Protected: A First Love Letter to my Instant Daughter

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Praying For and Praying Against

So many things in my life lately are like coins. Easy to flip and with opposing images on either side.

It is tempting to pray against people who are in the wrong and in their own way as well as everyone else’s.

It’s tempting to pray for the situations that we want to see in our lives that seem to bring us into our promised land.

But I’m being tested. And some of the questions on this life test are not as straightforward as I wish they were.

People that seem to be just evil- are also created in God’s image- just like I am. And situations that seem to be blessed can hide many stumbling blocks that may actually bring destruction.

The key- as Peter learned in his water-walking experience- is to keep our eyes on Jesus. That focus may not actually bring clarity to the whole picture, but it allows the bad to fade away around the edges of our view.

Those evil people may not change their ways, but praying against them actually keeps them from experiencing Jesus. That situation may seem perfect, but praying for it keeps us from seeing the parts of it we will need to navigate carefully through.

I’m learning to pray for people- for God’s love to reach them through whatever shell they have created for themselves and for their blessing which God alone knows how to bring to them in a way that can change them completely.

I’m learning to pray against situations- against the hidden pitfalls and misleading curves that make it difficult to see ahead and the false fronts that keep us from understanding how our gifts will grow when we accept the challenges of each new situation.

It’s a subtle difference – but that is the enemy’s strong suit isn’t it? Using subtlety to hide the truth? Praying for and against the wrong things actually plays into the lies that allow us to fall right into the trap. 

Lord, I pray that each person I encounter will see you in me- not for my recognition – but for your glory- that you may be revealed in each word and that their hearts would be changed to reveal your breath creating new life in them. I pray that I will not be blinded by welcoming facades that hide distractions you never intended for me to waste my time with, but that you would reveal all things to me in order that your glory will be shown as obstacles are overcome.

Amen.

The Beginning of Something New

For many years I have heard my husband share his belief that the next great spiritual awakening will arise in our young people.  To be honest, I smiled and went about my day without giving it much thought.  Our children were young – there was plenty of time to teach them – it would be so very long until his prediction could even begin to be observed.

But now . . . I’m soon to be a mother-of-the-groom, two of my children are in college, and my baby, who is still in high-school, has recently begun to experience the Lord in amazing ways and has stated that he is ready to begin to honor a call on his life to be a preacher.  Both of my boys have young women in their lives who are very vocal about their love for Jesus and about the call in their own lives to share the gospel.

I am seeing my husband’s prediction come true every day as my children experience the many ways that God is shaping and directing their paths.  Now more than ever, I am beginning to feel the responsibility for sharing the love of Jesus with these young people and for shaping their concepts of His love.  I now have five children – not just three, because as long as these young ladies are in my sons’ lives, they are mine also.  I have a daughter between my boys and so I’ve always had the opportunity to share my experiences as a woman, but the entrance of these two extra, “instant” daughters into my life has suddenly brought this responsibility into focus in ways I never expected.

My natural daughter has been able to ask questions and to continue conversations over time, so I haven’t felt the urgency that perhaps I should have felt over the years.  Now that she has two “instant” sisters, who have their own concepts regarding the gospel and their own questions about the doctrines our family has long held, I feel the urgency.  All these years I thought about raising my daughter for her own gifts and abilities to be shown.  While I occasionally have prayed for the young man she will one day meet and marry, I have seldom thought about her preparation to be suitable for him.  I have thought most about what I wanted him to bring to her.  But for my boys I thought about what they would offer their wives.

This new stage in my life is showing me the error of my ways and it is making me think about what I can offer these young ladies so that they understand the needs my sons may have.  So that together all of us may have a strong family with clear ideals and solid beliefs that will shape not only our lives, but the lives of those we encounter every day.

Lord, I ask that you help us all to see the opportunities to share your love with all of those around us and to provide support for those we love.  Thank you so much for the many gifts you have bestowed upon our family. We love you and honor you. May you be seen in all we do.

 

Lessons in Love from a Hedgehog

As the coordinator of educational experiences for gifted children where I am now working, I like to be there for the end result and see how things go.

This weekend we invited our local zoo to bring their outreach animals and other objects to a class for second and third graders who are studying various biomes and the animals found in each one.

We love our local zoo!  They brought a gopher tortoise, a bard owl, a skull and preserved pelt from a jaguar that once lived at the zoo, and a hedgehog. They also brought a variety of veterinary equipment to demonstrate training techniques, the darting process for medicating dangerous animals, and to expemplify the connections between training and providing medical care. 

I learned along with the children and was just as fascinated, but one thing keeps coming back to my heart.  The hedgehog. 

The hedgehog exhibits a behavior known as self-anointing. The words themselves made me immediately think- now that’s not right- aren’t we supposed to seek God’s anointing? But then I saw him do it and not only did I change my mind, I decided that I wanted to be more like the hedgehog.  Here’s why. . .

In the process of self-anointing, the hedgehog will lick the skin or bark of another animal or object, swish the licked scent, or particles of whatever he licked around in his mouth to create foam, and then lick them back onto himself. Sounds pretty gross, I know.

In the wild, “they” think this helps to protect the hedgehog by making him smell like something else that preditors are more likely to ignore. Now I could have seen this as a negative spiritual lesson, something regarding hiding our identity and not being who we were created to be, but- I noticed something about this particular hedgehog- he was partial.

Which I guess is a southern way of saying he had a distinct preference.

He was surrounded by children who all smelled interesting to him- he made his way around the circle sniffing many small feet that were seated in criss-cross-applesauce fashion as they observed him hunting and eating his favorite worms that the zoo’s veterinarian had placed on the floor for him to find. 

But no matter how many children he sniffed-or even licked – the only person with whom he performed the anointing ritual was the zoo keeper who had held and comforted him as he had sleepily been introduced to each child.  He was partial to her – to her scent, to her comforting hands that held him.

He chose the scent of his provider, protector, and comforter to use for his anointing. He chose to smell like the one he trusted. 

Shouldn’t we all do that with God? Shouldn’t we choose to cover ourselves in His essential character, grace, forgiveness, and love?

I could go on for a long time with all the implications that I am finding, but this time, I will leave you to ponder your own thoughts.  

 

Perspective

When what you know

Shifts all off course

It may not be as bad

As it felt

When the ground began shaking

Maybe

It’s just Jesus

Calling you forth 

From the tomb

You’ve been shrouded in

Thank you

I’ve started to write several different things this summer, but nothing seems to be much more than a beginning. I know that if I focused, the middle and end would take shape, but I still haven’t made it to really writing.

I have, instead, truly enjoyed reading all the updates that the blogs I follow have had recently. Thank you all for your inspiring words and the beautiful way that each of you share your lives. I am grateful.

Turning the Cape Inside Out

When did I ask for it?

When did I say to the world, “Please challenge me!”

When did I begin to take every word spoken to me as a challenge?

I used to think that resilience was found in marching up any of life’s metaphorical hills and shouting in the face of any and all challengers (even at the hill itself) and saying – GET OUTA MY WAY – THIS IS MINE -I’VE GOT THIS COVERED!!!  But the trick was – I’m a nice person, so I didn’t really shout- I just stood there glaring at it all until it decided to go away – a passive aggressive version if you will.

It works pretty well – until a friend tells you you’re an intimidating person. Until a family member tells you you don’t listen.

???? Really? Me? How????

But I’m so nice.

But I’m defending the defenseless against bureaucratic nonsense.

But I’m just trying to right wrongs and make sure that people don’t see the nitpicky things as the important ones.

I don’t yell at people. (At least not outside of my imagination or unless they yelled at me or threatened me first.)

I don’t tell people that aren’t my students what to do. (At least not out loud.)

I don’t drop names. (Unless I’m letting you know to watch out for someone I’ve decided is demented or evil.)

Hmmm….

I think I’m beginning to see something. Maybe, as Joyce Meyer puts it, there is some stinkin’ thinkin’ going on in my mind.

Could it be that my thoughts reflect attitudes that are just slightly (and perhaps importantly) off point and off purpose?

Could the following thoughts be in my way?

  • When I work for something- other people should think it is as important as I do and should therefore give me credit for my efforts, my thoughts, my unspoken outlook.
  • When someone challenges me in an area of my expertise- they are obviously seeking to understand something that they are clueless about and must need an explanation of why what I do is right.
  • When someone doesn’t listen to my explanation- they are obviously either mentally incapable of understanding the simple logic I used or they are an emotional terrorist sent to torment me.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Sometimes we see ourselves as Superwoman (or man) and imagine our cape billowing out behind us covering and protecting all those we have chosen to protect.

Do we see the cape smacking others in the face as we leap out in front of them? Do we see that those others have valuable contributions that could actually aid our cause if only we would share the task at hand?

Do we relish the sound of the cape snapping in the breeze stirred up by our own momentum so much that we ignore the small voices coming out from under it? Do we tell our rescuee to “stay calm ma’am” while ignoring the fact that she’s telling us about an invisible force field we are about to slam into?

The problem with thinking of ourselves as superheros with battles to fight against injustice – is that we are human heros -and every hero has his fatal flaw- we are no exception.

Not everyone who seems to stand in our path is a challenger. Sometimes they are messengers. Sometimes they are mentors. (Anyone else picturing Hermes and Athena?)

Messengers don’t always bring good news. We need to listen anyway.

Mentors don’t always pat us on the back and congratulate our fine efforts. We need to follow anyway.

All year, I’ve had a messenger – so obviously outside of the battle that I didn’t hear the relationship between what was said and any situation, that I ignored his voice (not really ignored, because we had the coversation, but didn’t apply it to anything outside of the conversation). One of my students (that loves Marvel comics – NOT DC), has told me he can’t stand Superman. Really? Who doesn’t love Superman – beautiful man that he is, reversing time itself to rescue his obviously flawed and imperfect love interest from death- what’s not to love?

My student’s answer:

He’s too powerful. His weakness isn’t internal, but external (Kryptonite). It makes him uninteresting, boring.

Wow! Our flaws are what make us interesting.

Now it doesn’t matter that I’ve taught about fatal flaws in epic heros for years – because I didn’t realize I thought of myself as a hero. It took someone saying – I admire you, but you are an intimidating person. It took my dear love telling me – you are better than what you think of yourself- AND telling me – you think too much of yourself. (A contradiction I could not understand for a long long time. But I have finally realized – I am thinking of myself unrealistically in a lot of ways.

So, here are a few realizations for myself:

I’m not a one-woman rescue squad for every student I encounter.

I’m not above needing to improve my domestic effectiveness.

I’m not impervious to needing help.

I’m not creating a perfect image when I insist that the problems are outside of me – I’m creating a boring one.

A boring person isn’t someone with no ideas – it’s someone who won’t let others share the load.

So, overall – there’s  a mountain that I thought was outside of me, but it wasn’t – it was inside. So my eyes focusing on all the problems around me could never be effective. It isn’t in me to perfect what I see. Because I’m not so perfect. The flaws make me better, more interesting, more human. Acknowledging that allows me to look at things from the right side. I’m not Superwoman – I’m not the help that others need. Help is on the outside – found in my savior. My submission to him is the only super thing I can do, and I can’t even do that without the help of the Holy Spirit. So that leaves nothing. What a relief to not have to wear the cape.

As Edna Mode says:

NO CAPES!

Lessons from the Zoo 

Opportunistic eaters – king snakes – according to the zoo expert that is speaking to our middle-schoolers right now.

  
I think that applies to teachers too – many of us skip breakfast but we all headed for the meeting room when we found out the Beta club brought us breakfast this morning.

She’s now discussing the difference between poisonous and venomous. That may bring about a completely different analogy for teaching and learning. I’ll have to think about that one.

Hold on!

All those great poems my students were writing over the extra-long, weather-extended spring break – now must be graded double-quick!  They got more time to procrastinate and turn in mushy stuff, yet I’m now held to stringent deadlines for term reporting! Ah, the (ahem) joys of teaching!

My boys gave up and went to bed, my husband’s soft snores punctuate the poetry – often much better than the punctuation that already exists in it, and I – I would like to rebel. Yet, I’m the one who made it due the day before break – the day that never came because of flooded and washed-out roads. An act of God? Maybe – sent just to remind me to space things out for myself. 

And my best students are out on the Jr. Beta Convention – how is it that we grade what cannot be turned in? 

But good is out there- I got my car back today- after a fender bender relegated me to a smoky rental car that I’m sure was the majority of the cause of my January malaise. My car is back home – safe in the garage and it actually smells nice.

My dream job does exist – it just exists about a 12 to 15 hour drive away. It could exist ten minutes from here, but the local university still cannot seem to find the value of opening the position for a full directorship. So – I’m holding on to hopes and holding on to sanity and holding on to the dreams that were rekindled when I slowed down last week to look at them again. 

Not certain of a path, but assured that God is still in control, and that he holds my future – and He is truly all I need to hold on to.

For all of you who are holding on too, know that He is exceedingly and abundantly providing for your future – even if it’s difficult to see right now. We are going to make it!

Where’s Your Joy?

This week has been a joy for me. My husband is back home, and (miracle that it is) all four schools had spring break the same week, so all five of us have been home together. 

Today is the last day, though. I made breakfast and got everyone to come eat before it was cold. My husband looked at my sleepy daughter and asked, “where’s your joy?”  Sleepy as she was, she didn’t miss a beat and replied, “in the bed.” So he told her she needed to go get it – meaning she should perk up. She ate her last bite and announced that she would go get it – and promptly crawled back under the covers in her room. 

It’s her last chance to sleep before the push toward research projects, living history performances, and ACT studies take over her life again. I see her sleeping and just smile. I may miss a moment or two of her silliness, but I’m glad to see her sleeping. I know that sleep is rare in her world.

The boys linger at the table listening to my husband’s favorite gospel songs and talking trucks – new colors, engine power, grills, EPA regulations, etc. They could sit there all day. I enjoy listening to them even though I have no clue what they are really saying. 

And without the pressures of school, I’ve been able to rejoin the blogosphere. I have missed so many of you and you just can’t know how my heart has found peace reading about the exploits of my fellow bloggers this week. Anne, Iva, Peggy, Gabriel, Dawn, Lillian, and Joanna – just to name a few – your words and pictures are so wonderful to me!  Thank you for helping me find joy in my day to day once more. I may never meet any of you this side of heaven, but as my husband’s music is reminding me, there’s a great glad morning coming one day and I’m sure that there’s a special place in heaven for all those who have the gift of encouragement that I have found in each of you. 

Be blessed this week as we look forward to Resurrection Day!