Friday, July 14, 2017

Why toddler posts make me cry and other ephemera...

Lately I've become a victim of Facebook envy.  I stare at my newsfeed watching all the cute pictures of toddlers and their Moms scroll by.  I "like" their pictures.  Sometimes I "love" them.  And behind it all, I'm envying where they are...

I remember being in that phase of parenting, and I remember how hard it felt.  I'm not discounting the difficulties you have: sleep deprivation, the press of small bodies constantly needing something, trying to figure out how to balance it all.  Yes, it's hard.  Very hard some days.  So hard, in fact, that you can often don't see the blessings in front of you.  Looking back, I know I didn't.  And (thank you "On this Day" button) I often find myself wishing for a time machine so that I could have a do over and care less about the stuff that didn't matter.

And to that end, I am trying very hard to make the most of this season of parenting.  Of where I am right now.  But - NO SURPRISE - it's very difficult.  Most days, I feel like I'm doing everything wrong.  The really difficult part about this stage though is that joy seems harder to find.  The problems can't be fixed with a hug and kiss.  Ice cream no longer mends fences.  And I want to go backward, because right here hurts and looking forward to the next step of motherhood is just dog-gone scary.

I've spent the last fifteen plus years being a Mom.  This morning, reading back through some of my old blog posts, my eyes teared up as I remembered the early days.  And I found myself truly, deeply missing them. So much.  Because back then, the hard things were things I could count on coming to an end.  They were fixable.  Now, I look at my almost-grown-up daughter, and I can't believe the time is gone.  I can't believe that my days of announcing a trip to McDonalds WITH the play place are finished.  Life was hard, but connecting wasn't.  It happened with bed time stories and kisses and hugs.  It happened with quick trips out that cost little and netted much.

Now, it's harder to blog about being a Mom.  It's harder to post fun pictures that capture our lives.  Because while life isn't as hard as it once was...connecting is harder.  Much harder.  And all too often, the day ends and it hasn't happened.

I want to make the most of this season.  Somehow.  Not sure how.  :)   But crying over the toddler pictures probably isn't going to do much to accomplish that goal.  So, for now, I keep trying until I find the magic formula.  I promise (myself mostly, since this blog is really for me, lol) that the next post will be much more up-lifting. For this week though, real life is at the forefront.  #transparency

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

[Awkward] Family Reunions - Genesis 45

Ever been to an awkward family reunion?  You know the kind.  Aunt Bertha hates cousin Bernice because thirty years ago Bernice dated Bubba, even though she knew that Aunt Bertha's daughter Bonita was sweet on her?  The family has not-so-neatly divided into sides on this pointless argument, and they all sit on opposite sides of the buffet table glaring at each other and gloating if they get the better piece of fried chicken?

Family reunions: Hatfield vs. McCoy edition.  Always an adventure.

Joseph and his brothers had a pretty epic awkward family reunion...  Picture it: Egypt, a whole bunch of years B.C.  You are standing there being the big shot ruler, when suddenly your brothers walk in.  The very same brothers that dumped you in a pit and left you for dead after selling you into slavery.  Just a LITTLE more awkward that Bertha, Bonita, and Bubba...  But we've already overcome the anger and bitterness.  Now there is the hard part: reconciliation.

Joseph has had years to accept what has happened to him.  He has come to understand that it is ultimately for his own good.  He has also come to understand that perhaps his brothers have changed, because they are thinking more about the welfare of their father and their youngest brother than they are about their own welfare.


It still can't be completely easy to have this moment.  To come together, rewinding the years and facing all that has been lost and gained in the process.  Knowing that God has allowed all this for His purpose, and seeing those responsible in front of you.  For the brothers, having come to understand the depth of the evil you perpetrated, and seeing the victim standing before you, forgiving.  How hard is that?  I can't imagine, but then I can.

Only God can reconcile that.  Only He can bring that kind of mercy into a heart. Only He can help a guilty soul bear the shame.  I am reminded of Corrie ten Boom, who forgave the guard from her concentration camp, and in that moment felt all of the hate and the forgiveness collide.  In a world where "tolerance" has become defined as "agree with me NOW or else", we need that divine acceptance now more than ever.

When Joseph says, these words, I can only imagine their impact across the millennia:  "I am Joseph!” he said to his brothers. “Is my father still alive?” But his brothers were speechless! They were stunned to realize that Joseph was standing there in front of them. “Please, come closer,” he said to them. So they came closer. And he said again, “I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into slavery in Egypt.But don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. This famine that has ravaged the land for two years will last five more years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God has sent me ahead of you to keep you and your families alive and to preserve many survivors.[a] So it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser[b] to Pharaoh—the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt."

He first says, "Come closer."  Oh, the power of those words.  And then he says, "Don't be angry with yourselves."  Only one has truly embraced divine forgiveness can ask a guilty person to forgive themselves...Joseph embraced the fact that God had truly kept his promise: his brothers had bowed down to him.  Joseph also had to embrace that the suffering he had experienced was part of that promise.

This blog post may not make sense to anyone but me, but in my heart, it sings.  God was "in the waiting" of every part of this story, and he turned an awkward family reunion into a restoration and reconciliation.  That's what I pray for my world today.

Our praise team learned this song last weekend.  It's my new favorite, because it has been so true of God's promises to me.

Bethel - "Take Courage"

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Genesis 44 . The Circle Comes Full

After a bit of a break to try to get boxes moved and enough "stuff" settled to keep my sanity, I'm back on my morning routine...although at the moment, it's a bit more of a mid-morning routine.  Early mornings have never really been my thing, but I'm not done trying on that score yet either.  :)

**Special Public Service Announcement from my 15 year old daughter who SHOULD be doing the dishes, and is NOW on her way to do said dishes:*** Note:  Genesis 44 does not actually say what she purports it to say, but some of it is true.  Just not the "perfection" part.  😜

"Genesis 44 also shows that Noelle is the best person in the world. She is just so amazing. There's no one like her, she just makes everyone so happy and she's so talented; no one can measure up to the perfection of her perfection."

Genesis 44 shows a reunion of brothers, even though Israel's sons don't know that they have now come face to face with the brother they betrayed.  It has to be a compelling moments for Joseph, thought, sitting there looking at his brothers, knowing who they are, and knowing that they have no idea who he might be.

He's observing, looking back through the years to his growing up experience.  He's watching, and I can only imagine the kaleidoscope of emotions that is flowing over him in this moment.  Probably anger, frustration, joy, grief...a whole bunch of complicated stuff.  And as he watches, I can't help but imagine that there is a question in his mind:  Have they changed, or are these the same men who left me to die in a pit and sold my life off for nothing?  Out of jealousy?

Judah answers that question for Joseph when he speaks in verse 33: “So please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers."  The man who once stood by and allowed his brother to be sold away without a thought now is willing to take the place of another brother.  No doubt Joseph had gotten beyond some of his anger and bitterness - otherwise he would not have survived - but this had to be a big moment for him.  Know that as God had been positioning him, He had also been changing those who hurt him.

That is a lesson we can all apply to our lives.  People hurt us.  They damage us.  They do things that aren't right, and they aren't fair.  By reasonable standards, they don't deserve forgiveness.  But we are commanded to forgive.  Why?  Because it's what He requires.  But why does He require it?  Because He knows it is the only way that we can truly move forward and grow within ourselves.

I'm so thankful that God has brought me through some ugly times.  I am equally thankful that I can look at people who have caused me pain and see that He is working on them too.  I pray that everyone can have more Joseph moments, because those moments are what bring understanding to us in dark moments of time.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Life Isn't Fair...So Make Lemonade

Genesis 39: Life's Not Fair...So Make Lemonade

It's the day before we move, and I'm a little out of sorts because things aren't quite finished and aren't quite done.  That makes me nervous. :) . My comfortable, well-appointed little home is in shambles and empty...and a little sad.  It's the way it works with moving. You have to tear up roots to plant new ones.  You have to dismantle one home to build another.

I guess it's appropriate that in the midst of my (self-induced) stress, I picked back up with my study of Genesis this morning, resuming it at chapter 39.  That's the place where Joseph gets sold into slavery and finds himself a servant in Potiphar's house.  So, what's a good guy in that kind of story to do?  Why, become the BEST SLAVE EVER!  Of course!  And rise to the point of being a trusted right hand man.  If the story ended there, it would be awesome and triumphant.  But it doesn't.

See, Joseph was about to be reminded again of one of those universal facts in this universe we inhabit.  Life. Is. Not. Fair.  You can be a good guy.  You can be faithful.  You can keep your nose clean and do what you're supposed to do.  But then... then you get slapped by reality.  In Joseph's case, he got slapped by Potiphar's lying, conniving wife.

I think I like Joseph's story because I would be so tempted to sulk.  I would be tempted to throw up my hands and weep because this is just NOT FAIR.  I didn't deserve slavery, but I was a good slave.  I DEFINITELY don't deserve a wrongful felony conviction when I didn't do ANYTHING except NOT sin.  I would probably be having a long and not exactly pious conversation with the Lord about all that.  And maybe Joseph did too...but I doubt it.  His story just paints him as going into the prison and making the best of a really bad situation.  What do you do when you're a good guy in jail for a crime you didn't do?  You become the BEST PRISONER EVER!  Of course.

Confession time:  I'm tempted to sulk even right now.  And life is pretty good.  When a little bump in the road hits, I feel the "It's Not Fair" tide rising in me, and I want to scream at the sky.  And people, it's a LITTLE bump.  But I don't like bumps.  I plan things because I like them to go smoothly.  I don't like surprises.  I like predictable.  But God doesn't work that way always.

The reminder for me today is that I must trust God in all things.  Little and big.  I must remember that what I see as a stumbling block, He doesn't always see that way.  I need to remember that it's not all about me.  At all.  And in the middle of my sad empty house, I think I may make lemonade...or I may just go buy some, since everything in my kitchen is packed up.  :D

Genesis 39: 21-23
21 But the Lord was with Joseph in the prison and showed him his faithful love. And the Lord made Joseph a favorite with the prison warden. 22 Before long, the warden put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners and over everything that happened in the prison. 23 The warden had no more worries, because Joseph took care of everything. The Lord was with him and caused everything he did to succeed.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Sad End of a King

School is done (shout hallelujah!) and my mornings no longer feel like race to the finish line, which is really just a starting line.  The joy in that, of course, is time for coffee, reading, and thinking before I have to kick into high gear.

This morning, I was finishing out the book of I Samuel after an incredibly long break from doing any serious reading.  No real excuses.  Just life as a parent, teacher, and newlywed in the middle of a move.  Things have been hectic...

But, back to the last chapter of I Samuel.  The entire chapter is pretty dark, depressing, and blindingly sad.  Saul, who was once a great and might king - also tall, dark, and handsome, according to the scriptures - ends his life as a sniveling coward on the field of a massively failed battle. The usual lesson here is more about David than Saul; after all, most of us just look at the two for contrast.  Lately, though, I've felt a lot of sadness about lost potential, and I guess that's why I see Saul's story as one that is so very tragic.

I see a young man, uncomfortable in his own skin, hiding behind bags so that he doesn't get called out.  I see a new king desperately insecure, and therefore trying to build himself up by bullying others and pressuring them under his authority.  I see a man drivenn by jealousy and arrogance to homicidal craziness.  It makes me sad.  Mostly because I see a whole lot of Sauls surrounding me in the world.

You don't have to look past Facebook to see it.  The trending stories on the right hand side of your screen will weekly have a few old rock stars or movie stars who have ended their lives in a blaze of drugs, alcohol, and wasted potential.  There will be tributes to them, of course, lauding early achievements as everyone tries to forget the way it ended.  The pictures will focus on a young man or woman, in their prime, before their individual demons did their damage.  That fame will inspire another generation to follow down the wrong path, convinced that they are different and the bad stuff just won't happen to them.

You can see it in passive-aggressive posts that have no place on social media.  Meanness and armchair judgment blasted from the safety of your phone, tablet, or computer is so much easier than compassion.  So that's what most do.  The spirit of Saul - the spirit of the insecure bully - can be seen in its shining glory, on display for all to see.

But we cannot forget that Saul isn't a hero.  He is not remembered for any accomplishments, only for the meaner parts of his spirit and personality.  He is defined by his hatred of those loyal to him, because he never could believe in himself.   By the fact that his own son could see just what he was, and therefore he hated him too.

Saul's story breaks my heart,  because it is a story of lost potential and failure to understand that humility is the key to success.  In a world that is defined by self promotion, it is essential that we remember that Jesus called us to make ourselves servants.  Servants wouldn't do promotional videos about how awesome they are.  Sauls would.

I wish I could have talked to that young Saul hiding behind all the baggage.  I wish I could have told him that he didn't have to compete with anyone because God had anointed him to be king.  I wish that I could tell him that he didn't have to maintain his own position by scheming and dominance.  He just needed to trust in God.  He just needed to obey.

I wish his story had a different end, and I wish the same for every trending story on the side of my Facebook feed.

I Samuel 31
I 4Saul groaned to his armor bearer, “Take your sword and kill me before these pagan Philistines come to run me through and taunt and torture me.”
But his armor bearer was afraid and would not do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. 5When his armor bearer realized that Saul was dead, he fell on his own sword and died beside the king. 6So Saul, his three sons, his armor bearer, and his troops all died together that same day.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Changing Seasons...

It's been a long time since I've written anything.  And I do mean anything.  There was a time when writing was something I felt compelled to do daily, almost like eating.  And then somewhere along the way, seasons changed.

My inspirational life with a toddler and an engaging young daughter faded into something that felt a lot more like work. The young daughter became and tween and then a teen, and parenting got "real" in ways not entirely pleasant. I got a graduate degree. Changed jobs.  Twice.  Found a renewed passion for music expressed in a new way.  And then I found love again.  Seasons have continued to change.

This current season has been wonderful and also a little challenging.  My family is blended and wonderful.  I remember the night before our ceremony, I sat in my living room and thought just how much everything was about to change.  It has, but it's been easier than I had worried.  We are finding a new rhythm, and I'm so grateful for it.  I had wonderful years as a single Mom.  I'm having even better ones as the Mom in a reconstructed family.  I'm blessed with a loving, patient man who is my spiritual leader and teammate.  Still pinching myself to believe it's real, but I'm so thankful it is.

At 41, I've realized that my career is probably where it's going to end up.  Any big dreams I had on that front have faded.  I will be a teacher of lower high school grades, and I have to accept that.  I wish I could tell you that was the dream come true I'd always wanted. It isn't.  But I can learn to be content.  What it does mean is that teaching is no longer the massive, passionate creative outlet it once was.  With older kids, parenting really isn't either.  The 10 and 15 year old don't want carpet picnics in the living room anymore.  (I've shed some tears over that while tearfully looking at other mother's precious babies on Facebook.  But seasons change, and mine has...those golden early days have faded.  It is well, because it must be.)

So last night, after the supper was cooked and eaten, I left the teenager cleaning the kitchen (there are a few perks to this age 😉) and went outside to talk to Jesus where it was quiet. I didn't really have a coherent prayer, just a thought.... It's not that I'm not thankful, Lord, but I'm at loose ends. I need to create something.  I need to feel like something I do matters. And I'm not feeling that so much right now.  And He gently reminded me of this long ago blog, where I shared the hardest moments of my life and found something beautiful in the process.

So here I am today.  Writing as therapy again.  Not sure what it means or where it's going.  I'm not sure there's an audience for anything I have to stay in this stage.  But it's been my experience as the parent of a teenager that it can be a pretty lonely time for mothers if you aren't in the extroverted, club-Mom group, which this introvert certainly is not.  I do know a thing or two about loneliness.  So, here I am.  For whatever the next season brings, I will do my best to learn the lessons along the road, and to share a little along the way.