Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

Bubbles and shell

Bubbles and shell (Photo credit: Fellowship of the Rich)

This weekend I have the unique privilege of spending time with a family of four, in preparation for their baptisms. Do you remember your baptism?

I don’t. I was tiny, judging from the size of the baptismal gown that has been worn by many a baby in our family’s faith tradition. Many of us share this memory-gap when it comes to our initiation into God’s family, coming from traditions with deep roots and long histories.

The language I’ve inherited for these baptism classes I teach is kind of fun – they’re called Splash classes. Usually I meet with the parents of a baby or young child, discussing with them the connection between water and Spirit, and talking through what they can expect on baptism day. We light a candle, share stories from our experiences with the sacrament, and we talk about what it means to be a member of God’s family – at any age.

One of the gifts that is given to each family is a page-full of ideas for living out their baptism as believers in a dry and thirsty land. These suggestions for walking wet as a family include things like praying together at mealtimes and bedtime, listening to scripture songs in the car, and modeling a life of God-seeking for others by “getting caught” reading your Bible and praying at home.

Walking wet means living out a whole slew of potentially trite sayings – things like: Practicing what you preach. Walking the talk. More being ‘caught’ than taught.

Walking wet means keeping your cup full (vs half-anything) so that there’s enough Living Water in your life to splash around in. To splash on others. To have some fun with!

I don’t know your story. I don’t know whether you were sprinkled as an infant, dunked as a grown-up, or whether you’ve been splashed on by the Spirit in some equally supernatural way.

This weekend, will you consider what it means to Want What You’ve Got in terms of Water supply?

If you’ve been baptized, will you take time to remember and thank God for your faithful family members and the nudge of the Spirit that brought you to the river’s edge?

If you’ve been involved with God’s family but haven’t yet taken the plunge, will you consider joining many who, on Easter, will take their first dip in God’s sea of forgiveness and forgetfulness on this grace-filled day?

And if you’re dry and dehydrated and seek something holy to quench your thirst, will you come to the Water for something much, much better than the temporary beverage this world is trying to sell?

Whether it’s a puddle or a birdbath, a pond or a wave, a squirt gun or a water balloon… let’s make a Spirit-splash and Want What We’ve Got today!

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…for the Camera (re-posted for my Traveling Buddies)

Our Trek to the Manger has begun, and as I reflect on the small group discussion questions for the first chapters of our adventure, I’m reminded of my long-time traveling buddies: My precious family.

This post, shared several years ago, is especially appropriate today. It makes me wonder who your traveling buddies are? Feel free to share in the “reply” space below.

My Smiling Children

My husband and I just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. Besides the family we’ve created together, many of the best gifts we’ve been given over the years are memories that have been marked in living color by Kodak (or, more recently, in digital form). This year, our daughter spent hours putting photographs to music so that she could give us this gift of memory-on-DVD, commemorating our years together as a couple and as a family.

Watching this beautiful collection of photographs emerge onscreen brought more than one tear to my aging eye (especially poignant because our daughter wasn’t actually home for the viewing, but had just moved into her dorm room three states away). It was easy to count our blessings as we watched images of our family in its many ages/stages of life, dancing across the screen to carefully chosen music (songs like ‘Never Grow Up’ by Taylor Swift). The speed with which these years are being spent washed over me with each sweet lyric, each milestone passed.

Perhaps most striking to me, though, were the smiles… what GREAT SMILES! My husband and my son – smiling! My kids standing right next to each other – smiling! Age 2 and age 12 – full of happy, toothy smiles in such a variety of locations and situations and events. I admit to thinking, as I watched our lives play out onscreen (smiling all the while), that I must be a better parent than I give myself credit for, to have so many happy moments to remember – so many smiles for the camera.

We do a pretty good job of putting on our happy faces for the camera, don’t we? Is it because we know this photo is going last and become a memory, so we’d better make it count? Or maybe we want so desperately to be seen as happy and at our best that we ham it up for the camera (and take advantage of the delete option when a captured moment hasn’t captured us looking quite like we want to look)?

If you’re like most grown-up children in America, you’ve been told a million times to ‘smile for the camera!’ This simple (yet repetitive) directive certainly has created a muscle-memory over the years, making our cheesy smiles almost instantaneous whenever a camera is pointed in our general direction.

After years and years of being reminded to ‘smile!’ before the flash goes off, it’s no wonder that our automatic response to the camera is almost always a grin. The consistency of this message, though a silly cultural phenomenon, has resulted in beautiful collections of family photos like mine (well, maybe there’s some good parenting in there somewhere, too).

It makes me wonder, though… what if we were as consistent with other messages to our children? Things like:

‘LOVE your sister!’

‘HUG your brother!’

‘CARE for others!’

‘People MATTER!’

If a simple command like ‘smile for the camera’ can predictably produce a legacy of family memories, imagine the world-changing potential of the family whose repeated messages produce behaviors (not just expressions) that last!

As much joy as camera-induced smiles can bring years later, imagine the joy that our lives lived in loving relationship could bring to a world full of hurting, broken skeptics whose only smiles come when a camera is involved.

Today I challenge you, no matter how old your children may be, to harness the power of the consistently spoken message in order to plant seeds of loving, smiling action in the gardens of your homes.

And while you’re at it, linger over the last family picture that made you smile – and thank God for the ‘Cheese!’

‘Family’ is Relative (an Afterthought)

We arrived in Germany on a Monday, and by Wednesday I was getting nervous…

Thursday was family-arrival-day.

My daughter and I made the long hop together, arriving to meet my parents who had done their pilgrimage the week before. When my husband and son hit the tarmac running, we might have been singing ‘The Gang’s All Here’ – but we weren’t. All here. Yet.

The wedding wasn’t until Friday morning, and the bride was getting a little bit nervous, too. But just a little bit. She has always been strong and very capable of holding things together and keeping herself in check. It’s been that way since she was 16 years old – the year she came to live with us. Eleven years ago.

When she moved into our spare bedroom as a teenage exchange student, she was a stranger – to the desert. To American culture. To family life with younger siblings. To the branches of our Family Tree.

When she moved out one year later, it was like losing an appendage… She had been grafted into the Tree in ways we could not have anticipated, and when her plane lifted off and turned toward the east, our hearts broke apart so that she could take a piece of each of us home with her.

That was ten years ago. And here we were – sitting around the table in her apartment – getting to know the man who, tomorrow, would join her on that special branch of our Family Tree. And awaiting the arrival of the rest of the family.

The car pulled up to the curb and my heart began to race a bit. Outside stood the mother of our dear almost-daughter – a woman whose name and photos and story had become part of our own history, in spite of the fact that (until today) we had never even met. Face to face for the first time, with language barrier firmly in place, we looked at each other and watched a decade of pictures come to life. Our embrace betrayed her nervousness, too, as this oddly assembled family began to take shape with each person who walked through the door.

One of the sweetest moments of my life took place on that Thursday, as we gathered in the living room before dinner. A quick visual roll-call confirmed that everyone was present: Sue (our student, the bride) and Max (her husband-to-be), Sabine (Sue’s mother) and her parents, Karl and Hanna (Oma and Opa – Sue’s grandparents), Uncle Ingo (Sabine’s brother), Ray and Bea (dubbed Sue’s American grandparents – my mom and dad), Britton and Joffrey (Sue’s sister and brother – my children), Dallas (‘Papa Dallas’ in Sabine’s words – my husband), and me (‘second mother of the bride’ as I was teasingly referred to by my kids).

Through tears of joy in the midst of a truly surreal moment, Sue lifted her glass – for the first time in a lifetime – to her family. In German and in English. And Sabine, who was standing beside me, took my hand in hers and squeezed, but I could hardly see her through the tears that had filled my own eyes.

Paul talks about this mystery in Romans 11, in terms of the Kingdom Family Tree. He assures us that God is more than able to graft into His Tree those of us who, though wild olive shoots by nature, have within us a heart to belong. He makes room for us in His family. And He asks us to do the same in ours.

‘Family’ is relative. Who occupies the branches of your own Family Tree isn’t determined by biology alone – it’s really up to you.

That moment in the living room on a continent far away from home is proof positive that God is at work in my Family Tree. In fact, He’s been pruning and trimming and fertilizing and watering that Tree for a very long time, so that I could have this memory to cherish and treasure and ponder for many years to come.

family

The ‘C’ Word (a PINK Tuesday post)

The letter C

Image by Mel B. via Flickr

I know, I know… you’ve heard all of the quotes before:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

If you don’t create change, change will create you.”

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.”

 “Change is the only constant.”

We could go on, but we know the drill. Change happens. Ready or not, willing or not, it’s a-coming. For some of us, change is equivalent to a four-letter-word that brings with it a discomfort that only makes us wiggle and squirm and ultimately finds us fighting back in an effort to keep things the way they WERE (the way we happen to LIKE them).

For some, though, change is a necessary rite of passage that creates the momentum necessary to move us from here to there; from where we are comfortably seated now to where we need to be for our next adventure in life. Does it hurt? Yup. Is it hard? You betcha.

I suspect that some of you are anticipating the type of change I’m facing this summer – that of an (almost) empty nest.  Or perhaps your change is about 6 lbs. and wears diapers and cries every time you manage to fall asleep. Maybe your change is an empty chair at the dinner table or one less passenger in the carpool. Change can look like moving boxes or new neighbors or the ceiling of a hospital room, but no matter what your view, everything is (of course) always about to change.

Jesus deals with the idea of change in a way that you and I might consider a bit harsh. Listen to these words from Matthew 10:34-39:

“Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut – make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law – cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me. If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.”

Change in my own life has often been bloody. It’s often felt more like the work of a really sharp knife than, say, the warm hands of a potter and the whirring sound of a potter’s wheel. Yet Jesus clearly says that until I am cut free of what I consider comfortable, I am not capable of being joined with Him. My work, my family, my ministry are only that – MINE – until I yield to the severing that His sword came here to do.

Change is running rampant in my life this summer! I’m feeling the awkwardness, the discomfort, the brewing of what may very well become for me my own ‘perfect storm.’ Yet I trust the One who wields the weapon that ultimately makes me capable of giving more, seeing more, loving more and doing more than what I’m equipped to do today.

As this season of change runs its course in me, Pink Tuesdays are going on sabbatical! Vacation! What you can expect from Pink Shoes Ministries this summer is a more random expression of growth than the predictable Tuesday morning post. Expect CHANGE! The visual format of this blogsite will be changing! Who knows what future posts might look like as God re-shapes me for His service?!

In these months of change, please consider exploring some of the posts you may have missed in the past. I’ll be updating and organizing them by category in hopes of making it easier for you to find what you might need. And please take time to write me a note, letting me know better how to encourage and support you in YOUR static and fluid seasons of life!

As change unfolds, perhaps the ‘C’ word will emerge as…

Centering!

Catalyst!

Celebration!

CareFREE!

Spirit, I say ‘BRING IT!’

 

A Tale of Two Moms (a PINK Tuesday post)

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Image by kataaca via Flickr

A dear friend pulled me aside a few weeks ago. She was visibly agitated – you could read it on her face. She proceeded to share with me her deep heartsickness over her relationship with her son. And her daughter-in-law.

You don’t even need to know the details – suffice it to say that all the signs pointed toward relational tension between the women in her son’s adult life: his wife and his mother.

I listened as she described the way their recent interactions had gone south. I heard the longing in her heart for meaningful connection with her adult son and his family. But as she focused in on the disturbingly cold and distant behavior of her (relatively) new daughter-in-law, it was as if a mirror was being lifted in front of my eyes. I was seeing myself in the words of my friend – as if for the first time.

Her words continued to describe familiar scenes from my own young & married story, only this time I was seeing me through the lens of her. Rather, through the eyes of my own mother-in-law.

My mother-in-law came from a family full of sisters. Close sisters, whose lives regularly intersected in purposeful ways. Family reunions and frequent road trips to visit a sister or cousin or niece were the norm for the family I married into. Her enthusiasm for family (and for including me in hers) was evident well before my husband and I said our I Do’s, some (nearly) 23 short years ago.

This intense family-focus wasn’t all that comfortable to me. I had a great family, with parents whose love I’d never doubted and whose care for me had always seen me through. I wasn’t in the market for MORE family. I just wanted to be the co-creator of MY family.

As I listened to my friend’s pain, I realized that I had never even thought about how my mother-in-law must have felt in those early years. Yet somehow I found myself relating so easily to the present-day and more-than-once-removed scenarios as they were described to me that I was left feeling quite unsettled and uncomfortably exposed.

Unsettled because I had never before had the vantage point from which to see myself through the eyes of my husband’s mother.

Uncomfortable because I can’t exactly say that I liked what I saw.

Exposed because the light of revelation didn’t actually shine on me until I realized that the words coming out of my mouth were words that I desperately needed to have reach my own ears.

Sometimes our best advice to others is best directed to ourselves.

My friend has no idea how she helped me to unpack more than two decades’ worth of missed connections and misinterpreted intent.

I thought my mother-in-law wanted to be my mom (but she actually just wanted to continue being her son’s mom).

I was pretty sure that my mother-in-law was a threat to my marriage (yet how could her hopes have been set on seeing the son that she loved fail?).

I was so convinced that my mother-in-law might somehow take what was mine that I forgot to notice just how much of hers she was willing to give.

Time.

Patience.

Forgiveness.

And Love.

Undeserved love, mind you.

(Isn’t that just like a mother?)

Family: Redefined (a PINK Tuesday post)

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Jesus was teaching and the crowd of curious and eager listeners was growing. With Him were His traveling companions – the Twelve (His students), and some women whom He had healed from various diseases and evil spirits.

Apparently, once healed, these women did not wish to leave His side. So they traveled with Him and His disciples, taking care of their need for food, drink and shelter. Supporting them by sharing from their abundance (or in some cases, from the abundance of their husbands and families).

As the crowd pressed in to hear the Rabbi’s words, “Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ He replied, ‘My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’” (Luke 8:19-21)

Words which have always given me pause.

Maybe even making me cringe a bit.

I’ve read these words many times and I’ve always felt that Jesus was being awfully harsh, dismissing His flesh-and-blood family in such a way. I imagine myself as His mother or sister, having traveled here to see Him – perhaps to deliver family news or to make sure that everything is well with Him – only to find that I am no more important to Jesus than this gathering of strangers seems to be.

These words of Jesus have carried a sting that I have never understood. Or tried to understand.

Until today.

Today my family celebrated Thanksgiving. Yes, Thanksgiving. In April.

I came home early from work to put the turkey in the roaster.

Dallas peeled potatoes and mashed them up the way our kids like them best and made gravy from scratch because that’s just what his Mom always does for Thanksgiving.

And then our family arrived.

Michael & Caleb bring a tub of rainbow jello, and we talk about Easter baskets and arcade games and visits from family out-of-state.

Paul brings pans of his original green bean casserole – the spicy version and the mild rendition – and we readily play guinea pigs because we can.

Marlena’s in her slippers and Maddie is showing off her Easter toy. Abby has a field trip tomorrow and has to get up early, so it’ll be an uncharacteristically early departure after dinner tonight.

Brian’s arms are full of pie and a mammoth tub of ice cream, and once these have been set on the counter, his arms are full of warm hugs for everyone.

Penny’s heart is full of concern for her children. She wears her heart on her sleeve and we love this about her.

Alan comes in – it’s a treat that he’s here! – carrying a pan of homemade cornbread stuffing and sweet corn casserole, hot out of the oven and smelling divine.

Rachel makes a bee-line for the kids in the family room and Carol makes her way into the kitchen, tired from a busy day of tending to her family’s needs (but smiling because being here is part of the tending).

Greg, as always, brings a story to the table and Joffrey brings hands that need washing to our family’s prayer circle, in the middle of the kitchen, where the aromas of this Thanksgiving meal (now assembled) are irresistible to this hungry crowd.

Britton smiles across the table as another funny story is shared, and we celebrate yet another year gone by as mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and children in one family, knit together by the hearing of God’s Word and the often feeble (but always honest) attempts at putting it into practice.

Blood relatives we are not.

But family we ARE.

I wish you could see what it is that I see when I look around the table at these faces.

It’s Jesus’ words come to life in a way that words on a page can never do.

It’s a springtime Thanksgiving for which all I can say is

Thanks.