Emotionally Over Prepared

SAMSUNG

When Haven was 4, I started thinking about her kindergarten experience. Not what kind of school she should go to, although I was certainly researching the options. It was more akin to sifting through every possible grief and loss that I might experience in sending (or not sending) my first to school.

…the loss of her physical presence with me, near me at all times.

…her exposure to unfriendly children or teachers.

…the hustle and bustle of parenting kids in school.

…the pressure to make friends with other parents. (Tell-tale giveaway – I am way introverted.)

Anyway, I cried and fretted and looked at her longingly for many hours, and prayed for approx. 2 years. Then the day came. She went off to school and I shed NOT ONE TEAR. I was “emotionally over prepared.”

That little story may help put into context what I am currently over preparing for. There are many things currently on my plate –

The kids going to high school, driving, becoming prodigals or missionaries and/or both, the kids moving away from me, the kids choosing spouses…and on and on and on. I think of these things while I drive, watch TV, listen to music. Think is the wrong word. I test myself with every possibility.

What would it feel like if….

And what if “it” went the entire other direction…

And what about if “this” got in the mix…

The other day I posted a little blurb about our middle son Tim on Facebook – about his love of toast. That was only part of what I was thinking about. Under that toast story was my realization that Tim expresses so much of his thoughts, feelings, and emotions non verbally.

He shows anger and frustration in his face and body language and uses very few words. He expresses love and care through service and consideration not “love yas” like the girls do. I know what he is interested in by how and what he plays with. I know who and what he’s thinking about when we pray.

How will I know how he feels and what he is thinking when he isn’t living with me?

This hit me like a ton of bricks.

Will he send me cards? Will he text me? Will we Skype? Will I lose this bond I have with him completely, partially, seasonally, permanently, healthfully, horribly?

It’s a good thing I have some time. I think 7 years should give me nearly enough time to ready myself for moving him to college. I will need every single minute.

Good Girl Syndrome

I hate to burst bubbles. Bursting the “But I’m a good girl” bubble is one I pop fairly often. It happens when a girl shows up to campus bright eyed and bushy tailed. She has sailed through the hoops life has presented so far with nary a scraped knee. She may have stumbled over a few obstacles, but either via some personal fortitude or harrowing parenting she has hidden away any failures or less than stellar performances and come to campus with a spotless personal and professional resume.

Then she does something terrible. Something so awful she can’t tell anyone for a while. Something that stands in such stark contrast to the image she has projected and begun to believe is really her – it’s unutterable. The “something” is so many things – and anyone who has walked on a college campus can fill in the blank pretty quickly.

And then she finally confesses. And she feels better. And she just knows she won’t do it again, because she is good and doesn’t fail and doesn’t do “things like that.”

But she does. And I do. And we do. Because we aren’t good, and we do fail, and we DO do all the things.

Knowing that about ourselves is the first step to actually living the way we hope to.

I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Romans 7:21-24 (I’ll give you the cliff notes in case you don’t know who rescues Paul and us – Jesus!)

When we admit we have the capacity to do all that we hate, we begin to recognize what Jesus has paid for in his death for us, we recognize our need for daily grace, and our real dependence on Him and on others.

I don’t want to send my own kids to college with this syndrome, but it’s surprisingly easy to build our kids up too far, where failure and struggle are what they dread rather than what they learn from.

If I don’t want them to come to campus with good girl/boy syndrome – I can’t spend all my energy protecting them, and/or their (MY) reputation.

But I want to.

That means I can’t go out in front of them all the time and make darn sure they don’t go down some wrong path. It means I can’t walk behind them and quietly sweep under the rug the evidence of poor choices.

But I want to. 

One of my mentors told me rather than praying for my kids NOT to do things that are wrong, to pray that I would always find out.

God has honored that prayer – as hard as that’s been sometimes.

It makes me look like a slacker mom occasionally. I know that. Of course we have standards and expectations and they get support and love and affirmation and I don’t do this thing perfectly. Obviously. So obviously.

It’s just I am forcing myself to live with a little “messy” right now and I’m holding on to the hope that they might know grace and the power of forgiveness before they leave me. I say “I hope” literally – uncertain and unsure, but with eyes resting on my own Savior who has seen me fall innumerable times – and I’m not talking skinned knees here.

I’m grateful for my village who are withholding judgement on my kids and on me. I really, really appreciate it!

Scantron

scantron

This is not a post about the evils of standardized testing. I realize there are complex issues surrounding them these days, but as a kid I can honestly say I enjoyed standardized test days. No lectures, hours of quiet, and extra snacks. An introverted, average student’s dream school day.

No, no, no – this post is about the forms we used to complete the tests. Scantron. Go back with me…

#2 pencil required

fill in the box completely not partially

only fill in one box per question

zip through machine ***remember the noise?

Grade – even your grade as it relates to everyone else’s grade – in the whole STATE!! Talk about knowing where you stand!

Alas, there is nearly nothing in my life that resembles those beloved Scantron forms anymore. All my answers are only ever partially filled in or worse, every question definitely has several possible boxes I might color in.

Today I met with a girl working through some painful issues. I listened a lot. I prayed a lot. I said a lot. And I walked away in the wonder and fear of doing this for a living. There will be no grade. There may not even be any affirmation of anything I said or did having helped her. I will most likely not get to see what God ultimately does or see any fruitfulness that comes from our season together.

One of my kids and I were in the ring a few days ago, each of us in our corners, fists up. I listened a lot. I prayed a lot. I said a lot. And I walked away in the wonder and fear of this phenomenon too.

God, it would be helpful if every now and again, like in school days, I could sit down with my #2 pencil and you and just get some kind of sense.

80%?

30%?

.7%?

This parsing through your Word, listening to the Holy Spirit, and trying to decipher my ugly prejudiced thoughts from your Shepherd voice is taxing, and feels very unreliable.

I mean, I don’t really want a Spiritual Standardized Test- but actually I do. I really do.

Jesus

A few weeks ago I was eavesdropping in a crowded auditorium. (Come on, we ALL do it, right?) A mother and daughter were chatting it up with a stranger, discussing faith. We were all there to hear a Christian speaker, but it became clear the daughter was not a Christian and was there to appease her mom.

After a few minutes the conversation took a weird turn, so I accidentally turned around to add my own two cents. Accidentally on purpose. This butting in with my own two cents is becoming more common in my 40’s.

The stranger began to tell the daughter that all that was required to be considered a Christian was belief in goodness, love, and a supreme power. When the daughter expressed that she had converted to Buddhism, the stranger shrugged that off as if it didn’t matter. It sounded to me like, “Yah, you are kind of flunking Christianity because you don’t believe in Jesus, but you’ve got over 50% so you can be included.”

I was strangely offended. As far as I know, Buddhists don’t want to be called “D+ Christians.” They want to be called Buddhists.

And so I jumped in. “Buddhists do not believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world, right (quick nod to my new Buddhist friend) so this woman is not a Christian. She is a Buddhist. Her world view is completely different and she would apply her faith in ways that look vastly different from mine. She has different beliefs about how the world was created, why we are here, and what will happen to her after death.”

And here’s were we usually think everything is going to explode. But it didn’t. The Buddhist woman thanked me profusely and looked relieved. Then the Buddhist lady and I explained together to the stranger that Jesus is the central figure to the Christian faith and without Him, you don’t have Christianity.

Then the Buddhist lady and I explained to the stranger that we do have many things in common, but they belong to the shared humanity category, not the shared religion category. We both love, desire peace, hurt when we are wounded, are offended by injustice, saddened by death. Our religions explain these phenomenons differently, but we feel them similarly.

And so that’s when my new Buddhist friend helped me share Christ with a Christian stranger.

Before we parted, she thanked me for knowing that she doesn’t believe in Jesus and for helping her clarify that – to the stranger, and within herself. I felt grateful to have helped her know that she doesn’t know Him…not yet anyway.

He’s too good to leave out of the story, don’t you think?

Bracing

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I have been bracing myself for this week for months. I cancelled almost all my normal responsibilities because the “once in a crazy while” stuff had all piled itself onto 7 little days like a freak blizzard.

And just to add to the already crazy week –  like in a movie, the scary music started up over the weekend.

the geo thermal unit died and hubby had to go on a business trip…

the geo thermal tubes aren’t long enough and there isn’t a gas line to the house to switch to a regular furnace…

the daughter with the lead in the musical got a sore throat…

Yesterday the little one let the dog out while the geo man was walking through the poop filled yard looking for the missing gas line and the dog and the geo man stepped in poop and then came inside – only one said sorry, the other one just ran around the entire house…

chief

the dog wouldn’t sleep at the foot of my bed because he was pouting about the yelling that happened after the poop…

and some other things like burning food, cutting fingers, and broken cell phone screens happened too.

You might be surprised to find out that when I stumbled to the mirror this morning to shove in my 2 week disposable contacts that are currently 2 years old, I smiled.

The day after the geo thermal died, the weather broke and it’s 60 degrees today but just in case friends brought over 3 space heaters to add to the 2 we had.

Each day since Ben has been gone I’ve gotten a card in the mail – a gift card, some money for a date night, a note of encouragement.

The sore throat is gone and the daughter sounds beautiful. Cry my eyes out proud kind of beautiful.

have

That old saying “the devil is in the details” keeps coming to mind. I keep seeing the Lord in the details this week.

I hesitate to ask God to be present in what feels like unimportant details. I forget He doesn’t have my limited resources. I pray for Him to heal Ebola and Syria and think surely He doesn’t have time to heal furnaces and throats. And I’m wrong.

He has been mindful of little me here in nowhere Illinois. He has brought grace even as I braced myself to bare the absence of it.

Psalm 8: 3-4

When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—  

the moon and the stars you set in place—

what are mere mortals that you should think about them, 

human beings that you should care for them?

Theological Corn Mazes

I am a bit of a devil’s advocate. When you grow up with legal people all around and witness how easy it is for them to defend basically any position, you realize what “spin” is and you begin to see it everywhere. For me, there is very little in the world that is “spin free” – apart from the Apostle’s Creed.

Which leads me to my corn maze metaphor.

In the Midwest, some farmers dedicate entire fields to elaborate corn mazes. In many ways, on matters where Christians do not agree across the denominational board, I see theological corn mazes.

One believer enters and where another has seen a large and menacing hedge, they see a low row of stubby corn and they lightly step right over it, blazing a new path and sometimes coming out of the maze in a new field. Similarly, someone with a high value for tradition may only consider the established paths and exit signs while another whose highest value is personal experience may feel free to try any number of turns and choose based on what happens when they do so.

This might make Farmer Joe angry. People are cutting holes in his maze or adding walls and dead ends where he hadn’t put any! When did multiple exits and alternative fields become possible? I am not trying to say God is Farmer Joe, I’m just conceding the faults in the metaphor – perhaps Dense Theological Undergrowth is a truer metaphor, but it certainly doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I am also not advocating this, I am recognizing it as reality. My peacemaker heart wishes the mazes would transform into the wide open Red Sea but I have to live in the real world and try to represent Jesus in the midst of it all. There are simply places where we have not all found the same way through.

This weekend I went to lay my eyes upon the beautiful field of someone who’s path through a particular theological corn maze is vastly different from any I’ve ever seen. It was refreshing and beautiful, complex and difficult. In her field were people who wouldn’t feel comfortable in the fields I most often find myself in and yet they were laboring, and harvesting and God was at work. I set my mind to considering her path.

There are a few places where I don’t see the turns in the same way and I am not sure I can follow in her footsteps, even though my heart wants to. Because of that, I may not have the privilege of laboring in her particular field. I do think I can deeply respect (even envy) and admire it though and wish her the deepest love and fruitfulness. I can even protect her path from bullies with big sticks.

I also think I should visit frequently to ensure I am not being lazy regarding these mazes. It’s clear there are many healthy and unhealthy pieces in our personal or denominational compasses and it’s a good idea to check them for defects and missing parts.

How’s that for a super vague and possibly deeply confusing blog post.

Yours truly,

Stuck the maze

I’ve got this friend…

Sometimes, a friend comes along that is so darn good for you, you just can’t help but grow as a person! I’ve a had a few of those unique ones over the years.

Several years ago, when we were at the University of Wisconsin, it was Megan.

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Megan has always been blazing the trail. I’ll be sitting around thinking about what I would like to do, try, explore and Megan will have already done it and will have tons of awesome advice and counsel! Talented, warm, supportive, and always, always 2 steps ahead! When we both moved away from Madison I truly mourned because I missed her, and missed the momentum she brought to my life. “Try it! Do it! You can!!” I still miss her so much, especially when I’m stewing about doing something a little scary!

I have a friend here in Champaign who’s pushing me into new territory again. I’ll keep her identity a secret, but if you live in town here, I bet you can guess who she is. She is a giver. I never leave her home without something – a coffee, a gift card… The other day we went out on a little shopping adventure together and she slipped me some cash so I could shop without thinking about the budget. Who does that?

Boy, is it UNCOMFORTABLE. It makes me squirm. It makes me blush. It makes me grow. I am learning how to receive – and how to shed some of the stinginess that has developed in my soul. It’s so wonderful to know how to be frugal, but it’s better to know when to allow abundance and life to reign, instead of self-righteous self-denial.

(Don’t you think God is doing something here? Remember I also got a BMW for Christmas for crying out loud!!!)

When you live on donor support you can begin to practice a very meticulous accounting in your heart. I constantly question my use of each and every dollar, as if each and every donor were standing with me in the check out isle. I know for a fact the wonderful people who support Ben and me and our family do not want us to feel that way, but it’s a way of leaning that subtly turns to a full-on bent and a heavy weight.

My friend is teaching me how to live with more freedom, more joy, more abundance. She encourages me to accept gifts meant only for joy, for beauty – without function, without accounting.

It’s hard. It’s good. I love you, friend.