Trash, Trinkets and Treasures–Which Is It?

Garage sale chair–don’t mess with the man when he’s playing.

There are things I participate in while in Colorado that I never do in Orlando.

Perusing garage sales is high on that list.

I don’t make time to go to neighborhoods to look at other people’s stuff back home. It makes me uncomfortable. It feels like I’m passing judgement on their taste or things when I paw through tables of their salable items.

It doesn’t bother me here. Maybe the weather is more conducive for treasure hunting. Maybe it’s the neighborhoods being new and different.

Maybe it’s the options. People get rid of really good stuff.

We had a mission. (Looking is always more fun if there’s a purpose.) We’d been tasked with finding wooden chairs. Straight-backed and sturdy. Our daughter, Melody, is on the design team for our upcoming conference. She needs 200 wooden chairs that she and her team will sand down and paint white.

She has specific elements of design in mind.

I’d seen some chairs I thought would work. I jumped out of the car and made a beeline for ones I saw at one home. Three dollars a piece. Wood bar stools that could benefit from some sanding and white paint.

When I got them to the car, Heather deadpanned, “Mel won’t like them.”

I was now personally invested, to the tune of nine dollars. “They’re wood. They even swivel. What’s wrong with them?”

“She won’t like them. They don’t fit the design.”

Design? 200 random used chairs and she’s talking design?

I huffed and puffed a bit. When a good effort is overlooked because of a lousy outcome, it stings a little.

I got over it when I found the colossal elephant.

Still on mission, daughter Tiffany and I were looking for treasure. She found a white wood chair and managed to get it for free.

I found a huge stuffed elephant that was bigger than half the grands.

Really big stuffed animals serve no real purpose. They take up a lot of space without doing anything. No batteries. No automatic moving parts. They’re just there.

They make me smile.

I asked the young girl how much, and she looked questioningly at her friend. “Three dollars?”

I looked in my pocket.

“Would you take two?”

“Sure.”

I walked out with the largest stuffed animal I’ve ever gotten. For two bucks.

Hang the chairs. This was my find for the day.

The little ones were lying all over it, like a furry body pillow.

There are times that the things I want to do in life aren’t fitting the design of who I am. Who God’s made me to be. Compromise is the easy way. Not a lot. Just fudging a little.

Compromising a perfect design plan is never a good idea.

And yet, God always surprises me with the unexpected. Things that delight me that I hadn’t been looking for.

It’s like a grin and a high five from Jesus. Every day of my life.

I need to stick with the plan of who I am. Not mess with His design that works.

It’s why great plans work. A lot has gone into making them the best.

 

 

 

 

Who Decides What We’re Worth?

 

I was stunned to read how Michelle Carte had encouraged her boyfriend, Conrad Roy III, to commit suicide in 2014. Convicted of involuntary manslaughter, she could be sentenced to twenty years in prison.

The American Civil Liberties Union has denounced the conviction, saying it violates her right to free speech.

When is enough enough?

Granted, both young people were troubled. Mr. Roy had talked suicide before. Miss Carter had tried to talk him out of it earlier. At some point, she switched tactics and perspective. Dozens of text messages urged him to follow through and do it. When he left the truck he died in–of carbon monoxide poisoning–she urged him to get back in. Finish what he’d begun.

When did we receive the right to determine the quality or length of life of others?

We live in a world full of terrorism, where people called infidels are seen as righteous targets of death. Where gangs use murder as initiation rites. Where people take out anger and frustration with a loaded gun.

I’m in Chicago where the headlines this week claimed the city has already reached 300 homicides this year.

It’s June.

When did life become incidental?

I’ve been here visiting Mom and my sisters. Mom isn’t doing so well. She’s becoming weaker, her hearing and eyesight are diminishing, and remembering is a challenge. She’s still Mom though–a feisty gal with lots of opinions. And she remembers the past well.

She’s asked all three of us sisters why she’s still here. Dad died fifteen years ago. The longer he’s been gone, the more she misses him. Time hasn’t healed that loss at all. She remembers the times they danced together. How he watched out for her. His laugh and how he loved his family well. How he’d light two cigarettes at a time so they could share a smoke.

You couldn’t imagine any two people more different. But they were committed to each other, for better or for worse. Worse happened a lot. They chose to stay the course. For 56 years.

Mom’s life is becoming more limited, and for a strong woman, that’s feeling unacceptable.

She won’t do anything to end it. When she asks why her time hasn’t come, we tell her.

God has things for her here yet.

Each of our days is known to God before we’re born. A God big enough to create and save His people would have to know that.

We can’t create life. Sure, we’re involved in the process. The miracle of an egg and sperm coming together to produce a child who begins small and simple and grows more complicated and detailed is more than we can do on our own. We might intervene and allow a baby to begin in a petri dish. Genetically modify DNA to deal with diseases.

We can’t create life from nothing.

Life is a gift given by a holy God. We’re all made in His image–whether we believe in Him or not. To diminish the value of anyone’s life is to diminish all of life.

Maybe if we learned to value who we truly are in Jesus and not what others tell us we need to be, we’d respect ourselves and others more.

Isn’t each life worth that option?

Too Many Cooks Make One Heck Of A Party

Celebrating men looks a lot different than celebrating women.

Women get excited about flowers, fancy decorations and chocolate.

Men are easy. Bacon. It makes everything better. And anything fried. That’s the manly way to eat.

For Father’s Day, we had the privilege of having most our kids with us, except our son and his family. We had quite a few dads to honor, men who’ve encouraged and built into the important people in my life. Men I respect, not because they were able to biologically reproduce, but because they care deeply for others. They act from hearts of integrity and compassion.

They’re just fun to be around.

The girls decided to make a massive Father’s Day brunch. Homemade waffles, fried chicken, bacon and fruit. (For the health conscious.)  It was a team effort. One complicated by a very small kitchen and a whole lot of cooks.

We spread all over the limited counter space and spilled over to the dining room table. We dredged chicken pieces, mixed waffle batter, cooked bacon, chopped fruit. All the while talking, laughing and listening to the guys watch a soccer game in the other room. We spilled flour, sprayed oil, learned how to chop mangoes a new way and made a mess of our tiny space.

Everyone had flour sprinkled over them like pixie dust. But we accomplished what we set out to do. We made a killer brunch–one that probably was killing arteries across the board. Everyone loved it.

We could have done the Father’s Day thing and gone out to brunch. Here in Ft. Collins, that would have required hours of waiting and not being able to sit together. It would have caused small ones to become impatient and whiney and older ones to become impatient and complaining. By the time we’d have sat down to our meal, everyone would have been less than thrilled with whatever we ordered and would be counting the minutes till we could leave.

We had freedom to make a mess and live in it. The kids wandered in and out, nibbled here and there and weren’t forced to wait in a confined space. Pleasant.

Life is messy and out of control. My best plans can fall apart and reveal better plans–if I let them. Giving space to have others contribute makes my life easier. And yes, messier. I don’t have to be the one in control. I grow as I learn from others.

The challenge is admitting I can learn from others.

It’s living in community. What God created us for. The best way for us to live.

As we made breakfast, we all added our parts to make a great meal. None of us could have done it alone–it would have taken all day to just cut things up. The kitchen looked like a war zone of edibles, but kitchens can be cleaned.

Mess happens. Always. God’s with us in our mess. Not bothered by it. Helping us see the beauty of what working together can be.

What we accomplished together was better than any of us could have done alone.

And I’m not just talking fried chicken.

 

Serving The Minions And The Masses

“It was so awkward. We went in and they smiled and welcomed us. We got our drinks. And they just kept smiling.”

Interesting conversation between two seven-year-old girls as they were in our apartment. To grab drinks from the fridge John set up for the kids in the apartment complex.

Obviously not used to being smiled at and welcomed by a roomful of adults.

And what do they know of awkward?

Parents are here for training and teaching. The kids have more freedom in this environment than they have wherever they live. They wander like pack animals, doing things en masse with best friends they haven’t seen in years.

John, very generous-hearted man, decided to offer drinks to these wanderers. He set up a small fridge just inside the door to our apartment for the kids to come grab them whenever they wanted.

Water, Gatorade, CapriSuns, La Croix. If anyone requests something different, he’ll get it.

They come in at all hours. Usually not between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. They rarely knock. They know what they want and they get it.

Grand Central Station.

He rented a big TV as well. The adults come to watch sporting events. The kids come to eat and drink. Conversations ebb and flow. Stressless. Major conversations are happening. Big decisions are being made. The environment lends itself to a calm we don’t often feel back home.

I love it.

Being an extrovert by nature, it’s not hard to engage in conversations with folks who come over. They’re grateful for the chance to sit awhile. Watch a show. Talk about life. Grab a drink. Hear more about people’s stories.

Every now and again, though, I feel a little overwhelmed. If one more small person pops in unannounced or if I’ve used my words for the day (which rarely happens), I long for quiet.

Pretty much having my cake and eating it, too.

I’ve learned to leave. To get out of the apartment for a time. Head to a coffee shop–of which there are many in Ft. Collins. Grab a cup of joe and work. I’m surrounded by folks I don’t know. Who don’t really want to talk to me. Ear buds in, they’re signaling their need for quiet.

Perfect.

People will always trump task with me. It’s how I’m wired. But I do need space every now and again.

Jesus did, too. He ministered to the masses with kindness, meeting needs by feeding crowds in the thousands, healing those who’d lived with sickness for most of their lives. Even raising folks from the dead.

Every now and again, He’d leave. On His own. Not for a breather from people. He loves all people.

He spent time alone with His Father. In deep conversation. Heartfelt communication.

He prayed.

Inevitably folks would find Him. Bring Him back to the need of the immediate.

But His time alone fueled Him to love the masses well. To pursue them with compassion. Even though many hated Him without reason.

Time alone isn’t the key to refreshment.

Time alone with Jesus, talking about my junk, fears and dreams is what fuels me.

Then I can serve the minions. And others.

 

 

 

It’s All In The Genes

He looks and feels like a giant stuffed animal.

Looks can be deceiving.

Walter Waffles Wickberg, better known as Wally, is a six-month old sheepadoodle. An old English sheepdog mixed with the calm and smarts of a poodle, he belongs to our daughter, Courtney, and her husband, Michael.

He’s the child before the children actually come.

We’re in their territory, so they came for a visit–with Wally in tow..

He already looks like a small horse–this boy is going to be big. He’s a curious soul. Checking things out. Wanting to see it all. He’s got a sweet disposition, learns quickly and is a lot of fun to be around.

One thing he can’t get away from. What he was bred to be.

He’s a herding dog. A four-legged shepherd. The instinct is there. He’s very alert to small people around him, watching them, aware of where they are. If they run, he senses they’re escaping. He’s after them like a shot, stopping them in their tracks.

Even if it means knocking their feet out from under them.

He’s quite good at what he does. When he saw Courtney and Michael embrace us as family, we became part of his responsibility. Especially the littles.

Sloane, at eleven months, is walking fairly steadily. When she  headed away from the crowd, he effectively blocked her. Yes, he knocked her down in the process. But he kept her from straying too far.

It’s fascinating to watch an animal who’s been bred for a certain function to act out of their strength. To respond as they were meant to respond.

What sweet Wally hadn’t counted on was how those littles would focus on him.

We’d walked to a park for some play time. Wally was in his element. Bounding around like a toddler on sugar.

Always on the alert with the kids.

He never lost sight of Sloane.

When we got back to our apartment, everyone was tired. Wally just wanted to flop down and rest.

Sloane had other ideas. He became a very large stuffed animal. She climbed on him, splayed all over his back, stuck her hands in places he wasn’t prepared for. Treated him like an inanimate object.

He never made a sound. He took what she dished out with patience, casting an occasional longing look at Courtney and Michael.

Jesus is the Ultimate Shepherd. The One who never loses sight of where His own are. Who’s always alert to my needs, protecting me from that which could destroy me. Patient and diligent.

I don’t always treat Him well. There are days when I ignore Him. Times when I compromise on the things He’s taught me. Times when I really don’t want to deal with His holiness because I’m feeling and acting quite the opposite.

The cross. When He took our punishment for us. The ultimate sacrifice by ultimate love.

Like watching Wally, it’s amazing seeing Jesus do what He came to do. Saving the broken and downhearted–me. Lavishly pouring out grace when I don’t deserve it.

Appearances can be deceiving.

Who He is and what He can do in our lives is worth pursuing.