting and all that other administrative/background stuff.
The job is super-part-time: every other weekend, and occasional weekdays. So I am pretty much going to be able to maintain all my other activities - which is good. I'm just eager to see what God will do as I serve in this capacity. My life is HIS, not mine, and I am excited for this next adventure.
Chances are I'll have some good stories to share with you here, too. Stay tuned!


Thursday, September 06, 2018

When I Impressed My Son

Are you familiar with this dance? I mean, I can't do it. But I know what it is.
The first and second graders in my VBS class this summer got me all educated on the "Floss".

So, anyway, the other day Josh was telling me about a fishing technique (of which he does not approve...) called "Flossing". Part-way through the explanation Josh realized he had previously told me about this approach and stopped mid-sentence. He said, "Oh, you know what flossing is, don't you?"
I smiled and said, "Yes," as I gave a half-hearted attempt at the dance.
Josh rolled his eyes at me first. But then he said, "Actually, Mom, I'm impressed you know that."

And I did a little happy dance inside.
(Not the "Floss" though. I just can't get the timing down. Even in my imagination. *wink*)


Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Feeling a Bit Like my Dad

I am the third of four children in my family.
I have an older brother and sister, and a younger brother. And although we don't see each other nearly enough these days (Living in three different states will do that to ya!) when we do get together we have such a good time. We laugh and reminisce and tell stories and hug ad infintium.
It is so much fun!
I honestly cannot count the times I have heard my dad say, "It is so good to hear you kids laughing together. I love that sound!"
And, truth be told, even as an adult I cannot count the times I have heard my dad make that statement and in my mind I have thought, OK, Dad. Whatever. Not really understanding why he thought it was so wonderful that his kids were having a good time together.
But then, a couple of days ago I was sitting at the table eating lunch with Brian - while Matthew and Elizabeth were in the kitchen making their own lunches. I don't know what was the cause of the commotion which was happening, but the two of them were laughing and carrying on and having a good ol' time. And I found myself pausing in my conversation with Brian to just listen to their laughter, their banter, their joy.
It brought such delight to my heart to witness two of my children simply enjoying life with one another.
I thought, It is so sweet to hear them laughing together. I love that sound!!! Which was followed immediately by the thought, Oh, wow. Now I know what my dad has been meaning all these years.
Then I vocalized my thoughts to Brian, and we smiled at each other - knowing this realization was one more confirmation that we're getting old, and we're continuing to become more like our parents.
And then?
I called my dad to share the experience with him.


Monday, September 03, 2018

Be Nice