Tuesday, September 29, 2015

i wish i could give you all a worship high five

This Sunday the youth group was with us during worship.
Will decided he would come stand next to me to sing.
I love that even though his buddies were there he wanted to be with me.
At 12, he is gaining on me. I can't believe how quickly he is changing.
Pretty soon I will be looking up to him.
I will take every moment I can with him.

We were singing. I could hear his strong voice next to mine.
I was raising my hands, thanking God for his redeeming love.

My first worship high five.

I turned to Will, "What in the world?"
"I wanted to give you high five."
I immediately was not worshiping and was whispering to Will.
"Will, we don't high five during worship."
"Why not?"
"....because it distracting...and it scares people when they have their eyes closed."

He was grinning.
So much joy at the addition he had brought to the service.
I was having a hard time not laughing...mostly because I was embarrassed
and wasn't sure who witnessed the event.
(My friend, Tatum, who was sitting next to me told me later
that she thought she saw something go down out of the corner of her eye .)
I could tell he enjoyed the worship high five.
And that he might want to do it again.
So I kept my hands down.

Until the last song when I thought, "I am not letting a 12 year old dictate how I worship."
So I semi-raised my hands....but with palms kept very low near the waist.

The song concluded and Will turned to go to Youth Group with the rest of the kids.
He grinned and said, "I didn't high five you again, Mom....but I really wanted, too."

I shouldn't have been surprised.
Will is the same child who said "Cheers" and clinked his tiny cup with mine
the first time he took communion.
I think he looks at worship differently than I do.
1 part holiness - 3 parts joy.

I have started pondering the worship high five since....
Maybe it should be a thing.

Why don't we high five during worship?
Is there anything more high five worthy than Jesus and what he has done for us?
This could be a new way to embrace the joy of our salvation.

High fives all around for his mercy and grace and forgiveness.
Double high fives for his faithfulness.
Special high fives for his miraculous provision and healing power.

Could you imagine the laughter that would break forth in your church this Sunday
if your pastor said,
"And now, we are going to give each other worship high fives
for all the good things God has done for us."

You can be sure of one thing, kids would be all over it.
They get celebrating life.

There is definitely time for reverence and gravity in worship.
But I will tell you that I cannot stop smiling every time I think about that high five.
I think Will might be on to something.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

because He's good (even when we don't believe it)

I am working on a pregnancy devotional right now.
(No, I am not pregnant.)
(Warning: If you see me and ask me when I am due...we will no longer be friends.)

But the craziest thing has been happening as I write.
The book originally was a gift book of poems, prayers and scriptures
when I wrote it 12 years ago.
When I signed the contract for it, my editor asked me to include 52 devotions.
Which I love.

The main focus of the original book leaned more towards the pregnancy poems
that I wrote.
But the focus of the book is shifting as I write.

It has gone from having prayers and scriptures interspersed throughout the book
to having prayers scriptures after each devotion.

And as I have been writing out the prayers, I can't help crying.
Because talking to Jesus is softening my heart.
So crazy.
And not so crazy.

You may be asking, "Sue, why do you have a hard heart?"
And I will honestly tell you I didn't think I did.
But in the way that Jesus does when we get closer to him,
He has been showing me things about my heart that I didn't know.

Three years ago, my friend, Shelly, died of ovarian cancer.
We had prayed and fasted and prayed some more.
And Jesus took her home to be with Him.
I think in that moment of deep sorrow that Shelly left us,
I began to doubt God's goodness.

I couldn't understand why He wouldn't answer our prayers....
the way that I wanted Him to.
And then because life didn't feel good,  (It felt a little like the end of the world.)
I began wondering if He was good.

That little pebble of doubt buried itself deep.
And I began to pray less.
I still prayed for my kids, for my marriage, for our church family.
But in the way that I had once prayed,
"Jesus, whatever you want? That's what I want!"
Those prayers seemed to dry up and wither away before they could make it to my tongue.

Because I wasn't sure if I wanted what He wanted anymore.
I still loved him.
I just wasn't willing to completely trust him.

Fast forward to this past month of family upheaval,
of a great shift in our family life and the loss of our school community,
add to that the crazy cocktail of tight finances, dying cars, teenage angst and
ministry pressures and you have a small glimpse of life in our home at the moment.
On a smaller scale, we are once again
walking out prayers not being answered the way I wanted them to be.

But in this new wild season...
Here I am trying to write this book.
(Note: You can't really write devotions without spending time with Jesus....
it just doesn't work.)

This book is about joy and hope and expectation.
Here I am reading God's truth and asking Him to transform it into words upon the page.
Here I am writing out prayer upon prayer,
asking God for guidance, intervention, peace, mercy, love,
thanking Him for his amazing creativity, his hand of blessing, his endless provision.
Here I am feeling my heart creak open and seeing that seed of doubt,
planted 3 long years ago, come to light.
My doubt about His plan. His path. His ways.

And something is shifting in my soul.
These prayers, these scriptures....
are opening up a new conversation between me and Jesus.

I am meditating on the miracle of new life
and the hand of God at work knitting together strand upon strand of DNA,
acknowledging the unfathomable knowledge
that He breathes life and hope into everything He touches
and I am realizing (in the tricky way that He does things)
Jesus is transforming me....changing me....
asking me to think about who He is and how He has loved me all along.
All along.
Which shows me again.... just how really GOOD He is.

The sweet oil of those scriptures laced with hope
are loosening the knot of doubt in my spirit.
And the practice of writing out prayers for others to pray over their babies...
I am praying right along with them.
I am finding myself saying, one more time,
"Whatever you want? That's what I want."
And He is telling me one more time,
"Sue, how about you give me all your fear, your anger, your doubt, your questions,
your grief, your pain,
and I will wrap you in my peace....
And overwhelm you with my love....
And show you my goodness."

I can see that his being good isn't reliant on the outcome of my circumstances.
Life is difficult and heart wrenching and sorrowful at times.
His being good....is simply who He is.
Life is beautiful and brilliant and hopeful, too.

So I am praying a new prayer these days,
in the midst of our chaos.
It is a 3 word prayer.

"I am open."

It is both a small and big prayer.
Small on words. Big on hope.
I want Jesus to know that I want in on what He is doing.
Whatever that is.
And I am open to the path that He is leading us on
even if it is not the path I would have chosen for us.

And then I am reminding myself  one more time of the scripture
that is threading itself through my soul.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

when the kids start praying you know it is serious

These last few weeks of transitioning have been a little stressful.
It has turned our family kind of inside out.
Who knew changing schools and adding a 35 minute commute to your day could be do that?
Add to that the pressure of Scott's burgeoning speaking schedule and my looming deadlines
and the kids have taken to prayer.

We always pray for the kids.
We make a practice of it in the car on the way to school and at bedtime.
We hug them, hold them close and speak peace and life over them.
But the other morning, Scott was gone on a retreat
and I was in charge of getting us all up and out the door by 7:00 am.

I was yelling like a drill sergeant...
"Where are your lunches?"
"Do you have your PE clothes?"
"Have you eaten?"
"Have you brushed you teeth?"
"We are going to BE LATE!"

Will came and put a hand on my back.
"Mom, can I pray for you?"
I blinked a couple of times.
"Yes. Please."
He rested his hands on my shoulders.
Then he closed his eyes and said,
"Dear Jesus, Please help my mom not to be cranky. Amen."

He gave my shoulders a little squeeze and then sauntered into the kitchen to grab some toast.
And I....I just stood there.
And felt the stress ease up a bit between my shoulder blades.
And then echoed Will's prayer with another:
"Yes. Please."

I took a deep breath and let that prayer settle into my soul.
It might need a few days to work its way all the way through.
Please keep praying that Jesus will do a mighty work in the cranky places of my heart.
There seem to be an abundance of them.

And not that you need it...
but in case you are in a bit of transition yourself....
or if life feels wild and unpredictable...
or it you just woke up with a crick in your neck and are walking around like C3P0...
don't worry...I've got you....
When Will gets home from school today I'll ask him to say a prayer for you, too.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

belts are important to the whole family

I always like to say that our family lives in a state of happy chaos.
Sometimes there is more happy.
Sometimes there is more chaos.
This morning the gods of chaos reigned supreme.
Jack is going on all high school retreat which Scott happens to be the speaker for.
Addison is having his first field trip which I happen to be a chaperone for.
Trying to get everyone clothed, fed and in the car, with permission slips, suitcases,
bedding, toiletries, sermon notes, small group ideas,
and a towel for making adobe bricks (Addie's mission field trip),
proved to be more than our fragile organizational skills could handle.

For some reason, Scott could only find one of his shoes.
It is difficult when the person who can't find their shoe is an adult.
It felt wrong to ask him, "Where did you have it last?"
Tension was building as Jack realized that he still had a permission slip
left to be signed and could we please pay for a round of paint ball during the retreat?
Yes to signing the permission slip.
Yes to paintball.

I began the round up yell of the morning, "Everyone in the car!!!!!"
The children headed out the door.
One came back. He had forgotten his toothbrush.
The morning was slipping away.
Scott still couldn't find his shoe and had to settle for an old
pair of tennis shoes and jumped in the car.
We loaded up and headed down the street.
"Do you have your notes?'
"Did you get your computer?"
"Yes.....but I forgot my wallet."

We drove around the block and back into the driveway.
Scott grabbed his wallet and we headed up the street again.
As we eased onto the freeway, Scott said,
"I forgot my belt."
I said, "Well, you can use mine but then I won't have anything to hold up my pants."
A pleading voice came from the backseat,
"Dad, please don't take Mom's belt."
This voice was Addie's, the child I would be accompanying on his field trip.
There was a hint of fear in his plea.
He has seen what happens when Mom doesn't wear a belt with low rise jeans.
A debate ensued.
What would be more scarring?
The high school kids seeing Scott's crack or the fourth graders seeing mine?

Then came the discussion about who was more like a plumber...Scott or me.
To which I was offended.
Because I had taken care of my business.
I had taken steps to ensure that my pants would stay up.
I had my belt on.
I was not intending to scar anyone....Scott on the other hand.....not so much.
In the end, we decided that since Scott was going to be gone for 4 days
he was more in need of the belt.

Then the second plea came from the back seat.
"Ok, Mom, but please just DON'T BEND DOWN on my field trip."
To which I agreed.
No bending down.
Then I asked Addie, "Did you remember to grab the towel I put out for you?
No. He did not. He had no towel to clean up his brick making efforts.
We were all a bit frazzled.

But I promised Addie Dad and I would run to the store
and see if we could find a towel before his field trip.
We dropped everyone off and high tailed it down to Starbucks
(because it was necessary to life at this point)
and to Rite Aid (which hopefully had towels.)

And lo and behold, what did we find at the end of the towel aisle in the Rite Aid?
A rack of belts.
I am not even kidding.
Who knew they sold both towels and belts at Rite Aid?
And what are the odds that they would be on the same aisle?????

It was if the heavens opened up and said,
"We have seen your plight and heard your cries....and evermore we shall say....

It was a good moment.
A happy moment.
After all the chaos.
So today we are embracing the famous words of my brother, Chris,
"Just say no to crack."
We invite you and all the plumbers everywhere in the world to join us.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

we are going to be okay

Two weeks ago we found out that the small private school all our boys have
attended since kindergarten would be closing.
We would need to find a new school for Will and Addie.
This resulted in a great amount of anxiety and tears.
And that was just me.
We loved that school and those teachers like family.
We are missing them like crazy.
We have been praying that every teacher would find a job
and that every child would find the perfect school for them.

It is strange kind of grief...losing the familiar and being flung in a new direction.
We held the boys as they wept and shared their fears with us.
About not knowing anyone and wondering if their new teachers would let them be funny.
Funny is important around here.
Then we prayed for peace and direction and I went looking for chocolate.
Because chocolate can soothe the soul at times.

In an amazing door that only God could open,
we found that the school Jack would be attending for high school
had space in their middle and elementary school.
And that we had about 5 days to get ready for the first day of school.
New friends. New teachers. New routines.
And a half hour drive to school.

On our drive that first day of school, Scott was talking up a storm
pumping up the boys, encouraging them.
And I was quiet.
Because I was reliving all my first day at a new school moments
in my own mind.

I was remembering the thumping of my heart
 that I was sure everyone could see through my shirt.
The prick of tears in the corners of my eyes as I watched my mom walk away.
And the great hope that I would find a friend to eat lunch with.
I changed schools about 6 times from kindergarten to high school.

In fifth grade when I changed from private to public school,
I was so excited I could hardly stand it. I wanted to go to a big school.
I had begged my parents to let me go there.
And when I got there I was so anxious it made me throw up.
I have some over active nerves, folks.
The shift from a sheltered Christian environment
to a school where the 6th graders were as big as college students
and cussed when they got out at 4 square was a shock to the system.

After about a week of being sent home in the afternoon with stomach issues,
my teacher, Mrs. Cox, took me into the bathroom.
There was not one thing that I didn't like about Mrs. Cox.
I loved being in her class. Her kindness. Her love of books.
The no nonsense way that she ran her class and the way that she let us learn math
at our own speed.
I especially liked that she spoke to us like we mattered.
I don't know how she ascertained what was stressing me out
but she was one of those teachers who looked at each of us like we were individuals.
She cared about us.
She cared about me and my weird stomach.

I could tell when she pointed to the cuss words written
on the bathroom wall and then covered them with her hand.
She told me,
"I don't like these words either. But you? You are going to be okay."
And she was right. I was.
Soon the stomach cramps stopped and the light began to shine.
It was going to be okay. I was going to be okay.
I knew it to be true. Mostly, because Mrs. Cox said so.
And 5th grade was hands down my favorite year of school. Ever.

I told this to Mrs. Cox when we met up and went out to coffee last year.
I told her the story of the cuss words on the bathroom wall and she laughed.
"I don't remember that at all."

But the thing is...I did. And I do.
That 2 minute pep talk in the stinky bathroom of Vine Hill Elementary
grounded me in hope.
And that is the place I am planting my feet this week.
In hope.
For good things. And great teachers. And new friends for my boys.

The first week has been a little rough.
The boys are tired and a little more than stressed out.
Dressing down for PE is enough to crush the strongest young spirit.
The tears have not subsided yet.
There have been upset stomachs (yep, I passed on the anxious gene)
and angry outbursts and on Sunday Addison asked me,
"Mom, can you home school me?" (Not an option.)

But I know this.
Nothing ever stays the same.
Life is about change.
Good things are almost always hard.
And sometimes being launched in another direction can open us up to
a new way of trusting Jesus.
(As in, "Sweet Jesus, Help Us NOW!)

And then there is that deep school bathroom truth that I keep reminding
myself of when I see the uncertainty written on my boys faces.
It may be a little wild and unsettling right now but it won't always be that way.
They are going to be okay.
We are going to be okay.
Mrs. Cox says so.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

i could be an elf

I have been subbing this summer at my boys old preschool.
I love being around little kids.
I love the joy that bubbles out of them and the funny things they say.
I do have some difficulty remembering their names.
I tend to refer to them as "sunshine", "buddy" and "friend".
They go with it.
The children have some trouble with my name, too.
I have been called:

Teacher Shoe
Teacher Shoes
Teacher Zeus
Teacher Suess
and my personal favorite...
Teacher Zoo

One of the children said to me,
"You know, being around you is kind of like being at the Zoo."
I told him, "My husband would agree with you."

But my favorite exchange this summer happened yesterday.
One of the little 5 year old girls came up to me and said,
"Your ears are super pointy...like an elf."
She is right.
My ears do narrow quite a bit at the top.
My brother referred to me as "Mr. Spock" when we were kids.
But I have come to terms with my elfin ears.
They add character.
My hair was pulled back in a pony tail to reveal them in their full pointed glory.

I said,"Maybe I am an elf."
She said, "What if you are one of Santa's elves?"
I said, "What if I am?"
She got serious.
"Then I think you should come here every day so that you can tell Santa
if we should be on the naughty or nice list."
I laughed.
"Wouldn't that be fun?"

As I walked away, I could see she was still studying my ears.
I didn't say I was an elf.
But I am not saying I'm not one either.
Just so you know, I think you all should be really nice to me.
It is in your best interest.
I could have an in with Santa.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

you are lovely

The thought came to me this week as I was trying on dresses for my niece, Claire's, wedding,
that I could sure do with some of the muscle tone I had almost twenty years ago
when I got married.
It came to me with some other thoughts like,
If I am holding in my stomach, why doesn't it look like I am holding in my stomach?
Why is the skin on the top of my knee trying to fold over on itself?
Stay where you are, knee skin...STAY. WHERE.YOU.ARE.
Let's be real. The lighting in Ross is so harsh.
Things have been shifting the last year or so.

I told my doctor I think I have skin cancer and a hormone imbalance
and I am possibly going blind....
I have dark spots showing up on my skin, I have to fight to fit into my own pants
and my eyes are so dry that my eyelids want to stick to my eyeballs..
She laughed and said, "You are fine. Those are age spots and you are just getting older."

I kind of wanted to hit her.
But she is super nice and I thought she might not see me again if I took to violence.
So I have been putting on cream that says it defies age which is a lot to expect from any cream,
counting calories and wearing glasses.

And here I am left with my age spots and my feelings.
And I have been talking to myself. (Another sign of aging?????)
Because I am not a twenty year old girl any more.
I don't have to plunge into self doubt because my pants are tight.
I am a woman who knows some things.
I have been speaking some deep truths to my own soul.

1. That feelings are feelings...and they can change.
And they will change.  As a woman, I reserve the right to change how I feel
about anything...at any moment...any day of the week.
2. I am getting older and this is a good thing...
the other option is going to heaven...which I would like to put off for a while.
3. This body has done some good hard work in the last 20 years
birthing people, planting churches, chasing kids and getting me places in general...
I should be singing its praises...
"Good job, body parts!"
"Way to keep doing what you are doing!"

Here is the thing...I think it is important to feel good about yourself.
I am not knocking a new dress and a strong pair of spanks. (Thank you, Lycra.)
Let's keep everything looking good and where it supposed to be.
Let's keep exercising and eating Greek yogurt and lotion-ing up.
It is good stewardship...taking care of these amazing bodies we have been blessed with.

But the truth is....at some point, say in our mid-80's,
we will realize there is NO CREAM that can truly defy age. (Sorry, Oil of Olay.)

Here is the other thing.... 
regardless of age, thigh circumference, and nose size?

Beautiful is what we are.

Whether we believe it or not.
With our various ages, unique faces and different shapes and wide varieties of hair types,
we, as women, are beautiful.

When we are brought low by the thickness of our ankles or our overly large ears,
the deep truth that needs to wedge itself in our hearts is that
the One who created us made us in his image.
His glorious...unfathomable...beautiful image.
He likes what He made. He took great delight in the details of
shaping our high foreheads and sturdy legs and strong hands.
And he loves us.
He thinks us...love-ly.
He thinks you are lovely.
He thinks I am lovely.

So I telling myself that, too.

4. I am lovely.

Because it is the truth. Not a feeling.

I want how I see myself  and how I feel about myself to be tethered to what He thinks of me...
instead of how I fit into my pants.
How I fit into my pants is changeable. Apparently, from week to week.
How He feels about me is not.
How He feels about you is not.
He loves us completely...wholly....with his entire being...no matter what.

And that....is beautiful.