What I Learned From Appendicitis….

Two Tuesdays ago I spent the day wondering if I’d developed an allergy to spaghetti squash or was coming down with a wicked stomach bug. I kept thinking “This is like nothing I’ve ever felt before.” Later that evening when I was consulting Dr. Google about the constant contraction across my middle, I read that the first thing people with appendicitis tell their doctor is “This is like nothing I’ve ever felt before.”

Oh…well dang. I JUST said that.

So I went in to the hospital and they cut my appendix out.

I don’t know if you all know, but your appendix is not just some random organ floating somewhere in your midsection, it is a disgusting lump that looks like a withered hot dog attached to your colon that is a leftover from when we used to eat raw meat and pine cones. We don’t need it anymore because we eat chicken nuggets and spaghettios like decent human beings with fire.

I did not want appendicitis. I did not approve this event in my life. I was not given anything to sign off on this experience.

But here is the deep soul truth I learned from this experience.

NOTHING.

Except for what an appendix really is, which I never wanted to know in the first place.

Now, I’m pretty good at attaching meaning to some pretty meaningless stuff. Give me any old bit of dirt and lint and I’ll give you a metaphor for life. Give me a banana and I’ll explain the trinity. But not only have I not learned anything from this experience, I’m not even INTERESTED in learning anything from this.

I’m put out. I’m grossed out. I wish it never happened.

In Corinthians Paul says that now we know in part, but someday we’ll know all the answers, that God will let us in on all the best knowledge of stuff. When that day comes, I will still be working out whether or not it will be rude of me to ask God to spare me the knowledge of a deep meaning for appendicitis.

Disgusting.

Just disgusting.

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A Letter To My Kids On The First Day Of School

Dear Frank and Molly,

After this summer of separation times and unpredictable schedules, it was hard for me to load you up on the bus and send you on your journey back to school. You may only have traveled two blocks, but it feels like you are a world away. Third and first grade feels so big, so grown, but as I see my friends posting pictures of their toddlers turned preteens, or worse, high schoolers, I know that time is marching forward and you will continue to grow no matter how hard your mama digs in her heels.

I want to document all the things I share with you, knelt by your bed at night, talking in hushed tones, just each of you and me. I want to look back when you not racing to the bus stop but rather shuffling to your car to drive off to school and see how the lessons we’ve shared have taught you, formed you or been repeated over and over until you either comprehend or ignore the scenarios that led you to that page in your book.

        1. Don’t be afraid. We can pray that the school won’t burn down or that things will go smoothly with that one kid that makes you tense. We can pray that you will be kind and brave. I am happy to pray those prayers with you and want you to know that God should be the one you take those concerns to. But I don’t want you to live your life consumed by concern.

God did not give you a spirit of timidity and I pray that in my guidance and my handling of your hearts’ responses to the things that cause you stress, that I don’t try to push that sort of spirit on you either.

I could advise you that kids can be tough and they can smell fear, so do your best to give off a confident vibe. I could advise you to pay attention during the fire drills so that in the case of a real emergency you know what to do. But I can’t prevent life’s hurts and daily disasters from coming. nor would I, as I have learned the blessing of suffering and trials.

        I can assure you that though things might not always be good, they can always be glorious.

It is a choice of the heart to see God’s hand in the good and the bad and to praise Him no matter what, and to live kindly and bravely, no matter what.

        2. Be fast, be focused. This is a mantra in our house, from the wrestling mat, to the soccer field, to the morning work desk. If there is a task in front of you, work hard at it and get it done. Do it well, because it is in you to do it so. You were created as capable children who are very bright. If you drag your feet and don’t finish the simple stuff, you will miss out big time.

Paul tells the Colossians that whatever they do, do it as unto the Lord, not unto men. I think even those who don’t ascribe to Christian teaching can hear the message there. Work for something bigger. Work as if what you’re doing matters. It may just be a worksheet, busy work, but it is in front of you to serve a greater purpose than just the completion of an assignment.

          If you approach each task as if it is a small step towards God’s glorious goal in your life, how monumental is the mundane?!?!

        3. Play hard at recess. It is a long day of learning. You will jam a lot in your brains. When you get the chance to get outside, run. Tag someone and then sprint up and down the playground. Swing the highest and learn to jump off while you are still in the air. Slide down the fireman’s pole and shimmy back up it (though that last bit may be against the rules). Be willing to skin your knees.

      The faster you run, the higher you jump the more risks you take, the more you learn that you are able to accomplish great things when you’re willing to put in big effort and take big risks.

        4. Keep talking to me. And to Daddy. I want to hear what you did today that you’re proud of and about the ways you and your friends had so much fun. I want to hear how you rose to met challenges and about who told you they were glad you are their best friend. I want to hear about all the happiest things that you experienced when you were not with me.

I want to hear about the video game manifestation that you played at recess, all of your friends pretending to be different characters of games that bore me, or the same story of playing kitties and doggies that I’ve heard every day before. I want to hear about your broken pencils and how you had to do more plain old running in gym. I want to hear that they served chef salad even though the calendar said pizza. If it matters to you, it matters to me.

I want to hear how you screamed at someone at recess and told them that you don’t even want to play with them. I want to hear about how you dropped all your stuff in the hall and it went flying and even though you tried to stop it, you cried anyway. I want to hear about how the other kids won’t stop talking about boyfriends and girlfriends and it’s annoying. I want to hear about how that one kid stole your crayons and said they were his, even though your name was clearly written on each and every crayon. I want to hear about when you are slighted or cheated. I want to hear about when you slight or cheat others. I can only comfort or advise you if I know about it. Nothing is so bad that I won’t want to hear about it.

I love you both. Don’t forget in your chatting to eat your lunch. Raise your hand and push in your chair. Be polite to your teachers and your friends. Have fun. Come home soon.

Love,

Mom

The Anniversary Of Delay

On this day, as Facebook reminds me, three years ago I loaded the big yellow truck in that picture to capacity, hugged dear friends and family, climbed behind the wheel, took a deep breath and turned the key.

To hear nothing.

Well, I think there was a binging. Bing, bing, bing. Or something of the sort. It was a not the truck is going sound.

We got out, called Penske and they sent out Ernie. He banged things and cranked things and grunted and sent my frined Libby off to Napa to get more parts. In his mumbling hillbilly dialect he said “I dunno but Penske oughtta be giving someone some money back on this rental.”   I hear ya, Ernie, I thought.

I also thought, this is confusing. God has called us to Virginia. We are packed and loaded. We are ready to go, but now…there is delay. Why? Is this some sort of sign and now I’ll have to drag everything back into our house on North North and just tell everyone at church and our family and friends that, oops, we heard God wrong?

In the days leading up to this moment, I’d prayed for provision. We’d agreed to make this move, responding in obedience to something bigger than us and we knew we’d be holding our breath and cinching our purse strings for some time. I did not put a lot of hope into the stories of people praying and money showing up. It all sounded manufactured. Never the less, I prayed for provision, suggesting ideas to God as of ways He could supply us with a little cushion. Maybe He could move in so and so’s heart and they’d just feel like they wanted to hand us 10 grand. Or the lottery, Jesus. Let’s win that.

But there I was sitting on the side of the street with a broken truck at the beginning of a journey which was going to be nothing if not financially demanding. I called Penske to get an update, which I supposed would be we would have to wait til tomorrow. The Penske representative let me know that they were sending over a new van….and a crew of guys to load all of our stuff from one truck to the other!

Then she said “And let me see what the total is after all that.”

Probably more, thought I, what with the crew. And the second van. And Ernie. “30,” she said. I was confused as to why we’d be paying….30-what? 30 hundred? That’s not even how normal people say it.

“Thirty, what?” I asked.
“Thirty dollars,” she replied.

Just like that, thousands of dollars for that move were redeemed. They once were lost, but then were found. I was in shock. I got off the phone before she could change my mind and we got on the road, somehow making it to VA with enough time to make it into our new home and more at ease handing over the first check to our new landlord.

****************************************************

I drove home from Richmond last night and listed to a sermon given by Justin Siler, chosen because of the series title “Road Trip.” This summer God has done a lot of work in my heart on the drive from Richmond to Grottoes and this drive was no different.

Justin shared the story of the resurrection of Lazarus. Word comes that Lazarus is sick and Jesus replies that Lazarus’s sickness won’t end in death and what will happen will be purposeful to bring glory to God. He remains where he is and allows two days to pass. Then he announces to his disciples that they’re going to go to Lazarus who happens to live in Judea where just a few days before, those people had tried to kill Jesus. The disciples, particularly Thomas it seems, thought this perhaps was a crazy idea, but Jesus convinces them and they follow him, only to be met by Martha who is devastated and blaming Jesus.

“If only you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

Martha’s sister Mary doesn’t even bother to come out and has to be summoned to Jesus. Mary reaches Jesus and falls at his feet, weeping. She echoes her sister’s sentiment, that Jesus could have saved her brother, but he didn’t. He let her down. Something I haven’t thought of before, but this Mary, at the beginning of the chapter it notes she is the same woman who came and anointed Jesus’s feet with perfume and dried it with her hair. This is someone who has been radically changed by Christ and she is at the point of giving up. It is reassuring that even someone who physically touched Jesus, struggled to understand Him.

Then, in the sermon, Justin points out the part that I never hear anyone point out. It gets glossed over or only spoken about to show His humanity, but there’s so much more to it. Jesus wept. Not because of Lazarus and his death. Jesus is omnipotent. He already knew how that would turn out. He wept for Mary and for Martha, for his people and their pain. For their blindness, their inability to see what He could see. He felt and then he restored….he called Lazarus out.

Lazarus lived. Just as Jesus said, his sickness did not end in death. Death was just a bump on the road. And as Jesus said at the beginning of the whole situation, things happened exactly as they should to bring the most glory to God.

Justin spoke to those struggling with doubt, like Thomas and the disciples who are pretty sure going to Judea is inadvisable. He spoke to those facing a delay, like Martha who is positive from all the very clear signs that Jesus has let her down. He spoke to those enveloped in despair, like Mary, who wonder why they should show up for Jesus if He hasn’t shown up for them.

This sermon was painfully poignant for me. I was already knee deep in the reflection when Justin said these four words, words spoken to me maybe a month ago by Pastor Kerry, here in Va.

Delay is not denial.

That same spot in the journey, right at the foot of the mountain, every time this summer, I heard Him speak to me and there I was, preparing to began the upward climb. Once again, God spoke. 64West is quickly becoming holy ground for me.

I am responding to being called into ministry. It’s not unrealistic to expect that the call will go hand in hand with the complete and total revelation and fulfillment of what that all means. Or if not unrealistic, then it is at least understandable. But this passage and those words, delay is not denial, strike a chord with me.

God has spoken this message, saying what will be, and I can look here at this passage and see that my head is right when it tells me that I can trust Him even if the earthly symptoms are confusing. He will be good to His word to me as He was to His word over Lazarus. I have known these things, reminding myself of those truths while I walk through my days, holding tight to them when I wonder about starting my first class in the fall or think about suggesting to God that we get this show on the road. I truly do believe that the best path for me to ministry is His path, not my path and I am going to be amazed at what God’s going to show me in my delay. I truly am excited to see how He unwraps this.

I don’t want to spend my days sitting on the side of the road next to a dead truck or standing outside of a tomb convinced that all is lost. I want to trust that He will lead me each step at just the right time.

Death can just be a bump in the road.
Engine failure can be redemptive.
Delay can be the source of the greatest blessings.

If anyone needs me….

My dear friend, Maite, introduced me to Canva. She told me about two weeks ago, so I made a mental note to check it out when I got home. Then I promptly forgot about it.

Today she reminded me about it and I went on it and it was everything I’ve been trying to find for months to spruce up the blog and to make memes. So if anyone needs me I will be turning the phrases that have been floating through my mind over the past few months and turning them into memes.

Because that’s my idea of good clean fun! Notice the new banner at the top of the blog? Spruced!

Here’s my first meme I made. Be prepared. I will be making more.

Spring

What Did I Do This Summer?

My summer was NOT what I planned.

At the beginning of the summer I had a list of things we were going to do and since I was without a job I was going to be available to do them all! We were going to go to the moon. We were also going to take up mother/children jogging and eat green smoothies every day. We were going to practice handwriting regularly and stay on top of all the at home math activities I’ve hoarded. The kids were going to practice soccer daily with Daddy and maybe I’d teach them to play drums.

All these things and more.

But things changed. Unexpected plans came on the scene and mussed up a perfectly laid out season. I’ve thought a lot on all the things I didn’t accomplish this summer. I even thought about listing them here, but all I could come up with was a list of things we did get to do.

1. Went geocaching
2. Rode the Metro
3. Hiked on a real mountain (though not far, because you know…bears…and lostness)
4. Went to the National Zoo
5. Went to the Natural History Museum, the National History Museum and the Air and Space Museum.
6. Went to Harper’s Ferry.
7. Saw 3 or 4 movies in the theater.
8. Went to Jump!
9. Cooked hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire.
10. Blew bubbles, drew with sidewalk chalk, rode bikes.
11. Planted a pallet garden and a little strawberry patch.
12. Read with the kids.
13. Read by myself.
14. Read my Bible pretty much daily. (The last week or two were a little hit or miss, but if you look at my record before that….pretty good.)
15. Had a stuffed animal tea party.
16. Went to Lake Sherando.
17. Climbed around some waterfalls. (That’s not smart. Don’t do that.)
18. Took the kids fishing.
19. Went to the pool.
20. Went to the river.
21. Saw my parents and both of my brothers and their families. ❤

There’s not really a deep thought to this post. Even if this isn’t the most profound thing I’ve ever written for you, there will come a time when I need to look at this summer and remember the happiness within it. I had a nice summer even thought it was nothing like what I expected when I stood on the other side of the summer door preparing to open it. But despite some tough situations this summer, Clarence is right, “You really did have a wonderful life!”

Too early for Christmas references?

4 Lessons I Learned From Unemployment and the Isrealites

Today was the official end of a time I thought may never end, my season of, boy, what a tough word, unemployment.

I left my job in January, making a decision to stand by my personal convictions and professional standards of ethics in an extremely difficult situation. I chose, for better or for worse, to become unemployed and face uncertainty while looking for another position. This time was full of stress and chaos, but it was also full of peace and growth. The lessons learned during this time were lessons I could never have gained while working and I wouldn’t trade the new understandings I have for 8 months of human security.

1. The desert is preferable to bondage.

I found myself revisiting the story of the Exodus in those early days. I’d watched a History channel show where they examine archaeological evidence against biblical  stories to see how they stack up. There was the story of walking out of a desperate situation into what looked like another desperate situation, but choosing the path that led to freedom, no matter how difficult it proved to be was worth it.

I would find myself in small panics. Bills. Wants delayed. Bills. Fearful imaginings. Bills. And Kermit would often say to me, “Would you rather be back at that place?” And every time it was the end of the panic. No, no I did not want to be back in that place. Whatever momentary mess I found myself into was a molehill in comparison to the mountain, no, volcano, I’d left.

I could see that time and time again I would chose to stand by my convictions and pinch pennies instead of laying down my sanity by laying down my beliefs and eat steak. I am blessed to be married to a man who supported me in that.

2.  God gives enough manna for the day.

In Exodus 16, we read about God sending manna and quail to the Isrealites. Moses directs them to go out and gather up the food and cook enough for the day, not keeping any more for the following morning. However, some people did just that, hiding more than they needed and not trusting that if God could make manna appear on Monday, He could do it again on Tuesday. When they awoke in the morning they found the food had become rotten and filled with maggots overnight. God did not withhold the manna the following day, He just impressed upon them that He would be meeting their needs, not them.

Through these months, our needs have been met. We’ve stayed afloat during a time we thought we would certainly go under. My mother at one point observed that she was always impressed with how God sustained my family. I am not impressed. I am appreciative, grateful beyond measure, delighted, but never surprised. He met our needs in January and I expect He will met our needs in May and I expect He will meet our needs in August. He is consistent and He is faithful. He provided just enough time and again, and while we may not have been really storing away manna and quail for a lifetime, we were sustained, and walking into this situation, 8 months of sustaining provision was unimaginable. I am deeply grateful for it.

3.  God walks in the desert with us.

God led the Isrealites by night with fire and by day with a cloud. He lit the darkness and shielded them from burning in the sun. When the begged for water or food, He met their needs, not taking them into the camps of other people with other gods to met their needs, but rather using the nature around them. If they followed the pillar that was God’s leading, He would take care of their needs. This is not to say that if you trust and follow God there won’t be lean times or even that there won’t be suffering, but it is to say that when you are starving or dead tired, God is right there with you to hear your cry.

I had a picture I drew in college of a girl sitting in a mud puddle created by her own tears. I think it’s stashed away in a box at my parents house. I’ve tried to draw it again lately but it doesn’t turn out right. But in my head I see that there we sit in a mud puddle of our own making and Jesus sits down in it with us to console us and to raise us up when we allow him to do so. We are not alone.

4. The only way to see the promised land is to trust and obey.


The first move was to step out of Egypt. The second move was to stay faithful to God in the desert. No easy task. Barely something that could be accomplished. But Joshua and Caleb are able to accomplish that task. They exemplify obedience and confidence in their God, encouraging their people to be brave and ready to enter the promised land, while their fellow spies warn against the dangers.

Milk and honey, guys. It’s this picture of sweetness and provision, if only they will trust in what the Lord has already said He’d give them. They see that there is no risk in this because God has gone before them. They are not leading, they are following.

But if you look around today, so few people are even leaving Egypt. We live safe lives with no challenge. We feel as confident in Christ as the stability of our IRAs.

Without hunger, there is no manna.
Without thirst, there is no water from the rock.
Without pursuit, there is no parting of the sea.
Without darkness, there is no pillar of fire.
Without heat, there is no pillar of cloud.

Until I was in a situation where I could barely rely on myself, I was unable to fully rely on him.

I have a job. I started that job today. It is a good job, stable and simple, without the emotional drain of the last phase of my life. I look forward to seeing how what God is going to unwrap in my life during this next season and I hope, I pray, that I will hold fast to the lessons of the wilderness.