Shade in Thorns

Dear Lindsey,

It was spur-of-the-moment for me, but it had been in my daughter Christine’s mind for a week: berry picking.

On my walk one morning last week, I had seen wild blackberries by the side of the road. They weren’t the “normal” small, uncared-for wild berries. These looked as beautiful as the ones sold in grocery stores, although their bushes were clearly in a wild pattern. The berries’ large size was only surpassed by their taste – yum! – a great treat on my walk. I told Christine I would bring her there, and we would bake a pie.

I should know better than to tell a ten-year-old my thoughts without a plan in my calendar for the picking. She begged me daily to go.

We have been blessed with incessant guests at our lakehouse this summer, and I finally realized that I would need to take her even if the guests were present, or we would miss the ripe season altogether.

GG and Pop Pop (my parents) were the chosen participants, and we drove the car to the location, knowing the air conditioning for the 2-mile ride home would be priceless!

I am no stranger to wild blackberry picking. We had hundreds of bushes on our Michigan acreage a few years ago. There, I had dreamed of an invention of bee-keeper type gloves to repel the long, sharp thorns of blackberries, while being dainty enough to pick the soft, sweet berries without damage.

CM & PP pickinWe arrived at the patch bare-handed and began picking with vigor. The bottom of the bowl was covered, and the berries made a different sound when they landed on berries instead of plastic. I could practically taste the pie.

As I tried to reach deeper into the patch, I accidentally slid down the slope, not sure how far it actually was going to take me through the tangled vines. I hoped I wouldn’t land on a snake as I fell! I stopped my fall by sitting on the ground, and thorns pierced my jeans. Oh well, I thought, while I am stopped, I can reach these berries underneath.

Every time I would reach for a berry, it seemed thorns came to life, grabbing my arm more forcefully the further I went into the bush.

I leaned in a little more, and they grabbed my exposed shins under my denim capris.

My dad came down the slope a little behind me, and I reached back to try to catch his fall, but the thorns seemed to notice my movement and make their crown on my head.

“You have a new hair piece!” my dad jested, as I tried to get what felt like an entire bush out of my hair. I looked into the bush and saw hundreds more berries…just a little out of reach from where I sat.

I asked Christine how much was in the bowl, since she stood up the road, still in earshot.  more pickin

“Almost one inch of berries!” she enthusiastically reported.

Less than an inch!

It would take about four inches in the bowl to make a pie.

And the big berries seemed to be already gone. Why did I come!? I don’t have the right clothing for this! This is not worth the effort! A $4 basket of blueberries at the Farmers’ Market sounds better right now, or I could hit the freezer section of the grocery store for an already-made pie!

The worst part is, my thoughts continued, most of these thorn cuts don’t really show up until tomorrow in the shower – when they burn like the dickens! And itch all day!

I looked at my dad, and his four-score-old skin wasn’t handling the thorns either, as blood from his wrist trickled onto his white t-shirt, and wicked in the wetness of his sweat. He continued picking, presumably unaware.

Christine proudly carried the bowl from where she had been working, into our neck of the woods, swiftly sliding down the path, disconnecting the thorns as she said with excitement, “What a great idea! God gave us shade here!”

It wasn’t until that moment that I even noticed that I was no longer in the scorching, North Carolina July sun.

Thank You, God.

Thank You, God for the shade, and thank You for the reminder that in the midst of thorns, there is always something for which to say thank You.

And of course, I thanked Him for my daughter’s bright spirit and ability to bring light (and shade!) onto subjects every day.

 

We made the pie, and enjoyed the making of it. It tasted better than any store-bought berries, or freezer pie could have tasted, because it had the three-generations’ touches for ingredients.  Memories matter. (I suppose the light (or shade) in which we view the memories matters as much as the memories themselves!)

 

May you discipline yourself to notice the shade more than thorns in life.

And of course, enjoy the pie for which you aim!  pie

 

Terri

Matthew 13:7-9: [Jesus said] “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Isaiah 4:6: “And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain.”

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Good Grief

Dear Lindsey,

Two new holes were left in my heart this past winter, and last weekend represented the first events where these loved ones “would have been there.”  I had been dreading the events without them.

First, I lost my 42-year-old brother, Mike, (from Colorado) completely unexpectedly, after his medication cocktail (due to back pain) proved lethal. Weeks later, my dear friend Jackie Lewis (from Michigan)– also unexpectedly – went to be with the Lord at age 32 after a short week’s illness.

When my uncle, Buck Seitz, received France’s Legion of Honor medal in Denver, CO, last week it was the first time that I was at a family event…without Mike. Afterward, I flew out of Denver, directly to Florida, for a business event. It was at this business convention where Jackie and I would have shared the stage at night, sat together by the pool during the day, or been boating in the ocean together as in past years.

It brought to me an irony of grief: “good grief,” I guess you could call it.

Beginning (every day) with the end in mind has been an effort of mine for years. Physical

Mike Estes …...1971 - 2014

Mike Estes ……1971 – 2014

death is not “unexpected,” as no one has avoided it as of yet. And when I know heaven awaits for those who trust solely in the Lord Jesus, I would want it to hasten its call for believers. That is the “good” part of the grief. But oh, how it aches to have that hole in my heart of one that once was here…not here anymore. To know my lifetime ahead will happen absent of these loved ones cuts deeply into me, and even more deeply when I look at the children and spouses, and those closer to the deceased than I.

The degree of grief has taken so many different forms within me. I am no psychology major, but I know that what I experienced is probably not unique to me alone.

Sadness:

The depth of raw heartache cannot be described. What once was…no longer is. There is nothing I can do to change it for the future. There is nothing I can do to change any past, although with these two, there was nothing I would have changed. If my mind ever wanders from the sorrow, something comes to remind me of it: a waiter named Mike, a bookmark bearing Jackie’s signature, a song that instigates a flash flood of tears. It is amazing to me how I see the resemblance of their faces in SO many people – like a mirage due to a deep longing to see them again.  My heart skips a beat when I see a red head. (They both were.)

Pure Joy:

I say, “pure,” because it is the true sense of the word.  Joy: that despises

Jackie Lewis 1981- 2014

Jackie Lewis 1981- 2014

circumstances. My pure joy: in knowing that Jackie is with her Savior in heaven. There is no more crying, no more pain, no need to wait for a sun to brighten her day, because the eternal Light is always there.  There is such pure joy in knowing that she finished her life at such a peak. Her husband raves about their marriage  –which gives me joy to thank God for the timing of her death to be at such a high! She was a speaker on stages across the country, and her desire for excellence was an influence on thousands of lives to live better.  The wrinkle fairy had not yet waved her wand in Jackie’s direction. Haha! She was beautiful, so beautiful. Her love for the Lord exuded her being in all that she did, and her testimony video was recorded just this year. What a high! I have a joy in knowing that although the dash between her birth-date and her death-date was too short for my liking, its brevity is what interested tens of thousands to watch her story, which could have eternally impacted them. I have joy in knowing that though 32 years seems so short, and I wish she had lived to be 105, I can look at the grand scheme of tens of thousands of years in eternity, and the difference in a few decades on earth is so, so small.

timelineGuilt:

I know some experience guilt after the death of someone due to words that were said, or not said… Visits that were not made… Time that had passed taking for granted the love and friendship of the newly deceased. Those feelings hopefully spur us to be reminded of the preciousness and finiteness of time with loved ones.  But my guilt was different. It was as though every smile I gave brought with it a weight. Wasn’t I sad? Does my brother know I miss him? If I smile, will he think I don’t? What about other friends and family – am I offending them if I smile when they are not? I know it’s a strange subliminal guilt – my brother cannot “think” anything anymore. He is gone. But inside me, there is a pang, like a weight from below that feels good and right being sad, and guilty being happy. This “guilt” is probably most dangerous, because it is not from God. He is the one who allowed a weight to lift…and probably listened to the prayers of many to give me that moment of lifted weight…and yet I sometimes regretfully have given the unfounded guilt power in my day. I tend to think I need to “justify” my happiness, “Well, Jackie would have loved that I can laugh at this video now.” Or “Mike would have been laughing with me at this.” That justification may be true, but I just don’t want to miss the opportunity to say instead, “Thank you, God, for making the sun rise on my life again, because that night was long.”

Wanting to hide/avoid:

This part of grief seemed to have an undaunted allure. Do I have to attend that event? Everyone will be looking at me to see how I am handling it. What if there are expectations of how I am supposed to “look” and “act” in mourning? There will be others there grieving; I hate to look at others and see the pain I know will be in their eyes from their loss.   Events with people who didn’t know the deceased were even more difficult: it seemed disrespectful to be with people who didn’t even know or care about the ones I miss so deeply. My local church family didn’t know or love my brother. Couldn’t I use a few more hours of sleep? Couldn’t the world just turn without me for a while? I am hurting.

Doubt (with a capital “D”):

Have you ever prayed so intensely that it hurt? Physically, hurt? Have you ever lost entire nights of sleep or days of meals while praying for someone’s life to be saved? Have you ever visualized the victory so deeply, that you almost forgot whether the prayers had been answered yet or not, because you trusted that much that victory was imminent? Have you ever felt like you sweat blood?

Have you ever prayed that much and God still answered, “no.”

And that was His “final answer.”

Not, “No, check back with me next week.”

Not, “Wait… I like how you are depending on Me. Keep depending on Me. Let Me work on it.”

Just, “No.”

“She’s gone.”

Or “We lost him.”

Did you ever go back and doubt that your hours upon hours of fervent prayers were even heard?

I have.

Is doubt sin?  YES

Am I proud?  NO

The Bible talks about doubt:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:5-8”

But there was a time a few years ago when I doubted my prayers were heard, and I am ashamed. I have to tell you a little secret though:

I told God about it.

A. Weatherell Johnson, in her autobiography, Created for Commitment had this to say about a time of doubt in her life:

“I went to God and bluntly said, ‘God, I’m sorry but I don’t believe You always answer prayer.’ Immediately after I had spoken those words aloud, I corrected them. ‘God, I do believe but I don’t understand.’ God then gave me His loving assurance. He said, ‘My child, wait for Me. I have not finished.’ My very voicing of unbelief (to God alone) delivered me. I started to praise Him.”

Reading that, I remembered my own gut-wrenching tearful surrender that was so similar.

However, since answers to prayers do not always take the same shape of the mirages I have created, I believe we have to have the attitude my friend Diana had when she admittedly felt like prayers bounced off the ceiling back to the sickbed where she lay.

“I don’t understand, but I trust.”

The truth of the matter is that we cannot be afraid to speak out our doubts honestly, and immediately to the Lord. The very voicing of the sin can deliver us from it. How can a drowning victim be saved if she won’t admit she’s drowning? Besides, do we think He doesn’t already know our heart?  Do we think He doesn’t see behind the fig leaves with which we cover?  Are we surprised when He asks, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Gen 3:11) He already knows.

Jesus, Himself, prayed for His circumstances to change so earnestly that His sweat was like drops of blood, (Luke 22:44) yet He humbly submitted when God said, “no,” so His life was used to save mine.

The Lord holds our tears in a bottle. (Ps 56:8)

If we can just …hold on to Him a little while longer. (Haggai 2:6-7)

When God Says, “No”

Just recently, Pastor Stephen Davey shared about the topic, “When the Answer is No.” (I love it when I have a blog half-written and someone else covers the exact topic!) You can read his message: here or listen to the audio here.

He taught five components to our response to God when He answers “no” to our fervent prayers. We should respond with humility, gratitude, surrender, praise and readiness.

The Bible is clear that there is a time for mourning, a time for tears. (Ecc 3:4) Even Jesus wept at the loss of his friend.  (John 11:35)

And yet, the fact that Ecclesiastes says, “there is a time,” to me, says that the time is finite. It ends. Yes, I will miss these loved ones, but there is more.  There is more to come in this life than mourning….when I respond with humility – recognizing that my desires do not include the whole world like God’s desires do. When I respond with gratitude – recognizing that the fact I miss these loved ones means I have some memories for which to be thankful. When I respond with surrender – recognizing that I am not in control…and really never was. When I respond with praise – recognizing that I do LOVE the One who IS in control. And when I respond with readiness – recognizing that there is more to come. This is not the end.  I want to be ready to serve the Lord as Jackie was, to spread laughter as Mike would have done.

Just wait, there’s more.

I once heard it said, “Everything will be all right in the end; and if it is not all right, it is not the end.”

Girlfriend, it is not the end. Last weekend as I lived without these two was a sort of victory for me. It wasn’t the end! Yes, I cried again… at the loss… and the change… and the grief of continuing life without them. (I even held my brother’s newborn granddaughter, whom he never met.)  But the victory was in the ability to say, “I am ready, God.  I don’t understand, but I trust.”  I guess that is the good that gets squeezed out of the grief.

“Good” grief!  I couldn’t have said those words together a few short weeks ago. But God knew the day would come.

The world still turns, even though there was a time when its turning seemed impossible.  As I shared at Jackie’s funeral, I feel like God is holding on to my heart, saying, “Just wait. There’s more…”

May we heal through worshipping Him in a real relationship, no holds barred, no doubts hidden, in real communion, as we wait on His “more” to come.

“The difference between waiting on God and wrestling with God is worship.” – Stephen Davey in Nehemiah: Memoirs of an Ordinary Man

 

- Terri Brady

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Books

Psalm 42:3-4 says:  My tears have been my food

day and night,

while people say to me all day long,

“Where is your God?”

These things I remember

as I pour out my soul:

how I used to go to the house of God

under the protection of the Mighty Oned

with shouts of joy and praise

among the festive throng.

Electronics Addiction: Another Leading Cause of “Busyness”

Dear Lindsey,

It is astounding that the same tools that multiply efficiency of time can steal it in equal magnitude.  I would say that life would be better if electricity were never used, but wouldn’t that make me a hypocrite as I type on my word-processor and you read on your computer?

Kevin DeYoung, in his book,  Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, lists several diagnoses causing busyness:

  • Trying to look good, instead of actually doing good. (and its close cousins: pride, Unknownpeople pleasing and perfectionism),
  • Trying to do more than what God expects me to do.
  • Not setting priorities…even in serving others.
  • “Kinderarchy”:  Freaking out about my kids.
  • Being addicted to technology.
  • Not resting enough.

Electronics Addiction

My last letter talked about overparenting and freaking out about my kids, but this one is more about freaking out over me….being addicted to technology.

Yes, I could say that the kids are the ones with the electronics problem. I took six teenagers for ten hours in a car last month, and I think I could count on my fingers the number of words they said to each other….with their mouths, anyway. It seems we are raising a silent generation – as their thumbs type the words (even while sitting next to each other in a car!) that we once verbalized.  I find it ironic though, that every time I want to say, “Put the phone down,” (which is an acceptable request in our house – any time) I have to stop myself from using my own phone first.

gadget-addictionDo I really think I am so “needed” that I cannot go a few hours without seeing if someone needs me on my phone? Do I think my children cannot survive minutes of my errand-running without having me on an electronic leash, able to be tugged at their beck and call?

Gone are the neighborly days in which I grew up, since neighbors are not as “used.”  When my brother, Tim, hit a baseball in the backyard that rearranged my brother Mike’s nose to be firmly planted into his eye, the neighbor (“my second mother,” we called her) came running with a role of paper towels before the injured one had even stopped running (and screaming). Those kind of neighborly bonding moments are gone! Why is it that broken noses in backyard baseball seem so much healthier than Snap Chat, video games and DISH? :)

When email first began its trend, I remember putting a tag at the end of my emails, “I check email on Friday afternoons only, so please be patient in awaiting a reply.”

WHAT?!

How did that ever work? Now, it seems perfectly legitimate for a coach to email a change in my kids’ 5:30 practice at 4:30!  Everyone assumes you are on the leash!  I had fourteen emails today, regarding soccer alone. Heaven forbid my family’s biannual dentist appointments come around, because – since I am the secretary and personal chauffeur of my four children – I get ten emails (two per child, and myself) reminding me, outside of the five identical texts and five automated phone calls… all to tell me about one appointment I had already put into my calendar six months prior – when the appointment was booked.  You’d think they are afraid that my family is so “busy,” we will forget the appointment!  And sometimes, we do.

Unknown-2My brain has become so accustomed to the fast pace of multi-tasking, that I can hardly sit for sixty seconds at a red light, without habitually grabbing my phone to check the few buzzes I missed since the last light. I mean, really: if I accidentally leave the house without my phone, I am shocked at how many times I reach for it (and notice only because it is not there). The old days of talking to the lady behind me in line have diminished into a world of looking at the top of her head, while she does the Smart Phone Slouch, as if sending approval for me to assume the same stance.

It has been proven that endorphins are released and produce a “high” when the phone buzzes or computer indicates, “You’ve got mail!”  It makes a subliminal desire for the same high if we go minutes without getting it.  (That must be why I miss my phone if I am without it for a nano-second.)

Last week, a baby whined in her car seat in a waiting room images-2where I sat. The mom typed away on her phone to who-knows-who while the little cry got a little more forceful.  I chuckled to myself, while I checked my own phone to see if my father in Colorado had taken his turn on Words with Friends. It is striking how a phone can eliminate the 1600 miles between my father and me… and yet distance the mom from her baby in the same room!

“We are now more wired than ever. Researchers from the University of Glasgow found that half of the study participants reported checking their email once an hour, while some individuals check up to 30 to 40 times an hour. An AOL study revealed that 59 percent of [some] users check every single time an email arrives and 83 percent check email every day on vacation.” (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/when-technology-addiction-takes-over-your-life)

It’s no wonder I feel so BUSY!

I would like to say I am going to commit to go back in time, and start square dancing in the barn with neighbors! Haha! I would first have to buy a barn and introduce myself to my neighbors – who might run from me if I were talking about square dancing!

Really, my goal is to utilize electronics to run life, not let electronics’ use run my life.

I want to keep electronics as tools I control – not the other way around, despite how difficult that is to actually live.

Unknown-3Maybe people who have the “phone basket” by the front door have good family dinners? Maybe those people who take forever to get back to me on email or text are actually living with the people in their house, and I should applaud it? Maybe it’s ok if my kid doesn’t have his own email to check at age seven?  After all, once the message-checking begins, it doesn’t end…forever!

“I had to apologize to God today, because I turned on my phone before reading my Bible,” a friend sharpened me as iron sharpens iron when she made this passing statement. How many times have quiet times, exercise, or my kids’ smiles been missed when I thought I needed to check “just one more thing” online?  I lightly enjoy Twitter and Facebook: I love hearing who had a baby, finding a tribute in memory of my friend, Jackie Lewis,  or seeing how many “liked” or “re-tweeted” my son’s April Fool’s joke on me. But the hourglass doesn’t stop dropping sand when I get distracted looking at the other threads completely unrelated to the priorities for my day!

images-3My husband has (brilliantly I might add) limited electronics’ use by our kids. It is easier to say “no” when they are four, than to try and backtrack on use when they are fourteen. If Google and Facebook limit the youngest age to be thirteen, it should at least flag more-conservative-than-the-Internet parents that maybe we should wait at least that long for them to get accounts.  (Besides, what is being taught when even parents use a fake birthdate to get their kid “around” the age rules?)  Really, our kids will have their own electronic leashes soon enough.  There is no right-of-passage back into childhood, so it is probably wise if parents choose to protect it.  Kids have the rest of their lives to live with the “electronic leash,” so there’s no harm in having “tween” years without its yoke!

We are affecting the next generation.

My 13-yr-old and I were discussing “maturity” and what it means, as I look for more symptoms of it in him. At one point, he answered, “It seems that ‘maturity’ means you check your phone more, and are more involved with emails.” He was serious in his observation of those “mature” older brothers and friends around him.

My daughter recently wrote an article for a magazine she created. Her random “creative writing,” had a point that was clear, especially since she (at age ten) is only on the outside of the electronic world, looking in.  Although I cannot say everyone can logistically apply her “one month” program, I thought it a fitting way to end this letter. (See her article, “Family Fun” below.)

Electronically your friend,

Terri

Romans 12:2:And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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Family Fun

By Christine Brady

“Uh…a duck?” said Nate. The whole family laughed. Trivial Pursuit always had us giggling at the funny questions…and answers. Our family takes one month away from phones, iPods and computers. No e-mailing, texting or calling people…just family time. Nowadays, families need more time together…electronics are drawing them apart.

People who are always texting and e-mailing never really stop to look around them- to stare at the pretty clouds or to listen to the birds chirp sweetly.  My older brother got a FaceBook account and for a while, even he was distracted from the beautiful weather! Without phones and iPods, you would really appreciate the world around you.

Family time is very important. We learn to laugh, have fun, and we can forget bad things.  I think our family is the happiest of all when they take a month away from phones, iPods, computers and video games. For instance once I had a HORRIBLE ear infection that lasted from March to July.  July was our Un-plugged month, and I got distracted from my ear infection. Instead of hurting, my ear infection DISAPPEARED!!!! Family time is definitely important.

Families need more time together, and happier memories to look back at. I am encouraging YOU to take a month off electronics, as a test and see what happens. Do you want YOUR family laughing together? Simply take out electronics for a while! Trivial Pursuit is on its way…and so is lot of family fun!

“Overparenting:” a Leading Cause of Busyness

Dear Lindsey,

I have been meaning to write for weeks, but I have been…umm…busy!

In his book, Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung lists several diagnoses causing busyness:

      • Trying to look good, instead of actually doing good. (and its close cousins: pride, people pleasing and perfectionism),
      • Trying to do more than what God expects me to do.
      • Not setting priorities…even in serving others.
      • “Kinderarchy”:  Freaking out about my kids
      • Being addicted to technology
      • Not resting enough

The Kindergarchy chapter hit too close to home for me, as I find myself SO wrapped up with my children’s (now ages 16, 13, 10 and 8) schedules. Kindergarchy could probably be defined as overparenting, and I dance with it daily. I want what’s best for my kids. I don’t take lightly the responsibility of raising them for the glory of the Lord, and sometimes (as said in my last Letter), my attempts at “better” have only left me more flustered or frustrated, and not the kind of mom I want to be for my children.

But sometimes, it is simply “overparenting” that causes us to be overbusy.

For Our Kids

At a recent neighborhood event, one mom said her chief regret in raising her kids was their playing travel soccer. Not knowing that I was the proverbial travel-soccer mom, she was simply lamenting how busy she had been when her kids were young, just rushing from one city to the next for… soccer.

I took her words straight to my heart. Will I regret being a soccer mom? It was a great moment of reflection for me, as I aligned my priorities and analyzed my busyness.

I believe the busyness  of “Kinderarchy” to which Kevin DeYoung refers in his book could be summarized by:

  1. Our kids are doing too much.
  2. We’re doing too much for our kids.
  3. We think our kids’ future lies too much in our responsibility.

Kids today have opportunities that didn’t exist in our youth – much less our parents’. My parents were both raised on farms. After starting his day milking cows at 4am, before feeding the hogs, or getting ice from the pond in the valley to carry to the icebox (yep…pre-refrigeration), then walking uphill (both ways, barefoot…in the snow) to the one-room-schoolhouse in Kansas, my father hardly came home to ask if he could join the travel soccer team!  But my dad grew up to be pretty awesome, and I wouldn’t mind if any of my kids turned out just like him!

Since I don’t have cows to milk, hogs nor an icebox, we have time for activities outside of those! But that doesn’t mean we need all of the activities that are offered. As my neighbor aptly pointed out, travel soccer is time-consuming! Our kids only have one childhood, and I only get one shot at providing for its growth toward excellence. For two of my boys, it has been travel soccer. They have dreams of going big in the sport, and my telling them, “Your chances are slim,” would only solidify that in their minds – for not only soccer, but also any other dream they chase. When they put the mental toughness, physical training, and immense effort into their goals, Chris and I want to reciprocate –even if it means sacrificing some time for travel soccer.

However, if I were about to invest a percentage of my income in something, the investment would be prayed about and researched regarding: return on investment, ability to reach goals, cost to invest, comparison to competitor investments, etc. Investments in time should be considered under the same scrutiny.

Too often, I hear of people getting tutoring for their 6-yr-old, or putting their 4-yr-old in travel-hockey, or paying big bucks for swim-lessons for the 6-month-old, without considering if the outcome is really worth the investment of time and money. (Yes, I did some of that!) Our kids could end up being pushed right out of the activity that was intended for their good. In my busyness case, I get burnt out of the motherhood I was intending for God’s good. Sometimes our kids are simply doing too much.

For Our Kids

Other times, we are busy because we are doing too much for our kids.  For example, I overheard a woman behind me at a high school sporting event talking about a history project her son (a junior in high school) was doing. She was exasperated at the amount of work it entailed. She didn’t know when he could possibly get it all done. She wasn’t quite sure what the teacher wanted, and whether the entire project was due on such-and-such date, or whether that was just the draft. Wondering if it was biographical, or if it could be an opinionated project, she debated into her friend’s ear on whether the project should be during World War I, or maybe during the aftermath.  She talked and talked… and talked. Then, she turned to her friend and said, “How is your son going to get it done?!”

“Oh, I don’t know what he’s doing for that class. That’s up to him,” her friend replied.

If I had been sipping a drink at that moment, it would have been one of those – spray the back of the head of the person sitting in front of me on the bleachers – moments. It was funny to me, that while one woman was giving a discourse on the project, debating the intricacies of the due dates, pondering the eras about which to write and discussing her stress level on the sidelines, the other simply said, “That’s not my job; it’s my son’s class.”

Can’t we see that doing too much for our children not only hinders their ability to handle responsibility, but also creates “freaked out” moms who look too busy for the very kids they are trying to help.

But being a mom who holds the “It’s not my job; it’s his job,” mentality risks a multitude of embarrassing moments, because our pride is on the line when we allow our children to fail. When they don’t complete a project, I can be embarrassed – but it is worth the short-term embarrassment for the long-term lessons he learns. Failing to bring his soccer equipment at age eight makes less failures at age sixteen.  Doing it for our children instead, only takes away their opportunity to learn the lesson.  Whether it is because he forgot part of the soccer uniform, didn’t get the intricacies of the history assignment or in some other way missed the bar, I know failure can be the best teacher for the future.  Imagine if instead of nagging with a soccer checklist every time, I trusted that he had it. (Once he forgets a cleat, it is never done again.) What if instead of bugging a teacher for assignment details, we let the “to-do list” be in his head instead of ours?  We would be left to focus on our own to-do list – to be a mom!

Doing too much for them – only makes me busy and takes away from their ability to gain responsibility.

For “Our”? Kids 

Lastly, and definitely my favorite point of the Kindergarchy chapter, we often think our kids’ future lies too much in our responsibility.  We try to be the perfect parents: feeding the perfect meals every meal, running to tutors, lessons, leagues, and friends to make the perfect combination of fertilizer for the garden where our children grow.

But we have less to do with their growth than we think. Don’t we believe God knitted them together before they were born? (Ps 139:13) Don’t we know that God has a plan for them to prosper, not to harm them? (Jer 29:11) Can’t we  trust in Him and lean not on our own understanding?  (Prov 3:5)

One of my favorite lines from the Crazy Busy book was this:

“There are ways to screw up kids for life but thankfully the Happy Meal is not one of them.” (p. 73)

Ha! He is not saying, “Give up on feeding them healthy food;” he is saying we would be better if we stopped freaking out!

Usurping God’s Role

I try to avoid using these Letters to brag about my kids; I really do. But this lesson I recently learned is too good to skip, although the ending shows I am a bit proud of my daughter (age ten).

Let me begin with this:  admittedly, I often suffer with the “I stink at being a mom,” syndrome. It’s a sinful, self-centered, lacking-of-faith and lacking-of-gratitude “sin-drome” that requires my refocus on God and His wondrous gifts.  One particular day, I was having those negative “I am a failure” thoughts about my mothering my daughter. Her hair was messy…as usual. Her room was too. With the sweetest heart in the world, she runs around loving on everyone, and leaves a path of evidential mess in every room she touches. Her brothers have called her the “tornado,” because you always know where she has been.

And then it happened.

The violin lessons paid off….NOT.

The soccer league she left tried to recruit her back…NOT.

The gymnastics lessons she had when she was seven saved her life…NOPE.

I unwrapped my birthday present and it was this:

turtle

THAT is a turtle.

I cannot draw a turtle. (You never want to be my partner in Pictionary.)  I cannot describe shading, much less do it with watercolors.

My daughter created that artwork, because, thank God, she was not in a sports league to follow her brothers. She was not in gymnastics because it was what the neighbors were doing. She drew that because she was not too busy to notice the details of a creature, capture them with her God-given eye and express it as a gift of love to me.

She made the painting, because God knows her more than I do, and He gave her talents to use for His glory, not mine.  I think He can make her the best she can be if I let go enough of who I think she should be.  Maybe for her to be the best daughter she can be, her mom needs to be the best daughter (of God) she can be, instead of being the freaked-out-lunatic parent trying to make perfect children.

So if I am letting go of “Kindergarchy,” then what do I consider to be most important for being a good mom?

Be a good me.

    • They need to see my trust in Jesus… for my life and theirs.
    • They need to see my love for their father, (yes – my husband)…and his love for me.
    • They need to see me sane.

The busyness disease can leave “freaked out” parents eclipsing what is most important for their children’s future.

No amount of “perfect parenting,” vegan dieting-without-Happy-Meals, travel-soccer momming, music lessons, sports leagues, or homework-“helping” can make up for a lacking in me. Too much busyness can take the life of any priorities in a heartbeat, taking our beating hearts along with it.

Delight yourself in the Lord (Ps 37:4)…and let the busyness drown like the Wicked Witch of the West melting under a bucket of water*.

In love,

Terri Brady

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* reference: Wizard of Oz

Letters to Lindsey is now available in book form.

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A Disease Called Busyness

Dear Lindsey,

Having lunch with my 13-yr-old last week, I asked him a question of where he wanted to be in five years. What kind of person was he aiming to become?  Did he have goals for himself?

His answer surprised me, since he said that he wanted to be more like his older brother:

“Everyone likes Casey.  My [12-yr-old] friend, Zarec, said it best: ‘The reason Casey is so much fun is because he seems like he is really having fun when he is with you!’ Most teenagers aren’t like that. I guess I want people to feel that fun from me.”

He wasn’t envying his brother, but admiring a trait he’d like to emulate. I like it when my kids think. I don’t know if he realized that his thinking convicted me, but I realized how “not fun” I live some days of my life.

The culprit?

A Disease called Busyness.

I think it is amusing when I ask my kids a question like, “How many times have you flossed this week?” and my eight-year-old will say, “I haven’t had time.”

Haha!! If you don’t have time when you are eight?…

Don’t we each feel that way though – whatever we are doing seems important enough to feel BUSY?

As an engineer (before motherhood), I

  • drove 50 miles each way to work
  • worked in three plant locations involving travel
  • volunteered at church directing the children’s choir
  • sang in the adult choir, and filled in as accompanist at times
  • taught piano lessons on the side
  • picked up kids who needed a ride to church
  • played on a softball team 30 minutes from my house (part way to work)
  • played in a county band
  • made meals from scratch
  • worked out every day
  • flossed my teeth :)
  • stayed involved in elections, attended weddings and baby showers, traveled to out-of-state family, practiced instruments and other things that happened on a non-daily routine

I am sure you could make this list for yourself.

“It is not enough to be industrious, so too are the ants,” said Henry David Thoreau, “but what are you industrious about?”

For me, I have LOVED to be busy my whole life.   In highschool, my mother would continuously say (to my back as I was leaving the house), “You are burning the candle at both ends; it cannot last!”

I wore it like a badge.

My highschool yearbook looked like I was trying to be Jan Brady (or was it Marsha?) with all of my activities: Shakespeare Club, high school musical, jazz band, church plays, babysitting, softball teams, marching band, (county, district and state bands), Science Fair competitions, indoor drumline, National Honor Society, nursing home visitation, and winter ski club.

I could have sung the Veggie Tales song to any friend who asked for time, “I’m busy busy! Frightfully busy! You’ve no idea what I’ve got to do!”

But there are so many pitfalls to busyness!  A book, Crazy Busy, by Kevin DeYoung inspired the following:

Pitfalls of BusynessPitfall3

  1. Makes us lose sight of direction.
  2. Robs our happiness.
  3. Masks our growing further from whom we were meant to be.

1.  Busyness makes us lose sight of  the direction we intended.

I like to list those activities of my engineering days, because it is clearly eclectic, and pointless for where I am today.  What was my goal?  We have twenty-four hours in our checking account to spend, 365 days a year. We cannot add to that number in any way. My eighth grade teacher, Mrs. Romberger, taught me a valuable lesson on busyness, when she had us actually keep an account ledger of our time. We took a lined piece of paper, and labeled each line with fifteen-minute intervals of time. Then for one week, we were supposed to stop every fifteen minutes and write down what we were doing. I remember being shocked – even at that young age – of things which I had no intention of doing that took my time! (Maybe I should do this today? I cannot figure out what happened to my 11am to 2pm yesterday!!!) If we could look back at our account ledger for the last six months of time, we would likely be able to predict where we will be in five years!  Our hourly account ledger tells where we are headed. Does it have the direction we intended? It is “what we are industrious about” that matters.

2.  Busyness robs our happiness.

OffCliffRecently I had a day when I got miserably tired. You know the kind? Once my daughter, exhausted and teary at age seven said, “I am so tired, my heart has been at the edge of a cliff, and it just went over. Wah hah hah”– That kind of tired.

.

.

When my heart, “went over the edge,” I analyzed the day I had had:

  • I had gotten up early for a good workout and Bible time,
  • Then went to have coffee with a friend in need, arriving a little late.
  • I came home shortly and did some homeschooling work with the kids, then let them work on their own assignments while I
  • Volunteered playing piano at the high school where my oldest son attends.
  • I came home and paid the cleaning lady quickly before leaving in a hurry,
  • To drive my daughter to homeschool youth theatre practice, while eating lunch out of my lap.
  • I volunteered with music for that group for 2 hours
  • I came home in time to say hello to my teens before dropping them at the soccer carpool.
  • Making the family dinner took a little longer than expected, so I didn’t get to sit down.
  • I ate dinner from my lap while driving to an evening orchestra practice at church which I had been looking forward to.
  • I came home and the younger kids wanted me to read to them before bed, but
    • It was late
      • And I was tired.
        • Chris wanted to tell me about his ideas, and spend quality husband/wife time, but my body had had it!

I felt like saying, “Do you know the kind of day I have had?!!!”

Then I actually thought about the kind of day I had had:

  • I had started with exercise and quiet time in prayer.
  • I had spent time with my kids.
  • I had given of my time and talents in volunteer work.
  • I had played in an orchestra at church – a kind of worship for me, cleansing of my soul, once a week when my schedule allows.
  • I had eaten healthy – even from my lap – since I had prepared the meals.

That day would have been called “rest” back in my engineering days (and most of my “normal days” now), but clearly, the happiness had been robbed.

I ended too tired to read to my kids.

Volunteering had become a chore when it affected my meals!

Any of these events taken separately would have been a blessing, but all together, they were a strain.

A thief came in to rob my happiness through the door of my calendar.

The sad part is that most people have busyness robbing their happiness and they do not recognize the cause, only its effect.

3.  Busyness masks our decay.  

If we are not growing right, we are growing wrong!! There is no staying the same.

Growth in a specific direction takes specific intent for growth.   Growth in a bad direction takes no work at all.

If I want to be a healthy weight, it takes massive intent and work.

If I want to gain weight, it’s a piece of cake! (Pun intended! :) )

Growing in a right direction requires tending to the calendar, not just riding along in an “unattended car”Keeping ourselves busy disguises itself as productivity, when in actuality it is often masking decay.

I believe this decay due to busyness is very evident in marriages:

Nobody plans for a marriage to decline to a status of “acquaintance management,” but lack of HappyCakeplanning is the root of the rot.   Personal busyness usually does not involve the spouse…who frankly has his/her own reason to be busy, leading him/her in different directions.  Our busyness often is exclusive of those who are closest to us, leaving what matters most in our hearts, out of our mind while we RUSH – often trying to serve the very ones we ignore. While we think we are working to get things done, things becoming undone within us…as individuals and in our relationships.

Rest is not the antithesis of productivity.

“Tending” to our growth, personally or professionally, means we know when we need rest, too.  Rest can actually halt the decay cycle.  My husband wrote a whole book on the importance of rest! (Maybe I should rest from writing and read it again!  He says, “Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.” A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation.)  Rest allows time to think. Unscheduled time allows planning for the future.

If we have every minute filled with who we are, it will be difficult to find time to become whom we are meant to be!

Leave space!!  Just because there is a blank in the calendar does not mean it needs to be filled!  (Okay, I am screaming, “Preach it, sister!” to myself in my head – because I am SO preaching to myself. I suppose I better close this letter before my “self” starts answering.)

One last note: According to author Bryan Caplan, secondhand stress is a leading complaint among kids.  In an “Ask the Children” survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than 1000 kids in grades 3-12, asking, “If you were granted one wish to change the way that your mother’s/father’s work affects your life, what would that wish be?”  Who could have guessed the kids’ answer would have involved their parents’ attitude?! When asked to “grade” their parents for “appreciating me for who I am, “ or “making me feel loved,” or even, “attending important events in my life,” the parents scored well. But “controlling his/her temper when I do something that makes him/her angry” got the worst marks on the parents’ report card! They feel our stress!

Okay, I do not remember that lady interviewing my kids, but wow! She might have been here. It’s not that I “blow up” at my kids. I have even worked on many systems to avoid the repetitive nagging. But, I often wonder if my kids are going to say my most commonly said word was, “hurry!”

I don’t want them to remember me as the “hurry!” mom. I want them to feel the fun I have with them.  I want them to remember me as the mom who loves them and who loves Jesus, and who stresses only in things eternal. I think my infliction with the Disease called Busyness may be masking my most important message…to my kids, to my husband and to myself.

To be continued,

Terri

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Letters to Lindsey is now available in book form.  61pdoweizhL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

 

Real Moms: “When the Last Goldfish Dies”

Dear Lindsey,

After ice skating for a while, I decided I could sit back with my book while I watched my kids through the glass. The Tuesday family skate brought less than ten kids that morning.

I sat in the viewing area with my book, while other moms enjoyed fellowship and coffee. I overheard one mom say to another, “I am going to have a party when that last goldfish dies!”

I chuckled to myself, since we had the amazing longevity-gifted goldfish Chris at fairat our house, too, and I completely understood what she was saying! We had won the fish at the State Fair.  These three fish with an average life of one day, were going on their second YEAR at the Brady house – living in Tupperware, since I had given the fish tank away to a neighbor literally days before that State Fair. 

The plastic home of these carnival fish lived in our basement homeschool area and always pleaded for cleaning. Always.  It seemed that although the kids had begged to keep them, no one ever remembered we had them – except me – when I smelled them.

I get it ! I mean, when that last goldfish dies:

  • No more working to keep the tank (or Tupperware) clean!
  • No more rocks, filters, lights or food to replace!
  • No more badgering kids to finish responsibilities!

As luck would have it, weeks after the overheard goldfish comment, one of our Fair goldfish was found in a not-so-fair state, floating on the top of the water. That night, a second fish was moving slowly, looking awfully buoyant, and dead by morning.

The third fish was gone within twenty-four hours, confirming that something must have happened to the water (which ironically, was clean this time).

goldfish2

(My husband wants me to tell you that he is innocent. Really.)

The mourning process in my kids was shocking to me.

Life appreciates after it is gone.

These ignored fish, suddenly had value now that they were gone, the same way the man in the casket always seems to have so many “best friends.”

“I miss him!” my eight-year-old cried, assigning gender to one who had no name or gender – that we had identified anyway.  “I loved him so much.”

It felt completely silly to me, and I hid my smile,

“The worst part is that he doesn’t even go to heaven! It would be so much better, if I at least knew he was theeeeerrrrrrrrreee.” He cried, and I hugged him on the stairs where we stood, not remembering if we were going up or down.

His body shook in my arms, which made me hold more tightly. It was funny how much I didn’t care about the fish, but a tear left my eye, as I felt my son’s pain. To him, it was real, and that’s what mattered to me.

“Should we have a funeral?” I asked, finally, wiping my tear before he could see it.  I couldn’t believe I was offering, but honestly, I felt like he had an emotion – and even though I did not share that emotion – I might help him work through it.

“What do you do at a funeral?” he asked, and I secretly thanked God that he hadn’t had a lot of exposure to death.

“It’s a time when we give our respects. We tell God thank you for giving us memories, like a celebration of the life. Sometimes people tell stories of the happy memories with the one who died.”

“Yeah, Let’s do that,” he said, as a calm overtook him.

He and his sister immediately began making “invitations” to the funeral, created a casket out of a paper cup, and dug a hole next to the fishpond in the back yard.

funeral announcment

JRCM fish funeral

The three of us met at the pond, buried the treasure, and thanked God for giving us memories with the fish. We sang Amazing Grace, since I suppose even fish-death reminds us of the amazing grace of eternal life given to my children and me.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those “cool” moms as seen on TV. You know the ones? They wear their skinny jeans while they feed the kids chocolate chip cookies and milk and sit and discuss their school day. Their teens run in with all of their friends, (because the mom is so cool, surely any teen would want to hang out with her), and gobble up the pizza pockets and Sunny D. (That’s the way “cool moms” say “Sunny Delight.”)

But where are the “real” moms in those commercials?

Real Moms

A real mom is sitting in the bathroom, and the ENTIRE family is standing outside of the bathroom door asking “URGENT” questions like,

“What are we having for dinner?”

“Have you seen my book?”

“Doesn’t HE  have to put the dishes away today, because I already did it TWO TIMES YESTERDAY!!”

A real mom doesn’t realize till dinner that her shirt has been on inside-out all day.

Real moms have library books that they have paid for three times, thinking one day they’ll find it.

Real moms lose socks in every load.

Real moms go to the store for milk, and come home with seven things…and no milk.

Real moms fit four little people (preferably her kids) with her in one bathroom stall in the airport.

Real moms know what the code for “lost toddler” is on the Kohls intercom. (Thank you, Kohls, for handling us real moms.)

Real moms wonder if their hair can last one more day unwashed without attracting a social worker’s inspection.

Real moms know evolution can’t be true or else she’d have seven arms by now.

Real moms have the super power of finding things in the fridge that aren’t even at eye level.

Real moms can listen to the conversation behind them while talking to the one in front of them.

Real moms know how to hide the green beans under the bananas on the baby food spoon, can distinguish their baby’s cry in a nursery full of screamers and recognize the meaning behind every cry: hungry, hurt, or trying to get brother into trouble.

Real moms stop and blow bubbles.

A real mom has Good Night Moon memorized, even if her youngest child is eight.

Real moms know how to read aloud in characters’ voices in bedtime stories.

Real moms spend hours…or days…distraught over their children’s behavior.

Real moms leave knee prints in the carpet.

Real moms live life at the speed of their slowest child – even the special needs one.

Real moms hurt when their children hurt.

Real moms are sad when their kids leave for college…or kindergarten.

Real moms sometimes fall in bed at night, not fitting into their skinny jeans, second-guessing their every word to their kids that day, and wondering if tomorrow will be any different.

Real moms have days when they think they will party when the last goldfish dies.

And real moms shed a tear when it does.

Because when the last goldfish dies

It means the child has grown up a bit

“Back-scratching times” are almost done.

Bedtime stories are about to be silent.

The misspellings on the funeral invitations may almost be over.

Childhood appreciates after it is gone.

When the last goldfish dies, so does a little bit of childhood; and I suppose it is buried alongside a little bit of the “real mom-hood” that goes with it.

Gotta go!

-   back to being a real mom,

Terri

fish grave

Proverbs 31:28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

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A Great Thirty Minutes of a Family Weekend!

Dear Lindsey,

283,000 people in Chattanooga plus 513,000 in Dallas, plus 363,000 in Detroit, plus 318,000 in St. Louis.  Add hundreds of thousands in each of North Carolina, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas to sum up a good year in 1953.  Two million in London (along with hundreds of thousands in a European tour, plus Nashville, New Orleans, among many) in 1954.  2.6 million in Scotland (along with hundreds of thousands in Canada and again in London, Paris among other European cities – and don’t forget tens of thousands at several locations of U.S. military bases) in 1955. How did one man have such an influence? Billy Graham spoke a Message to stadiums filled with people. The seeds planted by his preaching have grown around the world. Some receive accolades; others – just like anyone who makes a difference – receive criticism. But the message on this video points to One. I encourage you to watch.

“I am not told that I have to understand it all; I am told that I’m to believe, and anybody can believe. A blind man can believe. A deaf man can believe. An old person can believe. A young person can believe. And that word, ‘believe,’ means ‘commit.’”

The Cross

 

God bless,

Terri Brady

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Why is There a Dead Bird on the Air Hockey Table?

Dear Lindsey,

I got off to a start this morning. My oldest drove himself to school. The next three kids and I loaded into the car before Chris was even downstairs for breakfast. Off to the appointments we headed when I got a text from Chris that changed my day:

“Why is there a dead bird on the air hockey table?”photo_2

Stopped at a red light, I read the text aloud to the kids in the car, sure that my backseat held the culprits.

“[silence]”

Suddenly, the 13-yr-old in the front seat was stifling giggles that refused their restraint and started sneaking through his pursed lips in bursts.

Shocked, and trying to be strict, I subdued the humor of the text – but my own choked laughter (holding up my cup to hide my smile) led to the coffee-down-the-wrong-pipe-choke, so I prayed the light would stay red for a while as I tried to get oxygen.

That’s when the back seat spoke with remorse:

“We felt bad it died yesterday in the back yard, and we were going to bury it…”

“…But the dog was going to eat it…”

“… we couldn’t find the shovel…”

“…then Nate asked if I would throw football…”

“…and I didn’t want to have a funeral without people…”

“…and then we left for evening church in a hurry…”

At eight and ten-years-old, their voices are undistinguishable, so I couldn’t tell which Dead Birdone was talking when (and I was seriously just trying to breathe again), but I got the gist of their story. I only wish that Chris had not been the first to find the carcass: a messy house drives him crazy! Although I can’t think of too many people that are happy when they find a dead bird on the air hockey table.

Irresponsible!

They are not getting this “pick up after yourself” thing that I have been teaching since before they were born!

Oh my…I cannot put into words to even speak to these two right now. They know what they did was wrong!

That’s when my thoughts of frustration were interrupted by a protective (or perspective) mechanism:

  • Thank You, God, that we found the dead bird on the air hockey table today, and not next week when guests are here.
  • Thank You, God, that my kids have good hearts that had compassion for Your creation. (I am glad they were not ruined by my roadkilling a few years ago.)
  • Thank You for a 13-yr-old who was mature enough to see it wasn’t a life-threatening, eternal consequences moment (but that he stifled his laughter until the lesson was taught).
  • Thank You that they put the thing in the bug cage, so at least if it had bugs on it, they were contained in the cage…and I hope that means they didn’t actually touch the dead bird.
  • Thank You for creating the birds that we could fall in love with, even when we don’t know them.
  • Thank You that I didn’t choke to death. (And thank You that the choking reminded me to say thank You that I don’t have a brain tumor…as it always reminds me now.)
  • Thank You that my children will never bring a dead bird in the house again. (I believe.)
  • Thank You that I have children.
  • Thank You for the dead bird on the air hockey table that reminded me of so much for which I can be thankful.

I think it’s ironic… I was trying not to get too bent out of shape, so I made a list in my mind of what to be thankful for (my normal redirection mechanism), and I ended up being thankful for the exact thing I was trying to reframe: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

When Bad Things Happen

I think the point here is that this mechanism is applicable to bigger issues than dead birds on the air hockey table. When I go through bad times (This began during my years of massive headaches while I had young toddlers!), I have a protective mechanism of listing things (at least three each time!) for which I am thankful. It is ironic to me the number of times when I am listing thankfulness to distract me from a problem – and give me perspective – that the list goes all the way back to thanking God for the exact problem with which I started: the dead bird on the air hockey table.

I suppose one of these days, I will be able to skip the “Why?…” part and get to the “Thank You, God for even this,” faster.

A friend, Jane Zempel, spoke at my church recently about “contentment.” She told a story of figuring out what one thing is so bad in life that you would want God to change. What one thing would you get rid of? If you were granted only one thing about yourself you could change, what would it be?

“Now thank God for that one thing,” she said.  “It’s amazing how when I did this, I had to force the words ‘thank You,’ but once they were said, enough times, I realized I could believe it.”

She went on to say that when we believe that God is sovereign over all, we can say thank You for even the things we don’t want, because we recognize God has a plan in even them.

When her son came home from school in tears (again) at age twelve, being teased as a “retard” for having Down Syndrome, she taught him this lesson of saying, “thank You,” even for Down Syndrome, because God had a purpose in his life. She saw that purpose thirty years later when her son told a doctor what a “blessing” Down Syndrome was to him…and it changed the doctor!

When things are rough….

When we can’t change it all…

or when we can’t change even one thing…

Let us give thanks.

Make the list now. To what do we owe God “Thank You”?

What if you woke up today with only the things for which you said thank You yesterday?” – Peter Bonner

I am thankful for you!

In love,

Terri Brady

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1Thes 5:18

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.”  1Tim 6:6

“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Phil 1:3

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“Tending” to Forgive

Dear Lindsey

I recently wrote about our family’s trip to the state fair: A car – which had been left in neutral – had coasted through the parking lot, barely missing my husband and other pedestrians as it reached its destination: crashing into a parked car.  The “unattended car” rolling in neutral to whatever destination the slope led reminded me of many “unattended lives” who coast along in neutral, letting external circumstances determine their destination: a crash.  (See that post, Unattended Vehicles, here.)

PRNDLWhat if instead we put our PRNDL to “drive” – to reach our highest potential for God’s glory?! Purposefully tending to our lives (with God’s will) is the only way to fight our natural tendencies of decline.

When thinking of self-attending, we most likely think of the “eat right and exercise” driving that may avoid a health crash. Or maybe we think of driving the budget to avoid the slide toward excessive debt and bankruptcy. The media will often drive “unattended lives” down their slippery sin-sucking slope toward alcohol, infidelity or pornography among the rest. If we don’t attend to our children, the culture around us will gladly pull them.  Although the list of driving needs is endless: diet, budget, media, parenting, etc, I have recently come to admire the “skillful driving” that some Christians do in the area of

Forgiveness.

It is strange to think of someone driving forgiveness, but at the same time, unless purposefully attended, forgiveness will be lacking and lead to a major crash every time. A natural tendency to being wronged is taking offense, holding the offense, and even wanting revenge for the offense- THAT is the slope of the world in which we live. Lying awake all night unattended, the emotions drive the will of their possessor and result in bitterness, anger, negativity, broken relationships, physical problems and even rage.  I have massive regret when I think of the glory robbed from God every day that I have lacked forgiveness toward someone else.

One author says forgiveness is: never repeating the offense again – to the person it involves or anyone else.  Telling the story or thinking the story only gives the emotions new birth in their old state, removing the benefits of forgiveness altogether. Best selling author, Orrin Woodward once said, “To forgive doesn’t mean we think the snake will never bite again. It means we don’t have a desire to hurt the snake.” We pity the snake. We want to help the snake to become a new creature in Christ. I have often had to force myself to forgive someone who is at the same time holding an incredible grudge against me! But didn’t Christ already show me that it is possible through His own death, when He prayed about his killers, “Forgive them. They know not what they do.”?

Martin Lloyd Jones, in his book, Life in Christ, says that when our pride is in order, no one can insult us. “Whatever the world may say about me, when I know myself, I know that they do not know the truth about me – it is much worse than they think.  When we see ourselves in the light of this glorious gospel, no one can hurt us, no one can offend us.”

I truly believe that the condition of my heart – not the size of the offense – determines the level of difficulty in forgiving the offender. In essence, if my heart recognizes that I have needed forgiveness in the past, I am more likely to give forgiveness today. If my heart is full of pride as though, “I have never needed forgiveness;” “I am holier than they that offended,” or “I would never have done that,” then I am more likely to take great offense at the action and have more difficulty forgiving.  In other words I hold myself in a prison, while limiting the freedom of those around me. It is best said as the old saying: “Not forgiving is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Those who forgive not only give themselves the gift of freedom from the past, but they bless everyone they meet with the same feeling of freedom.

My 13-year-old son recently read The Hiding Place, a book which details Corrie ten Boom’s time in a

Cover of "The Hiding Place"

concentration camp during WWII. (I highly recommend listening to an audio recording Ms. Ten Boom made a few years before her death. Just hearing her voice again this week brought tears to me, knowing the impact she had on my life when I first heard her on a recording a couple of decades ago.  My 13-yr-old and I listened on the way home from soccer, and sat in the driveway to finish it, because he didn’t want to turn it off.  Download the MP3, or order the CD, “The Greatest of These is Love”  Here. Although the audio recording is appropriate for all ages, the book shares details that may be best for older adolescents.)

Caught in the act of hiding Jews, Ms. Ten Boom’s father, sister and she were taken Ravensbruck_camp_barracksaway to a hell on earth at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp that took the lives of both her father and her sister, while daily threatening her own. Mistreated, starved, and witness to unfathomable atrocities, she somehow was released days before the rest of her camp was marched into gas chambers to their death. I cannot imagine the bitterness that must have crept into her skin, thinking of the good she was trying to do for the Jewish people out of love, and the punishment she endured. I cannot conceive the haunting dreams that must have stolen her nights.  How must she have ached in mourning over the loss of her family, due to those purposeful acts of evil?

Somehow though, she was able to stay in the “driver’s” seat and “attend her life” anyway.

She steered her life with the Word of God, as she miraculously snuck a Bible into the concentration camp, though she was stripped naked and was watched by armed and vicious guards. (Would I have risked so much? Would I have even wanted the Bible enough to even try that?)

She accelerated her days against the negative slope with gratitude. At one point, she and her sister, Betsy, thanked God for the lice! Yes lice! Because they kept the guards from entering her sleeping quarters, and allowed them to study God’s Word together. (Am I as grateful even out of such grave circumstances?)

She shifted into higher gears by serving others. Instead of wallowing alone, or even just praying alone, she invited other prisoners to study with her, sharing her Bible – page by worn out page. (Do I have such a habit? – serving others instead of just meeting the needs of my family and me?)

She stayed on the right road, when she pitied the abusive guards and their lack of relationship with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She focused on where she was headed, not where the slope of the world wanted to take her. With her eyes on Jesus, she could follow His example of “forgiving those who know not what they do.”

She didn’t focus inward on the downward slope of self.

She chose to heal.

She drove to forgive.

She glorified the God who attended to her all along.

Then she did even more. She recognized the “unattended lives” in the post-war community – even including the concentration camp guards themselves. She didn’t watch them ride downhill to their destined crash, but began telling them about the Word of God, the salvation in Jesus Christ, and how and why she was able to forgive. She famously was approached by one of the very guards from the concentration camp that took her father and sister.  Even though years had passed, you can imagine her hesitant feelings when she saw him.  Did it bring back horror and begin nightmares again? Did her eyes lock with his and cause trauma deep in her heart? Did she think of the force with which he struck, or recall the harshness of his words? Did bitterness surface at the memory of him with a full belly while surrounding prisoners went weeks without food, and were severely punished or killed if they took even a bite of the potatoes they were forced to pick?  After she thought she had forgiven, did emotions resurface when she was face to face with the offender?

Anguish over her sister’s and father’s deaths in that camp must have wrenched her insides to want to run… or shout… or hurt!

…but she dropped her emotions and embraced that very man, as he embraced the Christ she represented.

“In that moment,” she later wrote, “something miraculous happened. A current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.”

She proved the Father’s forgiveness of sins when she looked beyond this stranger’s sins and was able to forgive.

Oh, to attend a life so well!

Corrie ten Boom would not have had a testimony, if at the beginning of the story, her “car” had been in neutral.  She would have followed a country’s leader, coasting on the pavement of his plans for evil, riding to whatever crash they led. She also would not have had a testimony if after all of the atrocities, she had “parked” in the prison of bitterness.

Her “attended life” before I was even born influenced my own to make sure I am

-       Steering with the Word of God

-       Accelerating with gratitude, culling surroundings for even the tiniest of blessings

-       Shifting into higher gears by serving others

-       Staying on the right road and pitying those who are not

-       Keeping my eye on the destination: in Christ Jesus.

We can drive forward, my dear friend!

In love,

Terri Brady

A scar is not all bad; it shows that a once open wound is now healed.

Romans 5:5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Micah 7:18-19Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.  You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Related Posts:

Book References:

Audio Source

  • Corrie ten Boom’s story in her own words: “The Greatest of These is Love”  Here.

Unattended Vehicles

Dear Lindsey,

As we neared the fair grounds, the houses on the side streets had lawns decorated with parked cars. Big signs that said, “$10 parking” adorned their mailboxes at the road.

“Mom! Can we buy a house here? What a business asset the front yard would be!” Christine (age ten) said.  I can’t remember how I responded, but she concluded, “But I would only charge $9.”

Such an entrepreneurial-kid! (Thanks to Robert Kiyosaki’s books.)

The NC State Fair has become a family tradition that began two years ago: It was then that our newly arrived 10-week-old puppy was too new to be left at home, so she rode along.  Her presence only increased the excitement in the car (which didn’t need more excitement!) on our debut to the event. The State Fair, advertised to us for its deep-fried Oreos and Twinkies, (as if they needed hot oil to add to that “nutrition”!) with rides (which didn’t pass the two engineer-parents’ safety factor), stilt-walkers, Blue Grass bands, and the like, was sure to be a fun family day. Our children floated in excitement, while we tried to contain them in the Ford Expedition for the thirty-minute ride to the state capital’s fair grounds. My husband Chris opted for the N.C. State University football stadium parking lot with shuttles, instead of someone’s front lawn.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of cars were neatly arranged in diagonal rows. A yellow-vested worker guided us to the next relatively empty section, where Chris took the liberty of choosing a spot further away from all of the opening car doors.   Our truck’s doors opened like an explosion, opposite of the slow speed by which our children (and dog) unloaded. Chris came to my side of the car, barking out the normal arrival parental questions: “What’s taking so long to get out?!” “Why would you take your shoes off for such a short ride?” “Did you even bring shoes?”

Chris was bent over helping the youngest (age six at the time) tie his shoes, when suddenly the tone and urgency in his voice changed.

“HEEEYYY!” he yelled at a Toyota Corolla that slowly went by, barely missing Chris’s foot!

That’s when he and I noticed there was no driver in the car!

Some people, who were assumedly already riding the shuttle to the fair, had walked away, leaving their car in neutral.  The car was left on its own, silently drifting through a parking lot of families, heading for sure disaster. It was going slowly enough that Chris grabbed the door of the driver’s side, only to discover it was locked. Emergency mode was striking my heart as I tossed the puppy back into the truck and told the kids to sit tight. I ran alongside the passenger door of the runaway, realizing it too was locked. Our comfortable jog was becoming more of a sprint as the car, going slightly downhill, gained speed. Realizing there was no way to stop the car, (My heart is racing at the memory, just typing this.) Chris began focusing on trying to save the people in its path. “UNATTENDED CAR!” he yelled from his jog. Somehow I felt the need to translate the words for the average fair go-er, and I began yelling from my side, “HEEEYYYY! GET OUT OF THE WAY! THIS CAR HAS NO DRIVER! THIS CAR CAN’T STOP! GET OUT OF THE WAY!”

(Yes. My poor husband has taken much heat in our humor-filled family for his best-selling-author-ish choice of words, “unattended car!” since we were in a parking lot…full of “unattended cars.” But, I digress…)

A family, standing outside of their Jeep Cherokee (probably asking their kids where their shoes were), jumped out of the way before the silent killer passed. Fortunately, there were not many people in the path of the car, since it entered the parking section that had been filled hours earlier. We ran beside the car, yelling and working up a sweat, as it coasted to its final destination – crashing into a Honda Accord whose owners would be in for a not-so-fair ending to their day at the fair. Unattended Vehicles will be Towed at Owners Expense Sign-228x228

Unattended Lives

Driving away and laughing that day, thankful to have avoided what could have been a serious situation, I wondered how many times my life has been like the unattended Toyota Corolla. I have strolled through days (or years!) in neutral, allowing the grade of incline of my surroundings to determine my speed and destination.

  • The time at a job I just kept doing, afraid to change anything…
  • The times I was in a crowd of ladies, and I just kept listening, avoiding disagreement…
  • The times I allowed smoke from a conflict to be seen in the distance, without checking on the source of the fire…
  • The time I was done with college and said, “Yay! Now I never have to read another book!”

When we look around, “unattended lives” abound:

  • People who worship their dog or TV, rather than learning how to get along with others.  (Even the bumper stickers quip, “The more I know people, the more I like my dog.”)
  • Families who have never made an effort to keep a budget call out “unfair!” at anyone who has money.
  • Millions who stopped their learning once the government stopped requiring it (when they turned 16) and still get to vote.
  • Married people who think that because they wear a ring, they deserve loyalty from their spouse, so they no longer strive to please the one they married.

IMG_0431It makes me sad to see their vehicles plodding along, doomed to crash.  Unfortunately, innocent bystanders will have to deal with the ramifications of the crashes due to those “unattended lives.”

.

Attending to Life

How do we get life out of neutral?

Learning a little Latin and Greek with my homeschoolers has brought word meanings to mind: some for real, and some I just totally make up. (smile!) However, I did learn somewhere in there that “a” is put at the beginning of words to mean “opposite of.” So therefore, “attending to” would mean the opposite of “tending to.” In other words, the only way to make our lives go in the opposite direction of their fleshly tendencies (sin, laziness, etc.) is to attend to them.

An “attended life” is one in which someone…well…has the car in gear!

Someone who:

  • Determines a direction in which to aim, and then runs toward it. (Run the race set before us, to obtain the prize in Christ Jesus! Heb 12:1 )
  • Reads the right books, listens to audios and associates with people who are directionally correct.  (And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. – Heb 10:25)
  • Understands that education is a lifetime adventure. As Orrin Woodward says, “Education is a lifetime assignment. It expires when we do.” https://twitter.com/Orrin_Woodward

Don’t get me wrong; life has many crashes, that are “accidents,” too. I would be wrong to say all bad outcomes are because we let go of the wheel. We cannot control negative outcomes, only our efforts toward positive ones.  As my father always taught me, “Do your best; angels can do no more.”  Too often, I have looked at the smoke rising from a crashed day in my life and thought, “I could have avoided that.”

Press On

I suppose in order to drive, we must press on the pedal. :)

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.” – Phil 3:12

“An unattended car may be dangerous, but an unattended life can be tragic.” – Chris Brady. https://twitter.com/RascalTweets

To paraphrase Ann Graham Lotz, “It’s painful to watch a Christian who has a saved soul, but is living a wasted, [unattended] life.”

Press on [the pedal], my dear friend!

Terri Brady

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