Some Days You Hit a Boulder, the Pool Goes Green, and Someone Gets an Ear Infection. Today Is That Day

Before we begin I need to clarify one thing: I’m not whining. This post isn’t about me moaning about my horrible life, which I will be the first to admit, is really quite wonderful. I realize that in the grand scheme of things the following problems are not even problems.

They’re distractions, yes. Irritations, absolutely. But I can think of a billion people who would trade places with me in an instant. I simply present the following stories to you for your entertainment and possible spiritual edification, not because I think I’m a princess and life must be perfect.

Now that we’ve settled that, here– take a look at our pool. Notice anything amiss? Like the color, perhaps? Green pool=bad pool. Our second saltwater chlorinator has decided to take a pooper on us. We’ve had it for a whole seven weeks! I should call the company that manufactures these pathetic items and speak to customer service, but I do not have the emotional strength.

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Now let me present this photo which, at first glance, is less than impressive. I apologize. It’s the bumper of Gertie the Minivan. Please notice what appear to be giant scratches, like a giant dragon burst forth out of the pavement and attacked my precious Japanese automotive product. Sadly, what really happened is that I hit a boulder in the pharmacy parking lot. I wish it was a dragon, though. That would have been way cooler.

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

I was at the pharmacy because Audrey has a massive ear infection today, so painful that she just went back to bed after getting up. She missed an entire day playing with friends, that’s how badly she feels. And Caleb has a sore throat, so we’re going through meds like a cruise ship filled with old people.

Exhibit C

Exhibit C

These things have moved from minor irritations to major irritations because we’re leaving for North Carolina tomorrow. I’m heading to She Speaks, a conference put on by Proverbs 31 Ministries, one of the largest women’s ministries in the United States. Maybe the largest, I don’t know.

I went two years ago, and let me tell you what happened then. Twelve hours before we needed to drive to Detroit, our car started freaking out. It was fine, then it was throbbing and hesitating and acting possessed out of nowhere. We obviously couldn’t trust it for the two-hour drive to Detroit, so we called a friend who owns an extra car.

Ryan happened to be out with a lady friend at the time, so he said he’d bring it over when they were done with dinner. The evening grew longer and the car hadn’t arrived. I started pacing and staring out the window, wishing Ryan was an old man like the rest of us and he ended dinner at 5:23 like a normal person. Finally we went to bed, not sure if we’d have any car to drive to the airport in the morning. (I don’t remember why, but it seems to me like our second vehicle was in the mechanic’s shop. We couldn’t drive that one, either.)

I woke up at the crack of dawn and ran to the kitchen window, and POOF. The BMW fairy had arrived in the middle of the night just like he’d promised and dropped off his spiffy little SUV for us. The key was sitting on a tire, waiting. We made it to the airport with no problems.

So, I know you’re all wondering what my point is. Here’s my point: Satan is a jerk. I’m not one to thank Jesus every time I find a good parking space and blame the devil every time I crash into a big rock, so take this with the sober voice I deliver it: Satan is a jerk for real. Whether you believe in the concept of spiritual warfare or not, the Bible speaks of it clearly. Whenever a group of God’s people get together to talk about how they can be about God’s business, things are going to get ugly.

But I haven’t found an ugly problem yet that God can’t work around, so I’m going to keep loading up the old people, I mean the children, with meds. I’m going to slash the pool and do a celebration dance right after lunch. And then I’m going to give Gertie a pat and tell her it just gives her character.

Because I don’t have time to get distracted by a jerky old invisible thing. And you don’t, either.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, and against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:10-12)

 

 

 

 

 

Ta-Da! Here’s the New Website for the Novel, If You’re Interested in Such a Thing

It’s been a blue moon since I’ve blogged.

But I have good reason! And now, if you’re willing, I could sort of use your help. I’ve been working on the manuscript for Dove and Lindy, a novel I’m taking to a writer’s conference next week. I’ll be pitching it to editors and agents and anyone who will sit still long enough to hear me yammer. 

Just kidding. Yammering at writer’s conferences is extremely bad form. You get three seconds and then the listener’s eyes glaze over and you’ve lost them.

Since you might have more than three seconds to spare on my behalf, could you do me a huge favor? Here’s the link to the book’s blog site, right below, in red. Can’t miss it.

Dove and Lindy: A Novel

Could you pop over there and give it a look? If you find writing errors or other glaring problems, please let me know. Just leave comments on the page where you find the problems. This link will take you to the sample chapters, but feel free to inspect the rest of it if you have the time. 

This will save me the keen embarrassment of an editor finding any mistakes next week, assuming he or she is interested and takes the time to visit the site. 

 dove and lindy: a novel

And if you’re a praying kind of a person, please keep the She Speaks conference in your prayers next week. Hundreds of emotionally overwrought women are headed to the same hotel in North Carolina. We’re going to make great connections and learn a lot, but we’re also going to be exhausted and overwhelmed about 10:37am on Friday. 

Don’t ask me how I know this.

Except maybe I skipped a few keynote speeches the last time I was there because I just. could. not. absorb. anymore. 

While I’m there I’ll also be networking for my real, actual, about-to-be-published book that comes out in the spring. Above all, I need to be focused on being a blessing to others, smiling, making them feel welcome, and getting over myself. Because there is no room for ego in this ministry, let me assure you. 

So pray my ego doesn’t get out of hand, I guess is what I’m asking. 

I’ll keep you updated with short blogs while I’m there. Heck, maybe even from the sessions if I get overwhelmed. Some of my funniest stuff comes from being stuck in uncomfortable meetings. You might be in for a treat!

After this conference is done, I fully expect to be back to blogging more than once every ten days/weeks/months. I hope you’re okay with that.

Readers, thanks so much for all you do. Thanks for reading and contributing, and now thank you for taking a crack at Dove and Lindy’s website. I couldn’t do any of this without you!

Jessie

What to Yell When Your Preacher Gets Sassy from the Pulpit

I was paying attention yesterday during the sermon, and it was a darn good thing. Because suddenly, without warning, I became a sermon illustration. The Holy Reverend (or Jason, as we call him) was talking about St. Peter and how he lets people in to heaven, or not.

(Please do not send me or Jason hate mail about the theological inaccuracies in the last sentence. We know, we know. He was proving a point. (Jason was proving the point, not St. Peter.))

Jason mentioned that Shirley’s kid will probably get into heaven because she’s so sweet. Then he added that probably St. Peter will not allow any kids of Jessie Clemence through the pearly gates because she smokes cigars.

(The cigar-thing is a very long story and we don’t have time to get into it here, but trust me– the church understood.)

And that’s when I started heckling the preacher from the back row, where I sit each week. I yelled some things, which means I totally ignored 1 Corinthians 14:34, which in the New Living Translation includes the following words: women, silent, submissive, and law. I’m not good at putting those four words together in any instance, let alone when the preacher is trying to get my goat somewhere in the middle of Galatians.

Jason shouting

And then Jason made another wisecrack and then I yelled “That’s tomorrow’s blog post, right there, bub.”

And he said, “You’re welcome.” Then he continued with the sermon. My husband was snorting in laughter from the sound booth and I don’t know where Jason’s wife was, but she was probably rolling her lovely eyes and smirking a little, somewhere near the front. Quietly.

I am not as holy as the minister’s wife. And I am okay with that.

I don’t feel bad at all about the verbal volleys with Jason, but I do sort of feel bad about using my blog as a weapon. Here’s the thing– bloggers make people very nervous. I get a lot of “Hey, watch what you say. We’ll be on the blog tomorrow.” or, “Oh, jeez. Now Jessie’s going to write about us.” And people shift nervously in their seats and refrain from adding any more to the conversation.

I’ve been trying to tell people they don’t have to fear what I write about them. I don’t want people to worry I’ll put their personal details or our conversations on the blog. But then I went and blew it all by using my blog as a way to silence a sassy preacher.

Sometimes my mouth works faster than my good intentions.

Can anyone else relate?

Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way. James 3:2, NLT

 

The Cat, the Window, and the Rainstorm: Your Blogger Tries to Put Together Coherent Thoughts at 6:29am

WhapwhapwhapthudMEOWwhapwhapwhapthudthud. Meow, meOW, MMMEEEOWWW.

I got out of bed and shut the window, then crawled back into bed.

WhapwhapwhapwhapwhapwhapwhapwhapTHUDTHUDmeow.

I rolled over and sandwiched my head between the pillows.

Friggin’ cat. I could still hear him through the giant earmuffs my pillows had become. He often wants in, or out, or in then out, at the buttcrack of dawn. But generally he’s not so loud. Finally I had to acknowledge that I certainly wasn’t sleeping, so I might as well get up and let the beast in. As I headed to the door, I realized why he was so loud– he was sitting outside a window, beating on it with his considerable girth, in the middle of a cold rainstorm.

Poor baby. I suddenly became the loving and concerned pet owner I promised the Cat Adoption people I’d be. The poor cold kitty had been locked out of his warm garage all night!

Nope. I tested his cat door. It was working just fine.

He’s just too stubborn to use it. He’d rather sit in the wind and rain than go in his cat door.

“Dumb as a box of hair” is the phrase that comes to mind.

I opened the big door, and he came sailing in. All soaking wet, 12 pounds of him. He looked up at me and gave one last howl and then ran for his food and water. Now he’s flopped over on the carpet, exhausted from the tragedy he brought on himself by being too mulish to use the door we provided for him.

By demanding his own way into the house.

And suddenly my spiritual life is splayed open before me. How many times do I demand my own entrance into God’s blessing? How many times do I ignore His precepts and loving direction, then get angry when my life is cold and wet?

I hate it when the cat and I have something in common.

John 10:9-10

By the End of Today We Will Own Two Spoons and a Toothbrush

As a wife, I have many irritating qualities. One of them is my tendency to read long passages of a book to my husband. I had no idea of how horrible this was until my own children started reading me long passages out of the books they were enjoying, and then suddenly I realized I’d been torturing my husband for more than a decade.

Sorry, dear. So sorry.

I’ve tried to get control of myself lately, but sometimes a book is so good or funny I can’t help myself. Sixteen pages into The Big Tiny I lost my resolve to keep my reading material to myself and started reading to Eric.

It might have been earlier, actually. Perhaps page 2. I’m hazy on the exact page.

But the book is just so good and funny that I can’t help myself. Dee Williams, the author of The Big Tiny, had a health emergency (a wonky heart), causing her to choose a new life path. She literally doesn’t know if she has a year left, a month, or an hour to live. (Neither do any of the rest of us, but at least she has one of her issues labeled by the medical community).

So, of course, she built an 84-square-foot house. By herself. With a wonky heart. 

Photo courtesy of yesmagazine.com

Photo courtesy of yesmagazine.com

She sold her big house and got rid of almost everything, from her beloved art to her extra soy sauce. Now she can work part time and spends her life investing in the people around her– caring for an elderly neighbor, playing games with the kids next door, and volunteering. Also watching a lot of crappy Netflix, just like the rest of us.

I picked up this book because I have this not-so-secret burning desire to get rid of everything and live in the simplest, least-chaotic way possible. I don’t want to have any bills to tie me down, I want insurance to be a thing other people need, and I don’t want to trip over 19 pairs of flip flops and a garden clog when I try to let the cat in each morning.

Nor do I want a cat. But we’ve already discussed this.

As I read this book I get lulled into Williams’ prose, then startled awake by conflicting thoughts: I can do this, too. Wait a minute, no I can’t. Then I go back to reading and find another paragraph like this, which makes me want to try anyway:

Moving was hard, but not impossibly horrid, and in fact, over the long haul I found it incredibly liberating. After a short bit of time it became more like stripping naked on the beach, kicking off your clunky shoes and pulling your shirt off while simultaneously using your foot like a hand to yank off your sock, preparing for the way the warm sea will feel against every dimple and fold of your body. Letting go of “stuff ” allowed the world to collapse behind me as I moved, so I became nothing more or less than who I simply was: Me. (The Big Tiny, pg. 175)

This sounds wonderful, but is this for me? More importantly, is this for us? I’m not operating in a vacuum, here. Dee’s circumstances (single/no kids) allowed her to shed her old life and then invest more in relationships and people. Her choices have enriched her loved ones. I’m afraid that if I did this I might traumatize my children and husband. They apparently have no interest in getting rid of everything except two spoons and a toothbrush, sharing a wheeled home so we can glean fruit and take it to the homeless shelter each week.

Is there a happy medium that works for families? What do you think? What burden or responsibility would you most like to shed, and what would you have to do to release it?

Then [Jesus] said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

The Unintended Consequences of Owning a 150 Pound Dog

I know what you’re thinking–“Does this woman ever blog anymore? Or has she fallen off the blogosphere and taken up a less stressful hobby, such as: dynamite production, deep-sea shark taming, or (perhaps my favorite option) professional ballet?”

Yes, I do still consider myself a blogger, although certainly not as frequent as I’d like to be, and no I haven’t fallen off the blogosphere because I believe that’s technically not a thing, and I don’t engage in activities involving explosives, sea life with teeth, or tights.

I’ve just been working on a manuscript for a novel like a madwoman. The other day I stayed up until 11pm typing away while my husband slept next to me. Normal for other people, unheard of for me. I do love my sleeping times.

And this weekend we went on vacation with my family which sucked all the rest of my blogging time down the tubes. Picture 12ish slightly cranky people in a house together for five days. Four of these people were children. One was a Great Dane.

Did you catch that? ONE WAS A GREAT DANE. Imagine buying a small donkey and then taking it everywhere with you. This is the life my brother and his wife lead. They just bought a new car that better fits the dog. The dog’s food comes in shrink-wrapped packages that cost approximately a pound of gold bullion each month. The dog requires a pen that could house a family of refugees, medical insurance, and also constant monitoring lest he runs away/eats something poisonous/eats a human. So, really, cross a small donkey and a toddler. Ta Da! A Great Dane.

I don't think I mentioned to Michelle that she was making her debut on the blog today. Hey Michelle--you're going to be on the blog today.

I don’t think I mentioned to Michelle that she was making her debut on the blog today. Hey Michelle–you’re going to be on the blog today.

Chuck and Michelle don’t mind. They love Moose like people love their children. They calmly follow him around and make sure he doesn’t die. Except for one little thing does get exasperating– the attention they get when they leave the house. My brother explained before we all left together that everyone always asks the same questions, and then we got to see it for ourselves. Seriously, you cannot go a block without a conversation about the dog:

Q: How much does he weigh?
A: 150 pounds.

Q: What’s his name?
A: Moose

Q: If he stands up, how tall is he?
A: When he stretches out on his rug, he’s about seven feet long.

Q: Do you have a saddle for him?
A: No. Sigh.

And you know what’s hilarious about this? Watching my brother handle all this responsibility and social interaction. HILARIOUS. This from the child who spent most of his childhood running around the farm and shooting things, being sassy and also disappearing into the bathroom for two hours whenever he was scheduled to do the dishes. The boy who went off to college and forgot to call us for four years. And now he’s a full grown man who takes care of a beast without complaint and then answers the same questions over and over and over again.

This is my point–parents, there is hope. You are doing all this work and there are days when you feel sure you’re raising a hoodlum. Nothing is getting through. The schoolwork, the manners, the Bible classes, nothing. It all seems to be bouncing off their rock-like heads.

Well, take a look at our Chuck. He’s grown up to be kind and responsible and godly and he married a wonderful woman. Maybe some day your own child will own a donkey and buy a car to fit it.

You can only hope.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Ephesians 3:20)

 

If This Small Group Gets Me Pregnant, All Heck Will Break Loose

On Saturday night, somewhere in the middle of a plate of tacos and a cup of frozen custard, I think I accidentally signed myself up for a truckload of trouble.

Pray for me.

It’s graduation season here in Michigan, which means that parents of high school seniors host large parties, feeding hordes of friends and family. Of course Eric and I wanted to wish Collin and Geoffrey well, but also (and this point cannot be understated) the food at these parties was going to be excellent. Collin’s mom is known far and wide as an excellent cook. Overheard repeatedly: “Did you taste the salsa?” “This is my third plate.” And “Wait a minute, where’d you get those beans?”

We left Collin’s party full and happy, and headed to Geoffrey’s party to eat more. Geoffrey’s dad is a part-owner of our favorite frozen custard joint and they had a sundae bar, thank you Lord. Overheard: “Congratulations-Geoffrey-holy-cow-did-you-see-they-have-peanut-butter-sauce!” 

So I may not have had my wits about me as I started talking to our minister. I was high on tacos, people. I can’t be held responsible. I may have asked Jason how things were going, and he may have mentioned we need more small groups at the church so we can get people plugged in. We have a lot of new people, but our congregation finds that small groups really help to build those relationships a healthy church needs.

So. Jason also mentioned one of the small groups needs a place to meet. And he may (again, due to my taco intake I don’t remember the specifics) have suggested our house because we have room. I sort of remember exclaiming, “That’s why we bought the house!” Which is true, because we made sure the new house would work for these sorts of things.

At some point in the conversation Jason pointed out a crucial fact: three couples are already actively involved in this group, and all three wives are pregnant. These are not good odds, and obviously there is something wrong with the air/water/food when these people get together.

His warning was clear. The small group is coming anyway, and we’re even thinking of inviting two other couples we know from outside the church who are also pregnant. I mean, why the heck not? Let’s up the ante.

The year? 2003, probably. I can't explain my bangs or why Eric's wearing a starfish on his shirt.

The year? 2003, probably. I can’t explain my bangs or why Eric’s wearing a starfish on his shirt.

I’m taking my chances because I remember those days of pregnancy and new babies all too well. They were exhausting and I was a basket case. I needed women to come alongside me with clear heads and patient words to keep me steady, to remind me a sense of humor might be the only thing to get me through the day, and– most importantly– to pray for me.

I hope it’s my turn to offer that to new families. Eric and I can be the ones a few steps ahead, taking babies out of tired arms and praying for people who haven’t had a whole night of sleep for months.

I’m hoping God isn’t using this experience to trick me into having another baby. Just in case, I’ll be drinking bottled water, wearing a mask, and bringing my own sealed food to all meetings.

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:13-14

(Lord, you proved your point with Sarah. I believe. I have learned her lesson, Father. Thank you and amen.)