The Change Train Is Chuggin’ Down The Track

 

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Change is an interesting creature.

I call it “creature” because it’s a dynamic, living, breathing, sometimes-monster-appearing thing that can embrace me like an unwelcome hug. It can feel warty and weird because it’s not often invited. Rarely appreciated. Often reviled.

Kind of like a politician.

Change can bring wonderful opportunities for fun and adventure. New experiences provide a chance to explore areas of my character that I don’t often trot out for public viewing. Those areas that require me to let go of the “doing” part of my personality and relax in the “being” part. That part is often kept under lock and key by the “doing” part.

My daughter, Melody, and her daughter, Sloane, are staying with us for several weeks. A real delight for us, because Sloane is our c1947d74-97c9-406b-8aed-fa700be884fcnewest grandchild.

Change happens with a baby in the house.

Noise becomes an issue. My noise. I’m loud. I yell through the house to talk to John when I’m in another room. Mel is constantly shushing me because the baby’s asleep. The TV is too loud. I turn it up so I can hear it from whatever room I am in the house. Mel turns it down.

Then there’re Sloane’s noises.

She’s yakky for a little girl. She coos–really. And because she eats so quickly, she’s gassy.

She cries. It’s her way of communicating what she needs. At eight weeks of age, I can try to help her vocalize her opinions with clarity. It won’t work.

Sloane is a baby. I understand what she is and isn’t capable of doing at this age.

I drift into thoughts that she should be acting more like my older grandkids. Who are of an age where you can reason with them. (Not always effectively.) Where you can tell them what they need to do, and they do it. (Not all the time.) Where you can help them understand the consequences for unacceptable behavior. (Which doesn’t always work.)

75ada848-9cc1-47f6-9512-97799b21f33cSloane is a reminder that change is a daily occurrence. Every day is a new learning opportunity for her. She’s in a state of constant amazement at what she’s discovering. She’s not always comfortable with the changes–Mel is great at discerning her needs, but sometimes there’s something more that Sloane can’t help her understand. Crying shows her frustration.

Crying shows my frustration.

Change is relative to how I’m feeling about my world. If I’m in a good place, feeling well and have a handle on things, change is a fun challenge. If I’m tired, fearful, confused, or overwhelmed, change is a trial, a testing of my strength and will.

Jesus reminded us that this world wouldn’t be what we expect it to be. It isn’t ever a truly safe haven.

But He is.

Change will happen whether we’re prepared for it or not. Some changes look like horrible storms, seeking to sink us in despair or defeat. Other changes are gentler but can be annoying because  they’re unexpected or unplanned.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. A constant in my life that supports me when I’ve got nothing left. The constant that allow me to embrace what I’m not willing to deal with.

For Sloane, growth is constant change.

Maybe dealing with change is an area of growth for me.

Go figure.

 

 

 

 

If It Looks Alive, Is It Really A Zombie?

 

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Having been away from home for a chunk of time this summer–away from the responsibilities of maintaining said home–we came back to surprises.

Should have been expectations.

Dead–or mostly dead–cockroaches flopped belly up in various nooks and crannies. The legs still wiggling on some.

Old milk in the refrigerator that no one bothered to throw out.

Our tower garden bit the dust.

It was a sweet gift from my kids for Mother’s Day. A guaranteed opportunity to grow vegetables.aab3d242-5114-4601-abb8-9c73998b4d06

Constant sun with no water has a tendency to promote death.

Or so it appeared.

I was stunned to find a little cherry tomato hanging on an apparently dead vine.

Obviously not completely dead.

It made me think of zombies. Walking dead. Things that are dead but have a semblance of life. When we cut the withered and wasted parts back, pruning to see if there was any chance it would grow again, it was truly lifeless.

My tower garden was a zombie plant. It looked awful–spindly, brown, withered. That little tomato was a mockery to what it no longer was.

We’d only had it a couple of months.

Fact is, everything needs water. People, animals and plants deprived of water eventually die. Our need for it is part of our biology.

At times I forget to drink water. I get involved with whatever I’m doing and ignore my thirst. Or I think it’s something else. Like hunger.

I know what happens when I’m not hydrated. My legs cramp. I get fuzzy-headed and headachey.

Like the Snickers commercial, I’m not quite myself when I’m not drinking water.

Jesus made the claim of being a fountain of living water. The kind of water our souls thirst for. That which satisfies our hearts’ desire to be connected to the One who made us. To know Him so we can grow to be who He knows we can be.

I’m often looking for the next supplement or plan that will help me feel better. Be stronger. Whether it’s exercise, a new protein drink, a new time management plan or organizational skill, I’m hoping to be more vital in what I do. How I live.

When what I need–we all need–is Living Water. Jesus.

courtesy of skepticink.com

courtesy of skepticink.com

With water, we have to drink constantly to stay refreshed. It’s not something we can overlook without consequence. As a follower of Jesus, I can’t sip a little one day and ignore who He is in my life for days or weeks on end.

I become a spiritual zombie. Which pretty much looks like a real zombie. No real life.

He tells me to keep coming to Him to drink of His truth. Which I need to do to reflect Him genuinely to others.

The world sees a lot of us spiritual zombies and judges Jesus based on us. We’re not living fully in Him–and it makes others think He has nothing to offer, if this is what His people are like.

We all need His living water. Constantly.

He brings our wholly dead selves to life. Forever.

Wholly alive.

Better than being a zombie any day.

 

 

We Are Family

Every man, woman and child has begun the same way.

I’m no biology wizard, but I do have six kids. It takes an egg and a sperm to make a human. The combined effort of a man and woman–however that might look.

Generations with the new guy.

Generations with the new guy.

We all have family–the biological reality that our individual gene pools are made up of those who’ve gone before us. We’re not something new that has appeared on the scene from nowhere. There are people in our background that impact who we are, what we look like, what we’re capable of.

We’re part of a bigger picture. Like it or not, families are part of us in ways we can choose to enjoy or choose to distance ourselves from.

I got to enjoy the amazing part of family this weekend.

My niece, Kate, is getting married to a genuine sweetheart of a guy named Alex. Mom, my younger sister and I hosted a shower for her at her folks’ home–my twin sister. We were surrounded by family, friends, people I’d never met and folks I didn’t remember.

The blissful couple.

The blissful couple.

But it was a celebration of family. One of our own is getting married, and we all came together to recognize the significance and enjoy the promise of hope that this represents.

Alex was a trooper. My family is a bit quirky–as all families are. Meeting aunts, cousins and a feisty grandmother can be daunting. We do get in each others’ business. We are more than a little opinionated. But he loves Kate. For that reason he did his best to get to know all of us.

Families are connected by a thread of DNA that runs through us and creates relationships that are binding. You may hate the fact that you have a nose like Grandma Gertrude, but you can’t deny she’s a part of who you are. It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. Truth is truth.

There’s a bigger family that many belong to who have chosen to be Jesus followers. We’ve discovered the love and compassion of a heavenly Father who chooses to love us. Who gave us His Son so we could be His child.

I guarantee you we don’t all agree. Or get along. Or like each other. Or trust one another.

The foundation of the family of God isn’t based on those He’s called children. It’s based on His character alone. Which means we who are His will always feel accepted. By Him. Never rejected. No black sheep. No unloved prodigals. No grudges held. No holding past mistakes against us. No comparison to someone else in the family. No failure. No shame. No guilt.

We all grin alike.

We all grin alike.

There’s only love blended with grace that makes us worthy of the One who made each of us.

Family isn’t easy. We’re different. We’ve moments of being cantankerous, ornery and disagreeable. But we’re connected.

Alex is marrying a wonderful gal and  becoming part of an incredible family. It won’t be perfect. But it’ll be fun.

Being part of God’s family here? It won’t be perfect.

But it’s rich, deep and diverse.

That’s family worth belonging to.

Maybe we need to lean into each other like this family of mongooses. And yes, that's the plural of mongoose.

Maybe we need to lean into each other like this family of mongooses. And yes, that’s the plural of mongoose.

 

 

When Love Fills Your Heart

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Loss is never easy. When people leave our lives, whether through moving or loss of relationship, it’s tough to process.

When someone leaves because of death, the grief takes a new twist. The reality of not seeing that person again in this life speaks with a finality that hurts deeply. Things left unsaid, gestures left undone can’t be resolved here. Grief is the result of when we’re forced to give back that which we were never meant to keep in this world.

Which is why I have such gratitude for the knowledge and hope of seeing friends again who knew Jesus.

My friend, Michelle, has been struggling with cancer for years. A disease that is so debilitating and uncaring, it stripped her of many of her abilities to do for herself and to cope with the busy life she’d maintained for years.

But it couldn’t detract from who she really was. A woman after God’s own heart.

I got to know her when she began working with my kids when they were in high school. Leading them in Bible studies. Being a listening ear when they couldn’t–wouldn’t–talk to Mom. Encouraging them in truth. Tender in her exhortations. Always pointing them back to the gospel.

She encouraged my heart continually. My parenting, my writing, my relationships. She was a woman of great discernment who could see past the exterior and value what was truly inside.

I’ll miss her smile. She led with it. It was that smile that spoke loudly of how glad she was just being with whoever was in her presence. She enjoyed life and people.

She enjoyed Jesus most of all.

I’m not deifying her. Not only would that be wrong, but she’d laugh at someone thinking she ever thought herself as all that. She had her limitations. As we all do.

She had a gentle, compassionate way about her that helped those who knew her to feel loved and valued. She celebrated uniqueness and individuality. She cherished people for who they were. Authenticity meant something to her. She valued it. Lived it. Expected it from others.

Though never given the gift of biological motherhood, she cared for, nurtured and loved scores of students as if they were her own children. They knew they’d hear truth from her, but they never questioned whether or not they’d be accepted. Michelle had a way of extending grace to others that made her a beautiful reflection of Jesus.

Michelle, you are and will be greatly missed. I celebrate with you your wholeness and joy in the arms of our Savior. Cancer was not the villain. It was merely the means that God used to bring you home. A rough yet glorious journey, and an unbelievable destination.

Thank you for impacting my life and the lives of those I love. Thank you for giving of yourself so selflessly that I could see the light of glory in your face. Thank you for being Jesus with skin on for so many people.

I can imagine the angels rejoicing as you arrived.

You know how to party, girl.

 

Garbage Happens

Who knew so much trash could accumulate in such a short period of time?

Garbage collection has become an organized definitive science. Up until the first of the year, we could put anything at the curb, and it would be picked up by our gracious sanitary engineers.

January 1st we were issued new bins that could be picked up by the arms of the new trucks. Trucks requiring only a driver to 11752363operate.

Bottom line–if it doesn’t fit in the can, it won’t go in the truck.

Since we’d been out of town, we’d missed three Friday pick-ups.

It would seem this wouldn’t be problematic because we weren’t creating trash.

Our house wasn’t empty. Our youngest was there. Friends came to stay for awhile. Trash was happening.

And I forgot to tell them about Friday trash pick-up.

Seems the onus–and the odor–was all on me.

a6947357-8972-4157-a2bf-b128e1d266ebAfter almost three weeks of foodstuffs baking in the pressure cooker of of a plastic garbage can in high Florida heat and humidity, we had things growing in those cans.

Mostly little flying insects that insisted on making life miserable any time I opened the lid to put something in.

There was the other problem. The cans were full.

We were still five days from pick-up.

We began to get creative with our garbage. Breaking boxes down into tiny piles of cardboard. Re-bagging some things that could be squeezed into small spaces.

Tetris for trash.

When Thursday night came and we could finally put out the garbage, we had to determine what would go in this week and what could wait for next week.

Everything with an odor was mashed in.

I was never so happy to see a garbage truck as I was Friday morning.

Problem was when the trash was gone, the residuals were left. The flying critters loved that.

Cleaning the cans wasn’t enough. Try as we might, goop remained. Pressure washing might have helped. But who had bc8d764c-9eb5-49c2-b283-1cd8c278b72fthe energy for that?

We’re now putting new trash on the old. Covering up what was with what is.

We still have flying bugs.

It’s funny that life imitates trash.

I can accumulate a lot of trash in my life. What I do that hurts others. Negative attitudes. Words that injure. Choices that are just plain wrong.

The Bible calls it sin. Call it what you will, it’s me doing what I want to satisfy me.

I can clean up my act, but try as I might, I can’t get totally get rid of the nastiness that is part of who I am.

I know I’m a pretty good person. I work hard at that.

But I know what I’m capable of. What I do. What I’ve done. It’s not pretty.

I have great capacity to fill many trash cans.

Jesus reminds me that He’s aware of my trashy capabilities. They don’t surprise Him at all. He wants me to deal with them as they happen. Not allow the trash to fester and create bigger problems.

Short accounts. Not forgetting pick-up days. He’ll clean it up.

That’s His promise.

He never limits me to one day a week.

Reality? The trash is filling up. Again.