Build a Wall

I remember the first and last name of the salesman at Best Buy who sold my Dad our first ever CD player in the early 90’s. A man named, Clyde, installed new carpet in my childhood living room over 30 years ago. For some reason I can remember things like this, but I forget the one important item on the grocery list when I go to the store. And once, when we were buying a new car, we discovered I forgot to renew our auto insurance. This is how my mind works.

 

I happen to think random people are placed in our minds and hearts for a reason. I happen to think it may not be so random. I happen to think encounters aren’t coincidences. I happen to think the Lord might just orchestrate opportunities for us to be a light in a dark world; a world that cheapens encounters by camouflaging them as being meaningless. I happen to think prayer is powerful.

 

Years ago, I met someone who told about a wall in her home that was covered in pictures of random people. She spoke about how she would take pictures of people she encountered, post them on her wall, and pray for the people she met throughout the year. I’ve wanted to use her idea from the moment her words fell on my ears.

 

I’m not sure what happened to Jeff from Best Buy. I’m guessing he cut off the mullet, shaved the stash, and moved on to other things in life. I wonder if Clyde’s knees give him trouble these days from laboring as a carpet installer all those years ago. If I had a picture of them, you could bet I’d place them on a wall so I’d remember to pray for them.

 

Although it’s early, I’m going to jump the gun and make plans for a New Year’s resolution now. I’m going to start a picture wall. It’s going to be full of color, shapes, and beauty only the random can provide. It will be anything but meaningless.

 

Think I’m weird? You wouldn’t be the first. Think it’s cool? Join me. Build a wall. Pray. Make a difference in the life of the people you meet long after your paths go separate ways.

 

May your encounters with others mean something. May your wall be full of people who are in desperate need of prayer. May your eyes be open to those around you, and your heart be full from being used by Him.

 

 

Photo Credit- Redd Angelo http://www.unsplash.com 

 

 

Great Christmas Expectations

Years ago, I took my toddler and infant to see Santa. I expected a fairy tale memory and a frame worthy picture from it all. After waiting in a horrendously long line, it was finally our turn to walk up to the jolly old guy. I had one child hanging on my leg crying and the other on my hip refusing to be placed in the stroller. I had no free hands to push the stroller or hike my sliding purse back up to my forearm. It was a scene straight out of a zoo exhibit with other Moms practically watching the whole thing unfold with their noses pressed against the glass. None of them offered to help. As I was trying to push and steer the stroller with an elbow, someone finally came to my rescue on the long red carpet. Santa himself rose up, stepped down off his throne, walked toward me, and met me where I was. As he reached for the stroller, my purse fell, and all the contents scattered in opposite directions. A baby bottle went rolling to the right and lipstick went rolling to the left. Santa (Bless his heart) chased after them all and put my purse back together again. Awkward.

 

Thankfully, my sense of humor trumped embarrassment, and I chuckled past the other Mothers giving me judgmental looks. Clearly they were perfect, their children don’t always smell like mustard, and they have more than two hands to juggle life. Good for them. I would have happily refunded their zoo admission, but I wasn’t sure which pocket Santa had crammed my wallet into. Alas, we ended up with a mediocre Christmas picture with Santa and a lesson for me to set low expectations for the future years.

 

This week, our five year old informed us he wants a television for his bedroom for Christmas. Our three year old wants a bounce house. Neither is going to happen. I handed out tickets to the “Let’s set realistic expectations” show this week. The reviews were gasps and blank looks of shock. What? I want a 24-hour a day/365 days a year live-in maid for Christmas. That’s not happening either. I’ll get over it. So will they.

 

Christmas isn’t about gifts. It isn’t about pictures with a kind old man in a red suit with a white beard. It isn’t about the show we may be putting on for others to see. It’s about The King of Kings stepping down from His throne, coming our direction, and meeting us where we are. It’s about the Son of God coming to us as a baby in a manger. Why? So He could help us on our way. So He could pick up the pieces of our lives that get scattered in every direction. So He could rescue us in every way possible.

 

The Christmas party could be a disaster. Your Christmas casserole might go up in flames. Family dysfunction might just make you feel like you are in a zoo. Your Christmas wish list may get nothing checked off. Your picture perfect Christmas may come up short of your expectations. The things of this world will disappoint us. But when it comes to the Wonderful Counselor, All Mighty God, we can set our expectations high. He does not disappoint. Keep your focus on Him.

 

May your expectations of this season be realistic. May your expectations for Him be high. May you see Him at work today and throughout this Christmas season.

 

Photo Credit Chelsea Francis http://www.unsplash.com

Don’t Blink

As I rounded the corner of the diaper aisle at the store, I saw a young couple filling their cart with diaper products. I silently celebrated how wonderful it was I wasn’t filling my cart with the same. I’ve past the diaper season of parenting (of which I often thought might never end) and survived. Barely. I’m still suffering the trauma from one child who, let’s just say, got our money’s worth out of each Pamper. He aimed at filling each one with the weight suggestion on the box. Most days he succeeded.

 

I debated over pointing at the couple and shouting, “Suckers!” while having a good laugh and joy riding the cart past like the mature inner woman I am, or hugging them while whispering a warning to not blink; because if they do blink, the season will be over and they will miss all the precious moments that come with it. Ultimately, I opted to smile at them and pushed my cart onward.

 

In the few days our Christmas tree has been up, I’ve picked up countless ornaments that have been knocked off from brotherly battles and giant plush pythons that mysteriously climb the tree while disregarding their bodies in space. My boys even emptied their entire underwear drawers and placed each pair on the tree as ornaments. To their credit, each one was strategically placed on different branches. I was impressed they weren’t all clumped on one sprig of evergreen. We’ve improved since last Christmas. Sure, it was a mess, but it was cute. Super cute. Plus they were naked, so there’s that. I realize that when I blink, the ornaments won’t be piled on the floor and underwear won’t be on the tree. The house will be quiet, and my boys will be on to bigger boy things that don’t need Mom as much. It will be great, and it will be painfully sad. As time flows through the hourglass, so do the days of motherhood. We blink, and the seasons are gone.

 

It’s bittersweet, this raising children gig. It’s hard work. It’s exhausting work. It’s the stuff that stretches us in every way possible, Stretch Armstrong style. But the seasons don’t last long. The hard ones go by fast in the grand scheme of it all, even though the seconds of it sometimes drag by. The precious ones go even faster. Can I be honest? If I’m not careful, I get so busy looking forward to the next season, the next goal, or the next milestone, I sometimes miss out on the beautiful parts of the season I’m in. And then, poof, the season is gone.

 

Are you in a tough season right now? Hang in there. Seasons always change. Are you in an easy season right now? Enjoy it. Seasons don’t last forever. Can we enjoy the moment we are in today for all it’s worth? Can we bask in it, survive it, and not rush on to the next thing? May we relish the day we are in, the gift the Lord gives us today, and be thankful for what it holds. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. We will blink, it will be knocking at the door, and yesterday will be gone.

 

 

Photo Credit- Liam Welch http://www.unsplash.com 

 

Light

I was hoping our waitress didn’t see each time I told my child to sit down, he sang a song about shaking his booty to make his brother laugh hysterically. Sure, I threatened to take him to the car if he didn’t start eating, but to be honest, I was too hungry and tired to follow through. Who was I kidding? I knew she saw it. Everyone in an 8 table radius saw it. I wasn’t aiming for any parenting awards, and lost my follow through motivation after the portable dvd player waged war against me a couple hours into our road trip. The boys weren’t all that angelic for our dining experience, my husband had a headache, and I was trying to rush the kids so we could get back on the road. She caught me eating a sliver of pie over by the dessert buffet. When she looked at me inquisitively, I explained to her I was hiding since the pie was something one of our kiddos is sensitive to. She smiled, patted my back, and offered me a cup of coffee. Each time she checked on our table, she chatted with our kids and made us all smile. It’s safe to say, I liked her. I liked her a lot.

 

As we were leaving the table to go to our car, our sweet waitress shook my husband’s hand and then hugged me goodbye. She either felt sorry for us, or she just really liked us. Either way, I appreciate a good hug, especially from someone like Ms. Barbara. The thing was, I was planning on going in for the hug first, but she beat me to it. So yeah, take that, dark world. Love isn’t as dead as you want us to think it is.

 

Barbara practically glowed with love and grace. I noticed it from the start. What we thought was going to be a pit stop to refuel physically, turned into a refueling spiritually for me. I love tangible reminders there is still good in this world. They feel like whispers floating down from God above saying, “I’m still here.” In today’s world, we need all the reminders we can get.

 

What would it take for you to be a light that shines as Ms. Barbara did in her restaurant near that interstate exit? Would it be they way you speak to your children today? The way you act towards your spouse this week? Could it be in the grace you show others when they aren’t on their best game? How about the way you love a random stranger you cross paths with?

Let’s look for opportunities and take them. Let’s send a message to this world that love is alive and shining bright.

 

 

Giving Thanks

 

For some time, after our Grandmother died, we longed for the broccoli casserole she had perfected in her kitchen. Eventually, my sister had a revelation, “Our broccoli casserole will never taste like Grandma’s because we don’t use expired cheese whiz.” It was true. The cheese whiz was the secret ingredient, and Grandma’s jars were always at least a couple years past expiration. And just like that, it was the end of her casserole era. Thanksgiving would never be the same.

Thanksgiving with my in-laws brought a bit of change at first. I grew up having small family gatherings where all of us fit around one table. My husband’s family Thanksgiving was bursting at the seams with a crowd of loved ones. I was quickly outed as a foreigner, to the group of southerners, when I referred to the dressing as “stuffing.” It’s practically sacrilegious to even whisper the idea of white breadcrumb stuffing while in the sacred midst of cornbread dressing. Even so, the family embraced me like one of their own from the beginning, and I fell in love with them and their turkey day traditions.

After the death of my Mother, many of our holiday traditions changed. She was the center of every family tradition, and then suddenly she was gone. We moved forward, with the heartbeat of change. However, our hearts were forever achingly different.

Sometimes change is easy. Sometimes change is hard. Somehow, during the holidays, the challenge of change can be compounded. I’ve learned, although still struggle with, the benefit and beauty of being present in the moment. How can you focus on the blessing of the now, when distracted by the fact it may be different than the past? How can we live in the moment if we are fearful of change to come in the future? How can we truly appreciate the day to the fullest?

As we sojourn through an ever changing world, we can cling to the fact there is One constant. The Lord of yesterday, is the Lord of tomorrow, and the Lord of the now. He is still on the throne. He is still in control. The now is a gift. It’s a beautiful moment wrapped up in a package with growth, love, and potential to prepare you for the tomorrow. There is peace there for those willing to sit with it, be okay with it, and be thankful for it, even if it doesn’t look like what they would have asked for. Beauty is revealed in this place.

Last night, I read a book to my boys about giving thanks on Thanksgiving. I intend to do just that this year. I invite you to join me. Whatever our Thanksgiving may look like this year, may we embrace each moment for what it has to give. May we be grateful, thankful, and expectant of its beauty and blessings.