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

Related Posts

“Tending” to Forgive

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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

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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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The Book is Here!

Introducing: Letters to Lindsey in book form!

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Thanks to my husband’s initiative and his incredible, creative team; thanks to you who requested it; and thanks to the late Russ Mack who persistently encouraged it: Letters to Lindsey (the book) is available! With a foreword by Laurie Woodward and introduction by my best-selling husband Chris, let the stories begin! The chronicled journeys through infertility and the brain tumor survival,  tea parties and fishing trips, along with enflamed underwear (size 4T) on a chandelier are all decorated with my kids’ cute quotes in Post-It note form.  It’s a short read, a long read or anything in-between. So curl up with a blanket in front of the fire, make some fresh popcorn and hot chocolate, (or just go to the beach!) and relish some quiet reading time as you laugh with me, cry with me, and grow with me!

Enjoy!

-Terri Brady

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Readers (you!) in line for book-signing in Milwaukee, WI.

Tough Breaks

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Dear Lindsey,

“Mom,” my eight-year-old began last week, “could you please call my coach and letknee-pain him know I can’t play tonight, because I cracked my leg.”

Seeing he was walking fine, I smiled inside (remembering my own “broken leg” claims of childhood) and asked how it happened. He explained he had been playing soccer with his brother. Five years his elder, that particular brother can be a little over-competitive with his already-powerful kick.

“Did he miss the ball and kick you? Or did you fall? What happened?” I prodded, guessing there might be a little tattling involved.

“He kicked the ball ‘as hard as he could’ [a phrase that always makes me smile inside] and I tried to stop it.”

“Oh my! That’s the kind of shot I stopped one time, and I couldn’t use my shoulder for a year!” I said. “Well did you at least stop him from getting the goal?” I jested to make light of the situation.

“No.” He sulked, and I stopped suspecting his purpose of getting his brother in trouble.

“No? You tried to stop it and it hit you so hard you hurt your leg, but it still went in?”

“No,” he complained, “I tried to kick it really hard, but I missed the ball completely.”

“You missed the ball? Then how did you hurt your leg; did you kick the ground?” I dragged the story out of him.

“No. I didn’t hit anything. But I kicked so hard, I cracked my leg, because I heard it crack,” he surmised.

I relished in the joy of motherhood.

“Well, bud, I don’t think you broke it, so you are probably ok for practice tonight.  Besides, you are scrimmaging the girls. Your team needs you!”

“No, Mom,” the concern in his voice was obvious.  “There is no way I can play in my scrimmage tonight.”

Uh oh…I smelled a teachable moment. What can I say to encourage him away from the wimpy attitude that tries to stop us all when the “going gets tough”?

Bradys play hurt!“? -no…he’s heard that one already.

Story! I need a story!

My kids (like us adults) always learn the best through a relevant story. For me, when it is told through a third-party’s eyes, it takes the offense away and allows learning without feeling attacked.  Certainly I could think of someone overcoming hardship that would relate to this eight-year-old’s heart and mind. Then I remembered an oldie but goodie from his very own oldest brother (whom I knew this younger son would never see as “wimpy”). I started my “once upon a time…” voice with the following true story – but in eight-year-old terms, like, “You know what happened next?” to keep his attention:

When your big brother was eleven…

(From my previous Letter, “Itching to be Tough,” images-1which was inspired by this conversation with my eight-year-old last week, but that day I told it to him in younger terms.)

When Casey was about eleven, I remember that sometimes even he, like many eleven-year-old boys would cry, or fight wimpiness. I prayed that God would help to make him strong and tough.

The very next day, Casey got poison ivy! It was just a little patch, but Casey thought he would have to skip his soccer game. I told him I thought he needed to “play hurt,” because it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

That night, the rash got worse. A lot worse! It was on his face, his belly, his legs and his feet! He itched SO BAD, I prayed that God would take the poison ivy away! fast!

But the next day, Casey got out of bed and you know what he did? He put on his soccer uniform to go play the game!

I couldn’t believe it! Then I realized what a champion he became when he overcame the poison ivy!  I thought back to my prayer just days prior and realized that maybe the poison ivy WAS the answer to my first prayer: that God would make Casey tough, because when I saw him play even though he had poison ivy, I realized my prayer was answered.

I wonder if God ever laughs at me?! One moment, I prayed that Casey would become a warrior, and then when God allowed the exact thing that would make him tough (poison ivy),  I immediately prayed it would be taken away.  Lucky for me, God continued with His plan, and didn’t just listen to my request for the “easy way out.”

Not only did Casey play for his team that day, but he scored a goal!

“Maybe sometimes God allows the struggles so that we can gain the strength we need to persevere,” I told my young son (telling him about Romans 5:3-5) as I finished the story of his brother, hoping it would make an impact on his own toughness factor for the night.

He sat pensively silent. I gloated at my mothering ability to teach through a third-party story. I hoped he got the parallels to his own soccer-scrimmage dilemma.  I got a little choked up, thinking about my now sixteen-year-old who has become such a man.

Then the eight-year-old broke into my prideful thoughts, “Well, that is a good story with poison ivy, Mom, but MY cracked leg is a much bigger problem!

Ha! Don’t we always believe “our mule carries the bigger load”?

I told him he could let the coach know that he “popped” his knee, and that he might need to take it lightly that night.

images-3I would say that the lesson wasn’t learned, but alas, he DID play in his scrimmage that night… “broken leg” and all.  His team was down 2-0 at half-time, but came back in the second half to win the game against the girls. (He wanted me to be sure and tell you that part.)

Enjoying motherhood,

Terri

Related Posts

Itching to be Tough

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Dear Lindsey,

He was struggling between boyhood and manhood. Like a tadpole learning to cope with legs instead of a tail, he was learning to live with mechanisms different from his youth. Tears came too easily for this eleven-year-old and I knew they would need to lessen as his body matured to man.

One night, after an afternoon bout of his crying over someone changing rules in a game or other mildly unjust action, I intently prayed for him to grow up to be the man God intended:

“God please make my son tough.

–       The kind of tough that can withstand struggles.

–       The kind of tough that can lift the weights for his eventual family.

–       The kind of tough that perseveres.

–       The kind of tough that plays hurt.

–       The kind of tough that is a warrior for You.”

I prayed that God would reveal my own “mom-weaknesses” where I may have been catering to my son’s softer side, hindering his growth to manhood.

The day after my fervent prayer, a rash broke out on his belly. He itched and whined, and frankly, made a big deal of it. It did look itchy and uncomfortable, to say the least, but the entire rash was less than the size of my hand. It wasn’t really obvious what it was, but we suspected poison ivy.

“Mom, there’s no way I can play in my soccer game tomorrow!” he said.

“Bud, I know it itches, but once you see that ball on the field, I bet the itching will be imagesless than your desire for a goal. Besides, your team needs you!”  I said as I dutifully washed the bumps in special soap, put some Calamine on it and gave him Benedryl.

That night, I stayed up late into my “productive hours,” getting ready for the Mom-starting-gun to make its sound again the following day. As I passed his room at 2am, I saw my poor son sitting up on his bed, miserably hugging himself, rocking back and forth while tears streamed down his swollen cheeks. The spots had spread like the ivy that caused them – up from his chest to his neck and face, swelling one of his eyes almost closed. It grew down from his belly, hitting his inner thighs and continued to his feet.

He. Was. Miserable.

I gave him more Benedryl, coated what I could with more Calamine, and realized there was really nothing more I could do until we got to a physician.  I sat quietly on his bed, softly stroked his back, and silently prayed:

“Dear Lord. You know the pain in my son today. You KNOW how badly he is suffering with this itchiness and how long it can last. Please, God, take the poison ivy away and restore his skin to fully healed.”

As I lay in bed that night, I thought of his soccer game the following day, and how the coach would not understand that he would miss “because of poison ivy.”  I imagined a phone call I would make, emphasizing how BAD the poison ivy was: it was not just a couple spots on his belly!

When I woke in the morning, I was surprised to see my son already awake. He stood, fully dressed in game-attire, looking at himself in the mirror while he applied his own Calamine.

“I can either sit here and itch, or I can play a game for my team. I’m choosing to play.” He answered the question I hadn’t asked.

I was in shock. I started to make excuses and tell how the rash was more intense than it originally looked; how much worse it might itch with sweat; I started to wonder if others could get it, and a million other excuses for him not to go out of the house looking like a swollen monster covered in pink paint.

But my prayers from two nights before were answered, and my “mom-weaknesses” were silenced.

Not only did he play for his team that day, but he scored a goal!  A tough boy CAsey opponent became a man – and his body caught up later.  

(Note: If he had not come up with the idea himself, I don’t know that I would have pushed him to play that game. I think parenthood is a dance between compassion and pressure. Without the first, the latter causes pain and not necessarily change. (Ephesians 6:4))

I don’t suppose “toughness” is really the lack of tears, nor lack of fears, but the ability to push through yourself for your team, your family or someone beyond the one in your uncomfortable skin.

I thought back to my prayer just days prior and wondered if God ever laughs at me?! One moment, I was praying my son would become a warrior, and then when He allowed the very thing that would make him tough, I immediately prayed it would be taken away.

I am thankful God continued with His plan, and didn’t allow me to get in the way.

Maybe there are some cases of “poison ivy” in life for which we should be thankful instead of resentful: the struggles that made us strong; the trials that toughened our skin; the resistance that built muscles.

Or maybe there are some in my life right now from which I should be learning instead of running?

Because I guess answered prayers are sometimes disguised as itchy monsters covered in pink paint….before the goal is scored.

In love,

Terri

Romans 5: 3-5: Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And 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.

“We pray for silver, but God often gives us gold instead.” – Martin Luther

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Bradys Play Hurt

Para español, haga clic aquí

Dear Lindsey,

I have decided I know why it is called, “roughhousing”: because it is rough on my HOUSE! Boys are boys! When our oldest was barely one-year-old, “wrestling with dad” became the most exciting activity of the day. It progressed well into toddlerhood and became training ground for toughness with each of our three boys.  Chris and Casey spent hours tumbling on the floor and showed such a different relationship than my own with my son (or my relationship with my husband, for that matter!). The game always seemed to come to a halt in tears, as the toddler would succumb to exhaustion, realizing he was “whooped.”  Chris wanted to raise our boys to be tough though, and he would never let their game end with crying.

“Brady’s play hurt!” Chris (knowing that his son was not really injured) would egg a four-year-old Casey on – never rewarding his sniveling.  Making it fun so the toddler would continue playing, Chris would then let enough time pass that tears were forgotten, and he could end the game on a good note.

This game was daily, no maybe hourly! Wrestling with Daddy still occurs in this house with teenagers…only louder!

One particular day of toddlerhood, though, the game was declared “over,” and Chris rested his eyes, lying down on the couch in our playroom while Casey played with Legos. After some time, the four-year-old suddenly ran and jumped on the couch, landing on Chris’s mid-section, startling Chris from sleep to a shout: “Owwww! Get off of me!”

Casey got a cute twinkle in his eye and said,

“Come on, Dad! Bradys play hurt!”

I laughed out loud!

And the wrestling continued.

Oh my! The number of times the saying goes through my head outnumbers the wrestling events where it was created.

When I want to give up in tears,

when I want to make excuses for my mood,

when I want to scream in exhaustion, “I can’t get it all done!”

I go back to the moment with my four-year-old and am reminded: “Bradys play hurt,” and I stay in the game …just one more day.

Blessings,

Terri

Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

Hebrews 12:1:  Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,…

1 Corinthians 9:27:  but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

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The Ring

Dear Lindsey,

(Español: El Anillo)

My mother handed me the ring with a deep grin that punctuated the significance of the gift.ring  It was a tiny ring, just right for my 7-yr-old finger. “This is a REAL diamond,” she said, handing me the tiny fraction of a karat in a size 4 band.  She explained that she had bought the ring before I was born and saved it for when I was old enough to wear it.  I could hardly believe she would allow me to hold it – much less have it in MY size! I thanked her and felt that special warmth in my heart my tomboyish buffalo skin normally tried to repel. I headed out to play.

“Tether ball” was a favorite sport of mine. The two-person game involved standing on either side of a pole that had one ball tethered to it from the top. One would hit the ball clockwise, while his opponent tried to hit it counterclockwise with greater force. As the opponents smacked the ball, it gained potential for more height.  My trick was to hit it with strength at the angle to send it just out of my opponent’s reach, elliptically landing back within my reach so I could send it in the same pattern again the next time around. The game increased speed as the tether shortened, wrapping around the pole, until the tether was tightened to the last inch, proclaiming the winner.

It was at the end of such a game in the neighbors’ backyard when I realized that the ring I had possessed for less than 24 hours was gone. I searched below the pole, combing the grass with my fingers to no avail.

grassHeart-broken, and mad at myself, I couldn’t help but think that maybe I should have been “a good little girl” playing with dolls or makeup like other girls instead – then I would not have lost the ring.  I sinfully didn’t tell my mother about the loss, because I figured it would take her a few weeks to notice, and that would sound better than, “I lost it in the first 24 hours.”

Besides,” I thought, “I didn’t want that ring anyway. Who wants something that doesn’t even stay on during tether-ball?!”

It was my nature: when I felt defeated, I would convince myself that whatever I didn’t get (or couldn’t keep) was something I didn’t want anyway. It was easier than admitting I needed to change.

Anniversary Gift

On our tenth wedding anniversary, Chris decided to get me a ring. The buffalo in me liked the idea of a simple anniversary band, with no “annoying stones” to get snagged on my pockets when they warmed my hands. Chris had a different idea.

The solitaire was a diamond to be admired by any passerby. The round cut magnified the colors that only God could place in such a gorgeous gem. Its clarity drew in light, seemingly multiplying it in the reflection with a disco-ball effect on the ceiling of the store, to my embarrassment. “We’ll take it!” Chris said, while I shied away, telling him “no way!” But inside, I felt pretty just being treated as pretty.

The store sized it to fit my finger like a glove, although any glove worth working would not fit on this ring without getting caught.  Chris glowed with pride as we traveled to the resort where we were staying that night. We had a beautiful evening celebrating our first decade together, and I wore my ring with pride, almost wanting to point it out to strangers, as I did my engagement ring the night he popped the question in Pittsburgh, PA a decade prior.

I felt loved.

The next morning, I rose early and headed outside to enjoy the sunrise for my quiet time with God.  As I recorded the previous evening’s shopping and date in the journal of my mind, a feeling of sadness surrounded me. I felt like a phony. “I don’t even LIKE rings. I forget to put on jewelry that I already have! I am not pretty enough to have people looking at my hands. My nails are chipped; my hands are rough, because I don’t know how to ‘act like a lady.’  I cannot fake this. I am not the jewelry-kind-of-girl. Did he forget who I am? Where I have been? I am not worthy of its cost, much less its beauty!”

As I continued trying to read my Bible, the self-degrading thoughts continued. I started planning how to return the ring, and how I would tell Chris. Tears trickled down my cheeks, thinking about how we would owe the store for the custom sizing, even if they gave us our money back. Regret overcame me as I realized I had worn it the night before as a phony – mesmerized by its sparkle, as if that fit me.  The conflict was still vibrant in my heart when Chris awoke and came outside to where I was sitting.

“Are you wearing the ring?!” he excitedly asked as he approached, looking for my hand.

I wiped my eyes and confessed my thoughts to him. “I cannot own a ring like this. I am not meant to wear something so valuable. We need to get it back to the store. Today. We can see if they will give us all our money back, even if we have to pay for the sizing. I’m sorry.  I have never had such a tremendous case of buyer’s remorse.”

He stared at me dumbfounded for a split second, then kneeled down on one knee, cupped my face in his hands and said firmly, “We will not take the ring back. You cannot have buyer’s remorse, because you did not buy the ring; I did. It is my gift to you; now stop insulting me.”

He kissed me, as if it were the first time our lips had met.

The tears disappeared from my face.  My quickened heart rate sent a cleansing blood through my body.  A peace came over me as I realized he loved me so deeply to look beyond what I saw in myself. He didn’t give me the ring because of who I was, but because of who he is.

Hating Myself

As I recall that story, another story comes to mind: the one where I say, “I hate myself! Why can’t I be like others? I keep doing wrong. I can’t change. I will never get better. I am worthless!!”

And God gently answers, “I created you. Stop insulting Me.  I knitted you to be an original.  Your hands are My design. I know the depth of your heart, the chasm of your sins and I sent my Son, Jesus Christ, to take it all. I have a purpose for every strength you have, and for every failure it took to gain that strength. I have a purpose for EVERY weakness you possess, since My strength is made perfect in your weakness. You can’t change, but I can change you. My purposes are greater than your vision.  I created you just the way I intended. I bought you for the price of my Son, and I have no remorse. Now stop insulting Me.”

The Gift of Forever

Girlfriend, that eternal salvation is a gift that was bought before you were born to fit you God wants usprecisely. It is ironic that we cannot have the peace of His gift pumping into our veins until we have the remorse over our sins cleansing the path.  No one can comb through the grass to find His gift, and none of us deserves its worth. It is ours because of Who He is, not who we are. He loves us so deeply to look beyond what we see in ourselves.  It is amazing that just when we say, “I have such remorse!” He answers, “You can’t; I’m the One who bought you!”

I hope you feel loved, because you are.

I guess I am not a buffalo, or a butterfly or even a buffafly after all. I am a new creature in Christ, and I want His glory to reflect from my life like a disco ball!

In Christ,

Terri

God knitted you before you were born. Ps 139:13

His strength is made perfect in my weakness.  2 Cor 12:9

I am a new creature in Christ. 2 Cor 5:17

Salvation is a gift from God, because of who He is, not who we are. Eph 2:8-9

Confess your sins (with remorse) and you will be forgiven. 1 John 1:9

The gift of forever: For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Orange Signs of Protection

Dear Lindsey,

I intentionally arrived twenty minutes early to avoid my son going to the dorms after practice – which would only accentuate the point that his friends were staying, but he was not.  When arriving at the practice field, I could see my 13-yr-old in the pack already walking off the field in the opposite direction, despite my early arrival. I realized I would need to pick him up at the University Towers, one mile off of the far end of the field (where I could not drive). I picked the 16-yr-old up from the stadium behind me, and we hurried to the parking garage to retrieve the car.

At the parking lot exit, the one-way sign pointed in a direction opposite my desire. I went a

One Way

mile clockwise to get back to about 50 yards from the entrance to the parking garage. (Maybe I should have just gone the wrong way for 50 yards!)

I tried to turn left at Cate Ave, when I saw the LED sign that said, “Cate Ave closed 5/13 – 8/13.” Obviously, this teen soccer camp was my first visit to the college since 5/13.   I turned around again and headed in a three-mile circle to get to the other side of Cate – to where the University Towers were.

As I arrived at the dorm, there were teenagers everywhere. The stench of the players filled the lobby, making me wish there were another door through which I could wait. The variety of teenage maturity never ceases to amaze me. Some looked like young puppies, wet behind the ears, and holding a stature of four-foot-something; others, though separated by just a few years, exhibited bodies ready for the cover of GQ, towering over six feet. The emotional maturity of the room had equal variance.

My younger son droopily walked toward me, his sweat-covered clothing evidencing his intense workout on a hot Carolina day.

The third door of the car barely closed when he started. “I understand you don’t want me to, but can I just know the reasons you don’t want me to stay overnight?” he said, resigned as he sat in the car behind his brother.

This conversation was held over from the previous week, when he had realized his friends were staying at the all-night soccer camp, but he and his brother were not.  The first day of camp departure had only reopened the wounds.

I repeated my stand: “Dad and I prayed about it and decided this was best for our family.”

“Don’t you trust me?” He asked – hurt, yet clearly ready to lock horns.

“I do trust you. You are SO trustworthy, and please do not take personal offense at our decision!”

Thoughts of explanation went through my mind: “Chris and I have been traveling; we haven’t been a family in one house in several nights. Casey just came home from church camp and doesn’t need four more nights out of his bed.  Fatigue leads to injury, and you both have a big competition in Greensboro the day this camp ends. I trust you, but I can’t say the same about all of the teens – up to college-age – that are in the building. We prayed and did not have peace leaving you overnight, so we chose to bring you both home each night.”

“A thirty-minute commute to your own bed?! Who wouldn’t want that?!” I said aloud with a lightened voice, trying to change the heavy mood of the car.

I started to turn to enter highway 40, but was blocked by a sideways police car and

Police Car Lights

flashing lights. I continued straight instead, into uncharted territory, looking for another way home.

Our conversation volley continued, until I finally said with love, “Trust me, bud. The best way I can say it is that we want what’s best for YOU.”

Road Closed Ahead sign

Man! The road came to another road closure. It sent me on a detour that ended up in a loop that circled around to five miles before I would have originally entered the highway! “This is so frustrating! I just want to go home!” was in my head, when my son’s boiling became noticeable as well. I could tell he disagreed with our decision to keep him home, yet was getting control of his attitude, and I needed to do the same.

I spoke out loud to my teens, figuring I would try to teach while reigning in my irritation.

“A friend was telling me about her BSF Bible study leader’s lesson on Joseph last week.  Do you remember what happened to Joseph?”

They answered about his being sold into slavery by his brothers and taken to Egypt. (Genesis 37 – 50)

“But then what happened?”

The boys shared in the story telling. Through their low Eeyore-toned voices, I wondered if their eyes were rolling and thoughts were saying, “Here Mom goes again…” but they continued telling of how Joseph worked hard and became the lead servant, so he was brought into the palace of a leader of Egypt, Potiphar, and became his right-hand man.

“And then?” I asked, impressed at their memory of details.

They continued by saying that Joseph was put into jail, because Potiphar’s wife accused him of something he didn’t do.

“Yes! And THAT is where my friend’s story started. She was saying that jail could have been a good thing at that point.”

“Good?” Nate asked, holding onto his fight-ready mood, knowing jail didn’t sound like a good thing. I pictured his one eyebrow raised while the opposite top lip crunched up leaving his mouth open – his normal questioning facial features.

“My friend said that jail may have protected Joseph.  Maybe jail prevented him from giving in to temptation for Potiphar’s wife if she had persisted.  The Bible actually says we will never be tempted beyond our ability to resist (1Cor 10:13), so maybe God was actually protecting Joseph by removing him from the situation. I guess I think sometimes protection may feel like jail, but please know that we love you and are only trying to do what we think is best as parents to protect you.”

Oooh. Silence in the car. “I wonder if the point made as much sense to them as it did to me,” I mused at my motherhood. Then I almost laughed out loud when I realized that maybe the detours on the road that night were a “jail” that God was using to protect me as well.

detour sign

My thirty-minute trip was taking over an hour on the return home due to detours, but at this moment, I was thankful for the extra time in the car. Maybe the detours were for such a conversation? Maybe the detours were for my own protection from some reckless car on the original route? Maybe the detours were for… “Ice Cream!”  I saw a favorite stop ahead, now recognizing where we were. We stopped and got something all those kids in the dorm would certainly be missing!

There are so many parallels to the closed roads in my path that night:

–       Home foreclosure may just be taking my friend to the right rental neighborhood where someone needs her smile.

–       A deferred college application may be leading that young lady to choose the college where her future spouse will be.

–       A job loss may protect someone from an ethical temptation that otherwise would have been difficult to resist, or it may be directing him to a new job with a better opportunity for his growth.

–       Jochobed may have thought it a horrible “detour” when she was forced to give up her baby due to oppressive captors, yet her God-ordained “detour” led her baby Moses to grow up to free her nation from slavery. (Exodus 2)

–       Joseph’s jail time may have protected him from Potiphar’s wife’s possibly tempting situation, but it definitely put him in the right place at the right time to eventually be promoted by Pharaoh.  His new position of high authority allowed him to save Egypt and even his own family in Israel during a time of famine.

God’s detours are not always denials. They are not for us to scream, “How dare God change my plans!” ha! What we see as “detours” may be His gracious protection and direction. I can’t say I am thrilled when I see the “orange sign” ahead, but I can trust the Writer of the arrow as I follow. Of course, I am grateful for the ice cream stops along the way! 🙂

God bless,

Terri

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When We Don’t See a Purpose

And To My Listening Ear

What a week! We have enjoyed some time at our lake home. I hesitate to call it “vacation,” since we are still actively online and phones and extra travel, but we are vacationing from the scheduled soccer and school. God’s artistry in sunrises, sunsets and everything else seems so beautiful when reflected on water.

photo

Reflections on water can lead to reflections on life.

I love “early morning fishing” with my kids. I select one (or sometimes two) of my children, put them in a canoe with a trolling motor, some poles and lures, and we head out to watch the sunrise, while we entice the unseen creatures below.

Why early?

At 5:30am, the lake is serene – no boat wakes or phones with which to contend, no schedules to compete for my kids’ time, just peace outside of two voices – theirs and mine. Oh yeah, and some say the fish bite more at dawn.

Why Photos?

The entire family doesn’t fit into our 3-seated vessel, so we share our victories via camera.  Sometimes, on a day without bites, it is fun to go through the photos, to remember the big ones will come!

photo

IMG_3951photophoto photoIMG_3954

But it’s not about the fish.

Mom, it doesn’t matter if we catch any fish today,” my 8-year-old serenely said as the trolling motor left a silent “V” sketched in the placid lake behind us. “It is just nice being with you.

It is a time of reflection – of the new sun off the mirror of water, and of my kids’ thoughts of this turning world. They ask questions in those peaceful hours that maybe get lost in our ninety-miles-per-hour  days.

“Do you think I am not catching fish today because I sin too much?”

Pensive.

“Is it ever ok to get angry, because… didn’t Jesus get angry?”

Fighting strong, but wanting answers with a friend along at 5:45am!

My kids’ discussion questions roll out with the line behind the boat.  I just want to make sure they know that I am here; I have a listening ear; I am ready with open arms when the storms send unsettling waves. If they don’t know that when they’re 8, they won’t know to look for it when they’re 18.

I LOVE our early times together.  I couldn’t help but see the parallel to morning quiet times with God.

Quiet Time with God

Why early?

Before the sun, the world is serene – no waves or phones with which to contend, no schedules to compete with the time (except for the pillow – the evil contender!)

Pen & Paper

Why Notebook?

Like a photo to share with family, a notebook records my wrestling moments, my tearful prayer requests, and the gut-wrenching thoughts that once prevented my sleep.  The answers received through these early morning times with Him are revealed when I read the journal years later. It encourages me: today’s resolution will come in His timing, too.

But it’s not about the ritual; it’s about the relationship.

It is a time when I can tell Him, “It is ok if I don’t catch anything today, I just enjoy being with You.”

Test Shot with My ESV Journaling Bible..

In His Word I am reminded that He is here. He has a listening ear; He is ready with open arms when the storms send unsettling waves – which sometimes are the lure that got me there in the first place.

“Don’t let your child be the ‘one that got away’,” is the advertisement line from Zebco fishing equipment. Maybe someone at that company had some good fishing conversations with his kids, too.

Girlfriend, don’t be the one who got away from God.  As Rick Warren says,

“If you feel far from God right now, guess who moved.”

Tomorrow: tell the pillow to have a good day without you.  Grab a pen, a notebook and a Bible, and enjoy a relationship with Him. Read, pray, speak and listen.

“Failure in my life almost always begins with a famine of God’s Word and prayer.” – Anne Graham Lotz

“It’s better to be sleep deprived than God deprived.” – Jill Briscoe

Eternally His,
Terri

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