Quit Striving

‘As I was standing on the median looking at the crushed minivan that belonged to a friend, I asked God “why?” Not in an accusing way, but I want to learn this lesson the first time kind of way.’

This is profound…

…and written by a dear friend.

A Living Flame

It’s been 7 years ago today. 7 years since I quit striving. Beginning young in ministry things just grew and I had to grow with them. There was never a time someone sat me down and said, “This is how you should do this.” I just had to learn. In the earliest days we did not even have internet, so if I didn’t already own a book on a topic, there was no learning beyond what I already knew. It’s not surprising I got myself into this season.

As the ministry grew so did the financial need. Our family grew as well. 7 years ago we were in the US for our furlough to have our youngest son. We also had great financial need and had a fundraising campaign of sorts to work on. Our last 2 babies were scheduled C-section boys. The middle child was born on a Monday…

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Loving with My Eyes Wide Open

TGOn the Saturday before Thanksgiving this year I’ll be packing up some frozen turkeys and all the Thanksgiving fixins and delivering them to families in need who live in one of America’s poorest cities. I’ve desired to do this for several years but previous obligations on that day never allowed it.

And at the risk of sounding like a punk, honestly, I’ve often thought of asking the man directing this effort if he thinks the poor that will receive these bagfuls of Thanksgiving provisions have any clue how to defrost and cook a turkey properly. 

TG 2Next week I will be cooking my very first turkey for Thanksgiving. I confess, I’m a little apprehensive, cooking a turkey is no joke, even for an experienced cooker like me with all the accoutrements at my fingertips. I wonder how these individuals or families (who use their stove mainly as an alternative heat source in the winter) will deal with a 17lb frozen turkey.

Since I’ve gone this far, let me ask THE question that is already on everyone’s minds:

Will these families, in one of the poorest cities in the nation, actually prepare a complete dinner and then sit down together to feast on Thanksgiving Day?

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Isn’t it more likely they will sell the turkey (and boxes of stuffing, mashed potatoes and canned goods) for money to feed their addictions or to head out shopping on Black Friday?

There, I said it. Call me a punk, but isn’t that what a lot of us are thinking? Don’t we view “those people” who choose one holiday a year to serve the poor and pour out food items on them as naïve, foolish or wasteful with their (or our) money? Why join the dozens (hundreds) of others on such a popular service day to give food items to people who will most likely quickly convert the food to cash and then to drugs or drink?

You know what… I’m not naïve (much) and in all honestly, I would be truly surprised if more than 2 families in 50 actually use their Thanksgiving food items for a Thanksgiving Day meal. Most will probably just eat the pies.

And I’m OK with that.

After lunch today we were talking about some loved ones and old friends who are suffering from the affects of Alzheimers and dementia. These dear friends have lost the ability to remember, yet they have not lost the desire to serve. Allowing them to still do some small acts of work or service generally makes a LOT of work for the people around them – but hey, Whoever said love had to be productive?

Love, just, is. It is often not convenient. Not logical. Not fiscally responsible.

On a day where some of us will choose to give of our finances (for food items) and give of our time (to deliver the food,) the blessing is not for the receiver alone, but effective work is being done on our own hearts through the act of loving through service. What value can you place on that?

So I will give of my time and money to feed the poor. I will take my four children along with me (making me even less productive) knowing full well that a large portion of what we give may not be consumed on Thanksgiving Day. A box of mashed potatoes may feed a family on a Monday or a slice of pie may be a teenager’s lunch on a Tuesday. Maybe the food will be sold for illicit purposes. But we will still participate. In this way, on that day, I choose to express the love of my Savior, who loved me when I was unlovable and undeserving, to these precious neighbors who live just six lanes of a highway away from me. For love is not counted by the worthiness of the recipient but by the heart of the giver.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

In Matthew 25, Jesus spoke these words to the ones who expressed love, he made no mention of the responses of the recipients.

So, should we be wise with our finances? Yes. Should we be careful to partner with legitimate groups when serving? Absolutely.

Should the possible negative responses of those we serve be an excuse to stop expressing God’s love?  No.

You may be caught up in the “what ifs” concerning the recipients of a bag of food a few days before Thanksgiving; I, too, am concerned about these things and about the hearts of the recipients.

Still, If there are 50 who are hungry, I will feed them. If there are 20? I will serve. If there are only 2? I will give them a meal.

Even if there is not a single individual from the many who will receive food on Saturday who cooks up a Thanksgiving Dinner the following Thursday, I still choose to love with my eyes wide open.

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I Can’t Delete My Grandchildren

I helped my mother “get the pictures off her phone” and on to her computer the other day. I do this periodically for her – after vacations and holidays especially.

She and my Dad had recently taken a trip to Virginia and she took some pictures of my brother-in-law’s college and wanted to send them to him in Arizona. Making a move into the twenty-first century, Mom decided to email them to him rather than print them out and snail mail them. Baby steps.

After connecting the camera to the computer I saw the first pictures start to upload – 779 of them. Dang it. I hate when the computer forgets that it has already uploaded off this camera in the past and doesn’t start from the most recent pics – just a couple dozen since September.

As I sat there waiting for the hundreds of old pictures to upload, knowing I would have to delete 95% of them, I saw a baby picture of my nephew flash past. He’s six now.

When I mentioned the ancient pictures flashing across the screen to my mother she got a little flustered and exclaimed, “I can’t delete my grandchildren!”

Nope. She can’t.

I, however, can delete my children. I don’t like it, but I do it out of necessity – usually because I’ve run out of space and my phone is freezing up on me. It comes down to immediately deleting pictures of my kids or using my phone.

Phone wins. Every time.

I console myself that the pictures I really like I’ve already posted to Facebook and I can always find them. And, hey, since we’ve moved on to digital we take WAY more pictures than ever before – can you say, “selfie?” I can, and my phone is full of them but they certainly are not of myselfie.

selfie

Alright, you’ve twisted my arm; I admit it, I’ve deleted my children and I feel guilty about it.

***

Random Pictures of My Children from My Phone that I Will Probably Have to Delete at Some Point but at least They Are Now on My Blog for All Eternity – or Until the Internet Dies.

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Delete 2

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Longer than the Line for Snow Crab Legs at the Chinese Buffet

I dragged myself out of bed this morning a few minutes late, so while I was still brushing my teeth my daughter came in to the bathroom, sat down on the toilet and proceed to tell me her Once Upon A Time (TV show) related dream from the night before. Every. single. detail.

sigh

My children all tend to be long-winded – it may be related to the fact that English is not their first language so the older ones struggle with being concise; however, if I’m honest with myself, I fear they get their long-windedness from me.

I was a long story teller as a child, as my brother likes to remind me. I especially liked relating every plot detail of a movie that I had recently watched to my captive family (usually in the car.)

tarzanWhenever one of my children starts in on a long story I think, this is for all those times I subjected my family to the entire storyline of an ancient Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie or something grotesque I watched on Saturday morning’s Theater Bazaar.

Actually, I think all your bad habits from childhood get rained back down on you when you are a parent. Wet towels on the bed? I can still clearly remember getting punished for leaving wet towels on my bed around age twelve. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV for a week. This was lauraespecially painful because I was watching Little House on the Prairie and my no TV week fell right when Laura and Almanzo were falling in love. Dang it. I was sorely disappointed to miss the best part and I surely learned my lesson. No more wet towels on the bed.

As I walk through my house each day picking up towels from beds and floors and the living room couch, I think, yep, I did this to me.

To my mother and to anyone I ever subjected a long tale of a movie plot (or if I left a wet towel on your bed), you’ll be happy to know, it’s all come back to me. All. come. back. to. me.

And then some.

On the upside, at least the kids are bathing…

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This post was inspired by the word, LONG, and was written alongside of a whole bunch of other bloggers writing for Five Minute Friday. Link up here.

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“I love my video games more”….REALLY???

As my friend Kenneth Justice says, “The cure for loneliness is community. ” He’s writing about something I am passionate about today, friends. As bloggers, how often do we get caught up in checking for “likes,” comments or followers? What?! I love this post! I poured myself into it – yet, no one is even reading it, let alone “liking” it… I know I fall in to that trap. I LOVE my blogging community, but my real life, physical, breathing, face to face community is vital to my well being and emotional wellness.

Culture Monk

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By Kenneth Justice

~ “Dude! Where have you been?!” I asked

I was sitting at coffee yesterday and a friend walked in who I hadn’t seen in nearly two months. Normally he stops in to coffee every morning so it’s been rather conspicuous for him to have suddenly disappeared,

Oh, well I’ve been really busy. The new video game came out and I’ve been glued to it every minute I’m not at work” he said

Apparently, some video game where you play with other people and shoot them or something, was recently released (I know nothing about video games) and my friend hasn’t left the house other than to go to work for the past fifteen days.

The world has definitely changed quite a bit over the past forty years; electronic devices have become a major element of Western Culture; IPhones, video games, laptops, etc. It…

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Sit Up and Spit

A little over a year ago Dental was added to my Health Insurance; apparently it was just snuck it in there because I didn’t know about it until last month. I suppose if I actually read the yearly manuals I might have known sooner.

So it came to be, yesterday, after a hiatus of three years, I paid a visit to my dentist. According to her, my gums bleed too much and I need to floss. Twice a day.

Can I be real honest? I hate brushing my teeth. Don’t get me wrong, I hate my stinky, nasty morning mouth more, so I brush first thing every day. But I don’t have to like it. Word on the street is, you’re supposed to brush twice a day. At least. And floss. Twice! ai yi yi…

More brutal honesty: The only way I brush more than once a day is if I have a date.

With a real live man. Period. I’ll even Listerine for that.

sigh.

rang highBack to the Dentist. As I lounged in the chair with the suction tube hanging out of the corner of my mouth, I reminisced about the good old days at the dentist. Back when the dentist was literally on the corner of the next block over and I walked myself there with a signed check from my parents in my hand. This was way back, before People and US or iPhones. In those days I read Highlights and Ranger Rick in the waiting room, which doubled as the basement of the Dentist’s family home.

In those days there was no spit sucker hanging out of your mouth, you had to sit up and spit after each section of your mouth was scraped and polished.

dentistSit up. Spit into a tiny porcelain sink. (That white mini-faucet just ran and ran and ran…) Drink from your little paper cup and rinse out every last bit of that gritty pink paste.

I miss the sit up and spit. I liked seeing what the dentist was digging out of there.

 

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10 Things I Don’t Say

I recently read an interesting blog article,

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You can find the original article here. I found it thought provoking, mainly because my own experience is much different from the author’s.

(Spoiler: It’s never crossed my mind to say (or think) most of these – fear of judgment or not.)

1. “Your words hurt.” I have never experienced a person saying something to me in regard to my single parent state that was intentionally mean or hurtful. I have been saddened and hurt by words, but the intention behind the words was never hurtful. Words that hurt, hurt because they touch an open wound. A “Daddy-Daughter Dance” is a lovely thing, but when your daughter doesn’t have a Daddy to attend with, those words hurt, even though the words themselves were never ever intended for that purpose.

2. “We will freak out if you ever refer to our kids as ‘baggage.’”   No one has ever referred to my children as “baggage.” Ever. People really say that to single parents?

However, I do agree with the dating piece of the author’s point, and I would/will say this. Don’t date me if you are unsure of the “whole kids thing. Just. Don’t.

3. “We’re not rich.” Ha! I doubt that anyone even assumes that we are. And I do not receive child support.

4. “There will always be some “drama” with our kid’s other parent, if they’re around.” My children’s other parent is not around, so our drama level is way low.

5. “We feel isolated and lonely.” This is a hard one. Yes, absolutely, Single Moms are in a world of their own. I agree that connecting with like moms, single or married is key. News flash, there are married  moms out there who feel isolated and lonely. I’m thankful to work in an office with my parents and brother; if I didn’t, I would definitely feel more isolated and lonelier. But, I also believe isolation and loneliness are situations that, under most circumstances, we can change. Conclusion: Occasionally, on a cold, dark night I have felt isolated and lonely, but in the warm light of day, it rarely crosses my mind.

6. “We worry constantly that we aren’t doing a good enough job.” Absolutely not. I don’t worry, and definitely not about this. The reason: I have Christ in my life and He loves my children even more than I do. How could I worry about my  job of raising them when I have the God of the Universe sticking it out and walking with me? I trust Him. Worry is futile.

7. “We aren’t very much fun.” Huh. How many married people with children are super fun? Really. Come on, be honest. By our mid-thirties we’re already falling asleep on the couch in the middle of our favorite show. We can’t go out for coffee because it keeps us awake and we can’t drink wine because it knocks us out. This is not a single parent thing. This is a parent thing. Kids wear us out and it doesn’t matter if there are 1 or 2 or 10 parents. You know it’s true. However, I’m definitely still fun.

8. “We don’t have a strong sense of ‘self'” Yes, I do. I’m a Mother. 😉  I think I covered this in my recent post 1%. Or 5.

9. “Long before our kids could understand adult conversation, we talked to them like they could.”  I have no idea if this is true. How would I? I have no way of knowing whether I would talk in the same manner to my children if I were still married or not. I’m kind of at a loss here.

10. “Someone complimenting our kid means the world to us.” Yes. Yes. And YES! Wait, doesn’t every  parent feel this way?

Yet, In all honestly, I think it does mean more to single parents. On this point, I agree whole-heartedly with the author of the article. I think #10 is a gauge with which we can measure how well things are going in #6 . When nice things are relayed to us about our children we get a sense that:

They really are turning out OK.

Being raised by only one parent isn’t scarring them for life.

They are well-adjusted and kind and happy.

joy l

I suppose every parenting journey, married, single or other, is unique. The paths of our lives rarely lead where we expected. I latch on to the joy that is found in the brief moments that build our days. Eventually, they will build a lifetime.

cwj 3Isn’t that exactly what this blog is all about?

I’ve been a single parent of four children for three & a half years.

 

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I Need Grace

“Just as the sinner’s despair of any hope from himself is the first prerequisite of a sound conversion, so the loss of all confidence in himself is the first essential in the believer’s growth in grace.” ~ A. W. Pink

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I am a person who hates messing up. I mean, who actually likes making mistakes? But I really hate it. Messing up is way up there on my “things I just cant stand” list.

As much as I hate it and strive to avoid it, it still happens to me. I mess up. Those times remind me of grace, and how much I desperately need it. 

I write for Moms of Faith a couple times a week. Find this entire article about my faults and failings and need of grace here: In Need of Grace.

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I May Be Addicted

I may be addicted.

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I had a mini-“help”er.

I’ve spent eight+ hours over the past two days, basically this whole weekend, painting a bedroom. At 6:30 tonight I changed my paint-laden pants into a semi-clean skirt and took my daughter out to buy a bathing suit for tomorrow because the one she bought after church today, during the “entire family buys bathing suits after church extravaganza”, didn’t look right (to her). Of course, as soon as I reached the shopping center I realized it was Sunday and the shops would be closed by 6PM. It was 7:08PM. I promised the girl we would stop at the store on the way to the pool tomorrow and get her a suit, I sent her into the local ice cream parlor for a vanilla milkshake for dinner, swore her to secrecy since the sisters weren’t getting ice cream and came home.

Dishes need to be done, my house is trashed and all I really want to do is lay down and sleep. Or watch Signed, Sealed and Delivered, whichever comes first.

I think not.

I think not.

Before any of that could happen I was hugging my tearful seven year old whose heart was breaking because she didn’t get ice cream (somebody spilled the beans) and I smelled smoke on her hair. When I asked why she smelled like smoke she told me it was because there was smoke upstairs. Uh oh.

“Why does it smell like smoke upstairs?” I yelled up the steps.

My thirteen year old said it was the potatoes on the stove.

 

The boiling potatoes for the potato salad for tomorrow that I put on the stove. And forgot about.

This confirms that I really shouldn’t be allowed near kitchens or basically attempt to work at all for the rest of the night.

Yet here I am. 7:39PM on a Sunday night and I feel compelled to blog.

I wonder what disasters I’ll find when I read this post tomorrow…

Happy Memorial Day!

Happy Memorial Day!

 

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