Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Counting Blessings in the Chaos

Aunt and uncle just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Aunt couldn't believe so many came to help celebrate. "I can," I said. Because they've been a stable factor in so many lives. So many lives. Has all been good? Definitely not. But all's been and all continues to be. Stable. Through-the-years-stable. Within-our-control stable.

But a friend's husband just ended his life. She'll never celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary. She's trying to find the balance to carry on. To bring and keep stability in her kids' lives. To be stable in the midst of chaos and loss. To find a new through-the-years-stable. A within-her-control stable.

And she's left with numerous questions. Did the way I loved him count? Did I count? Did our years and all the contents inside count? 

If we can't continue to count the years, what can we count?

What can we count when we feel like a waste of breath?

We can count our blessings.

We can count what's stable in our lives.

Like what?

Like life. Like the air we breathe in. While we have breath. Breathe it in. Breathe it out.

Like God, who is stable, able, capable--the one who will be there when we have breath and when we don't.

Like love, love that comes our way. Like the love we can deliver. Maybe not from the one we want or to the one we want. But love comes and goes. We're receivers, and we're deliverers.

Like smiles. We can give and take those. And don't discount the frowns. When a smile has drowned, we can embrace the opportunity to ask, "What's wrong? How may I help?" 

Like rest. A place to sit. We'll never run out of those. Even the ground bursts forth with life.


Like railings. A place to lean. With another. The railings are beautiful--family, friends, God, faith, arms, shoulders.

Like goodness. It's always there, even in the badness. Will we look for it? Will we find it? Will we focus our lens on it? Will we be the good?

Like growth. Are we different today than yesterday?

If we live our lives counting our blessings, what's stable in our lives, dependable factors, maybe we'll find that we are celebrating daily.

When we can't count the years, we can make our years count.

And we'll find we are counting the years, our years.

And maybe we'll have become a reason to celebrate. Because when we count our blessings, we become a blessing.

Is there any wonder?

"I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing."--Ezekiel 34:26


What blessings can you count?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Being Rescued by a McDonald's Attendant

Every Sunday, she stood at the cash register at McDonald's and took our pancake order. The sweetest thing. A young girl with fair skin and blond hair. So friendly. 

I loved her instantly.

I always looked forward to seeing her sweet smile. Because she always seemed happy to see us. If my day had gone South, she'd lift me up, and we'd chat over this and that.

One Sunday, we'd arrived, and she stood off to the side. We made eye contact.

"I'm not working here anymore," she said and smiled. We chatted a bit. 

As weeks passed, I missed her.

Last week, I took my daughter to volunteer at a local veterinary clinic. She loves dogs and cats and wanted to see if that is something she could stomach. 

The kittens we found on our road. They were loaded with fleas. And they ran straight into our arms. One sat on the roadside, holding out her little claw, for a hitch-hike. :) We tease that their mama probably left them there to hunt for food and returned to find them stolen. Now, we ask ourselves, why did we stop? 
Love and hearts, y'all. Love and hearts.

Oh, my goodness, they were messy.

We had talked to the vet's wife beforehand, and she'd said how so many kids think this is what they want to do for a living, but it's amazing how a 6-foot tall young man can flatten like a pancake, by the smell of surgery. "It's not usually the blood," she said, "it's the smell."

We giggled. My daughter didn't think she'd have a problem. She's been through a lot in life and doesn't seem to mind needles, shots, blood. 

I dropped her off at 9 a.m. I waited and waited. I wondered how things would go.

At noon, I drove into the parking lot, got out, and went inside. Through the reception window, I spotted a familiar face. But it wasn't my daughter's face. Wait. It was the face of the young girl who'd worked at McDonald's. I couldn't believe it.

I smiled, hoping that was her. If it was her, she'd changed a tiny bit, grown up a little. I didn't say much, afraid of making a fool out of myself ... maybe it was another girl. 

But no. Her face lit up. She ran out to hug me.

"I didn't know you were working here," I said. "I came to get my daughter who was sitting through surgery today."

"That's your daughter?" She'd never really seen my daughter with me at McDonald's, because my daughter would always go find a seat to save for us while I ordered.

My daughter peeked around the corner, pale as a ghost. Uh oh.

"She got light-headed a few times today, but she's doing fine," my friend said. "I put her to work helping me in other areas when she didn't feel good."

"Mom, I was doing okay until I noticed blood dripping off the table. That kind of got to me." We all laughed.

We said our good-byes and hugged. 

Out in the car, my daughter said, "She was really nice to me today, Mom."

And I thanked God for using that sweet girl in my life, to help my daughter. Love had rescued my girl, thereby rescuing me. I never knew the love I'd felt for that young lady would be returned in such a sweet way. 

Blue & Hermione, better known as Miney. They are the sweetest cats. So loving. Those rescued know how to love. 
"Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. 
But he who is forgiven little, loves little."Luke 7:47

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38


Has God blessed your efforts of loving-kindness? Do you have a story to share? I know you do. Please?!!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

For Those Who Refuse To Live Shallow

Life's been a little hard. A little rocky. Lord? Oh, Lord?

I spoke with my mom on the phone. We talked about the hardness of life, and she said these words I'll never forget 

"Baby, you keep in God's Word. You stay in God's Word, no matter what."

"I will, Mom. I do, Mom."

Keep doing that thing, she'd meant. Love the Lord with all ... your all ... can't-get-enough-all. 

I'll stay in God's World  Word. As I wrote my mom's comment, I accidentally typed "world" instead of "word" ... is there a difference? 

Running out of Wal-Mart, Wally World, that evening, I noticed this ...

I stopped for a double-take. A tiny purplish petunia grew in the crevice between the cement curb and the parking lot. How beautiful.

Bloom right where you're planted.

But then I immediately thought of Matthew 13the parable of the sower.

"A farmer went out to sow his seed .... Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root." Mt 13:3,6

How sad.

And I knew this precious flower didn't stand a chance. Regardless of Wal-Mart's success, this little thing didn't stand a chance. Doomed. First of all, it's an annual, and in Texas, for sure, that means it only gets one chance at this life. One chance. Then it withers away, ne'er to return. Second of all, there was no where for its roots to grow, to grow down deep. What roots? It bloomed in shallow soil.

Here today. Gone tomorrow. All its precious seeds will blow away.

What does shallow even mean? Lacking depth ... depth of anything, I suppose. 

Oh, Lord, how I long for depth ... depth of you.

Shallow is safe. Depth is downright dangerous. 

Shallow seems pretty. Depth seems dirty.

The shallow isn't pretty very long ... like sitting prim and proper, wearing white shorts, wearing sandals to a race. 

The dirty is pretty for always ... like

The one standing by their child through every vial of blood drawn.
The one traveling overseas to meet their child for the first time.
The one remaining through every chemo drip.
The one staying up all night with a sick baby.
The one cleaning up throw-up, spit-up.
The one pulling every loose tooth.
The one digging out splinters from every tiny finger.
The one changing those soiled diapers.
The one feeding the child who can't feed themselves.
The one pushing the child who can't walk.
The one mending their child's broken heart.
The one guiding their child to appropriate dress through strong opposition.
The one shielding a child through bullying.
The one lifting up the child who failed.
The one hugging the child who didn't make the team.
The one preparing their child to leave home.
The one releasing their child to the armed services.
The one helping their child overcome obstacles.
The one swallowing their child's diagnosis.
The one leaning over their child's casket.
The one wiping away every tear cried.
The one praying over their child.
The one offering ...

In Jesus' name.

The scary, the dirty, the beautiful.

Our kids remember everything we invest in them and everything we don't.

On the surface ...

I'd rather be doing this or that. Sometimes I want those white shorts, with white sandals, sitting prim and proper on some white sand.

But down deep ...

I don't want a shallow pretty. 

I want my hands and my heart to get dirty.

I want my kids to remember an investment, in them, in others, in God.

Remember when Mama did that? or My mama never did that.

I want to be a sower. I want to be a Mama-did.

I want to bloom deep and wide where I'm planted.

Walk me out, Father. Walk me out to dangerous territory, your dangerous territory. I want to reside in your world in this world. Take me out to the dirty work. Because that's where my roots will grow. Grow down deep. In good soil. Thrive. Really live. Last for eternity.

We only get one chance at this life. 

One chance.


What can you add to the dirty, dangerous, beautiful list? For your kids, your family, your friends, your animals? And how have you grown from the experience?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

When You Stop Coasting Through Life and Feel the Pain of Shifting Gears

The weather has been gorgeous. Shorts weather, y'all. 

The girls get on their bikes. My bike is in need of repair, so much like me, so it's nestled in the storage building.

I take off at a brisk walk down that county road. The girls linger near, pedaling slowly, to stay near me. They'll speed up a bit, circle back around, in order to stay near me. Their gears are so loose that they remind me of the "wicked witch" riding her bike in The Wizard of Oz. I resist giggling.

We reach the gate, the turning point. And I start a tiny, very slow jog. I haven't jogged in .... And it is obvious .... My oldest sees my slight jog. A slow smile spreads like the warmth of the rising sun on a cool morning. I know she thinks I'm ridiculous. 

She confidently says, "I'm going to ride my bike like this every day from now until mid-summer because I want to get my legs in shape."

As I jog slowly, putting one foot in front of the other very carefullycareful not to put my foot in a hole on our road or in my mouthI glance over to see her coasting. Trying to stay alongside me, at my slower pace, she only pedals every now and then, only to resume her coast.

My smile spreads. "I don't want to discourage you, but you won't build muscles coasting." 

She knows I love her with my whole being. 

She grins. She pedals fast and furious ... leaving me in her dust. "Is this better?" she hollers back. We laugh.

I keep my slow and steady jog. We pass our driveway and continue ... they want to go farther. I finally stop and begin to walk. She's reached the end, and she circles, heading back my way. I turn toward home. 

I hear her moaning and groaning. 

"Ow, ow, ow ... this stings." She laughs. "I changed gears." She's riding beside me now, barely able to turn those pedals. And the road is slightly inclined now. We've changed direction. And she's feeling the pressure.

"We won't be able to walk tomorrow," I say. "Nope"I've reconsidered"we won't feel it tomorrow. But two days from now, we'll feel it, and we'll have already forgotten what caused it. Why am I so sore?" 

We agree and giggle. 

"That's life," I say. 

Sometimes we coast through life ... all's good ... nothing hurts. Or at least it seems that way. Pedal fast and furious. But we're often uselessly weak. No muscle. But when the gears shift, and we feel the sting, that's when the real change comes. How tempting it is to break down and stop, shift to easy street, if only we could. But that's when we're building muscle. That's when we are gaining strength. 

When it's harder to pedal ... we slow down, we feel the incline, but we often see things along our path that we'd have never noticed before. Sometimes we're even able to stop and help othersuse our stings to encourage others.

God knows where we need to change, what we need to change, why we need to change. He knows the growth we needthe painful growth.

Even when the slow down is painful, I want to remember ... and I want to trust.

Father, give me the strength to pedal hard and far in the slow down.


What motivates you to keep pushing through the pain? Can you share a painful moment in life where you grew more in love with God, grew in strength? I'd say my first real painful growth was when my father left our family. It hurt so much, but I reached out for my Heavenly Father. And I love using those stings every chance I get.