In It Together: Praying For Those In Ministry

“Pastors are struggling with how to do their jobs of shepherding in this new environment. Their job is social, so face-to-face. This pandemic isn’t. They’re trying to figure out ways to connect with people and to connect them to God’s Word as much as they can in a meaningful way. Trying to make sure people don’t just fall into the habit of not worshiping because this is so different and easy to get to it later.”

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Imagine, for a moment, that you’re a shepherd. You are surrounded by your sheep morning and night, day in and day out. It’s an exhausting job that requires wisdom and diligence, but it’s worth it. You love your sheep. They have unique personalities, and it is a joy to interact with them and lead them.

Now imagine that you find yourself in a position where you are in one pasture, and your sheep are in another. You can see and hear them – they still need you. You are not allowed to cross over to that pasture, but you’re still expected to guide and protect your sheep. Your job, your calling, your responsibility, is those sheep. 

How in the world do you lead a flock from afar?

Such is the quandary of ministry leaders in our current situation. They are called to guide and equip people in their faith…but all of the usual and logical methods have been banned. Churches are closed. Coffee or lunch dates are taboo. Sunday morning services and Bible studies cannot happen. 

It would have been one thing, I imagine, to have several months’ notice to prepare for such an event, but that’s not the way this pandemic panned out. The result has left ministry leaders scrambling to reach their flocks in new and foreign ways. The following quotes relate experiences from friends in different areas of ministry, shared with their permission. (Please note that these conversations took place in mid-March. With the ever-changing pandemic scene, some details may not be accurate as of this posting.)

“The current situation here in France is that we are all quarantined to our own homes for a minimum of 15 days. We are allowed to be outside in our own yards only. There are only a few reasons that anyone can leave their property which includes shopping for grocery items, going to your work if work cannot be done from home, exercise (running only, we cannot go for a walk or a bike ride), or taking a pet out to use the “facilities.”  Also, all of these things can only be done alone, not even with a spouse. On top of that, if we need to do one of these things we have to carry a piece of paper that is from the French government (that we have filled out ourselves) that explains what we are doing out. And we need a different one every day or for every activity. We are trying to continue to learn French despite the situation. Everything has to be done online so it’s a lot of worksheets and not much speaking.” 

“In the Christian camping ministry, it is basically our business to bring people together for shared experiences. Currently, bringing people together is at the top of the world’s “do not do” list. We’ve had to cancel our spring retreat and field trip groups. If things are not under control by the summer, we will not be able to run summer camp. 

The implications of this are huge. Bigger than the people who will be out of work (or at least not be receiving salaries) are all the lives that Jesus impacts while they are at camp. Jesus will still work in people’s lives even if they are not at camp, but knowing just what a powerful ministry happens here, it is hard to accept that it may not happen this summer.”

“It’s difficult finding a solution that checks all the boxes when it comes to meeting our people’s spiritual needs, helping protect community health and honoring the government. The daily change in government mandates presents planning and communication challenges. All that being said, I already see blessings as people realize again how important it is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith in all circumstances.” 

How can we pray for our friends in ministry during this unprecedented world event? Below are some of their requests:

  • Encouragement as they continue language studies to spread the Gospel
  • Wisdom on how to prioritize days with new responsibilities
  • Prayer that God’s purposes will prevail in their lives and those around them
  • That regular supporters would continue to be involved and supportive of their ministry
  • Wisdom in how to best minister to others while church and ministry doors are closed
  • Prayer for the health and safety of ministry staff
  • Strength and patience in our ever-changing world situation
  • Pray that people will get into God’s Word and use the resources ministry leaders have provided to keep families and individuals connected to God and each other

Along with prayer, consider sending your friends in ministry an encouraging text, email or note right now. And to quote the wife of a pastor when I asked how we can encourage on a practical level:

“Milk and bananas on my doorstep! I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a pizza delivery, either.”

 

In This Together: Praying For Our Teachers

“Even though it hasn’t been easy, teachers don’t give up, ever. If something doesn’t work, we figure out how to make it work.”

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I received this message from a friend late last week. I had checked in on some of my teacher friends to see how they were doing and how we could encourage and pray for them. You guys, their responses were so real, raw and vulnerable – they broke my heart. Today, I’d like to share some of their thoughts, struggles, and prayer requests (with their permission):

“I miss my students. This feels so different and unsettled so it is not like spring break or even summer when you have definitive times when you know you will see them again. I am concerned for my students. Some have home lives that make school a refuge and now their refuge is gone. Some aren’t getting food like they did at school. Many need the social connection that school provides and now that is gone as well.

It is a roller coaster of emotions. Sometimes I’m ready to face the world. Other times I’m missing my family who lives states away. Then I am missing my students. As I prepare to record videos of myself singing songs for my students I am brought to tears thinking how I am not able to share this in person.”

None of us are working in a time or place that we ever thought we would have to deal with. The day that my principal started talking to us about the possibility of having to shut the doors of our school to students who we love so sincerely, I was in denial and then shock…after class ended, I went to the office restroom and cried. I just sobbed, filled with the loss of this school year. I love my students so much and I knew that we wouldn’t really have closure on this school year. I won’t be able to connect with them anymore in a way that feels real and genuine. I mourned the loss of their senior year of high school. Musical, track, baseball, softball, speech, knowledge bowl, prom, math team, choir, band – they all screeched to a halt and all of the kids who were involved in those activities now have more time than they’ve had in years. 

The reality that is online teaching is hard for me to wrap my head around. It isn’t what any classroom teacher signed up for – we are in this for the students, for the personal connections that we can make with them, for the relationships that we build, the laughs, cries, and banter. What we didn’t want is a discussion forum, video chats, and Google everything. But we will do it. Because if we don’t, we won’t be fulfilling our duties as teachers. Teachers adapt. We are fluid and elastic and must contort ourselves in whatever way we have to in order to help our students. Yet, we must also be realistic. We have to have realistic expectations for our students and also for ourselves. We will not solve all of the problems of the world by being amazing online teachers. We will make an impact on our students – even from afar, and even with an overextended internet. Please pray for us. It vacillates between feeling completely okay and completely wrong, and I don’t always know what will trigger tears, sadness, or despair anymore.”

“We had one weekend to figure out how to facilitate remote learning. I’m doing ok, but pray for my students who miss the routine of school and their friends.  Pray for my students’ parents as they try to help at home.”

“A huge part of life coming up will be not only homeschooling my own kids but also completely teaching online. We’re expected to be available online every day from 8-11 am and 12-3 pm. That’s not even supposed to start until Monday, but I’ve already had kids emailing and using Google Hangouts and even video chatting just because school is their stability and normalcy. Mostly, I think prayers will be needed to balance out supporting my own families’ learning while at the same time being academically and emotionally there for up to a hundred and sixty-five of other people’s children.”

“Some of the things others can do to help support our teachers is to keep sending us good thoughts whether it be on social media, text, phone calls or whatever.  Praying for all of us is such a blessing and we all need God’s Word in our lives! As a teacher, my prayer is for parents and caregivers to be loving, patient and supportive for their kids and the teachers.”

These teachers are facing challenges like they’ve never known before. They’re stressed and overwhelmed. But you know what I love most about their messages? Their biggest concern is for their students – and not just their academic well-being, but their social, emotional, and physical well-being. 

Let’s lift up our teachers. Let’s pray for them on a regular basis. Let’s drop them encouraging messages, thanking them for rising to the challenge of suddenly teaching in a completely different environment. Let’s love them the way they continue to love our own children. 

We may be physically separated, but we’re in this together. 

 

Coronavirus Quarantine: Encouragement For the Week Ahead

This is going to be a weird week.

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Our kids are doing school at home. Many of us are working from home. We’re scrambling as we try to figure out how to do life in this constantly changing, unsettling space right now.

Some of us are excited – whiteboards ready, school spaces set, mobile offices ready to go. Some of us are scrambling, trying to absorb and figure out the details. Some of us are overwhelmed. 

Some of us are scared.

As we walk through this week, may we take this encouragement to heart: 

give yourself grace, 

give yourself space, 

and 

slow your pace.

Give yourself (and your kids) grace. Regardless of how much we are prepared to teach our kids or work from home, it is still an unpredictable situation. Most of our kids have never navigated the waters of homeschooling or a mobile classroom. Many of us are figuring out how to work from home. There’s probably going to be tears and frustration on all sides. Let’s walk into this week accepting that we’re going to do things imperfectly, and that’s okay. This is all new.

Give yourself space. For many families, the next few weeks will bring an unprecedented amount of togetherness. Give yourself space. Whether it is five minutes in the bathroom, ten minutes in a closet, or a blissful hour of quiet, do your best to make it happen on a daily basis. Use that time to breathe, meditate, pray, eat chocolate, cry, read the Bible, scream into a pillow, journal…or just go to the bathroom and ignore the knocks on the door. You’ll be a better parent for it.

Slow your pace. Schools are closed. Extracurricular activities are cancelled. Many of the places where we normally taxi our children to and from are closing or will be closed. It’s easy to fill those unexpected blanks in the calendar with other activities like decluttering, reorganizing, deep cleaning, and other housebound projects that keep us busy. But…this is an unprecedented opportunity to slow down. Read a book (from your personal library or an ebook), read to your kids, take long, leisurely walks, go to bed early, or soak in the sunshine. Journal! (I think it is going to be so interesting to read about this in my journal down the road.) Seize this as an opportunity for your entire family to rest and recharge. Enjoy this fleeting opportunity to live an unhurried lifestyle.

We are in this together, friends. Let’s lift each other up, encourage each other, cheer each other on, and provide a virtual shoulder to cry on (because social distancing). 

And let’s remember that, above all, God’s got this. He’s sovereign, He’s in control, and He has plans for our good (Jer. 29:11). 

 

Coronavirus Quarantine: Survival Tips From a Homeschool Mom

If your state is like mine, school has either been cancelled due to the coronavirus, or will be soon. Suddenly, we are facing the next few weeks of life spending copious amounts of time with our kids. 

Friends, this is my life. My kids and I have been together 24/7 for the past fifteen years. I don’t say that to elevate myself to the status of perfect parent, martyr or saint. It’s just our reality. I love it…most of the time. 

But if you’re like the millions of parents who either put their kids on the blessed yellow school bus or drop them off at a brick and mortar school each day, the immediate future might appear like some type of slow torture for everyone in your household. 

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Let’s change that. Let’s make the next few weeks filled with fun and memories, without losing our sanity or damaging relationships. Let’s come through this stronger together and better for what we’ve been through.

Here are a few ideas that have served me well over the years:

 

  • Develop a flexible routine. Kids thrive on routine, and it can be especially helpful during unsettling times. Set a routine that will work for your family, but don’t be a drill sergeant! Leave room for life’s unpredictabilities, and throw in a few of your own, just to keep things fun, like backwards dinner (dessert first!), wear pajamas for a day, living room sleepovers, binge watching Dude Perfect, etc.
  • Teach life skills. This is an amazing opportunity to teach kids life skills! Take turns making dinner, or allow your kids to come alongside you and learn some kitchen skills. Teach them how to do laundry (my kids have been doing their own laundry for years, and let me tell you – it’s a game changer!). 
  • Switch out the toys. This was a favorite strategy that I learned from my mom when my girls were little. Divide the toys in half. Leave half of them out, and put the other half away, out of sight. Switch them out every week. It keeps the clutter down and keeps kids from getting tired of their toys!
  • Turn housework into games! We are a game-loving family – and not just board games, but turning life into games. Need to pick up the house? Do it for 15 minutes, and then take a 15 minute video game or reading break, and repeat the cycle until the house is clean. (Okay, I admit, this is the method I still use for myself as an adult!) Mop the kitchen floor wearing damp, old (clean!) socks! Pick up items with one hand behind your back. Work on cleaning up a room together, but you have to keep a balloon airborne at all times. Sure, rooms may not get cleaned to your usual standard, but hey – there’s always tomorrow…for real!
  • And don’t forget the board games! This is a great opportunity to pull some classic games out of the closet. Sometimes I get so caught up in finding the latest and greatest games that I forget about the classics. Pull out chess, checkers, or my personal favorite – Scrabble! Don’t forget Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Rummikub, SkipBo, Uno…the list is endless. For more ideas of great games, check out one of my favorite lists here
  • Take lots of breaks. My kids have always needed frequent breaks – whether it is brain breaks or activity breaks. It clears their minds and helps them reset their focus for whatever task is next. Our breaks come in many forms – snack breaks, music breaks, breaks to go swing, breaks to do a little online shopping, breaks to play with pets, and breaks to snuggle with a parent. 
  • Above all, implement mandatory down time!!! I cannot stress this enough, as you’re going to be together…A LOT. My mother-in-law shared this nugget of wisdom with me early on in our parenting journey, and it has been the single, best element that we have consistently incorporated into our daily routine over the years. Every day, without fail, we have “rest time.” For an hour and a half, we hang out in our own rooms (I hang out in the living room, normally). During that hour and a half, my kids read for 45 minutes and then play their device for 45 minutes. And during that hour and a half…I REST. It sounds indulgent, maybe, but being with my kids 24/7, I needed (and still need) that daily break. Sometimes I read, sometimes I surf the internet, and sometimes I nap. I try my best, though, to consciously set that time aside for a reset and not use it to catch up on housework. Interestingly, even though my kids are now both teens, they still request this down time every day. They need it just as much as I do. 

Friends, we’ll get through this. Let’s commit to making the next few weeks unforgettable for all the best reasons. Let’s be smart, not create an atmosphere of fear, and set our families up to thrive and make beautiful memories during an unpredictable season of life. 

Going the Wrong Way For the Right Reason

It happened so quickly that I hardly had time to think about it.

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My 18-year-old self was riding up a skiing chairlift with a friend, getting ready to disembark. I have always been uneasy with the disembarking process. Okay, let’s be honest: I have always been uneasy on chairlifts in general. I hate heights, and the process of getting off a chairlift and landing on my feet and then smoothly sailing away on skis was not something that came naturally to me. However, I had developed a system that seemed to compensate for my lack of height and athletic prowess: wiggle toward the front of the seat, hold the poles out, ready to steady myself, and then I could usually get off the chairlift without too much embarrassment.

This time, though, as I wiggled my way forward in those final moments before getting off, I made a horrifying realization: my pants were snagged on the chairlift’s wooden seat. My hands were full – I couldn’t reach under to unsnag myself. All I had time to do was squeak a quick “I’m stuck!” to my friend, and then away I sailed…down the chairlift.

Have you ever ridden down a chairlift? It’s quite an experience. I was the subject of a plethora of staring skiers who were doing the proper thing and riding UP the chairlift, rather than down. Everyone who was going in the right direction was most likely silently questioning my situation. Did she chicken out? Was the run too much for her? Is she lost? I was the only person going in the wrong direction, and I was the only one who knew why. 

I had two choices in that moment. I could avert my eyes and pretend that I wasn’t there, or I could embrace the experience and own my ridiculous predicament. I chose to own my predicament and rode down that chairlift, smiling and giving friends and strangers my best beauty queen wave. 

Lately, I have been feeling a lot like that 18-year-old girl riding down the chairlift. All I have to do is spend a few minutes on social media to see friends and colleagues growing their careers – climbing the corporate ladder, starting their own business, or relaunching their career after being at home for several years. It’s the stage we’re at in our late 30s and early 40s. 

Except me.

I just quit my job.

That piddly, six hour per week position that brought in a meager flow of fun money or made the orthodontic payments? It was too much. Doesn’t that sound absolutely ridiculous? I’m at a stage in life where I have two teenagers who are gaining independence, and that should be freeing me up to reestablish my career, right?

Honestly, my pride is having a hard time embracing this change. There was a good bit of my identity wrapped up in the fact that I could tell people that I had a job, meager as it was. And again, just like that 18-year-old girl, I have two choices. 

I can be embarrassed by the fact that I am, at age 40, “just” a stay at home mom again. (Oh, don’t get me started on that, or this post will never end!) 

My other option is to embrace this season as a gift. God has made it undeniably clear that His purpose is for me to be home during this season. I get to be home with my teenagers during these few fleeting years before they head out on their own. I get to spend more time writing. I get to spend more time honing in on becoming the person He wants me to be.

It’s the exact opposite of what seemingly everyone else is doing at this stage in life. They are all following God’s lead to ride up the chairlift and build their careers. As for me? You’ll find me riding down the career-bound chairlift, practicing my best beauty queen wave along the way. I know why I’m on this ride and Who is in charge, and I will rest in that. 

 

Lord of the Avocados

Avocados are fickle fruits. 

Combine that with an overtired teenage girl, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

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My youngest daughter had been planning her birthday sleepover for weeks, and her dinner of choice was a taco bar, complete with homemade guacamole. You see, making guacamole is her thing – she takes great pride in mashing the avocados just so, and adding just the right amount of salt and lime juice to create the perfect medley of flavors. To be honest, she has a discerning palate and probably makes it better than me.

Past experience has taught me that it takes about four days for avocados to ripen at our house. Thus, my daughter and I made the trek in sub-zero temperatures and a whipping wind to buy her avocados. 

Four days later, the avocados were still hard as a rock.

I stood in the kitchen the morning of her party, googling different methods for ripening avocados in a hurry. I wrapped them in foil and put them in a warm oven for ten minutes…no improvement. I placed them in a bag with bananas and apples…which I apparently should have done days ago, but I was desperate and was hoping a few hours of co-mingling with other ethylene-producing fruit friends would magically do the trick. No dice.

I began to panic a bit. This guacamole was a huge deal to her – she and her friends had been talking about it for days. There was absolutely no way these avocados were going to be mashable in just a few short hours, and I knew the local grocery stores almost never had ripe avocados on hand around here. And so I breathed a little prayer, “Lord, it would be really amazing if You would provide some perfectly ripe avocados.”

Later in the afternoon, a thorough search of our house revealed that all of my cake and cupcake decorating equipment had gotten lost in our move several months ago. Relieved to have an excuse to leave the house for a few minutes of quiet, I jumped in our car and ran to the nearest grocery store. And can I just take a moment to admit that I wasn’t in the best of moods? The avocados were rock hard, my daughter was overtired and irritable, and all of the prep that she had adamantly insisted on doing herself had been foisted upon me.

And then I walked into the grocery store.

There, prominently displayed just inside the entrance, was a display of avocados. I had never seen avocados in that particular spot at the store before. I approached the display and reached out a tentative hand to gently squeeze them. 

They were ripe. ALL of them. An entire display of avocados, literally ripe for the picking! All I had asked God for, almost in an off-hand manner, was a few stinkin’ ripe avocados to save my sanity, and He provided above and beyond what I could have imagined. 

Sometimes I need those reminders – the reminders that God is in the everyday details of my life. I can do my best to work things out (buying avocados ahead of time, trying various methods to ripen them), but the best thing I did was to invite God into the situation. Granted, He doesn’t always answer in the way I hope, but He does answer in the way that is best for me.

And sometimes He answers with an abundance of ripe avocados.

A Bucket of Hospitality

Two couples come to mind when I think about hospitality.

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The first couple I think of is my grandparents. Whenever anyone would walk into their country farmhouse, my overall-clad grandpa would disappear into the basement. He would emerge several minutes later with an ice cream bucket filled with a variety of soda, and he would then make the rounds – stop in front of each person, give the bucket a little shake, and encourage them to grab a fizzy refreshment – typically Pepsi and some lesser known brands like Squirt, 50/50, and Dad’s Root Beer. It was, quite literally, a bucket of hospitality.

Friends and family would stop in unannounced and be warmly welcomed to have a seat at the kitchen table, where my grandma might be peeling apples or my grandpa could be found reading the newspaper. They might set aside their work to chat, or they might continue in their tasks. Either way, their focus was on their guests and the conversation.

They knew the art of simple hospitality, and practiced it well with their family and friends.

Another couple often comes to mind when I think about hospitality. My friend’s parents, Frank and Joy, opened their home without reservation to us during our high school years. Their lovely ranch home boasted a finished basement with a fridge full of soda and a bevy of snacks – the perfect teen hangout. Even more, they accepted us for who we were – giggly, rowdy teens who were awkwardly figuring out life. They would chat with us, laugh with us, and give us our space.

They, too, knew the art of simple hospitality, and practiced it well with the teenagers who sprawled out across their home in the ‘90s. 

Honestly, I struggle with hospitality. For most of the last 20 years, my husband and I have lived in a rural, small town community where people mostly keep to themselves. To be fair, we are both introverts and didn’t exactly exert effort to meet people in the community, either. I grew up there, so we knew people well enough to wave at each other, and called it good.

This past fall, we moved to the city.

One of the main reasons we moved was so that we could do exactly what we hadn’t done for 20 years – practice hospitality. Invite people into our home. Entertain a basement full of giggly teens on a regular basis. 

It’s been a steep learning curve, though.

Having people over is a bit like social media for me. When I invite people into our home, I want them to see Social Media Katie – the one who has showered and has make-up on, has a delicious aroma wafting from the oven, and has clean counter tops. I am afraid for them to see Actual Katie – the one who is in her pajamas at 9 am, eating breakfast on the couch while typing away at the computer. I want to serve them coffee in Starbucks mugs that we have collected in our various travels, and scratch-baked goods that were effortlessly whipped up without smudging my make up.

That’s not real hospitality, though. In fact, the ugly truth for me is that I am being proud and pretentious. I don’t want to invite people into my mess. I want them to think that I have it all together, and that I graduated valedictorian from June Cleaver’s School of Homemaking. 

True hospitality is, at its roots, opening one’s life to others – being available. Being vulnerable and allowing them to see imperfection, living in a house that wasn’t carefully curated on Pinterest. After all, the purpose of hospitality is not to impress others, but to grow relationships and build community.

I am a work in progress in this area. My first step? Keeping a well-stocked supply of soda on hand. It makes me a little giddy each time I go into our basement and see our soda – normal flavors, weird flavors, and a few fancy ones, too. Each time I fill the cupboard, I think of my grandparents and their authentic, humble hospitality as well as my friend’s parents and how much I loved hanging out at their house. I want family and friends to feel welcome, regardless of the state of my house or my make up. 

And I think I might need to track down an ice cream bucket for offering up soda, too…but I think I’ll skip the overalls.

 

 

Find Your Sunshine

This morning, I laid down directly in the sunshine and soaked in it’s warmth for about 15 minutes…on my living room floor. In February. Trying to protect my space from being invaded by sunshine-seeking felines.

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It’s not exactly a Florida beach, but it’s about as close as we’re going to get on this sub-zero Wisconsin winter day.

It’s easy to complain about the weather. We’ve just about run out of places to pile our snow. We’re weary of yet another six a.m. shoveling session. The temperature isn’t even going to break single digits today.

But there’s still sunshine.

I have a mountain of laundry to fold in my bedroom. Boxes of less important items from our move beg to be unpacked. There’s a plethora of productive possibilities in any given room of our house.

But I choose to lie in the sunshine.

Because it is good for my soul. I know the vitamin D absorption, indirect and minimal as it may be, is balm for my sun-starved body. I know that lying on the carpet and just being – not scrolling through social media or trying to accomplish anything purposeful – is a good break for my ever-churning brain. And quite honestly, it’s good for my children to see that you can take a break to enjoy the sunshine, even when you are an adult.

Today, I encourage you to find your sunshine. If you are lucky enough to have actual sun rays shining into your house today, bask in it. Lie on the floor. Let your little ones pile on you as you soak in the warmth of the sun and their little bodies. Cuddle with your pet. Share the space with a loved one in companionable silence, or just enjoy a few moments of having that little sunny spot all to yourself.

And if the sun isn’t shining where you are, seek it out in other ways. Marvel in the brilliance of new snow, a stormy beach, a favorite smell, or the coziness of a favorite blanket. 

Find your sunshine, and allow it to nourish your soul.

A Legacy of Courage

Several days ago, in the wee morning hours, I did something that took great courage on my part: I kindly confronted a neighbor…in my pajamas, with my morning hair sticking up in all directions.

The situation left me, quite literally, shaking in my boots for the next half hour.

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Little did I know, my youngest daughter watched the entire scenario from our bathroom window.

At first, I was a little upset that she had witnessed the incident. I wasn’t quite sure how that situation was going to turn out, and if it had gone badly, I wouldn’t have wanted her to see it happen. I didn’t want her worrying about me, either.

But then a thought occurred to me…who in my life had modeled the type of courage that would embolden me to take on such a confrontation? The answer was easy.

My mom.

And her mom.

Unassuming, imperfect, faith-filled women who drew their strength and courage from the Lord.

It takes courage to accept that polio has taken the use of both legs and one hand, and you are now faced with raising six children under the age of seven from a wheelchair.

It takes courage to care for your nearly comatose, brain-damaged little girl for years on end in your own home, and then accept it when Jesus calls her home.

It takes courage to hear the surgeons say that, in order to remove the tumor, they will need to cut your blue-eyed girl’s little head open from ear to ear.

It takes courage to learn that you have cancer, to know in your heart that it is the end, and to face death with acceptance and peace.

It takes courage to be an advocate for your children’s education, fighting for what’s best for each child.

It takes courage to journey through your daughter’s eating disorder with her.

It takes courage to learn of your own cancer diagnosis, knowing that it has already taken the life of your mom and sister.

It takes courage to live your daily life, trying to maintain a semblance of normality, when you are dealing with any of these challenges.

Sometimes, it takes courage just to do a load of laundry when depression has such a grip on you that any task seems insurmountable.

And other days, it takes courage to confront your neighbor in your pajamas.

I’m glad my daughter witnessed the confrontation. It is my privilege to be a member of this courageous lineage, and I pray that I continue in their footsteps – to model a faith-filled, courageous life, drawing my strength from God. And most of all, I pray that I pass this legacy on to my own sweet daughters…and their daughters, too.

 

 

 

A Pi Day Parable

I am flat out terrible at making pie crusts. As a matter of fact, I have one in the oven as I write this, and it looks…well, pathetic. Here it is, in all its glory (family members, look away, lest this preposterous image be burned into your brain):

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Pie crusts are a big deal in our family. My sweet grandma could turn out a perfectly flaky pie crust that would bring a tear to your eye. In turn, that gift was passed down to my aunt, who made the absolute most decadent French silk pie known to man. My mom also inherited the gift of pie crust making, and took it to an entirely new level – Thanksgiving was entirely based around pie. It wasn’t unusual to find her turning out at least a half dozen pies the day before Thanksgiving.

My mom has passed the tradition, filled with tips and tricks, on to her daughters-in-law to fulfill my brothers’ pie cravings. Even my girls were turning out apple pies made from scratch under her tutelage before they reached double digits.

And then there’s me.

I distinctly remember one of my first pie crust tutorial sessions. It was almost Thanksgiving, and I was putting a pie crust together under my mom’s watchful eye, with a friend overseeing the entire affair. Everything was going just right. The water was the perfect temperature, the dough rolled out beautifully, and I carefully placed it in the pan, edges crimped with the utmost care.

I turned around to wash my hands, turned back…and there was a hole in the middle of my crust. My dear friend thought it would be a great joke to cut a piece right out of the middle of the pie crust. I smiled at the joke, but inside, I was seeing red. It was, indeed, a great joke, and easily repaired, but it didn’t hide the fact that I once again had failed to create a perfect pie crust.

Twenty years later, I can laugh at that memory, but it has made me reflect on pie crust as a whole. (Oh…that was almost a pun, there…) What is my deal with pie crust? Why does it bring about such angst, frustration, and make me downright angry at times?

It’s because I had my identity wrapped up in my ability to produce pie crust. In my mind, all true females of our lineage should be able to produce this pie crust. It was a matter of pride, worth, and identity. Because I couldn’t make a decent pie crust to save my life, I was, in a way, unworthy. Below standard. A failure to the family name.

And that’s just plain ridiculous.

As much as we love our families and cherish passing along beloved traditions, our identity is not about how much we are like our relatives in looks, characteristics, or abilities. Our identity, rather, lies in who we are in Christ. We were made in His image, to be people who reflect Him. Our love for Him spurs us on to want to be more like Him – more loving, more giving, and more forgiving.

As with my pie crust skills, I am going to fail. But just as I haven’t given up on pie crust, I am not going to give up on seeking to be more like Him year after year.

Some day, rather than my daughters telling stories about my amazing pies, they will be telling stories about my mind-blowing pie foibles and failures. And we will laugh…a lot! Even more, though, I hope that they will tell stories about how I loved Jesus and lived a life that reflected Him well. I hope and pray that they, too, find their identity in Him and seek to be more like Him.

And I wouldn’t mind if they mastered their pie crust skills along the way, too… 🙂

Happy Pi Day!