Because Jesus

Tonight I was thinking. If I can’t sleep, which I couldn’t, and I’m too tired to read, which I was, and it’s too late to watch TV, which it is, sometimes I play Merged or Sudoku on my phone. I recently downloaded a Sudoku app and learned the concept. Only 8 years behind every other American, according to Todd.

“Now you could sit down in a room full of Kindergartners and have a lot to talk about,” he said to me last week. Isn’t he clever? He said this. I didn’t make the quote up so you’d feel sorry for me. I have graduated from Easy to Medium on my app. I was rocking the Easy level. I absolutely bomb at Medium. And I still cannot say Sudoku when prompted. I flip flop between SoDUko and SuDOku.  Sheesh. Perhaps this is why I can’t master Medium.

At any rate, I was too tired for any of that tonight, but evidently not tired enough for sleep. So I just sat for awhile with my thoughts. I thought about the fact that out of 3 school supply lists and 52 items that have to be purchased before Wednesday of next week, I have ordered 4. From Amazon.  I just couldn’t bring myself to buy anything else on Amazon when I knew Walmart was selling the same thing for a nickel. At least one child needs new uniforms. There are 4 open houses and one kid entering high school and many, many teachers to meet. I thought about the cards that arrived in the mail with the names of the girls’ teachers. In the past, I’ve gotten myself all tied up in knots about these cards and what they represent. I’ve worried over the teacher choices…even attempted to request who they should have or should NOT have some years.

Tonight I realized how small it all is. How insignificant. And worrying myself sick over something like school supplies or teacher choices is a luxury that means life is pretty easy otherwise. Because if the big things are in place and fine, then you have time to nitpick the little things.

This year I didn’t worry about the teachers and I haven’t purchased the supplies. This year I have other things on my mind. Questions. Ponderings. Lists in my head that are weightier than a 3 pack of post-it notes. I run the questions through my head but there are no answers trailing after. And I replay the things I’m pondering but today looks the same as yesterday.

And still the school supplies.

I mean.

But tonight, ensconced in the melodrama, two words came to my very slow, very quiet brain.

Because Jesus.

The little stuff doesn’t matter. Because Jesus. It’s all okay. Because Jesus. The what if, the why, the when, the open-ended unwrittens.

He overcame the world. I can do all things–ALL THINGS–through Him. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Because he overcame the world, even the big stuff doesn’t have to pin me or paralyze me. Can I? Do I? Will I? Is there?

The answer to all of it is the same.

Because Jesus.

Now I just have to go DO something about that.

 

 

 

An anniversary

I am back from more than 2 weeks away. As much as I love to travel, and I really do, I was feeling the need to be home for many reasons. Home was calling. But as I perused Facebook this morning before getting up to face the day, it shared a memory with me. Sometimes I scoff at these memories and sometimes I’m extremely grateful. Today I’m grateful, because I hadn’t thought about this particular moment in years. The trip, yes. But the injury, I had conveniently forgotten. This was one of my kids’ favorite trips ever, though I did everything in my power to sabotage it. If you are bored enough to read a post from 4 years ago, here’s the link. Today, it’s all I’ve got. The rest is laundry and appointments.

Pride goeth before a fall

The bathroom and the sacred space

Well, I guess I fell off the consistency wagon. Again. But life does have a way of being lived and the kids aren’t as squishy or cute as they once were. And as they age, their insanity increases, but so does their need to remain private and not be mocked by the internet. All of this limits my material to some degree. I mean, I have stories. I have at least one kid shopping for portable finger pricking kits on Amazon so he or she can administer home Diabetes tests to the extended family. We eat too much candy. That seems to be the message there.

But I can’t write about any of that in great detail. It just wouldn’t be right. Entertaining, yes. But not proper or considerate. So some days, we just live and do our best. And some things don’t get written down.

Having been traveling for the last couple of weeks, I have noticed a trend that I’m ready to just briefly discuss.

It’s about the bathroom.

I am staying in my in-laws’ house, on the same large tract of land with my sister in law and a great uncle. There are grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, and cousins roaming between 3 houses at any given hour of the day. With all of these great choices, I find that I don’t see my children nearly as much in a day as I do at home. In fact, in the last 3 hours I have only seen my youngest, who is sprawled out in the family room floor making a stop-motion video that is sure to be both bizarre and disturbing. Don’t even ask about the iMovie I watched last night. I’m reaching out to some experts for help because of that one…

At any rate, in a situation like mine this week, hours go by without a child asking for or needing anything.

Until I need to use the Little Ladies’ Powder Room.

I know other mothers out there are nodding emphatically here. It never fails. You need to go potty and they need you. Desperately. They haven’t tripped on the sidewalk in 6 months, but if you go to the bathroom, they’ll sprawl flat on the stone steps outside and need 17 staples to the head. They haven’t been hungry in days, but the moment, you turn the lock on the bathroom door, or start the water for a shower, the wailing sounds of starvation can be heard on the opposite side of that door.

Where is my clean Miami Heat shirt? Where are my blue striped socks? Can I have a can of pinto beans? I just soiled my shorts. I have a cramp in my leg. I can’t find my deodorant. My brother just tattooed me with a Sharpie and posted it online.

You get the picture.

Whatever is going to happen will start to happen while you’re in the bathroom.

Sometimes, they knock and just want to have a chat. Seriously. They want to chat through the door while I’m in the restroom in a house full of people. Sometimes they want to come in. To watch. And chat. And chat while watching.

So here’s what I want to say about that.

There is NO HUMAN I want to open the door for or chat with while I’m in a business meeting in a locked bathroom. NOBODY.

BFF? No. (Sorry.)

Obama? No.

Resurrected Ronald Reagan? Tempting, but no.

One Direction? Great hair, but No.

Matt Damon? No.

Various cast offs from previous Bachelorette seasons? No.

Bono? Well…..

I don’t want to know who got booted from America’s Got Talent or what just happened on the Today Show.

Now. Go sit down on the couch and fold your hands in your lap and wait for me to emerge. I don’t even want to know you are waiting for me. Just sit there. And wait. Go hither from whence thou came.

Bathrooms are sacred spaces.

There. I said it. And now that I have, nothing will change.

#flush

When evil looks you in the eye

When I wrote my post this morning, the biggest thing on my mind was the baby donkey activity in Condo 302. As the day progressed, I discovered that the dude next door in Room 203 likes to lie around on his double bed next to the window with just a t-shirt and boxers. Dude. Close the blinds.

And when I went to dinner tonight, all I was thinking about was getting back to play Awkward Volleyball. It is every bit as bad as it sounds. It’s like we are intentionally trying to stink.

But after dinner, upon walking back into a very normal Room 202 (nothing to see here, folks), we turned on the TV briefly. That’s when we discovered that France had been attacked by another utterly evil madman. Second verse, same as the first.

It’s strange to me that it is still possible to experience shock, as often as we see this type of terrorism. But it is. I was shocked all over again. And maybe I felt more shocked tonight because I’ve had such a peaceful, joyful week. Tonight all I felt like doing was watching the news and crying.

I had to tear myself away from that agenda, though, because volleyball promises had been made and needed to be kept. So we played. It was mostly a game of “shout the person’s name with an indignant tone who just hit the ball into the sand spurs” and chase the ball. The goal was to come away with no sand spurs. Rarely were there 2 consecutive volleys. We made two friends on the beach and enjoyed them very much. They knew how to play the game and still hung out with us and tried to high five us on occasion. They talked about France and fear and hope.

At 9:30 I came in, still thinking. And as I sat here in front of my laptop, I thought about writing another letter to my kids. Another small word of encouragement to provide a candle’s flicker in a dark room. The TV was on. The headlines were scrolling across the screen. And my kids were unaffected. They weren’t reading the headlines or listening to Todd and I talk about it. And I realized then: they don’t need my letter. They aren’t looking for a candle. Because their world isn’t dark. Their world is still intact. Full of light and security. Their mom and dad and siblings and cousins were all in the same room. They’d just played themselves silly at a sport they didn’t understand at all. They had beds to sleep in, bibles on the kitchen table, and electronics in their laps (yeah, I know. Better to have the bibles in their laps and the electronics on the kitchen table. Give us time…). They do not yet feel the fear. Because we are their safety and their light.

So this post isn’t for them. This post is for me. For you. For friends. For parents trying to raise God-fearing, life-respecting children. For anyone feeling the fear. For anyone trying to push back against the darkness.

This is for us.

We live in a world of lost souls, some malicious and some just wandering blindly. We live in a world of mass media and instantaneous information. We live in a world of terrorism and evil. I don’t know that it’s necessarily worse now, but it’s definitely more frequent. And the moment it happens, it is everywhere. On every channel, timeline, blog, account, and conversation. We talk about gun control. If only we controlled guns better, we could fix this. Well, I’m not a gun owner or a gun hater. I don’t own one because I don’t see the point and I’d certainly shoot my own leg off within 24 hours of getting the permit. But tonight’s attack in France settled the matter in my mind. You take away their guns and they’ll get into a semi and drive into a crowd. Crazy is what kills. Evil is what kills. Take away one weapon, they’ll find another. Fight me on that if you want to, but I won’t fight you back. I’ll just ask you to meet me on the beach volleyball court and we’ll settle it like athletes.

No, it is the heart of a man that kills another man. And maybe there’s a point to carrying a weapon to protect a crowd against a madman, but that is not my role and never will be. I cannot wield a weapon of any kind.

I’m tempted to live in fear. Avoid public celebrations. Cower. But that’s no good either. It’s like trying to constantly sanitize my hands only to find out I was the first one to get the flu. I can’t control that.

So what can I do? What do I do? What do WE DO?

Ephesians 6:10-18
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

I do have a weapon at my disposal. It is my Bible. But it can’t stay on the kitchen table. I have to know it, be filled with it, and carry it as my sword. My faith is my defense when a semi drives toward me or a man aims a gun at me.

Ecclesiastes 12
12 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along,[a] and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.[c] 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with[d] every secret thing, whether good or evil.

God will judge. I will not fear.

Tomorrow I will try harder — I must try harder — to fill up with what is important. To spill out to others what fills me. To be a light so that those lost souls wandering might look to Jesus. The malicious ones will never look. But the wandering ones might.

I can’t control the evil, and I can’t make it go away, but if it looks me in the face, I can look up.

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Behind Condo Doors

My life is hard.
I’m at the beach this week. Try not to be angry if your locale is much unglier or less pleasant. If it helps, I had to bring the kids with me so it’s not a total vacation.

All week I have listened to the walking upstairs in Condo 302. So much walking. Walking at 1 a.m. Walking at 6 a.m. Always walking. Are they running some sort of ER triage up there? Is it a an all-night zumba class? It has tripped me up many times, because it sounds like the steps are inside my condo. I can’t count the times I’ve sat up in bed after midnight, waiting for a child or a vengeful apparition to enter. But no, it was none of that. It was whoever or whatever is living in Room 302.

All week I have asked myself the question, “Do I really want to know what’s going on up there in Room 302?” I mean, it could be something quite unsavory. Something that puts my life in danger. Something that will put an image in my head I can never get out.

Finally I know the answer to that question.

Yes. I want to know. I HAVE to know about the walking. I don’t even care if it’s weird or sordid or warped or boring or mundane. I HAVE TO KNOW. Are they raising baby donkeys? Is it a meth lab? Why are they always walking?

I’m gonna find out.

While I don’t yet know what’s happening in 302 (to be continued), excepting that me and someone up there are now on the same 3 a.m. bathroom schedule, I can tell you in too much detail what’s been happening in 202. 

We rented a paddleboard and many people expected me to die on it. I think a few even rooted for that. I wish I could tell you a better story about that. I wasn’t as bad at it as I expected. I only fell twice in about 90 minutes of doing it. The second fall was right at the end of a great ride and all I had to do was step off the board and be done. Instead, I hit a breaking wave and fell super awkwardly in knee deep water. I went under. It’s difficult for a person of my size to go under water when the water is knee deep. I came up 9 feet from a pre-teen boy who had the biggest smile on his face I have ever seen. I brought him much joy right then.

We also played with fire. It took a stranger sitting on a wooden beach chair to get anything to light for us. First, the poor man who just wanted time with his family had to help us get a tiny sparkler to light. When one of those finally lit, we used it (per the man’s wise counsel) to light the big NEON sparklers. Neon, my FOOT. Who cares what color they are in the daylight, people. It was dark. There was no neon. They were the same color as any other spark. Sheesh.

We burned through 45 sparklers in less than 7 minutes. Since that had gone so well, we figured, HEY, how about let’s try our hand at Japanese lanterns. Enter Poor Stranger again. The guy just couldn’t get away from us. It took 8 of us and him to get that lantern to take off in the wind. When we looked around after jumping and cheering, half the balconies of our building were filled with silhouettes of people watching and cheering also. Or maybe mocking. Hard to tell in the dark. We named our lanterns. The first one was Jerry Sprinkles McGillicutty. He disappeared fast. The last lantern, also done with the help of our Strange Angel, was Babar Zazu Chimichanga. That one burned for a long time. Chimichangas can do that, you know.

The water is 92 degrees. It is beautiful to look at but rather unpleasant to submerge in. I know. First world vacation problems.

I gotta go. I have business up in 302.

If you never hear from me again, I pass the mystery onto you. Except by then it will be two mysteries: (1) What was happening in 302, and (2) What happened to Missy.

boysatbeach

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These are the strange and frightening mannequins at the paddleboard place.
 

Keeping it Short on Friday

If I were interested in keeping it real, I would post what I wrote up on Wednesday and would also have left today’s title, “Keeping it Shirt on Friday.” But you don’t need MY real. You have enough of your own. Also, true to my typical pattern, I probably won’t keep it short anyway.

I have a kid performing in his first ever concert tonight. He has resisted performing until this moment. Even in kindergarten, he would only hold the cloud. He wouldn’t sing. When the song blared “You raise me up,” he’d raise his cloud just enough to cover his face. It was any parent’s dream concert. Tonight he’s the drummer. They are doing We Come Running by Youngblood Somebody and Speed of Sound by Coldplay. They just learned these songs on Monday and most of the band members are 12. We made him go to this camp. Signed him up without his permission. He said it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Right after the 9 months he spent in my womb and my awesome parenting. He said that.

Speaking of awesome parenting…last night it wasn’t. It was not a smooth night. It was like a modern day Lord of the Flies. I would walk out of the room and things would be fine. When I walked back in, I was forced to reach for the tranquilizer guns we do not own. Some children were sent to bed an hour early with no personal screen time.

As Todd and I were wandering the upstairs hall solving problems, he walked past the girls’ door, where the following signs were displayed.

“Uh oh,” he said, pointing at the door. “Apostrophe catastrophe.”

Two things were wrong with this. One, the actual catastrophe. It’s pretty bad. And two, the signs had been up for a week and I hadn’t noticed. I’m going to chalk this one up to parental neglect.

Which could be the reason for the Lord of the Flies. Good thing it’s the weekend…

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The seedy underbelly of winking

Winking should not be done. Period. It’s awkward. The occasions that call for an appropriate wink are probably less than 50 per year, worldwide. Yeah. I’m standing behind those numbers.

If you have ever winked at someone or been winked at, I’m talking to you. Take a step back and think about it. Let’s think about when it works (besides never).

  • Person catching the eye of a friend to signal inside information or a private joke of some sort. Like, hey, WE GET THIS and no one else does. You look like a jerk to everyone else, but to that one person, you’re a hero. So go for it, I guess.
  • Person winks at younger person to acknowledge some sort of achievement, like on the sports field or at a performance. It’s a little patronizing, though, even in this case, don’t you think? You think you are saying “good job” to them, but it really translates to “good job, if you’re medicated and have a concussion” because of the wink.
  • Person winks at potential dating material. It can work, but it’s creepy. And outdated. You really want to date an old person?  No. Then don’t wink. Cuz that’s what you’re gonna end up with.
  • Little kid winking at anyone and everyone, but they have no control over their eye muscles, so it just comes out as a violent double blink. It’s cute if you are 3 or under.

I went through a winky phase, which lasted way too long. If the phase had lasted an hour, it would have been too long, but I think it actually lasted about 2 weeks. There are people all over Florida that are probably still creeped out by what I was doing with my face. Sorry about that.

But then something new happened. People decided that since winking was so successful in person, they would invent a way to do it online. People turned to emojis. Some Japanese guy invented it. The world embraced it.

I rejected it.

For a long, long time, I rejected this technology out of sheer stupidity. But the craze didn’t end. It got bigger, and fancier, and more colorful. Before it was over, there were smiling hershey kisses representing whatever you might suspect. And there were country flags and holidays and broken hearts and ghosts wearing eye patches. But there were also faces. Lots and lots of teeny, tiny faces. Where I had once rejected the practice out of principle, I was now forced to reject it due to my failing old person eyesight. Emojis are not for the ancient folk. Honestly, I have friends who are just a few years younger who send them to me and I have no idea what they are saying. I can’t see it. Not one bit. Can’t see the eyes, the mouth, anything.

If you want to offend me and get away with it, do it through Emojis. I won’t know. But if you try to say something nice through emojis, i still won’t know.

Sometimes I try to rise above the challenges and use them. That is the biggest mistake of all. What do they mean? What is the message behind them? This first guy…is he angry about a sinus problem? Allergy season? Why are his eyes closed? Are they swollen shut?

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And this guy. What is the HUGE drop of water coming from where his nose should be? I have NO IDEA what this means. I can’t even venture a guess as to the mood he’s in. Confused? Sleepy? Afraid of books?

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This guy. This guy appears on my phone with the same smile and many different types of eyes. What do closed eyes convey over open ones? Guy who has made a serious error but is still smiling and is afraid of impending pepper spray. It has to be that. Otherwise his eyes would be open.

While I was typing this post, my daughter sat down across from me at a table in a skating rink and asked me a question. I answered her question and then winked at her. I didn’t do it to prove a point or make a statement. I did it out of misguided instinct. Old habit.

She didn’t recognize my gesture as a wink. So I grabbed my phone and texted her this guy as if to say…?

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