Monthly Archives: November 2015

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It’s always interesting when I reflect on the timing and effectiveness of life’s lessons. I use the word “interesting” loosely, as it makes me seem more mature than I am…and since some of the words that come to mind when I get one of those lessons don’t belong on your screen. Anyone else feel me here?

I recently received a communication from someone dear to me, in which she decided to make clear every single thing that has ever bothered her, specifically about me, but also about select members of our family. It was, let’s just say, a less-than-pleasant experience. I was shocked. I was hurt. I was indignant. And I was angry.

It took me completely off guard. And while I have managed to block out some of the more hurtful phrases, the one I couldn’t (and still can’t) get past was the bold statement, “I deserve better.”

Because my immediate reaction was, “No, you don’t.”

And once my vision cleared and my blood pressure started returning to normal, I had to pause for a moment of self-reflection. (I really hate those, by the way.)

Nevertheless, while this letter wounded my heart, it also sharpened my sense of “self”. How many times have I entered or left a situation with a list of all the ways I deserved better? How often have I forgotten just how fortunate I am? If we’re looking at hard truths, I’m certainly due my fair share.

This moment of self-reflection through reality-tinted glasses, while oh-so-fun, gave me a thought:

What if we took the word “deserve” out of our vocabulary, unless it’s preceded by the word “don’t”?

None of us actually get what we deserve – thank goodness. In our heart of hearts, in the deepest places where we hide our most secret thoughts, we breathe a sigh of relief. Because we know the truth. We know who we are, and what we’ve done, or said, or thought. We know what we really deserve…if we’re honest. And what we really deserve isn’t unending grace and love. It isn’t a life of freedom and second chances and opportunities. It isn’t an open invitation to eternal joy and paradise. We don’t like to focus on that part, do we?

When we, as flawed people, use the word deserve, our focus is on the human element. We go one of two places with this. “I deserve”, which leads us to entitlement and accolades based on accomplishment. Or “they deserve”, which often takes us to judgment and an anticipation of punishment. We’re looking at the end game here on Earth instead of opening our minds to the big picture. We look sideways, instead of up, wondering “What did we get? What did they get?”.  It makes us cocky. It creates competition. It gives birth to dissatisfaction, and often greed.

We are called to be grateful, not dissatisfied, and certainly not competitive or covetous.

Colossians 3:15 – Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

The addition of “don’t” changes our focus from “I deserve better” to “I don’t deserve that”. When we change our language (inside and out) to don’t deserve, we can focus on the divine. It shifts us from entitlement to gratitude, and puts our hearts in a posture of humility. We become thankful for grace and all of our blessings, or express sorrow for crummy circumstances.

The tension comes when we look at what we consider to be fundamental human rights.

  • I deserve to be happy
  • Children deserve to be safe
  • People deserve to be fed, or healthy, or treated with dignity

We can still apply our new vocabulary here.

The truth is: no child deserves to be neglected or abused; no one deserves to be cold, or homeless, or hungry; we don’t deserve to get terminally ill, or injured; we don’t deserve tragedy or pain; the French didn’t deserve to be victims to acts of terrorism; the Syrians don’t deserve the horror they are living; victims of sex-trafficking don’t deserve their plight.

Are we starting to get onto the same page? Does it change your rhythm a little to phrase it this way?

In all of Scripture, there is not a condoning of the “I deserve” school of entitlement. Even the life of Jesus and story of the cross revolve around what he didn’t deserve as opposed to what he was due – and let’s face it, if anyone who ever lived had rights to that parade, it would have been the Son of God.

Isaiah 53: 5-8 – But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought our peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He died a death he didn’t deserve, so that we could receive the gift that we don’t deserve.

He was God, and yet, there is no mention of him deserving better than the simple life he lived and brutal death he endured.

Philippians 2:5-9 – Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.

Despite all of this, we never hear how richly he deserved what came next.

Philippians 2: 9-11 – Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Nary a “deserve” in the whole passage. In fact, the focus is still on the Father; the accolades still aimed at His glory.

There’s a very clear message here for us. There’s an expectation of how we are to view ourselves, and example of the attitude we should embrace.

It gets so very tricky.

I’ll give you an example:

The desire of every mother on the planet is to raise healthy children. It’s a basic wish, and the hope of all our hearts. My secular job revolves around parents who face the other side of that coin. I’ve spent 16 years working with families going through the pain of raising children with broken bodies and minds. They are amazing people, kind people, good people, faithful people. Their kids are beloved and special, and precious. They don’t deserve the hand their dealt, nor have they asked for it.

And as much as I love/adore my three kids and think they are pretty great, I know this to be true – they don’t deserve their amazing, talented bodies and minds any more than the children I treat.

They don’t.

There but for the grace of God go I.

And as we raise our kids, as we watch them and celebrate them, encouraging them in every endeavor and phenomenal achievement they head towards… Their father and I have one over reaching goal: to be sure that they never, for one second, forget to do all that they do in the name and to the glory of the One who dealt them these cards.
It’s all from Him.
It’s all for Him.

Ephesians 5:19b-20 – Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 The more gratitude I embrace, the more joy I find. The more joy I find, the more gratitude I feel. I find myself celebrating the little things…and not just for me or mine. It becomes easier to celebrate for and with others as well.

The cycle continues in this big, beautiful circle that brings me closer to God with every repetition of the rounding.

We shine brightest with His light when we are filled with His joy.

We are most filled when we let go of ourselves – our pride, our competition, our dissatisfaction or self-proclaimed sense of what’s “fair” and lift up a simple thank you. It acknowledges God’s gifts and the trust we have in His provision for us. It brings to the forefront of our minds His sovereignty. It reminds us of who He is.

I am grateful His is who He is, and chooses what I don’t deserve over what I do. I know who I am. I know, in my innermost secret places the wretchedness of my heart. I am grateful to be loved in spite of it. I am grateful Father wants me to find joy in His love, and in the love of and for others. I am grateful that here go I, in this time and place, in these circumstances, with the people in my life – because this is where He placed me, with specificity and purpose. So, this is where I’m supposed to be.

Here is where my focus should be – on the One who loves, who created everything and let’s us take part, who is waiting patiently for us to grow up and do our part and live our purpose, then join Him for an eternity of joy.

It’s a beautiful life…even when it’s messy, or less than perfect, or hard, or criticized. Those things do not diminish it’s value, or mine, or that of those who surround me. We are loved. We are precious. And I am incredibly grateful.

Solidarity, sisters. Grab a hand and give thanks.

 

 


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James 1: 2-4 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

I’ve never liked this verse.

Yet, today, as I look at it with a fresh perspective, I am trying to change the angle and deepen my understanding. Maybe there’s something here I haven’t paid attention to before. I’ve been know to miss a thing or two (or 20). So, I put my focus on the word joy, and went back to Kay Warren’s definition of it. She says:

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be all right, and the determined choice to praise God in all things.”

Ah….that changes things a bit.

Joy: the deep-in-the-gut peace of knowing, without a doubt, that He’s got this. He knows exactly what’s going on and what’s about to happen. He holds the outcome in His hands (along with the whole world, no less). And His heart is 100% for me.

Let’s go back and read those verses again with this focus.

The trials are there to prove this – to my fragile little heart, to a broken world, to the souls around me who desperately need a sign that shows them the light, and to the dark shadows that threaten to overwhelm us all.

I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to celebrate it, at least not in a conventional way.

I have to walk through it.

I can choose to do so with confidence and strength and peace, or I can do so with bitterness and fear and doubt. The circumstances may be beyond my control, but how I approach them is absolutely not. It’s a choice, plain and simple: look up or look down; head held high or posture of defeat; shine with His light or be crushed by the dark.

It’s a process, this completing of our selves. There’s a point to the pain, and if we can remember that, we can fight through anything, carry any load, conquer any fear. It won’t be easy, but it will always be worth it.

James knew this beyond a shadow of a doubt. It’s why he opened with it. No pain, no gain, kids….and oh what a gain we’re in for.

Solidarity, sisters. No one gets stronger by lifting feathers.

 


A-Hunting We Will Go

Yes, I know…this is not a deer rifle. It’s a shotgun, but this is the only pictorial evidence that I’ve ever attempted hunting.

I love the holidays.  I love fall weather.  I love family gatherings, drama and all.  I love to cook.  So, all-in-all, this is win-win for me.  This year, I had the added excitement of embarking on a new adventure – I joined the family hunting trip.  Ta-da!

I’ve wanted to attempt deer hunting over the past couple of years (which, I realize, seems in direct opposition to my whole “I’m not a country girl” thing).  I like learning new things and I’m curious as to what all the hoopla is about.  Between toddler duty and letting kids have their first hunts, I usually end up giving my spot up so that someone else can have a shot (no pun intended).  So, this year’s plan was “Mommy gets a deer first.”

Don’t hold your breath, kids.

We headed west Friday – locked, loaded and ready to go.  As we drove in our unusually quiet car (we only took Luke and the dog, the two younger kids stayed behind), my mind drifted back to my very first deer/hunting interaction.  It was with Gregg, of course, and even though it was almost 20 years ago, I remember it with complete clarity.

We were freshmen in college and had been “hanging out” without actually dating (whatever that means) for a month or two.  Translated, we were still too cool to make the first move, but in the “I need to impress you with how irresistible I am without seeming to try too hard.”  Gregg was at his house which, to my mind, was out in the country and I had driven over to “hang out”.  We couldn’t go anywhere because he had shot a deer the evening before and it was hanging, field dressed and ready for him to skin and quarter.  Naturally, the super cute Wonder Girl persona I had cultivated prompted me to volunteer my services and help him out.  After all, I was dissecting stuff in Anatomy lab and pre-med at the time.  How hard could this be?  Plus, for all my insect and scorpion phobias, mammals don’t make me squeamish.  And Gregg looked as impressed as he did shocked, so I figured it was the right call.

We went out to where the deer hung and, after a brief “Aw” moment, I was ready to work.  Gregg gave me a small handsaw and began reciting very specific instructions, which I actually listened to without allowing myself to become overly distracted by his dimples.  Or height.  Or muscles.  Did I mention he was really cute?  Believe it or not, in my younger years I was way more focused and less ADD than I am now.  I blame the children for this loss.

Sorry, I digress.  See?

Instructions: I was the quarterer, which meant I had to remove the legs (if you are squeamish, you might want to skip ahead.  If you are a card carrying member of PETA, just skip this post altogether).  The method I was to use was to saw halfway through the leg tendons, twist and pull, popping the leg off.  Repeat for each leg.  Gregg did the actual skinning, and was impressively fast at it, until he got to the head/neck area – he then sat on the ground to work with more precision (obviously, the deer was hanging upside down).  This was my cue to being working on the hind legs.  Show time.

As I stated earlier, this was a time in my life where I was incredible focused and very literal.  I took the handsaw and sawed through exactly 50% of the tendons with extreme specificity.  I may have even counted fibers.  So far, so good.  I carefully set the saw down, reached up for the leg, twisted and pulled.  Nothing.  Hmmm…. I twisted a little further and pulled with more force.  Still nothing.  I repeated the twist/pull pattern with incremental increased in force for three to four more repetitions.  No luck.  The leg was still firmly attached.

And now, it was personal.

I had followed the instructions without deviating and it was not working!  My type A personality could not reconcile this, so my mounting frustration may have made me a tad irrational.  I totally forgot about Gregg’s presence and became completely immersed in the woman versus deer leg struggle for dominance.  Bring it on, Bambi!

I raised all the way up onto my tiptoes, wrapped both arms around the leg and turned my body so that the deer leg was positioned under my armpit and lodged against my ribs.  I placed my foot on the tree trunk, braced myself and started yanking with my arms and body while shoving my foot against the tree for leverage.  I’m pretty sure there was grunting.  I struggled this way for a good minute, hair whipping wildly, tree bark flying, the deer swinging back and forth…..until, breathless, I realized two things: 1) this deer leg was no closer to coming off at this point than it had been before I started  and 2) Gregg was still there.  Oops.

I slowly turned my head and lowered my gaze to see him sitting – stunned, silent, not moving at all, as he stared with wide eyes at the lunatic hanging on his deer.  After an awkward pause, he asked, “What are you doing?”  There really was no dignified response here, so I simply said, “Twist and pull.”  We learned that day that I was not strong enough for the 50% rule.  My success rate with the other legs went up exponentially when I sawed through 90% of tendons instead.

Fast forward 20 years to the inaugural deer hunt.  We dropped off our stuff, our son (he had no interest in going since the focus was not on him…so much for supporting Mom) and the dog, then headed to the deer lease.  I was quite excited, although more than a little apprehensive, truth be told.  I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion how busy we are, and the holiday season only magnifies this.  While I have shot guns before, it’s been a while.  With our crazy schedules, we never got around to practicing with the gun I was actually going to use.  So, when Gregg handed me the gun and said, “Ok, babe, rack a round and put one in the chamber”, I just sat there blinking at him.  I mean, really.  Who did he think he was talking to?  Where would I have just picked that up as a skill?  This was probably his first red flag.  The second came as we were exiting the vehicle and I turned to him with the question, “So, where exactly am I supposed to shoot the deer?”  Nothing like waiting until the last possible minute to get the basic info.

We set off on foot across the lease and I felt pretty official in my black wool beanie, five layers of clothes, Gregg’s camouflage vest and a rifle in my hands.  This particular lease doesn’t have many deer blinds and we got there after the feeders had gone off, so the plan was to walk the lease and find deer to hunt.  This requires stealth, a good eye and quick response time.  Perfect.  Sounds like a recipe for success to me.

Still, I had promised to be a good sport and follow directions, so I squared my shoulders and soldiered on.  Gregg led the way and we wound our way throughout the terrain.  It was really fun.  There was wildlife everywhere – we saw jackrabbits and hawks and foxes, and there was a veritable cacophony of birdsong.  It was so great to spend time, just the two of us, enjoying nature and fresh air.  I almost forgot we were stalking deer.  Almost…..the gun wasn’t exactly light.  At intervals, Gregg would turn to me and do the two fingers at his eyes, then at me, then out at the clearing.  I would nod and look around dutifully.  He would motion to get down.  I would duck and squat.  He also did a whole bunch of other signs that made no sense to me whatsoever and I couldn’t begin to guess at their meaning.  I just kept nodding.  He seemed so excited to communicate in that way, I didn’t have the heart to burst his bubble.

As the sun began to set, we became resigned to the fact that this trip was unlikely to garner the result we had hoped for.  We began walking back towards the suburban.  All of a sudden, Gregg started flapping and pointing wildly while squatting and motioning for me to do the same.  Okay!  Okay!  I got it.  He duck walked/ran over to me, put his chin on my head and began speaking under his breath.  I thought this was a great trick, by the way.  I know, focus on the point.  He had spotted a doe in the field across from us.  Sweet!  I turned to look where he was pointing.  Nothing.  He pointed again.  Nothing.  Again.  Nothing.  What the heck was he looking at?  I mean, the man can’t find his keys when they are six inches from his face, but he can spot a partially hidden deer at 200 yards?

Amazing.

He told me to sneak along the fence line past the bushes and I should be able to see her.  Ok.  Got it.  So I slowly began this awkward lunge/squatty/duck-like walk along the fence while hiding behind the bushes.  It was ridiculous, and only the thought he would kill me if my laughter scared off the invisible deer kept my giggles at bay.  I stopped and stared.  Nothing.  He pantomimed for me too look through the rifle scope to see if it would help.  Oh, my gosh.  Have you ever tried to do that?  How does anyone see through those things?  Gregg snuck over to me, told me not to put the scope so close to my face or the recoil would give me a black eye (great, something new to worry about) and said there were now two deer.  Because I was having so much trouble seeing them, he would go around and see if he could “encourage” them to come towards me by making a little noise on the other side.  What?!?  Then, he says, “This means you’re gonna have to be quick, Bec.  I mean, no hesitation.  Click off the safety, get your gun up, aim and shoot.  They’ll be moving, so you won’t have much time.”

Again, who does he think he’s talking to?  It’s like he’s never met me!

Needless to say, this plan was not successful.  I never did see the deer.  Maybe they flew away…..Christmas is coming, you know.

Walking back to the car, we each spent a few minutes in our own thoughts.  I was a little disappointed, but still had fun.  My main concern was that this had to be the most boring hunting trip ever for my husband.  The man has been hunting his whole life.  He doesn’t even rifle hunt anymore, preferring to use a bow.  Here I am, candidate for Clueless Hunting Rookie of the Year.  Gregg was walking a few feet in front of me.  He paused for a moment, turned, and said, “I can’t tell you how happy I am that you came along.  It means so much to me that I got to share this part of me with you.”  I felt my heart lift, my spine straighten and my face break into a smile.  As he turned to keep walking, he casually tossed out, “And you look really cute in that hat.”

Victory!!  As far as I’m concerned, this hunt was a roaring success.  Any time a good-looking outdoorsman walks away from an empty-handed hunt with a smile and a compliment, noticing your adorableness, you’ve won the day.

After all, isn’t that what we all hunt for throughout our lives?  Aren’t we tracking down people and occasions that leave us feeling loved and beautiful and worthwhile?  We equip ourselves as best we can to find positive reinforcement and incidences and individuals that are able to celebrate our relationships over our results and our company over our competence.

This is why community and friendship and sisterhood are so important.  We were created to embrace them…and each other.

So celebrate that every opportunity you get, and even stepping outside of your comfort zone won’t feel so daunting, I guarantee it.  It made a cold, intimidating hunt much more enjoyable.

Getting to watch him walk around in front of me in his jeans was just a bonus.

Solidarity, sisters.  The hunt is on…..


flood

Come on, now, friends. Finish that one with me. In unison, everybody!

When it rains, it pours!

It’s been a bit of a rainy season around here. First, let me say, thank you so much for your patience! It’s been a long three and a half weeks of waiting and wading through all the issues that come with a site crash and attempted retrieval/repairs. Those of you who’ve been tuned in for a while know how much technology and I don’t get along, so I won’t belabor the point. Let’s just say, this incident has done nothing to repair that rocky relationship. We’ll leave it at that.

I had all kinds of plans for a profound and amazing post to re-launch a season of fabulous and funny blogs….and then the rains came. We got pounded here in sweet little New Braunfels and the surrounding areas….as tends to happen. This time, to add to the fun, a tornado showed up as well. Schools closed. Roads were blocked. The river rose and flooded, causing damage and flashbacks. All plans and events were cancelled. Chaos ensued.

Naturally, any hope of accomplishing anything outside of chasing and/or entertaining kids and river watch/clean-up was squashed over the week’s end. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a crisis. We were lucky this time, and did not sustain damage to the actual river house itself (water stopped a mere eight steps from the front door – how’s that for a close call?). Our neighbors didn’t get to dodge that bullet, even though the river returned to its banks relatively quickly.

We have wonderful friends who showed up to check water levels and help clear debris, and many others who called or texted to check in and offer to help. Bless them all. It makes such a difference, and we are well aware that being loved like this is an amazing thing.

It definitely switched my focus to being grateful instead of frustrated.

Once we got everything cleared away and relatively organized, things started flowing (no pun intended) in the right direction. Weather cleared so that Halloween plans could go through. Gregg took Drew and headed to West Texas for their hunting excursion. Luke got prepped and set for his night of middle school shenanigans. I helped Emry get ready, and the Pink Power Ranger and I were ready to party. We left for fun with friends, dragging teenage boys in tow with promises to feed them and then drop them off at their party (I may have had a few small heart palpitations, since this was my first run at not helping chaperone). They were even good sports about posing for a picture or two.

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Despite all the craziness, running around, and managing of kids at multiple locations (one of which took forever to get to due to residual road closures and flooding, yet we did prevail…parties stop for no man around here), things were going relatively smoothly. At least, until it was time for Pinkie and I to head out to get the boys. As I said my goodbyes, she walked around the couch to get her candy, or say her farewells, or whatever she needed to do in that moment. Suddenly, there was a chorus of, “Emry’s bleeding!”

She came walking towards me, blood running down her head and all over her hands, tears pouring down her sweet face. For the love…. We’re still not sure exactly what happened. She wasn’t running. She didn’t fall. There was no wrestling or rough-housing, and not another child near her. She said she just sat down and leaned forward, hitting her head on the coffee table.

And busted the skin above her eyebrow open to the bone.

It was so random. Sadly, after my initial shock, I remembered that I was probably due an incident of this proportion given that my husband was out of town, and we all know how that goes around here. Off to the ER we went, with Emry lamenting that she “wished I never sat down.” I guess her take-home lesson interpretation is to never stop moving…

Kudos to a wonderful staff. From check-in to nurses to the doctor who ultimately sewed her up, everyone was so kind and patient and gentle with her. She was a trooper, not a tear was shed once we got there, and her primary  concern was the color of the stitches (she was quite adamant that she needed white, we compromised with blue). We texted Daddy and big brother pictures of the procedure (I’ll spare you those), and ended up with four stitches above her eyebrow.

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The rest of the weekend we laid really low. Both mama and daughter were exhausted, and frankly, I don’t know that I could have handled any other surprises. It seemed safest to just not leave the house until Monday morning. And even though she looks a bit like a tiny prizefighter, she was off to school with her usual verve; with the addition of a swollen eye and Hello Kitty bandage. We specifically picked out one of her birthday shirts that says “Sassy and Fabulous” on the front in gold letters, because if you’re going to show up to kindergarten with stitches and a shiner, the world needs you know that you are definitely those two things.

I’m hoping to channel a little of that this week.

I’m grateful to be back in the proverbial saddle, blogging and posting to you fabulous people. I’m grateful to have survived another bout of single-handed parenting. I’m grateful that Halloween is over, and that there are wonderful souls out there who believe in giving away quality chocolate. I’m grateful for amazing friends who help clear flood debris, pinch hit to grab kids in an emergency, attempt to help glue gashes shut, and hop in the car for a midnight ER ride involving a child that’s not their own.

I’m even grateful for the time change. It’s nice to get kids off to school while the sun is up.

Here’s to all of you, sassy and fabulous, bruises and all. Thanks, as always, for joining me on this ride. Drop me a line to let me know you stopped by. I’d love to hear from you. I’m sure you have a story to share.

Solidarity, sisters. It’s great to be back.