This Too Shall Pass, But What Will Remain?

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As the COVID-19 virus continues to affect our world and our daily lives, I have been reminded of another time in my own life when my plans were canceled, and fear of the unknown loomed heavy. As I’ve reflected on that time, I’ve been comforted by the reminder of lessons learned.

Because these lessons were derived from pain and trial, I certainly don’t want to take them lightly or waste them by not applying them when they could once again be relevant and uplifting. Therefore, it is with that heart and motive that I share these thoughts with you.

In 2007, my husband and I were told that our then only child, our two-year-old son, Karson, had cancer. Our toddler entered a three-year chemotherapy regimen involving port chemo, oral chemo, steroids, 22 spinal taps, injections, and more. Karson’s immune system was hit hard, and we therefore had to self-quarantine for months on end. We spent the first year of his treatment in very strict quarantine; wiping down surfaces and hand sanitizing became second nature to us. We practiced social distancing, even with relatives, and we kept in touch by sending VHS tapes of cousins playing and chatting before the days of FaceTime would have made this much easier! I remember looking at my calendar during those years and having absolutely nothing scheduled other than chemo or clinic appointments.

If you had told me, before that dreadful day of Karson’s diagnosis, that I would basically have to cancel my life, I would have told you I couldn’t do it.

If you had told my busy and social self that I’d have to stay home and away from friends and family for the sake of potentially saving someone else’s life, I would have doubted if I could make the right choices to comply.

If you would have told me that many hardships were in my future, the stuff of parenthood nightmares, I may have fallen into the fetal position and begged it not to be so.

And yet, through those three years of pain, isolation, fear, and unknowns, there was goodness too.  There was mixture of tears and laughter, dread and hope, exhaustion and persistence.

And three responses rose to the top of the heap of emotions.

Grief, gratitude, and giving.

I grieved. Oh, did I grieve! I grieved the loss of life as I knew it. I was sad that I would not experience the normal “preschool life” with my little boy. He would not be allowed to have the typical play dates and parties that his buddies enjoyed. And neither would I. I would miss out on many events, and my dreams were shoved to the back burner.

The grief would come in waves. Some days I’d feel in control. I’d be okay. I’ve got this. I can do this. I’d think. Other days, I knew I could not. It was unpredictable and often, life felt surreal. But, I learned to look grief in the eye and call it by name. I didn’t have to like it, but I needed to acknowledge it. How else could I move forward if I did not acknowledge it as a barrier to my healing?

Now, with the changes to our lives and plans due to the Coronavirus, I think we need to grieve. It’s okay to give yourself permission to be sad. I’ve heard of family vacations to Disney being canceled, anniversary trips to Italy sidelined, senior athletic seasons being abruptly cut short. It hurts. These things are heartbreaking and deserve to be grieved. Grief is not reserved for death alone. Grief is valid for any loss. And so I think we should grieve these personal losses, and the changes brought on by this new period of quarantine and social distancing.  If they aren’t worth grieving, were they really worth doing in the first place?

In between the waves of grief throughout our long cancer journey, I also experienced swells of gratitude. I learned to be thankful for things to which I’d never before given much thought.  A late night playing with toys on the family room floor by the light of the Christmas tree with my little boy who was healthy enough to use his imagination and laugh. Friends who took the time to bring a fast food meal to my front door. The fact we lived in a world where our son could have access to medication and benefit from brilliant minds who commit their time to research.

Gratitude was a game changer for me. It rerouted my train of thought from self-pity to the realization of the gifts I already possessed.

Today, in the midst of the chaos of COVID-19, I hope we can all strive to be grateful. We can hope to spread something that is not viral, a new perspective and goal of aiming to find the good in the difficult. To realize the gifts we have in 2020. Internet connections, which allow virtual meetings, emails, video games, and e-learning. What an amazing opportunity to connect and dream together about how to not just survive, but thrive. Our virtual capabilities are now our reality. Thank goodness we have such a wonderful ability! Board games, television, face-to-face conversations with our quarantine pals, phone calls, books. These things are all gifts. Have we noticed how wonderful they are recently? Have we been thankful for them or have we been taking them for granted? And once again, I’m so thankful for those who dedicate their time and talent to finding treatments, tests, and cures for our ill. It’s impossible for me to fully express my gratitude to these selfless and brilliant individuals.

And finally, the third response that rose out of the fire of our childhood cancer journey was the desire to give. Obviously, I first wanted to give all that was needed to my son. I gave him love, syringes full of medication, rides to the ER, and mashed potatoes at 3:00am when his little steroid-filled body craved them. But I learned to not just think of our family and myself, but to see the bigger picture. There were many families on the 5th floor of our children’s hospital who fought cancer just like us. Many had it worse than we did, and my heart broke for them. I wanted to give back when the timing was right, and in the years since we climbed out of the cancer trenches, wounded, but not lifeless, we have given back. We’ve served on committees, shared our story in front of crowded gymnasiums and banquet halls, attended chemo appointments with other sick children, answered the questions of panicked parents who are following in our path, donated our money, and more. And I don’t say that to get credit or recognition. I say this to show you that the desire to give grew out of pain. And it produced beautiful fruit!

In the midst of this pandemic, I hope we can all remember to give. We can remember there is a bigger picture. It’s not all about us. There are many who are weak and marginalized who can use our help. Part of that help looks like us following directions to quarantine and utilize social distancing. Part of that help may be leaving some items on the shelves once we have enough. Not plenty, but enough, so that others can get what they need as well. Some of that giving may be with your own children while they do their schooling at home. What atmosphere are you creating in your home in which they are learning? Is it one of panic, dread, and complaining, or one of hope despite grief and gratitude despite disappointment?

In April of 2010, our son received his last dose of chemotherapy. That too did pass. Now he’s 15, cancer-free, and healthy. We didn’t know this would be our happy ending when we first heard his diagnosis. We didn’t know that someday he’d be a tall, smart, and happy high school student instead of a chubby, bald and sickly child. But our journey did come to an end. We eventually returned to our regularly scheduled life, though we were changed tremendously through the battle. We learned many things, not the least of which were three main responses: grief, gratitude, and giving.

This Coronavirus pandemic will someday be finished as well. We’ll look back at these weeks and months and tell our next generations about our losses and quarantine adventures. This too shall pass. It’s true. And what do you we want to remain? What will rise to the top of the heap when all the dust settles?

For me, I hope to once again find I’ve learned to grieve, have gratitude, and give. Lessons far too precious to waste.

Is It Worth It?

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Sometimes I can’t remember if I just put a new coffee pod into my coffee maker, or if the one I’m staring at in puzzlement is the used one from yesterday. Even though I would have had to put the coffee pod there mere moments before, I seem to forget if I actually did it, or just thought about it. My memory seems to short out like that sometimes. But, I can remember what I wearing on a certain Friday evening in January of 2002. Black slacks and a lightweight pale pink sweater.

I remember because it was an evening that held a pivotal conversation in my relationship with my then boyfriend, Kraig. I had just gotten home from work, and had not yet changed into more comfortable clothes. I was planning to do so, because my plans for the evening were to sit around my house and wonder. Wonder why Kraig had not invited me to go with him to his nephew’s first birthday party. We’d been dating for about two months, and I’d met his family before, so I wasn’t sure why I was being excluded from this event.

And then the phone rang. This was in the days when one had to pick up the receiver without knowing who was on the other end. There was no caller ID or special ring tones for VIPS. I know, youth today shudder at the thought, but we somehow made it through.

I answered the phone and it was Kraig. He said he was on his way to his nephew’s party (he had a cutting-edge flip cell phone) and would I like him to pick me up as he drove by my house? I said yes and kept my slacks and pink sweater on after all.

The hour drive to his brother’s was where the aforementioned pivotal conversation took place. I started it.

“Why didn’t you invite me this evening until last minute?” I asked him from the passenger seat of his Chevy sedan.

Kraig paused for a bit and then told me that he was a little nervous about the evening. This was a party with his family members, and though some had met me, there could be others there this evening that I hadn’t yet met. He further explained that we’d only been dating a couple of months and if he introduced me and included me in such events as this party, then it would take the relationship to another level and it would be more difficult if it didn’t work out and we ended up breaking up.

I thought about this for a bit. Then I decided to speak my mind.

“Kraig, you need to decide if I’m worth that risk. Yes, this could make things more difficult if we break up someday, but we can’t just plan and act in a manner that protects us from pain because then we’ll miss out on the fun stuff. You just have to decide if I’m worth that risk or not.”

I’m not sure if this was a mic drop moment or an expedited way to get myself dumped.

Spoiler alert: Kraig decided I was worth the risk. We’ve been married now for over 17 years.

I’m not here to make a statement about dating relationships. No. I was young and naive then, and in many ways, and I’m still naive now. But, I am here to say that some things in life require a risk.

No one likes failure, but successes worth anything are almost always preceded by risk.

When I wrote my first book, a memoir of many personal stories from my life, I had to decide if I was willing to risk people actually reading it. Because I knew some would not like it. I might get poor reviews (I have!). I would not be everyone’s cup of tea. And that stings. And it’s scary. And I don’t like the pain it causes. But, I took the risk anyway. And let me tell you, the joys and the opportunities to bring hope to others through my words has been worth the pain.

When we decided to have kids, we didn’t know how it would go! We were twenty-somethings who had never parented before. We sat through the classes at the hospital as wide-eyed rookies. But, we decided the joys of raising children would far outweigh any risk that we’d fail them. And guess what? Sometimes we have failed them! But the joys they bring us far outweigh the struggles. We wouldn’t trade parenthood for anything!

Speaking of our kids, we’re trying to teach our three that anything truly worth striving for may involve pain and risk. We told our son that yes, he might get cut from the sports team, but he should still try out nonetheless. How will he know if he doesn’t try? We tell our daughter that yes, she may not be given the part in the school play that she’s been practicing for and dreaming about. But that’s okay. What would she miss out on if she didn’t try at all? How would she learn and grow for next time? We tell our youngest that yes, she should try running club though she’s never run a mile before. Who knows, maybe she’ll find a new skill and make some friends along the way. How can you cross the finish line if you never crossed the starting line?

If it’s worthy, it’s probably risky. I wish it didn’t have to be so, but I haven’t yet found a way around it.

I still lose track of my coffee pods, but I do know what I was wearing one evening in December of 2002. A white dress. And Kraig was wearing a tux, and we were standing in front of family and friends. He had told me something weeks before. He said that because my own mother had died at the age of 34 from a sudden heart issue, he considered that I could die young also (another spoiler alert: I now know I don’t have the same heart condition). Kraig said he decided that even if he only got to be my husband for a short time because of such a tragedy, that I was still worth it. He’d marry me for whatever amount of time we were given. Basically, he was telling me I was worth the risk.

And that’s something I hope to never forget.

 

On Lines and Love

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My recliner tipped slightly to the right as my daughter placed her elbows and weight on the armrest. She was on her knees beside the chair, and her face was inches from mine. I turned my head to study her preteen face. The braces, the glasses, the innocence.

“Mom,” she said. “What do I do if a boy asks me to be his Valentine at school today? How do I say no nicely without hurting his feelings?”

I smiled and shifted my weight in the chair so I could face her fully. All the while I searched my brain for a decent answer. I decided to teach her one of the classics. You know, a version of the old let-down line; “It’s not you, it’s me.”

“Why don’t you just tell him that you don’t really do that? That you don’t have one specific Valentine person like that. That you want to have lots of friends.”

She thought about it for a moment then shrugged and said she guessed it would be nice enough.

I continued, “Having lots of friends is a good thing!”

She stood and nodded. Conversation over.

The topic of boys and relationships is simply on pause in her young life. I may try to live in denial, but I do know that soon enough, she’ll be hoping for Valentine suitors, and not asking for advice on how to reject them. And that’s a wonderful thing. Romance, love, marriage. They are gifts, and I hope and pray all of my children will experience each someday with great delight!

But, there’s also something to be said about love in the realm of friendship. And not just in Valentine season.

I’ve been to many weddings where 1 Corinthians 13, the so called “Love Chapter” was recited. It’s fine. The attributes of love listed in this passage are great principles for love within marriage and romance. Don’t get me wrong. But, this passage, in its context, is actually talking about a different type of love. Not romantic love, but the “I want to have lots of friends” type of love.

Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, and in the context of chapter 13, he’s teaching about love within the Body of Christ. Unity among believers. He’s showing them that love is the be-all, end-all. He says:

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

(1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

Listen. We, as Christians, should never forget this; It’s not about what we DO for God. It’s about how we LOVE. 

And how should we love? Paul explains that too. He tell us in verses 4-8 what love should look like.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

But HOW do we love like this? How do we put this into practice when ugliness like comparison, selfishness, greed, and entitlement are so easy to focus on instead? Even among Christians. Or unfortunately, especially among Christians. So how do we love like Paul is teaching?

We find the HOW in the WHO.

Maybe we do need that one Valentine after all. Love Himself.

Jesus.

Jesus is actually the author of love, the One who created it. His plan of redemption is rooted in love. John 3:16 says,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God so LOVED…

If we love Jesus and live for Him, He will teach us how to love. It will become an overflow of our love and relationship with Him. The more we love Him, the more we will learn to love as He loves. 

We learn to love when we focus on Him, not on ourselves or each other.

“It’s not you, it’s me.” I guess Jesus could use that ol’ line too.

And use it best of all.

 

 

 

 

Outside the Ministry Zone – When God Leads You Down a Desert Road

Outside the ministry zoneHave you ever learned something new only to then read your own journal or notes and realize it isn’t actually the first time you’ve learned that very thing? You’ve learned this before, you just forgot!

Yeah, me too.

It happened to me again this week. I was doing my “homework” for BSF (Bible Study Fellowship). In this study, we go through one book of the Bible each year, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse. I’ve been in BSF for about 9 years, and I enjoy the learning. The group discussions are so interesting. The lectures are illuminating. I even like the homework. (There’s almost never math involved, so that really helps!)

This week, we learned about Acts chapters 8 and 9. I read about Philip, who is a believer, and disciple of Jesus, going to Samaria and preaching and doing miraculous signs. Things go well. There’s a response. People hear and believe what he tells them about Jesus. The leaders of the early church, Peter and John, come and affirm his ministry there by praying for the Holy Spirit to come to these new converts.

Ministry is happening here.

And then I read further. Right after this ministry-rich time in Samaria, God asks Philip to

“Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Acts 8:26

Philip obeys. He travels down the desert road.

Wow, I thought, he’s going away from the perceived “ministry” spot, and going by himself on a desert road where there’s no ministry opportunities in sight.

And then I read what I’d written in ink in the margin of my Bible.

“Away from where the ‘ministry’ is happening.”

Oh. I’ve learned this before. Okay. Good thinking, Christy. Good thought.

Apparently, I need a refresher. I need to learn this anew. In this particular season of my life, this idea means something different to me than it must have years ago when I wrote with a pen in my Bible’s margin.

Let me be clear. God’s Word doesn’t change. It was true last time I read it too. And, I am not to take verses out of context, or make them mean only what I want them to mean. But, God’s Word is “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and it teaches me and impacts me in fresh ways as I apply it to different seasons and experiences in my life.

Such is the case with this passage.

This week, I was struck by the fact that Philip could have thought that his ministry opportunity for the day, or the week, was complete. Check that off the scroll, buddy! Good work.

But it turns out a man, an Ethiopian guy, was on this desert road, sitting in a chariot reading the Old Testament book of Isaiah, and needing someone to help him understand it.

The man was not in the perceived, “ministry zone,” but away from everyone else. He was in the desert. On the side of the road. Not waiting for Triple A, but waiting for someone to help him find The Way.

And Philip was God’s chosen instrument that day. God partnered with him to help this Ethiopian understand who Jesus is.

For me, in the season of life I’m in right now, I sometimes get into a rut of thinking that ministry is a “regularly scheduled program.” My husband is in full-time ministry. He has official ministry duties. I write and speak about faith and hope. Ministry does happen in these zones.

But, who is out the ministry zone waiting for me to help them know Jesus?

Is it the woman cutting my hair in the salon?

Is mom in line behind me at Starbucks?

Is it my own child who wants me to take time to listen and help them understand something they’ve been wondering through in their faith?

Philip was so obedient to travel down the desert road with no ministry plan or programming in place. He just climbed up into this guy’s chariot and started right where the Ethiopian was reading and told him about Jesus from there.

I like that.

What empty seat can I slide into? What searching heart can I help? Am I listening to God’s leading and allowing myself to partner with Him where He calls me?

I hope I can put this thought into practice. That’s what really helps me learn something for good – putting it into action.

Writing it in my margin was a good start. This time, I’m looking for the chariot on the side of the road.

Our Marriage Needs a Prefix.

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Last night I told my husband that I miss him. He nodded in agreement as he sat beside me.

We are together a lot, but our moments of non-distracted, non-exhausted, non-sick, non-stressed, non-necessary, non-rushed, non-interrupted communication are slim. We’d like to add those little nons into our relationship, but they’re elusive little prefixes.

We strive to have non-distracted conversations, but texts, and emails, and demands keep breaking our concentration. Not to mention our kids.

We desire to talk about non-necessary topics, but there are fires to be put out before we can intentionally try to fan into flame our love for one another.

We want to give each other our non-exhausted selves. But, we can’t seem to find them.

We need the nons in our marriage.

But adding that prefix takes work.

And it should. Life moves forward after the wedding day and so should our relationship. It should grow and blossom instead of wilting. But it takes effort to remember to care for it in the midst of dizzying schedules and bursting calendars.

The daily, “What time should I plan dinner?” and,  “Did you remember we have that thing tomorrow evening? Did you find a sitter?” questions cause us to put a finger in the leaking dam and leave us in a bind the next time we hear, “Babe, can you give me a hand here?”

The days of long uninterrupted dinners and fun filled dates are taken over by quick, “How was your day?” volleys and conversations squeezed in while sitting in the bleachers.

You have to make an effort to add those nons. But how? What does that look like?

I think it takes many different forms.

Some days you make your kids gag as you kiss in the kitchen. Other days you put a movie in for them and you finish that difficult conversation that’s been driving a wedge between you. Some days you splurge on a nice dinner for two after they’re all in bed, and you tuck your phones away in another room too. Some days you go out to a movie neither of you really care to see just so that you can sit beside each other and hold hands.

And some days you simply acknowledge to each other that you miss the nons. Both of you do. That you’re striving to find them and you believe in each other and miss each other in the meantime. That the effort to find the nons is a small price to pay for the love of your life. You’re a team in this daily work.

Marriage. It sometimes needs a prefix.

And together, we’re going to work to add it.

Non-stop.


 

This post has been re-shared from its original publish date of September 21, 2016

Our Marriage Needs A Prefix.

 

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Last night I told my husband that I miss him. And he nodded in agreement as he sat beside me.

We are together a lot. But our moments of non-distracted, non-exhausted, non-sick, non-stressed, non-necessary, non-rushed, non-interrupted communication are slim. We need those little nons in our marriage. But they’re elusive little prefixes.

We strive to have non-distracted conversations, but the texts and the emails and the demands keep breaking our concentration. Not to mention our kids.

We desire to talk about non-necessary topics, but there are needs and fires to be put out before we can intentionally try to fan into flame our love for one another.

We want to give each other our non-exhausted selves. But, we can’t seem to find them.

We need the nons in our marriage.

But adding that prefix takes work.

And it should. Life moves forward after the wedding day and so should our relationship. It should grow and blossom instead of wilting. But it takes effort to remember to care for it in the midst of dizzying schedules and bursting calendars.

The daily, “What time should I plan dinner?”,and, “Did you remember we have that thing tomorrow evening? Did you find a sitter?” questions cause us to put a finger in the leaking dam and leave us in a bind the next time we hear, “Babe, can you give me a hand here?”

The days of long uninterrupted dinners and fun filled dates are taken over by quick, “How was your day?” volleys and conversations squeezed in while sitting in the bleachers.

You have to make an effort to add those nons. And that looks like many different things.

Some days you make your kids gag as you kiss in the kitchen. Other days you put a movie in for them and you finish that difficult conversation that’s been driving a wedge between you. Some days you splurge on a nice dinner for two after they’re all in bed, and you tuck your phones away in another room too. Some days you go out to a movie neither of you really care to see just so that you can sit beside each other and hold hands.

And some days you simply acknowledge to each other that you miss the nons. Both of you do. That you’re striving to find them and you believe in each other and miss each other in the meantime. That the effort to find the nons is a small price to pay for the love of your life. You’re a team in the hunt.

Marriage. It sometimes needs a prefix.

And together, we’re going to work to add it.

Non-stop.

In Plenty And In Want.

It was a few tissues and an empty Starbucks cup that tipped me over the edge. They were strewn on the floor around the empty trash can instead of being out by the curb with the rest of the trash that my husband had collected. Didn’t he see he’d dropped it and he really hadn’t completed his task of taking the trash out? I would be sure to mention this to him.

And I did.

“You left a mess of trash on the floor out there and you forgot to put a trash bag in the upstairs trash can. Basically, you completed half of your job.” I said in a huff later that afternoon.

I wanted him to get it right. I wanted him to do his whole job with no mistakes and no delay. I wanted him to make me happy and not leave extra work for me. I wanted him to be perfect.

Somewhere along the way in marriage the “wants” change.

IMG_5301When we were dating I wanted him to sit by me. To take me out to dinner. To kiss me. To propose. I wanted him to want me and choose me to be his forever.

When we said our vows we said we’d love each other “in plenty and in want,” and we meant it. Of course, that meaning of the word “want” in that context is to be in a struggle or need of material possessions or money. And that is a “want” that we, middle class Americans, have never truly known.

Somewhere along the way in marriage the “wants” change.

The focus changed. It went from me wanting him to choose me, to me wanting him to do things for me.

My focus used to be on him, and now it is more often on myself.

I want him to provide and protect.

I want him to help with the kids.

I want him to help me keep the house in order.

I want him to take all the trash out.

Somewhere along the way in marriage the “wants” change.

And each day I need the reminder to strive to change them back.

To ask myself how he’d want me to serve him. And to faithfully put him above myself.

To love and cherish the wonderful man I married. In sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.

In plenty and in want.

———-

This post is a part of the Five Minute Friday community where bloggers write about a topic, based on a one-word prompt, for about five minutes. To join us, check it out here: http://katemotaung.com/2016/06/09/five-minute-friday-want/

This week’s prompt: WANT

8 Things My Dad Taught Me

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It happened again just recently. A new friend was asking about my family and when she learned that my dad was the pastor at a local church she said, “Oh! You’re Denny’s daughter?!”

Yep. I’m Denny’s daughter. I’ve been known that way all of my life.

It used to get on my nerves to be known as “Denny’s Daughter” instead of just as Christy. I have an identity outside of being the pastor’s kid, you know. But, I have to admit that being called Denny’s Daughter has grown on me over the years. It’s a title I’m honored to carry.

I’ve learned a lot from having my dad as my pastor for more than three decades. What a blessing it has been to sit under his ministry. However, it’s been even more of a blessing to grow up sitting around his kitchen table. Sure, I’ve learned things in church, but I’ve learned even more while riding in a Toyota Previa mini-van and while playing video games as a family in the basement as a teenager.

I’ve been so fortunate to grow up with such a wise dad. He’s taught me many things. And so today, in honor of Father’s Day, I thought I’d sit down and list a few.

8 Things My Dad Taught Me

8. Trust Earns Freedom.

My Dad always told me that if he could trust me, then I could earn freedom to do what I wanted to do. For example, if I wanted to go places on my own after getting my driver’s license, then I could earn the right to do so in increasing measure. If I was told to only go to my friend’s house and then home again- I’d better follow the rules. If I did, then maybe next time I’d have the privilege to drive somewhere else as well. If I had a 10pm curfew and I respected the clock and got home on time, then I’d be given a later curfew in the future. It was pretty simple. If I could be trusted to follow directions, then I would be given more freedom over time. I always liked that, because I knew the opportunity for more freedom and privilege was possible and it made me desire to be responsible.

7. Get Your Head in the Game!

I have to admit (embarrassingly) that I can clearly remember my dad yelling this phrase to me during one of my middle school basketball games… and I had no idea what he meant! Get my head in the game? What on earth is he talking about? Of course now I understand that he was telling me to be mentally present on the court and to think about what I was doing. Where did I need to be? Where was the ball going to be next? How should I react to this play, that pass, that shot? I needed to be mentally present and not allowing my mind to be thinking about something else when I should be focused on the game at hand.

That advice has stuck with me long after my basketball career (and I use the term ‘basketball career’ very, very loosely!) I’ve often thought about hearing my dad yell “Get Your Head in the Game!” while working on various tasks throughout my life. Whether it be studying for a final in college, planning an event in my first job out of college, or having an important conversation with one of my children, I need to be mentally present and focused on the task at hand.

6. The Apple products don’t fall far from the tree.

We’ve always joked that my dad is so far on the cutting edge of technology that he’s bleeding. The man loves his technology and he LOVES Apple products. We were getting email in our house growing up (I can still hear that noisy old modem and the voice from AOL saying, “You’ve Got Mail!”) before most of society knew what email was. My dad talked me into buying an iPod before most bands had probably heard of iTunes. And, my dad gave me a laptop in college and encouraged me to carry it to class to take notes.

“Dad, that is so embarrassing!” I said. “Nobody else carries a computer to class!” But it turns out he was on to something there. It seems that now several (million) people have laptops and carry them with them on college campuses.

And Dad’s love for the Apple product has truly been passed on to me. What’s that other kind of computer called? Window something?

5. You are very special, but don’t think too highly of yourself.

Humility is a trait that I’ve always noticed in my dad. He’s not one to “toot his own horn” and I appreciate that about him. I remember being taught a lesson in humility from my dad when I was a freshman in High School. It’s a lesson I’ll never forget, and yet my dad didn’t even say a single word. He didn’t have to.

I was playing on the JV basketball team as a 9th grader, but one week the JV team didn’t have a game so I was bumped down to play with the Freshman Squad… at least “bumped down” was how I saw it. I was proud of the fact that I’d played JV and I was wrongfully quite full of myself during that freshman game. In fact, I’m embarrassed to tell you that during a time-out our coach called a huddle and I stood about 10 feet outside of the huddle thinking that I didn’t need to hear whatever it was that the coach had to say. (Ugh!) I remember tipping my head back to squirt my water bottle into my mouth and when I did my eyes drifting up into the bleachers. There sat my parents and my eyes locked with my dad’s eyes. Not a word was spoken verbally, but I could hear a paragraph’s worth of words coming from Dad’s eyes. That was all it took. I walked into the huddle and changed my attitude from that moment forward.

4. If the ship is sinking and there’s something we can do to help, we’re going to try to fix the problem… or we’re going down with the ship!

In the early years of my dad’s pastorate at our current church, the church building was tiny. As the church grew in membership it also needed to grow in size and so we experienced several building programs. I remember one time in particular that it had been announced that the new building and all of it’s sparkly new classrooms would be ready to open on a certain Sunday. The day before it was to open Dad got a phone call that things were almost ready, but there hadn’t been time to clean the carpets or new rooms and move in the furniture so we’d have to delay the opening for at least another week.

My dad told us to get in the van and off we went to spend a Saturday at the church. We vacuumed, cleaned, moved furniture and more to prepare the rooms, just in time, for church the next day. Dad told us that cleaning toilets was not below the senior pastor’s duty and if we could expend a little elbow grease to help the situation then we were going to do it. We were going to do something to help or go down trying. I’ve never forgotten that Saturday or the lesson I learned.

3. When in doubt, don’t.

I can remember my dad telling me that if I wasn’t sure about saying something or doing something, than I’d better not because it can never be taken back. I often take that into consideration before saying something I’m not 100% sure I should say. I think it’s saved me some heartache over the years and I’m grateful for that.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Life is going to be rough if you can’t learn to laugh at yourself. And laughter is one thing I’ve certainly done… both with and at my dad.

One time when I was in college our extended family rented a house on a large lake for week. We decided to also rent some wave runners. All of the potential wave runner drivers had to go attend a short “class” and watch an instructional video about how to operate the wave runner. The video stressed multiple times that there are no brakes on a wave runner. You must stop pulling the throttle and allow time for the wave runner to slow to a stop. I repeat, there are NO BRAKES on a wave runner.

Yeah, yeah. We signed the papers and rented that thing and off we went. Dad was driving and I was riding along behind him. We were flying through the water and we went into a channel where there were several homes with piers in the water. Did I mention that we were going really fast? Did I also mention that they had stressed to us that the wave runner has no brakes. Well, apparently Dad didn’t catch that part because he drove us way too close to one of the piers and when he tried to brake (um… yeah, you know.) we SLAMMED into one of the pier’s wooden ladders and that ladder exploded. After we shook the shock out of our heads we looked around to see hundreds of pieces of wood floating on the water and a huge gaping hole where the ladder once was. Ooops.

We still laugh about that today. And I am thankful that I am alive to tell you about it. Seriously Dad, you’ve got to pay attention during the safety class next time. (And to whoever’s pier we crashed into… we’re sorry about your ladder.)

1. My dad is not perfect, but he’s taught me about my Heavenly Father, who is.

As I’ve written about before in “One of My Worst Moments,” my dad had the wisdom and courage to teach me the most valuable lesson of all during the worst moment of his life. His wife, my mom, had just died suddenly at our kitchen table at the age of 34. As we stood around her body in a sterile hospital room, my dad reminded me that God was still in control and that He loved us and had a plan for us. If God is good during the worst moment imaginable, then He is good. I can trust my Heavenly Father, and I do, because of my earthly father’s wonderful example in that moment and throughout my life.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you!

100% Polyester Love

Ten years ago this week I was a glowing bride-to-be. We were caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparing for our December 7th wedding. It was a whirlwind three-month engagement and I was head over heels with it all. I enjoyed just about every second of the planning and preparing. Our wedding, complete with its sparkling Christmas touches, was a dream. My favorite moment was when I was on my Dad’s arm and the doors to the sanctuary opened and I could see Kraig’s face as I walked toward him down the aisle. His eyes never left mine and he wore a huge smile above that rented tuxedo. There was no doubt he was in love with me. And I was so in love with him.

This week we’ve been in a hustle and bustle of a different sort as we’ve led up to our 10th anniversary. The term whirlwind can now be used to describe our three little tornadoes who breeze through the house and who have swept us off of our feet. We plan and prepare now for their Christmas activities and gifts as well as extended family parties, work get-togethers and 2nd grade holiday shops.

It’s been a busy time, but Kraig has done something to make the week leading up to our anniversary extra special. Starting last week, ten days before our actual anniversary, he gave me a gift. He gave me a note as well that explained that for the following ten days I’d be receiving one gift a day leading up to our 10th anniversary. Even more, these gifts would be themed based on the traditional symbol of each year’s anniversary. So for example, the first anniversary is paper, the fourth flowers, the tenth tin, etc.

Each day I’ve been enjoying the anticipation of receiving my note and gift from Kraig. But so far, the second day has been my favorite.

The second anniversary’s traditional symbol is cotton. Kraig gave me a pair of pink pajama pants. I really like pink and comfy pajama pants are great… but that’s not the best part.

As he clearly explained that these pants were for our “Cotton Anniversary” I read the label largely displayed on the tag. 100% Polyester.

Yep. Not a fiber of cotton in them.

I looked up and saw Kraig’s face. That same smile I saw 10 years ago as I walked down the aisle was there. We may both look a little older and weathered a bit, but those eyes and that smile still tell me that no matter the fiber in the pants, that man loves me with every fiber of his being.

I can’t wait to see what else I get this week. But cotton, polyester, tin or diamonds it doesn’t really matter. I’ve already got the real treasure.

In This Corner…

I am going to be very honest here. Not that I usually lie. But, I like to write about something after I’ve got it neatly figured out in my mind. I prefer to organize my thoughts and feelings in a nicely gift-wrapped package and then deliver them onto my blog’s doorstep for others to enjoy.

This post, however, is not yet in the gift box. I’m struggling to get it shoved into the “figured out” section of my cranium. Instead, I continue to mull over it and have concluded, at least for the time being, that I can’t neatly package it. So I guess I’ll just dump the contents of my brain out onto my blog platform and see what happens. Maybe it will help me organize my feelings as I sort them out in cyberspace.

My conflict comes in the form of two little girls. Granted, they have conflict amongst themselves over who had the doll baby first and which of them has the prettier fingernail polish. I’m not talking about that conflict. No, I’m referring to the conflict within me.

I have two very strong emotions that are on the complete opposite end of the “feelings spectrum.” I can not understand how I can have both emotions dwell so strongly in my heart and mind when they are so polar opposite.

In one corner, I have the emotion of frustration. My daughters, ages 2 and 4, are always with me. I’m a stay-at-home mom and so I mean, my daughters, are ALWAYS with me. When I wake up, when I go to the restroom, when I take a shower, when I eat, when I exercise, when I drive… you get the idea. Sometimes I just would like to have a minute to myself when no little voice interrupts my conversation or my train of thought. In fact, my train of thought has been derailed so often that I’m not even sure it’s on the tracks anymore. I’m getting tired of stoking the firebox and I feel as if  my head may literally spew smoke. I just want to be left alone.

In the other corner… I don’t want to be left alone!! I absolutely LOVE being a Mommy. It’s my favorite stage of life so far and I’m living my dream. My husband is amazing and our son is enjoying second grade and I have the privilege of staying home with our two daughters. It’s wonderful. I dread the day, in a few years, when my girls will both be in school and these precious preschool days will be done. The thought almost brings tears to my eyes.

How can this be?!

How can I feel both frustration and elation so strongly at the same time?

I don’t know, but I’m telling you that they are both in the ring. They are duking it out every day. I want to hush my girls as they interrupt me for the 823rd time in a day and at the same time I want to scoop them up and snuggle them for hours. I want to be left alone so that I can do what I want to do for an evening, but when I am gone I find myself missing my children deeply and thinking about them often. When I see pictures of my kids as babies I lament that their infant stages are behind us while at the same time wanting to dance with joy that their infant stages are behind us.

Seriously, my Mommy emotions are sometimes like two magnets with opposite poles. They push at each other inside of me and cause me such confusion, joy, grief, happiness and exhaustion.

I don’t know yet how to neatly package these emotions. I can’t reconcile them in my own mind let alone gift-wrap them to deliver neatly to others.

I guess that’s motherhood. It’s a confusing, conflicting, beautiful mess. And now that I’ve got my thoughts laying in a heap I realize that it’s not so bad after all.

It’s the gift that matters anyway, not the way it’s wrapped.