Tuesday, February 19, 2013


So my oldest daughter has now attended her first dance. With a boy.

I have so many things to be grateful for in this experience, not the least of which is I survived it. I know, I know. It wasn't about me. But it did have a particular effect on my life. I am the mother of a teenage girl who up to this point in time has refrained from most of the social activities her peers have engaged in. And I got sort of used to it. It was nice, not having to navigate these waters. It was comfortable for awhile.

Not that it's all discomfort and white-capped waves now. They went as friends, the dress was modest, they opted for pizza in (instead of a fancy dinner out) and ended the night playing video games rather than - well, rather than so many other less desirable options. It was the best possible scenario for a parent who has realized she's not quite ready for this stage of life. Especially since when I was in the stage my motives were less pure, my decisions less wise and my dresses hideous. Blame the 80's. Fashion. Disaster.

It's both encouraging and humbling to see that my less experienced daughter is actually making more mature decisions. I credit a better foundation of faith for that. Actually, I credit God for that.

And she was a really good sport about all the photos I took.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Full Time

My last post indicated there was a lot going on at both home and work. Another week has passed and I'm almost embarrassed to admit this week has been busier. At the end of the first day of the work week, I surveyed the amount of work assigned and the amount of work completed at my job and mentioned to my boss it might be a good idea for me to work "full time" for the month of February. I think he may have been waiting for me to suggest it because it was approved and implemented immediately. This was the first week since before my 13 year old twins were born that I didn't have a weekday off. And my daughter Maggie was sick. Again. She missed two days of school with another bad cold. One or two of you might be making a judgment about my priorities for not being home with her. You might be right.

My niece is back in America (by way of Australia) and has been visiting Chicago since Thursday. My brother's birthday is tomorrow and we had a nice celebration together yesterday. There was a basketball game, a wrestling meet, a prayer event at church, a Science Olympiad Invitational (Caitlin took third place in one of her events) and a long overdue hair cut. That was the latter 1/2 of the week.

I did the grocery shopping on a Saturday for the first time in years. It was not pleasant. Though the 2 year old boy in the cart in front of me did make the long lines at Walmart a little more bearable as he showed off his matchbox car and played a little hide and seek behind his bag of cookies.

I did laundry and errands on Sunday after church. I know this is how a good chunk of America lives, but I'm still waiting to see how I'll survive it. My husband has been great - giving kids rides, helping with the dishes, dusting, and vacuuming. I suppose I'm waiting to see how he survives it too. The funny thing is what a difference ten hours a week makes.

The really funny thing is that we call 40 hours "full time." What's so full about 40 hours in a week made up of 168? It's a little less than 1/4 of the time. Which means I'm spending 3/4's of my time not at work. I know. I'm babbling. Here's the point.

I am so unavoidably limited in my fullness.

I struggle because the word "full" somehow implies complete to me. It has the connotation of getting something done. Finished. Like filling a coffee cup all the way up to the brim. I just put in a 40 hour work week and let me tell you, I'm not done. I didn't finish my tasks. There are empty cups all over my desk (both literally and figuratively).

So it was a relief this morning in church to hear the sermon about the last Beatitude, "Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." The pastor reminded us that there's a progression to the Beatitudes and the one before peace is purity. Purity is a little broader than we tend to think it is and yet a little narrower too. Purity extends to all aspects of my thought life, speech and actions, but it basically boils down to just one aim: holiness. As my man Shakespeare would say "therein lies the rub."

My whole life is a journey toward holiness - the problem is I'm never going to arrive this side of heaven. There are limits to what I will achieve on earth and how quickly it is done. I could use that as an excuse not to pursue holiness at all, but I'd be directly disobeying God if I did. He has called me to be a peacemaker. Not 30 hours a week or 40 hours a week, but 168 hours a week I am to bring the peace He has so generously given me in His Son to every person I meet, every building I enter, every situation I'm in.

That's what I call a full time job.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

What Comes Out

It's been a hectic two weeks. I've been aware of this based on my own level of stress and increased exhaustion. But I have been somewhat significantly less aware than many people around me. In my experience, you are rarely, if ever, the final authority on your own emotional well being. Unless of course, no one else has the dubious honor of witnessing it.

My point is that I'm not always managing my reactions as well as I think I am. I'm comforted to know that sometimes, by God's grace, I'm told I handle them better than I think I do, but such was not the feedback I received these past couple of weeks. I've had more than a few people ask me if things are busy at home or at work to which I answer, "Yes."

We have somehow gradually evolved from the family with few committments into a suburban flurry of activity typical of working parents with three teenagers. God bless Maggie for not being enticed into the mayhem that is organized sports, music, drama, dance, etc. The other two are making up for her lack of interest with basketball, wrestling, band, youth orchestra, science olympiad and youth group. There are practices, games, concerts, rehearsals, meetings and competitions pretty much daily. And the sixteen year old in the house is nowhere near getting a license. So we drive kids around. A lot. That's after work, grocery shopping, errands, dinner, dishes, laundry and the like. I'm not going to admit how seldom I clean, apart from surface clearing and Clorox Wipes. That's the daily stuff. I've had two baby showers, one wake, a museum visit, and a weekend out of town to boot. That's been the home life.

I can't begin to list the number of unusual projects and tasks at work. Well, maybe I can...two significant new hires and two more in the works, a complete office move for the entire central staff by the end of this month, reworking a slew of meeting times, locations and participants while launching new ministry goals and ideas for three campuses. The work hasn't just increased, the pace at which we hope to complete it seems to quicken daily. There was one day this week that it all escalated into an outburst on my part. Not a full blown temper tantram mind you, but a demonstration of one that is most certainly not resting in the power and grace of God. And it was brought to my attention. Twice.

I'm grateful that the first time it came to me was by the Holy Spirit through a gentle but firm conviction that I ought to apologize immediately to the co-worker who bore the biggest brunt of my frustration. I was glad I got that apology in before the second conviction came in the form of another co-worker who was present when it happened.

I'm a people pleaser so I don't like hearing when I've blown it. But I'm glad people tell me. It's part of the sanctification process. I'm also glad a day passed before the second notice. It reduced my defensiveness level a bit. Because I think the tendency is always to shift the blame - if not onto another person, then at the very least to the circumstances. So it's good that I've had this image in my mind for a few months from a DVD study we are doing in our small group at church. The study is called "What Did You Expect?" and the subtitle is "Redeeming the Realities of Marriage." Provactive title, don't you think?

It's been amazing. The first week's session included a little demonstration. The man teaching holds a full water bottle on the stage and shakes it vigorously then asks the audience why water came out of the bottle. Almost in unison everyone replies, "Because you shook it." Then he asked the same question again, but he stressed one word. "Why did water come out of the bottle?" There was a short pause before someone said, "Because water was in the bottle." Then he goes on to unpack the illustration of how we like to pass the blame - it's the one who shook me who's at fault, I couldn't help my reaction! But the fact is nothing comes out that wasn't already inside in the first place. If inside there is nothing but peace, gentleness and self control, then that's what comes out no matter how violently you are shaken.

Getting called on the carpet for spilling my pent up frustration was actually an answer to prayer. I've been asking God lately to show me more of my sin. Be careful what you wish for folks, this is one of those prayers He always seems to answer rapidly. Don't misunderstand, I'm not looking for a guilt trip over how very far short I fall of the grace of God. But I do desire that I would be more grieved over every offense I commit against the God who has given me every good gift I have ever received. That was a lesson learned during a Beatitudes sermon series at church. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. I always thought it was talking about God's comfort during times of pain and loss. It's true that God comforts during those times, but the Beatitude is actually talking about how those who mourn their sin, their offenses against God, will be comforted. We aren't left discouraged and hopeless knowing we will never measure up, never stop failing. We are comforted by the very person we are offending. And He promises we won't be sinning forever. Christ will come back and restore everything and we will be like Him, in His presence. For those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus as their Savior, there is no punishment left for the many offenses. They were all placed on Him. No anger left. No wrath of God coming for those in Christ.

The more I dwell on that amazing truth the more I experience the supernatural peace of God which transcends all understanding.

And that's a much better emotion to have churning inside when everything is shaking.