Let Us Draw You a Mermaid

A few weeks ago I asked my friends on Facebook for summer fun suggestions. I rashly promised to try them all and then blog about them. As you can imagine, I haven’t done a one of them, and I apologize. The summer just flew by and is now about to screech to a halt. We have errands today, a visit with great-grandma tomorrow, a weekend trip, and then ka-boom! School starts.

Audrey and I did have time for one last little activity yesterday. We found this book in the library, and I said, “Hey, Audrey, wouldn’t this be fun?” And she agreed in that way that kids do when they think their parent is kind of nuts, but don’t want to be rude.

So we brought home our Mermaid and Fairy drawing book and gave it a go. We spent a happy hour, laughing at our attempts at art. Not a bad way to spend an August afternoon. Here is Audrey’s fairy:

And here’s my fairy. So far, not so bad.

But then we tried mermaids, and things got kind of wild. Probably we shouldn’t have started with a harp-playing mermaid. It was a little more complicated than we were competent to draw:

And now, here is my attempt at the mermaid. Yes, I know there is something wrong with that back arm. It’s way too long and doesn’t have an elbow. Also, her butt is enormous. She’s a fleshy gal; just leave me alone. Mer-mans like a little curve to their lady-fish. I think.

And that is the end of summer activities in this house.

Whew.

The Trust Series: Accomplishing the Impossible

In the last Trust Series post, I asked you to think about your greatest anxiety of the minute.  That was cruel of me; I apologize, sort of.  I don’t apologize all the way, because it was just plain necessary.  But I do promise that today we won’t be dragging your worst fears out of the closet into broad daylight.  They can stay hidden today.

But I do want you to picture your biggest challenge of the moment.  What major hill are you climbing?  For me, it’s parenting during the summer.  I really want my kids to grow up and say, “Hey, my mom wasn’t perfect, but she loved me. We liked being together.”

But when my kids are parents themselves, they are probably growing to grow up and think, “Holy cow!  I didn’t know summer was so fun!  Why was Mom so dang crabby all the time?”  I’ll tell you why–I stink at this!  You know how some people can take a group of children and energetically lead them through the day?  Camp counselors and elementary school teachers come to mind.

I ain’t no camp counselor, friends.  I love, love when my kids are in school.  Then I volunteer in their classses, and everyone has a schedule that works well.  But back to you–what is your challenge of the moment?  Perhaps you’re working through a rough time with your spouse, or your mother-in-law has moved into your house, or your neighbors are coming home from the bar and driving their lawn mower up and down the sidewalk at 3:00 a.m.  We all face challenges that push us out of our comfort zone and demand more than we can offer alone.  More patience, more faith, more grace, more shutting your mouth and not screaming, “Shut up and go to sleep, you drunk, lawn-mower-riding lunatics!” out the window.

But again, back to your life–you think up your challenge and let’s look at Matthew 14:25-31.  Jesus was walking on the water, right out to the disciples in their itty-bitty boat.  And Peter, our daring disciple, hollered out– “Hey, Jesus!  If it’s really you, can I walk out to you?”

Let’s stop here for a minute and just think about this. What made Peter even ask this?  If you are in the boat, and Jesus is coming to you, why would you ask to hop out and walk on the water too?  The boat is comfortable.  The water is wet.  (And deep.  And full of things that can eat a tasty disciple.)  Why would Peter leave his comfort zone?  I think it’s because he trusted Jesus enough to try something amazing with Him.  But let’s pick up in verse 30, where it says:

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

When Peter was looking straight at Jesus, all was well.  He was correctly focused on the One who could manage the sea, so how could he possibly be in danger?  But when the wind distracted him, he began to realize that he had no business walking on the water.  He got scared, he lost faith, and he started to sink.

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  “You of little faith,” he said, “Why did you doubt?”

Indeed!  Why are we doubting?  I firmly believe that God allows the circumstances in our lives–the good and bad, the easy and hard, the fun and not-fun.  He knows our past, present, and future.  And He isn’t sinking in the storm, so we won’t either.  Because He won’t let us.  His hand is right here, waiting to grab us by the soaking tunic.

So for the rest of the summer, I am going to focus on Jesus as He helps me parent these kids.  I am not going to focus on the five weeks we have left (35 more days, 840 more hours, and 50,000 more minutes).  I’m going to seek to bless my kids with some fun activities and patience.

Bored into a coma

As for you, focus on God as He takes you places you can’t go by yourself.  Let me know what you try, and how it works out!

And if you have any solutions to the neighbor issue, let me know that too.

Mother’s Day, Part 2

More than thirty-five years ago, a woman gave birth.  To me, specifically.  I’m sure that many of you were born in the 1970’s but we don’t have time to talk about everyone’s story.  I apologize.  So, back to my own mother giving birth—I have heard the horror story of the twenty-three hours of labor she endured before I finally emerged.  And then, after she finally got through the painful part, I refused to nurse well and then was colicky for months.  So you can see that I was just a joy as a baby.  My siblings are lucky Mom didn’t have just one child and twenty cats.

This is part of what makes my mother so wonderful.  She is by nature a very gentle woman.  She is willing to put up with the frustrating tendencies of others without fussing or judging.  She doesn’t push her opinion on anyone.  She never calls me up and gives me orders or unsolicited advice.  And when she just really can’t stand it anymore and she has to say something before she explodes, she prefaces it with, “I don’t mean to offend you, but…”

She says this maybe once a year.  I can’t even remember the last time she said it.  This makes her a wonderful companion on road trips and through difficult experiences, like the time I smashed her new car into the back end of a garbage truck.  There’s nothing like being in tremendous pain in the back of an ambulance and then hearing your mother on the verge of tears on the other side of the door.  “Is that Jessica Morgan you’ve got in there?” she asked the EMT.  My mother’s panic nearly pushed me over the edge.  Did she yell at me?  No.  Did she give me a guilt trip for years?  Not really.  She would occasionally look at an Oldsmobile and wistfully mention that she owned one for a few weeks.  With leather seats.  And I need to be honest, she hasn’t had a car that nice since and it’s all my fault.  I’m going to try to make up for it in the coming years when I let her move into my house and bring her cat.  And Dad, too.  If he wants to come he is also welcome.

James 3:13-18 says this:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. (NIV, biblegateway.com)

My mom’s gentleness comes from her genuine concern for other people.  She doesn’t give in to envy and selfishness.  She chooses her words carefully because she knows the effect they will have on the listener.  I have personally benefited from the harvest of righteousness that she sowed in peace.  Do you know what it’s like to be with a woman who understands about gentleness and peace?  It’s lovely.

Thanks, Mom!  You are lovely.  And I love you.

 

 

Mother’s Day, Part 1

In honor of Mother’s Day approaching, we’re going to have a litte chat about my mother-in-law, Cheryl. I know that Cheryl isn’t going to read this post because chances are good that she doesn’t know I have a blog, doesn’t know what a blog is, and doesn’t actually turn on or operate computers. Or cell phones. Or tablets. In fact, she finally gave up her rotary-dial telephone just a couple of years ago. I am not making that up. She refuses to acknowledge technology more recent than 1975.

But that is the worst thing I can say about her. And if that’s the worst thing about a mother-in-law, then I’d say I have no grounds for complaints. Some of you out there have been suffering with unpleasant in-laws for years and would trade places with me in an instant. But I won’t trade with you, because I’m keeping her.

My mother-in-law is kind, funny, and always willing to babysit the kids when we need to go out. But most of all, she is generous. Many people are willing to share from the excess in their life, like “Hey, I just realized I have twenty t-shirts. Do you want a couple?” Or, “I just bought ten pounds of cheese. Would you like a slice?” But it’s rare when a person goes without so they can give away what little they have. Like when you’re cooling your very hot house with two little window air conditioners, but you give away one of them to a person who doesn’t have any. Or when you give generous amounts of money to your family, but cook with pots that have no handles, on a stove that has two broken burners and an oven door that hasn’t shut for fifteen years.

Last year for Mother’s Day we had all had enough. We bought Cheryl a new stove. Seriously, the woman needed a working appliance. Could she have afforded one for herself? Of course! But she didn’t want to spend the money on herself, so she made the old one hobble along for years longer than necessary. She’d rather give away her money to those in need than buy things for herself. That’s why she drives an enormous old van that we (all the kids) have seriously dented and smashed on all sides. That’s why she buys herself no more clothes than absolutely necessary and that’s why she cooks with a pot that has no handle.

At Thanksgiving she handed me that old broken up thing and asked me to make gravy. Then she said, in all seriousness, “Don’t burn yourself.”

“Um, thanks. I’ll just use this hot pad on the leftover screw to the broken handle and try not to pour boiling gravy down my front.” I succeeded, by the way. No boiling gravy scars anywhere. 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 says:

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”[a]

10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (NIV, biblegateway.com)

That’s the secret of Cheryl’s generosity. She knows that God provides all her needs, so sharing means that God will pour more blessings into her life. Sometimes I wonder if she’s challenging God to a giving battle, trying to get down to bare bones just to see what He will do. God will do this for anyone who shares. He’ll bless us with our material needs, and He will bless us spiritually. He has unlimited resources and He wants to share them with His generous children.

For Mother’s Day this year, we’re buying Cheryl a new pot to go on that new stove. I’d like to buy her a whole new car, but I don’t think that’s in the budget this year. Maybe next.

Later this weekend I’ll post Mother’s Day Part 2 about my own dear mother. But that one will be a bit harder, because she’s my mother. I’ll have to think this one through very carefully.

Help with Chores

There are two kinds of parents in the world: those who love to teach their children to do all sorts of chores, and those who would rather do it all themselves.  It’s easier to do it all ourselves.  As adults, we have all sorts of physical and mental advantages when it comes to chores.  We’re taller, so we can reach higher places without everything crashing on our heads.  We’re stronger, so loads of laundry can be carried quickly and easily.  We have decades more experience, so we understand why scrubbing the toilet with someone’s toothbrush is a bad idea.

Teaching kids all this stuff takes a long time.  A five minute chore can take twenty minutes when broken down into kid-sized parts.  Here are two examples:

A Mom and Child Doing the Laundry Together for the First Time:

“The laundry detergent goes in this slot.  No, not that one.  That’s for bleach.  No, not that one; that’s for softener.  Softener makes our clothes nice and soft and it smells nice.  No, you can’t bathe your stuffed dog in it.  It’s just for adding to the end of the wash.  Now we need to put in the dark clothes.  No, that’s not a dark towel, it’s pink.  I know it’s kind of a dark pink, but it’s the wrong kind of pink.  Okay, now turn on the water.  No, we want a warm wash.  Not the long cycle, the quick one.  Your brother is out of clean underwear and we have to leave in an hour.  No, he can’t wear yours.  Why don’t you go help your father in the garage?”

 

A Mom Doing Laundry Alone:

Open washer.  Put in laundry.  Add various detergents and softeners.  Close washer.  Start wash.

 

I think we can all see why millions of adults now wander through life with no idea of how to do laundry.  Their mothers just couldn’t take the stress.

I also think it’s clear what kind of a parent our Heavenly Father is.  He’s the kind of parent who lets His children learn everything themselves.  He takes a hands-off approach to parenting.  When was the last time God physically showed up and did your chores?  Or handled that big meeting at work?  Or worked your shift in the church nursery?  If we’re honest, sometimes it feels like God hands us a heavy workload and then disappears out the door without us.  The weight of our responsibilities can seem too heavy to carry alone, like handing a child a paintbrush and telling them to finish the exterior of the house by lunch.

A mature Christian knows that no matter what the situation, God is never far from us.  Our Heavenly Father lets us learn, make mistakes, and grow through the process.  But He never leaves us.  He is never overwhelmed by our tasks or chores.  He is more than capable to handle our needs; His arm is not too short to save.  We only need to ask for His help and then trust that He is able to reach us when we need Him.

Here are some verses of encouragement if you are wondering where God is today:

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.  Isaiah 59:1

When I came, why was there no one?  When I called, why was there no one to answer?  Was my arm too short to ransom you?  Do I lack the strength to recue you?  By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert…  Isaiah 50:2a

My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations.  The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.  Isaiah 51:5

Our Heavenly Father is right here!  His arm is strong and waiting to save you from whatever situation is too much for you.  Trust Him today; you are not out of His reach!  Just like when your child cries to you for help and you run to assist, God is listening for your call.