Day 94: Who is He ~ Creator

For the last month, I have been asking God each morning to teach me something new about himself.  I thought I would share His answers with you.

I am more than Creator, at least in the way you understand creation and creativity.  I am more than the Inventor of all good things.

Can you grasp the infinite and detailed explosions of life that came about simply because I spoke?

Can you grasp the glorious display of light and darkness and the depth of color that came from that same spoken voice?

You cannot.

But oh how I love it that you try.  Trying to understand me shows me that you care deeply for me.  So keep trying my sweet girl.  Keep trying.

All that to say, He is indeed so much more than I understand or am able to imagine.

Day 93: 30 Years

We met in the Student Union of Louisiana State University.  Mike was a grad student, and I was a young freshman.  I don't know how it is in colleges today, but in those days, you pretty much lived in the Student Union unless you were in class or in the library studying (or out drinking somewhere . . . LSU, ever the party school!)

My first impression of Mike was not all that great.  On many occasions we played SPADES together and he was the worst cheater in the world!  (Well, technically he was a great cheater b/c I never actually caught him cheating, I just knew that he had!)  He was cocky and arrogant and a tremendous know-it-all, and he had the most annoying way that he snapped his fingers when he won a hand.

But he was also brilliant.  And I was failing college algebra.  So we struck up a bargain.  I agreed to go on ONE DATE with him if he would help me with my algebra.  So he did.  And I made an A.

The night of our first date happened on the same night that I was in a bowling tournament being held in the Student Union (I know you're laughing right now, it's okay.  Enjoy the picture that is in your head.) 

When my friends found out that I was going on a date with Mike Jones, one of them handed me a quarter and said, "If he tries anything, you call me immediately and I'll come get you."  (yes, pay phones were a quarter and cell phones didn't exist yet!  It was over 30 years ago!)  Mike was a notorious womanizer.  Hard to picture, but it's true.  His reputation preceded him.

But our first date was, well, it was magical.  He tells me all the time that he knew on that night that I was "the one."  It took me until the third date (which was 2 days later).  And 18 months later we were married.

What an incredible ride these 30 years have been.  We have experienced so much joy together; the birth of our sons, and the unexpected joy of our daughters.  And we've experienced incredible loss; the loss of a parent, the loss of a child, and the loss of incredible friends. 

And as in any ride, we have had many ups and many downs.  There have been times that I have awakened and wondered why in the world I ever married that man, and times when I have awakened and wondered how I ever got so lucky.

All that to say, Happy Anniversary Mike Jones.  Here's to 30 more!  (That totally has to happen!  We have 3 year olds!)

Day 92: IN spire

If I have learned anything in life it is this; you will never shame anyone into doing anything of value. 

Don't hear me say that you can't shame people into doing things.  I am living proof that you can!  In fact, anyone who has ever had a mother has been shamed into doing something (my kids included . . . but they may not comment on this blog!)

While shame might produce short term desired results, it's not a great motivator for change.  It's not a great mobilizer of movements.  It produces guilt, a guilt that says you must do something in order to be valuable or have worth.

But I believe that the very gospel I live by says otherwise.  It's not based on shame.  It's based on love.  And the same God who loves me, inspires me to serve Him and serve others.  He doesn't guilt or shame me into it.

I've been thinking a lot lately about inspiring people, especially as it relates to serving others.   And because I'm a word nerd, I looked up the word inspire and found this:

Inspire - <latin> inspīrāre to breathe upon or into

It's most literal meaning is to breathe life into something or someone.  It doesn't mean to suck the life out of them.  That word would be expire, which also means to die.  We don't want to "expire" people; we want to "inspire" them.

Inspiring someone to do something means giving that something meaning, giving it life.  Think about your words the next time you want someone to do something.  Will those words give life or will they produce an opposite effect?  Will they be filled with life or filled with shame?

All that to say, speak life.  (and serve others, because your life will never be the same when you make a difference in someone else's life!)

Day 91: Driving for Dummies

I often think that if I just had a road map to life, I would be a better driver (it's an analogy, go with it.)

No more wandering aimlessly, no more taking wrong turns, no more dead ends, no missed exits (I could keep going with this, but I won't.  You get the point.)

But that's just the thing.  I don't really think I'm supposed to be the driver because there is already this perfect trip planned for me.  The trip of a lifetime.  Complete with adventure and drama and exhilaration.  It's a great trip.  Not a trip without peril or pitfalls or dangerous curves.  But an incredible trip nonetheless.

And though I know all of this, I cannot help but want to drive.  Repeatedly I reach over, grab the wheel, and steer wildly out of control. 

I've seen the results of this. 

They aren't pretty.

Yet still . . . I want to drive.  I need to drive.  I have an insatiable urge to take over and drive like a criminal in a getaway car.  Because I think that driving myself equals freedom.  I mean, I have the freedom to drive if I want, so why shouldn't I drive?  Why shouldn't I be at the wheel?

All that to say, I've never really been good with maps anyway.  You'd think I'd be content to ride and leave the driving to the Professional.  You'd think . . . you'd think.

Day 90: Responsibility

I don't blog about my work very often, usually because all of my blogging space is consumed by stories of my children and family or inane happenings as I go through life.  And, I think in part because blogging is like the "other" part of me, the part that doesn't get much opportunity to be set free at work.

I'm not saying I'm not the "real me" at work.  Because I am.  Complete with my many flaws, just ask my co-workers, they'll verify that for you.  Just saying I don't have much of a venue for annecdotal writing there.

I was up all night thinking (not worrying) just thinking about work.  I have the incredible responsibility of trying to help people find real, true, authentic community through small groups.  You'd think this comes naturally, and I suppose in a way, it does, but there is also a part of it that is awkward and difficult.  (Enter my team and me).

One of the ways we do try to help people find community is through an event called "Connection Point."  We didn't invent Connection Point.  It's more of a morph of several other churches' On-Ramp into small groups.  But the basic premise is people sign up to be in a small group with 8-10 other people.  We assign them to groups based on either their stage of life or geographic location, or both whenever possible.  Then we have a big event where they all get to meet each other and get to know each other.  Sort of like one giant blind date.

This past weekend we had a Connection Point, and as I looked out at the sea of people we had placed into groups, I couldn't help but wonder if they were in the right group.  I feel such responsibility for them.

What if their group is terrible and this is the first time they have ever tried being in a group, so they don't have some great memory of that "one group" that will help them ride out this bad one, so they give up on groups and never try again? (I thought the length of that sentence would give you an idea of how this feels in  my head!  It helps if you read it really fast! Go back and try it again.)

I talked to a lot of people at church yesterday who told me they loved their groups.  So you'd think that would be enough for me.  But I can't help but think (not worry, think) about all the groups I didn't hear from.  Were they okay?  Did they hit it off? 

I think I want people to love their groups because I know what an incredible gift it is to have a group of people that you can go through life with.  People who share your victories and burdens as though they were their own.  People who challenge you to be a better person.  People who love you with all your flaws and idiosyncrasies. A group like that is an incredible gift, and I want that for everyone.

All that to say, I really do want world peace. :)  And great groups for everyone!

Day 89: I Can See

I am fed up with my vision . . . meaning my ability to see things or the lack thereof.  Simply put, I cannot see. 

So I am forced to have a pair of "readers" with me at all times.  Leaving home without them has been disastrous at times and embarrassing to say the least.

I have had to ask waiters to read menus to me. 

I have squinted so hard to try to see something that I smeared my mascara (now I know why old ladies ALWAYS have smeared mascara!)

I have called strangers because I couldn't see the numbers on the phone I was dialing, and I have sent hundreds of misspelled text messages, often saying something I didn't intend to say because I couldn't see that "autocorrect" had changed my word.

I HATE my vision.

So I finally broke down and went to the eye doctor.  And I left with contacts in my eyes and the ability to see!  I was so excited about the idea that I could see more clearly.

When I got home, I started to cook dinner and I realized that my stove was dirty!  Bummer.

Then I went into my bathroom to put away a hairbrush, and I realized my bathroom sink was dirty.  What in the world?  I wanted to see more clearly, not more dirt!

And then I made the mistake of looking up from the counter into the mirror . . . when did ALL THOSE WRINKLES get on my face?

My mom told me later that the reason that God fades our eyesight when we get older is so that we don't realize just how old we look.  Pretty sure that's not true.  But, as I have said many times, everything is a trade-off in life.  Good vision . . . see the dirt and the wrinkles.  Bad vision . . . no dirt, no wrinkles, but you pretty much can't see anything else either.

All that to say, I can see clearly now . . .

Day 88: In Good Company

This past weekend some good friends came to visit us from Georgia. These are people we love dearly and count among our closest friends in our lives. Our time with them is rich; filled with laughter and good food, and catching up and lots more laughter.

There is something special about really good friendships, especially ones that stand the test of time and distance.

These are the friendships that add value to your life. They are the ones made of people that you might not even see or hear from for a long time, but let a tragedy or something incredible happen in your life and they are the people you call.

These friendships might not always be easy. In fact, if they are really good friends, you will have had some conflict along the way. Maybe even major conflict. But your ability to resolve the conflict and move forward most likely makes the friendship that much sweeter.

We were created to live in community by a communal God. I believe this at all times, but I feel it most deeply when I have been in the company of friends.

All that to say, we love you Ray and Cathy.

Day 87: Peace

Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord, our God. Psalm 20:7

I waited outside the doors of family court this morning.  I had been briefed on what to expect as it related to our hearing today.  Pretty simple stuff, really, in the grand scheme of things.  We would ask the court for temporary orders that would give us custody of the girls until a permanent determination for their placement can be made.  The decision for permanent placement could be over by Thanksgiving, or it could take as long as 18 months. 

Short version of the story.  We were awarded custody.

The day was not without drama, none of which I can really share with you, and none of which really matters anyway, and none of which is the point of this post.

As I sat in the hallway outside the many family courts (there were like 8 courtrooms, not just one),  I was struck with this thought.  "People's lives are being devastated all day long in this hallway."  There was an overwhelming sense of despair and hoplessness there.  You could almost touch it.  You could most assuredly see it.  It was etched deep into the lines of the faces on display.

There was a young woman crying, her mother comforting her.  There were two very jaded CPS workers discussing the merits of their case.  There was a woman and her husband of 18 years who were divorcing and fighting over their house and children.  At one point I leaned over and introduced myself to her and asked her if I could pray for her in some way.  She leaned her head back against the wall, closed her eyes, letting one tear slowly fall down her cheek and whispered, "peace.  just pray for peace."

 And there was no privacy for anyone.  Attorneys and clients and plaintiffs and defendants all argued and discussed their cases right out there in the open.  I was overcome by how little diginity anyone was afforded.

I leaned my head back against the wall, closed my eyes, and prayed for peace.  Peace for Arnita who was losing her children; for Tawnya who was losing her husband and her family, for court workers and cps workers and judges who have become so jaded by all they have seen over the years. 

And I said, "Lord, I realize that each day I fight not to place my trust in man and all our many systems.  I can only trust you.  You are going to be my only sense of peace; my only sense of hope in all of this.  Make me strong enough not to be tempted to trust anything or anyone else."

All that to say, today was a win for us.  And I am celebrating that.  But for some reason, I feel like mourning, and I feel a tremendous weight for those I encountered today.  God give them peace.

Day 86: Toe Woes

After my long run yesterday, I decided to get a pedicure.  Yes, I am spoiled that way, but don't judge me.  It's one of the few things I do for myself, and I typically schedule it after a really long run because I get my toenails done AND a leg and foot massage.

So yesterday, I got one.  I was sipping my ice cold beverage (provided by them) totally relaxing when my person started talking to me.  Now everyone who is anyone who ever gets a pedicure knows you don't want to be talked to.  You want to sit with your eyes closed and soak in the silence, OR you want to read  the latest copy of PEOPLE magazine.  You most assuredly DO NOT want to converse.

So she introduced herself (okay, I guess that's not talking, technically) but then that required me to say my name, and that was bound to open up all kinds of doors.  But, being socially savvy as I am, I said my name in return, which, as expected, opened the conversation door.

She proceded to tell me about how she and her husband were having this big huge fight because she asked him to go see a movie and he told her they just saw it two weeks ago and she totally knows he's cheating on her because she would remember if she had seen a movie and what kind of a fool does he take her for.  (yes, I know that's a run on sentence.  I was making a point)

Then, back to silence.  And more foot rubbing.  Bliss.

Then her phone rings, and it is set to train whistle.  Awesomeness.

She starts telling the person on the other end of the phone the same story she told me and then she says, "Oh no.  Really?"  And then she laughs really REALLY loud and says, "Okay, thank you daddy. Don't tell him though."

When she gets off the phone, she apologizes for taking a call in the middle of my pedicure and then tells me that she was laughing because her dad told her that he had babysat a couple of weeks ago for her while she and her husband went to see a movie.  APPARENTLY she was very, very drunk and had completely blocked seeing the movie with her husband.

Story over.  More foot rubbing, onto leg massage.

The lights go out (I wish I was making this up).

As we wait for the lights to come back on (I'm thinking I'll just have a really long massage) she calls her husband to apologize.

Finally, she polished my toenails, overcharged me by $5 (I didn't complain, I just wanted to be done) and I left.

When I got outside, I realized that having your toenails polished in the dark is not a good thing.

All that to say, Oy.

Day 85: Ours

I find myself sitting and watching the girls, of late.  Studying them with an intensity that would probably make them uncomfortable if they noticed me doing it. 

When I watch them play and they mimick something I do or say, I think to myself, they really are mine.

When they climb up on their stepstool in my bathroom and pretend to put on make up or do their hair, and they go through the same motions that I do, I think to myself, they really are mine.

When they behave in some undesirable way, I usually think, they get that from Mike. :)

But today I was struck by this thought.  They really are ours.  In every way that matters, they are ours.

They are woven deep into the fabric of our family.  They are our daughters.  They are Zack and Jacob's sisters.  They speak the language of us.   They are ours.

I think, however, that I have been afraid to say that outloud, for fear that someone would come and rip them from our home, from our family, from us.  And the fear of that as been pretty overwhelming at times.

But we prayed for freedom the other night, and I realize today that I need to be freed from that fear.

So I release it.

Because my living in fear won't change it.  In fact, living in fear won't change anything.

But by releasing my fear, I will live without the burden that comes from carrying it.  And I say yes to that.

All that to say, they are ours, and I am not afraid to say it.